Creating a lifestyle of learning

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The following is a guest post written by Melissa Camara Wilkins of melissacamarawilkins.com.

When our first daughter was born, we knew we were not going to homeschool.

We knew some homeschooled kids. Those kids were weird.

Two things that didn’t occur to us back then:

1. There are a lot of homeschooled kids out there. We knew two who were weird. That might not have been a representative sample.

2. We are also weird. It’s not such a bad thing.

It didn’t take us long to realize that choosing an educational philosophy based on trying to avoid making weird kids was not actually the best plan.

By the time our daughter was school-aged, we didn’t even look at schools. We didn’t tour kindergarten classrooms, didn’t compare charter schools, didn’t price-check the private schools. We knew homeschooling was best for us.

What changed?

We realized we needed to stop worrying about what to avoid and start focusing on what we wanted to accomplish.

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Schooling, for us, became part of our family culture. It’s not about textbooks and checklists and best practices, it’s about what we want to create for our family, and what skills and experiences and mindset we want to give our children.

Here are some steps you can take too to create a lifestyle of learning for your family:

Make a list

We made a short list of what we hoped for our kids’ education, with ideas like: We want our kids to love to learn. We want them to know how to learn. We want them to see learning as a life-long process, not just a life stage.

No matter what our goals are, or how often we revisit them, the act of writing them down is a powerful tool to provide focus.

Once we knew what we wanted, we just had to decide how best to turn those ideals into reality. Knowing what we wanted to create helped us to see that homeschool made the most sense for us.

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Focus on your deeper reasons

Some goals are too specific to be useful (my kids should all major in astrophysics!) and others are too general (my kids should have the best education possible!).

When we started hearing ourselves make those kinds of goals, we would ask about each one: why? Why do we want this for our kids?

Why do we want the “best education” possible? Maybe it’s because we want our kids to be exposed to the beauty and wonder of various fields of study. Or because we want them to have opportunities to learn what they love. Or because we want them to have a chance to practice being diligent in pursuit of their own dreams.

The underlying reasons are probably our real educational goals.

Make your best choices

There are so many great homeschooling choices: different teaching methods, curriculum options, activities and strategies and THINGS TO TRY. Remembering our big-picture intentions means less stress when deciding among all those choices.

Instead of asking: Should we go on this field trip, buy these materials, join this group? We try to ask things like: Will this help our kids become independent learners? Will it help them identify their passions? Will it allow us to model lifelong learning? If so, we’ll give it a try. If not, we can skip it without regret.

Avoid comparisons

When we’re clear about our own goals, we aren’t nearly as tempted to compare our schooling choices to the choices of others.

The neighbor’s kindergartener is learning three languages? The school down the street has an amazing art program? Someone at the park does more book reports than my kids?

That’s great! Good for them. We aren’t doing those things, but that doesn’t mean we’re missing out.

Our standard for judging our homeschool isn’t other schools. It’s whether we’re moving toward our own ideals.

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Walk your own path

We don’t choose homeschooling out of fear. We aren’t hiding from anything. We aren’t running away from schools. We’re turning toward what we think is the best path for our family. We can all do that, even if we end up on entirely different roads.

The exact schooling method you choose isn’t the point. Embracing your family’s own educational mission is what’s important.

Even if some of us (okay, maybe just me!) end up with kind of weird kids.

In what ways have you shifted your focus to what you want your family to achieve instead of what you want to avoid?

About Melissa Camara Wilkins

Melissa Camara Wilkins has six kids and lives in Southern California. She believes that life is funny, that motherhood is pretty cool but also very messy, and that sleep is something other people get to do. She blogs about family life, DIY projects, and activities for kids.

Comments

  1. We’ve started focusing on many things that you spoke of. We’re focusing on self-directed learning, so that they can learn what interests them and learn how to learn without being told step-by-step what to do. I want them to realize that if they ever want to achieve something and don’t know how, they’re well-equipped to figure out how to do it- and that may include asking for help.
    Shelly’s latest post: Weekend Review: A Visit from the Stomach Bug

    • Asking for help–and knowing how and where to do that–is so important. I love how self-directed learning lets our kids practice solving problems and honing skills on their own, and at the same time gives them practice in figuring out when to ask for help. Such a great life skill.

