Written by Kari Patterson
If you’re considering homeschooling and have a heap of questions, please know: You’re not alone.
We’re in strange times, and never before have I heard from so many parents who are considering homeschooling their children next year.
If that’s you, let me just say: This site is a virtual treasure-trove. From the “Start Here” links above (fabulous stuff!) to Jamie’s simple 3-hour homeschool game-plan, to the annual “Day in the Life” series, to posts on nearly every topic you can imagine, this site has always been my go-to for advice, links, and encouragement.
Would you rather listen to this post?
We just finished our 8th year homeschooling, and there are a few overarching things I wish I would have grasped more fully before we began.
Perhaps they can be helpful as you consider your plan for the days and years ahead:
1. The most important ingredient is relationship.
The chances are good you don’t remember specific lessons or lectures, but you do remember certain teachers: Those ones who listened and cared and were able to call you to some level of excellence or greatness by the way they invested in you.
I still remember the Writing 224 professor who sat with one of my stories over coffee, looked me in the eye and said, “You’re a *@#%* good writer.” You, dear parent, may feel unqualified or unskilled as a teacher, but your relationship with your child is the key to their education.
2. Homeschooling isn’t going to solve every problem.
After schools were cancelled this spring, there was a funny meme floating around saying something to the effect of: “And parents everywhere realize it wasn’t the teacher’s fault after all.” It’s true though, it can be easy to blame everything on “the system” or think that somehow teaching our children at home is going to save them from every misstep or guarantee they follow in the footsteps of our faith, or whatever.
I have found that it does indeed greatly simplify things because there are dozens of decisions/temptations/influences/issues that we don’t have to deal with. I’m tremendously grateful for that!
But there are still plenty of issues that are bound up in the heart of every human, and homeschooling doesn’t magically make those go away. Recognizing homeschool’s limits is a healthy way to prevent unrealistic expectations.
3. Find your tribe; don’t sweat socialization.
I think the wide-spread concern over homeschoolers’ “socialization” has largely been eliminated, thanks to thoughtful research and excellent articles (like this one!). I’d only add this: It is important to find your tribe.
Of course, your primary tribe is your family, and the great thing about homeschooling is it allows children to identify first and foremost with you, rather than with their peers. (Mountains of research agree that kids are better adjusted when interacting with varying ages of people, rather than only their peers.) But especially as kids grow older, we do want them to have close friends.
We’ve discovered that maintaining family friends, rather than isolated friends for each person, allows you to maintain your family togetherness, uphold your values, and prevent the everyone-going-different-directions trap that’s so easy to fall into.
Where you find your tribe will largely depend on your values. We found our tribe at church. These are the folks we do life with. A few close friends go a long way.
4. Until about age 10, be prepared to sit beside your student.
This one varies wildly, so I’m just picking age 10 because it seems like both of my kids weren’t really working independently until then. The main frustration I hear from parents who are having to do crisis-homeschooling during this season is: “I have to sit next to [a certain child] the whole time!”
Usually, this child is under 10 years old. Again, I know plenty of mamas who manage to have their children working independently much earlier than this, but I didn’t feel like my kids were “off to the races” until about 10.
This means, if my child is younger than this I need to come to terms with the fact that I’m doing school WITH them.
How much of a workload am I going to give them? As much as I’m willing to do. Chances are, if it’s too much for me to endure, it’s too much for them to endure.
5. Kindle a fire, don’t fill a bucket.
Early on, I was very concerned with scope and sequence. This certainly has its place, but I now see education as far less about dumping a certain body of information into the empty bucket of my child’s brain, and much more as the kindling of a fire that will blaze for a lifetime.
The reality is, young children love to learn. They are naturally curious and eager and our efforts in those young years should be to kindle that spark of interest and help it grow into a deep hunger for learning and growth.
Once we teach them how to learn, then we can take the role of cheerleader, mentor, and coach, as they run hard toward their area of interest and life-calling. Heidi and her friend wrote 25,000 words (!) last week on a book they’re working on. Dutch started a blog and writes on it every day. They both spend hours reading and learning, on their own. I rejoice in this!
Cultivating courage, perseverance, discipline, and self-control from a young age, along with speaking words of encouragement all set our students up for the beautiful life-long pursuit of growth, wisdom, and knowledge.
If you are embarking on the brand new adventure of homeschooling, we in this community want to warmly welcome you and hope you’ll allow us to cheer you on through the ups and downs that are inevitable along this route.
Do you have specific questions or want to hear more on a certain topic, let us know in the comments below! Thanks so much for reading.
What’s Your Homeschool Mom Personality? Take Jamie’s quiz now and receive a free personality report to help you organize your homeschool based on what your personality type needs most!