Note from Kresha: In our family, we're coming into our fourth year of homeschooling and I'm excited to share the advice veteran home-educator, Heather Harris from The Homesteading Hippy, has for us today. She's got a brand-new podcast all about homeschooling too – be sure to check out the latest podcast episode here. And I can't agree more with her about the need to stay flexible! I'll be sharing our family's experiences in the next few weeks, as well.
It's that time of year again.
Thousands of pencils, crayons, notebooks and erasers line the store shelves. It's hard to walk anywhere without being accosted by brightly colored markers or folders. As a homeschooling mom, it's the same feeling I get each year–dread.
Apparently, I am considered a “veteran” homeschooler. I guess 12 years of doing it makes me a sort of “expert”. Who on earth defined that, I'd like to know! I have new homeschoolers asking me how to do it, what curriculum to use, how to know if you are being successful, what about co-ops, what if my 8 year old can't read…I gotta be honest, I DO love the attention and the pseudo hero-worship. But, even after 12 years of doing this, I am still as clueless as they are. I know less about homeschooling NOW than I did 12 years ago, to be fully honest.
I can, however, impart some wisdom for you that I think will answer many of those questions you may be facing right now.
What curriculum should I use?
That's my favorite question of all.
You have probably heard of the “major” suppliers like Father's World, Saxon, Sonlight, ACE, Rod & Staff, Math-U-See and LifePac. They are the hottest and most expensive out there. I have tried and failed at them all with equal ease. Each year, my children were different. They had different interests, thoughts, and dreams. What might have worked one year didn't work the next. For example, my oldest child HATED the thought of filling out workbook after workbook up until high school. Then, the idea of setting a goal, accomplishing it and being done was rather appealing.
The best advice I can offer is to stay flexible. Don't have your heart “set” on something just because someone else used it or you drooled over it at a curriculum fair. Allow yourself to tweak anything as necessary and when you have done that to more than 50% of it, set it aside. It's not working for your family at this point in time.
Not only should you take into account your child's learning style, you need to account for your teaching style. How you teach something is just as important as how your child learns.
Borrow, rather than buy at first if at all possible.
This is a question that I get asked by my extended family all the time…the famous “S” question. I used to joke that they needed to stop asking my children at their taekwondo class, 4H, dance class, Boy Scouts, art class, co-op and while playing with the neighborhood kids just how socialized they felt as homeschoolers.
Your child WILL be socialized, even if you are just taking them to the grocery store, or to the feed store. They will see other human beings and interact with them. The best advice I can give is allow them to interact with people of all ages, races, etc. That's how they learn and grow about the world around them best.
I can tell the kids who are around adults more often, as they are the ones more comfortable carrying on a conversation without prompting. Allow them to talk to strangers (with you close by, of course) so they can learn how to get to know people, as well as learning to trust their instincts when “something isn't quite right”.
Take that one step at a time and start with neighbors or people you as the parent trust. Allow your child to carry on the conversation without your help. Sure, they may only talk about their favorite toy or TV show, but that's what's important to them right now. Their feelings and thoughts matter, too.
How will I know if I am successful as a homeschooler?
Ummm, you won't. Most often, you will constantly doubt yourself and wonder if you shouldn't have taught this, or your child should be doing that. Sure, there is always that one kid in the co-op who is fluent in 10 languages and is a science whiz at the age of 5, but is that necessary for your child?
I used to measure success based on whether or not we actually got dressed for the day. Just like your child didn't walk, talk, or use the potty like other kids, they aren't going to read, write, be able to solve fractions like any other child. EACH child is unique. My best advice is to allow each child to be unique.
Set goals of what you would like them to know at the start of the next school year, and work to achieve that together. When we allowed our children to choose some of those goals, it was amazing what they accomplished. For example, one year my son wanted to focus his history on WW2. Together, we choose books for him to read, papers he needed to write and what he needed to know about that time period by the start of the following year. He then took off with that, and not only completed the year's goals in 6 months time, he set higher standards for himself the next year with ancient Rome. (Who says history needs to be studied in chronological order?)
Overall, my best advice to any homeschooler out there is this:
Take a deep breath, get a shower and get dressed and ENJOY this time with your children. You will never again have kids at this exact age, and the time goes so fast.
Color WITH them (fun and relaxing for adults!!) and if you spent the entire day in your jammies, just building towers with legos, playing store or dressing dolls, you have spent a day learning.
Of course, hanging a “Teachers Lounge – Teachers ONLY” sign on the bathroom when you need to run and hide works, too… that's where you will find me…