  2. Thank you so much for this timely post. I’ve just starting homeschooling our two middle school boys and feel a bit frazzled on a daily basis, wondering if we are doing the right thing by them. In my heart, I know we are, but it is wonderful to read well timed reminders :D
    Vickie’s latest post: Worker Bees

  3. Our family is in our third year of educating at home and I still struggle with feeling confident that I am providing the “right” education for our children. It is so easy to fall into the trap of comparing! I always know that I can come to your blog for the reassurance and reminders that I need to stay focused and just relax. Thank you so much!
    Monique B.’s latest post: Studying Phenology with Time-Lapse

  4. Thanks for this reminder! We’re in our first year of full-time homeschooling our first-grader and I need encouragement nearly every day that I’m doing the right thing and not screwing up my son! He is thriving in this environment and I can see he is learning a lot, but every now and then, I fall into the trap of comparing what we’re doing to what someone else is doing, whether it’s another homeschooling family, or one with their kids in public school. So, thank you for the reminder that it’s not about what anyone is doing for their children’s education–it’s about the goals we have for our family’s education and what works for us to accomplish those goals. :)

    • That first year is so tricky, isn’t it? We’re still kind of getting our sea legs, trying things out, seeing what we want our homeschooling lifestyle to look like–it can be a lot to figure out at once. And comparison tends to keep creeping back in!
      How wonderful, that you can see already how your little guy is beginning to thrive, soaking up all that goodness and learning. That’s all it’s about–what you want for YOUR family. :)
      Melissa Camara Wilkins’s latest post: On parenting teens: Ready or not

  5. This is fantastic, and so very true. I wish I would have read something like this when we began three years ago. It is really great advice.

  6. This is wonderful, thank you. Would you please consider doing a “how to” goal- setting for homeschooling? This would be a wonderful tool! ;-)

  7. I just loved your post:) I catch myself defending why we homeschool to our family often. The Walk your Own Path is spot on. Thank you
    Andrea’s latest post: We Welcome You Spring

  8. I agree, and it’s why we are homeschooling. I want the best fit for my family. I want us to do what works for us and for our focus to be on loving learning. It is hard not to get caught up in “the Joneses” and what everyone else (be them homeschoolers or not) are doing or not doing. I think that is one of the great challenges and gifts we get to try to overcome- just being content with what we have, who we are, and in this case, how we educate.

  9. This is awesome. I am in the midst of trying to change up some things in our homeschool. This put words to what is in my heart.

    Your blog, Jamie, encourages me so much. SO many things out there are so discouraging, but I love how you’ve made this a space to be inspired but not overwhelmed.

  10. Love the blog:) been homeschooling little over a yr .. I so struggle saying I’m behind and keep reminding kids to get school time in age 9 dyslexic and 5 who begs to learn.. Any practical ideas to make it fun hands on but still learn esp for my 3 rd grader! I struggle to find hands on stuff and correlate it w learning any great resources ?.. I feel like it’s turned in to cram book session and then let them go play:(
    Thanks so much

  11. “Instead of asking: Should we go on this field trip, buy these materials, join this group? We try to ask things like: Will this help our kids become independent learners? Will it help them identify their passions? Will it allow us to model lifelong learning? If so, we’ll give it a try. If not, we can skip it without regret. ”

    I really needed to read that today. I’m in my first year of homeschooling my kid (it’s just preschool, but since all of his friends are already enrolled, it feels serious) and there are just so many good ideas and classes and materials and curriculums out there that I’m feeling overwhelmed. Focusing on the deeper reasons for our decision to homeschool feels like it will bring clarity and focus. I really agreed with this post. Thanks for sharing.
    Lydia Larae’s latest post: HEADS UP OF THE WEEK

  12. Michelle W says:

    I am directing my children towards acts of service, and I also encourage their interests. I am a stickler for math, reading,and writing, but I don’t force feed it. I generally can tell when the boys are ready for a “real lesson”.
    I am trying to create an environment where Jesus is Lord and living by 100% faith is the way to go. Thank you for your wonderful blog!! I love it!

  13. It is funny how we can think about our idea of homeschooling, isn’t it?
    This is something I had to learn as well! It is great to realize that learning is not always done in books!

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