A couple of weeks ago, I received a comment from a reader asking about the “how to’s” of getting started. Wish I could have gotten this article published a bit sooner, but perhaps it will help someone that is starting out.
To start with, a lot depends on the age(s) of your kiddos. Younger kids will need different types of materials and parental instruction than older kids will. Have the children been in school prior to your starting to homeschool? If so, that will shape both your and your child or children’s expectations going into this new adventure. Do any of your children have any identified learning deficits or excel in certain areas? That will help you to gauge how much information will be covered at each lesson. A child struggling in an area will often move a bit more cautiously through material and may not enjoy it. A child who has a particular interest in or who excels in a certain subject will consume great amount of information each day with joy. Neither situation are bad, they just help you to be mindful not to go too fast in some areas or too slow in others. Let your child guide the way.
Read, read, read! Read everything you can find at first about homeschooling. You will want to try different ideas and curriculums. It can even seem overwhelming. Just relax and try one new thing per year. If you purchase a curriculum, use it. Don’t try it for a week and toss it aside for something else. Keep it simple on both yourself and your child. Especially if you are starting with an older child, bear in mind that your new curriculum may have covered information in previous years that your child didn’t cover in school yet. Be patient with both of you and just go slowly. Just about anything you need to brush up on can be found by doing a simple Google search.
I am by no means an expert in homeschooling, but my sons (one gifted and one LD) have made it through high school with plans for the future under my guidance. So, while I can’t tell you exactly what will work in your family with your unique situation and children, I will share a few things that worked well for me and a few things that I wish I had done to improve our homeschooling experience.
Things that worked for us:
Read alouds–all kids love to be read to. Some auditory learners need to hear the material in order to fully comprehend it. Biographies and stories can make great family time before bedtime.
Talking about real happenings in the world. Current events can create good discussion topics. Let your children form their own opinions, even if they are questionable. Encourage logical thinking and give them ideas to think about. Before you know it, your child will have strong, reasoned opinions to be proud of.
Field trips, even those through Boy Scouting or church activities aided in my kiddos curiosity and their knowledge of the world around them.
Encouraging time spent outside in both structured and unstructured activities. We did everything from Boy Scout camping, hiking, and rappelling to berry picking, horseback riding, and assisting at a bird banding station. In fact, these trips encouraged one son to desire a career with horses and the other son to begin apprenticing for his Federal bird banding license.
Keep it interesting and fun (unit studies are great in middle school). Read alouds can just happen to cover similar topics as your unit studies. Field trips can be tailored to the subjects currently taught as well. Sometimes, current events can spark a little historical or geographical debate. Learning can’t be in a vacuum. It must be out in the open so that kids can see that it actually applies to real life.
Letting the kids see that we are lifelong learners. Hubby and I discussed books and blogs we read in front of the kids and as they got older, shared some with them. They saw us learn how to do things like build raised garden beds, can food properly, or fix the car. It takes away a lot of excuses that start with, “but we will never really NEED to know these things.” Learning is expected as a part of life, not a punishment.
Getting our kids involved at church, through volunteering, and in Scouting to gain social skills, leadership skills and just to make friends. It’s that socialization thing that people will always ask you about!
Things I wish I had done better:
Keep to a schedule. Some days my dislike of early mornings didn’t help my kiddos get up and started as well as I would have liked. They took their cues from me and I wasn’t consistent. Pick a starting time and stick with it. Even if it is noon. Things just feel less frantic that way.
More field trips. You just can’t have enough. They don’t have to be elaborate.
More “homestead” type skills. Home Economics is a good thing, but I wish I had been a bit less “college minded” and encouraged a bit more building things, making forts, planting things together. My kids can do laundry and cook, but still need to learn more skills (don’t we all?).
Encouraged my kids to write for fun. We wrote lots of essays and we read loads, but I actively encouraged reading for fun. I wish I had heard of National Novel Writing Month earlier. That would have been fun to do with my kids. And now that one of my kids is learning to write screenplays, it would have been helpful. I strongly encourage everyone to try it with their kids. Who cares if it doesn’t get published? Express yourself. We all have to communicate in life and the more ways you learn to do it, the better.
In the same vein, encourage younger kids to submit essays to various writing contests around your state and the blogosphere. In Georgia, there is a Fire Safety Essay contest each year that any student can enter. Sometimes, you get some praise and an award. Sometimes you don’t. It can be fun either way. Make a collection of your kids writings and drawings and publish them up for grandparents for Christmas. It’s totally good stuff!
I wasn’t great about taking “back to school” pictures and I wish that I had been more consistent.
Some tips for every parent:
Home Ec is hard work!
Photo by Jan Hatchett
Don’t ever say, “It’s too hard” that just gives kids a reason not to try. This is the single biggest mistake that I have heard over and over among homeschoolers who are working with older kids. It doesn’t matter if you liked the subject in school. It doesn’t matter if you thought it was too hard as a kid. What matters is that you give your child every opportunity to master the information and to be good at it. Don’t put your negative ideas on your child. He or she may love that subject if you give them a chance! Hire a tutor to teach it for you or use an online program if you must, but if your children hear you complaining about the subject and about teaching them, don’t be surprised if their overall work ethic may suffer.
Don’t give up! Every child is different. Every child will take a slightly (or extremely) different path from others. That’s okay. In fact, that is the way this is supposed to work. Homeschooling (like life) is messy and full of ups and downs, but you keep on going. It’s a life lesson for your kids as well as a way to show them that they are valuable and loved. Don’t get mired down in the comparison game. Celebrate each success.
You can’t give enough hugs, kisses, pats on the shoulder or praise! Give freely of the happy emotions and let them bubble up through your children. Put the good grades papers on display in your home. Frame some drawings and finger paintings.
Let go of anxiety and preconceived notions of how to educate children and enjoy your kids. Time passes so quickly. You will never regret spending happy times with your kids.
What is your favorite homeschooling advice? Please share it in the comments.
Till next time,