This entire exercise has me thinking about the good the bad and the ugly of homeschooling, while it is gaining in acceptance and the doors to post secondary schooling are now wide open for homeschoolers; there are still a lot of misconceptions about what homeschooling is and more importantly what it isn't.
While I haven't been really active in larger homeschooling circles for a few years now, some of the concerns and questions I have heard are actually close to the same ones I was asking myself all those years ago when we first started our homeschooling life. So, I have put together a sort of open letter to anyone who feels they would like to homeschool, it is lessons learned from many years experience. It is mix of my proudest moments for my children and some of those times when you just wish you could have the moment over again to do right.
The best piece of advice I ever had with regard to homeschooling was to breathe deeply and relax. As a very type A personality, this was difficult for me to learn. Over the years I have realised the more relaxed I am, the more relaxed the kids are.
When children are young, <9 years old, do not be too concerned with formal curriculum. Children are hard wired to learn, in fact the only way to keep them from learning is to lock them away. The only thing I would do is to introduce a math curriculum, I prefer Singapore math especially for the primary grades. If you are naturally inclined to math, if you see the patterns easily and know you can pass this on to your kids, then you don't even have to do that. Numbers do not come easily to me, so I wanted to give my children a solid base in math. Essentially, this is the key to successful homeschooling, especially homeschooling younger children. Kids at this age are just so curious that they naturally turn almost everything into learning.
Know what you strengths and weaknesses are and utilize curriculum to fill in the gap.
This stage takes a lot of time on your part, but you can also help yourself by turning regular chores into learning time. Science behind canning, why weeds grow so quickly, filtering and vacuum pressure while cleaning the house. There are ways you can foster the learning without having the steady stream of questions 12 hours a day. If one of the kids was interested in say frog eggs they found in the pond. I would talk with them about it a little, explain what the mass was etc. If I had a book about the topic we could look at that for a few minutes or more depending on how much time I had. If they were still interested we would find age appropriate books during weekly library trip. Having these books around encouraged the kids to start reading. Magazines for kids are also great. If you speak to your librarian you may be able to get some of the back issues of the magazines as they have to cull back issues on a regular basis. Video resources are now much easier to utilize with things like Netflix and live streaming.
Another thing we continue to do is to spread our school year over the entire year. So as the kids get older and started more formal curriculum, we just gave ourselves the entire year to finish the 'grade'. This gives you more time on a daily basis. Instead of trying to fit everything into several weeks you have several months.
The curriculum I chose for ages 9- 12 was usually unit study type curriculum. Roughly grades 4-7. I had a list of things they should have covered by that time, I would sit down with each child and together we would choose what they were interested in and wanted to learn about for the coming block of school time. Thankfully most unit studies offer different age ranges within the study guides.
From age 13+ we switch to more formal curriculum, science, history etc. By formal I mean curriculum with written reports, tests etc. But we still kept to the year long schedule.
These are things that worked for us, it is important to remember there is there is no one size fits all curriculum. Each child will learn differently. Many many children go through life with no curriculum at all. (gasp)! Fuelling their imagination, in my opinion, is key to lifelong learning. One of the most important things we can do as homeschooling parents is to foster a love of learning in our children. Learning is not something that starts and stops with a bell. If a love of learning, the tools to think critically and the skill to find and evaluate information were the only things my kids took away from their homeschooling I would be a very happy Mama indeed!
There is also no one size fits all method of homeschooling. Find what works for your family, relax and enjoy the chaos! It goes by much to fast. My 'children' are now 25, 23, 21, 20 and 13; and I honestly don't know how it went by so fast.
Homeschooling can be a remarkable way to raise your children. It is not for everyone. If you think it would work for your family, explore it. It is a huge commitment, and I don't know of any homeschooling parent who hasn't had the occasional sleepless night worrying. (Those nights become less frequent as you go along.) The rewards are amazing too, you will be mentoring your children as you go through your daily life. They will see how you conduct yourself, they will learn your values and model them. It allows your children to learn at their own pace, and in the learning style that works best for them. While it is a huge time commitment on the surface, it can actually be easier to schedule in family time and extracurricular activities. It gives you freedom to set your own schedule, and when it comes right down to it isn't that one of the reasons we all chose the homesteading lifestyle?
As always, if you have any questions the comments are open. Have a great day everyone! See you tomorrow for another How To Tuesday.