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Written by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom
I never know exactly how to answer when someone asks me how long we’ve been homeschooling.
“Since the beginning,” goes over pretty well.
“We always have,” gets a fair response.
My holistic view of learning used to lead me to say “since birth,” but that one raised some eyebrows here and there.
But if someone, wanting a more technical response, counts the time since my oldest would have started Kindergarten, that makes this our eighth year of learning at home! No matter how you slice it, I guess I’m not a newbie anymore.
I still remember those days well, though. The insecurity, the worries, the thoughts of inadequacy. (Oh wait, that was just last night!!)
I’m crazy far from being an expert on the matter, but the past several years have taught me a few things I’d like to pass on to every new homeschooler.
I hope they bring comfort to those of you getting started.
1. It can take a year or more to find your homeschooling rhythm.
It makes me inwardly cringe a bit when I hear readers say, “We’ll try homeschooling until Christmas and then decide if we’ll continue.”
Remember when you started college, or got married, or began your first full-time job? Big life transitions take time–but by Sophomore or Junior year, you strutted around like you owned the place.
Use the principle of observation and correction. When something doesn’t work, don’t over-generalize and decide, “Homeschooling doesn’t work!”
Instead notice, pause, and try something else. In time you’ll find the rhythm that matches your family.
2. There’s no point in duplicating a struggling system.
Isn’t it ironic that often we pull our children out of traditional school because it isn’t a good fit for them, then we create the same system in our dining room and wonder why it isn’t working?!
There’s nothing enlightened, spiritual, or idyllic about the current educational system. It’s one option, and in many ways a dinosaur, a leftover relic from the Industrial Revolution.
If there’s an aspect of it you or your kids love or truly believe in, take that with you. Then read Gatto, and remind yourself that you have the permission to invent something new.
3. There’s more than one way to home educate well.
I’ve come across families who classically school, who follow the Waldorf curriculum, who unschool, who adhere to Charlotte Mason ideas, or who love the principles of Leadership Education–all of them with now-grown kids who have found a successful path in life.
It should be comforting, but sometimes we get threatened by this truth: There’s more than one way to home educate well.
Each young mind is unique. Why would we ever assume that one way of schooling would fit them all?
4. When in doubt, read-aloud.
Serious days will come your way, new homeschoolers–the kind when nothing goes to plan and everything goes wrong. When that happens, pop popcorn or make hot chocolate, and snuggle under covers with your kids and a book.
Have wigglers? Take your book out to the trampoline or the swing!
Browse this awesome list for more showstoppers and stock up for the winter.
5. School hours don’t have to look like school hours.
Some families get up at dawn, finish lessons, and head out to work their farm. Some sleep in until 10 or 11am, then slowly begin after breakfast/lunch. Some follow traditional hours and find that works best.
We’ve never had official “school hours” in our home because one of our goals has been to blur the lines of living and learning. That’s why, when someone recently asked my Jonathan (11) what time he starts school for the day, he answered, “About 6 a.m.” (i.e. when he wakes up)
The questioner looked at me as if I must be quite the strict taskmaster!
6. Your own learning matters as much as theirs.
Teachers get in-service days, don’t they? They invest in themselves as professionals, and so should you.
Sometimes when I’m convinced that we’re all headed for ruin (you know the days), all it takes is 30 minutes with a good book to turn me around. It could be the perfect homeschooling how-to (or how NOT to!), or even just my current classic novel.
Making learning an enjoyable pursuit for yourself shows your kids how much it matters in life.
7. Guess what prepares kids for real life? Real life.
Raise your hand if you, as an adult, spend five days a week in a single building with 20-30 other adults your same age.
In a healthy family, real life is simply an incredible way to prepare kids for real life–making all those socialization fears beyond pointless.
8. It’s okay to take a break when you (or they) need one.
Repeat after me: Humans are not robots. We don’t have to use every minute perfectly in order to move our kids’ educations forward.
In a society overflowing with anxious “doing,” model calm “being”–patience and character are every bit as important as math and language arts.
9. Find their passion, and you’ve found the key that will unlock their love of learning.
Every child has a passion. You might have to dig a little, or it might not be what you think it should be–but it’s there. Thanks to the internet, we now have the resources to transform just about any passion into a unit study.
I have one child who loves meteorology, one who loves writing, one who loves military history. Each one has a different curriculum plan; each one still loves learning.
And an individual who loves learning, over time, begins to educate himself. Since I’m hoping to eventually work myself out of a job, I’m all for that!
10. You can’t do this alone, and you don’t have to.
You need friends and mentors on the same path–ones you can confide in, gain advice from, and lean on when things get hard. If you don’t have people like that in real life (I’ve had seasons when I didn’t), find them online.
There are blogs like this one and many fabulous others. There are Facebook groups for those who follow Leadership Education, for those who want to feed their families well, and for those who wear togas around the house. (I’m guessing about that last one, but it wouldn’t surprise me!)
Get help when you need it, outsource subjects you don’t want to teach, and don’t try to do it all. There’s no need!
Newbie homeschooler, you are concerned and worried about many things, but only one thing is needed: YOU.
You, putting your imperfect self on the line day after day on behalf of your little people. You, setting your values and priorities, moving toward them with baby steps each day. You, seeking divine help and guidance because you know there’s no way you can do this on your own.
One day soon you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve all come.
What words of comfort would you tell a new homeschooler?