Monday, August 16, 2010

Despite the bumps, it's a rewarding road to travel!

The Blog Cruise is up and running, with the first question being very appropriate as most are gearing up the school year.  This week's question is:

What advice do you have for those considering homeschooling or just starting out? 

Some of my advice would depend on the particular situation, e.g. age of kids, but there is one piece of advice I can give to all just starting out on the homeschooling adventure.

1. Relax and be flexible!

It is very difficult to match your visions of homeschooling with reality when you don't have any experience.  I remember when I first started out with a kindergartner and preschooler. I had grand visions of what our day would look like, how we would conduct school, and the attitudes of the kids. By the end of the year, everything looked completely different from what I had envisioned - and I'm glad for it!

If you are just starting out, it will take some time to figure out what truly works for your family.  Make sure you are flexible enough to deviate from your original plan if it isn't working out.  That is one of the biggest advantages to homeschooling - the opportunity to change what isn't working to something that does.

2. Don't be afraid to move ahead in content or spend more time when needed.

This is related to my first suggestion.  I once had a mom confide in me that her grade-level curriculum was too easy for her child, but she felt her daughter should do every page before being able to promote her to the next grade. What? This makes no sense.  If the child knows the material, move on, for goodness sake!  It is an utter waste of time (not to mention completely boring to the child) to make them cover material they already know, to make it "official" in some way.

On the other side, if your child needs to spend more time learning a concept, by all means spend the time, regardless if a new lesson is scheduled for the next day. You will be doing your child a disservice by pushing them through.  This is what the public schools do and why it is possible for someone to graduate high school barely reading and writing.

3. You may need to spend time establishing your new role in your home.

While I do believe that the older the child, the more a parent should get feedback and explore the wishes of the child, just as you would with any important decision on their behalf, it isn't necessarily a good idea to let a younger child dictate how it is all going to go down.  A mother, who really confide in me that she wanted to continue homeschooling after a rather smooth year of it, put her FIRST grader back in school because that is what the 6-year-old wanted.  Really?

Let's be real - kids like to challenge. I remember when I first told my daughter that we were going to homeschool.  She had attended preschool for two years and had been exposed to all the hoopla on heading off to kindergarten.  She put her little hand on her hip, wagged her finger at me, and said, "I am not going to be homeschooled.  You are my mom, not my teacher!"  He he.  She didn't get far and my stubborn little girl was soon doing math with her mama.  I'm not saying it was easy at first, but just like any new expectation in the house, your kids will challenge you and you need to make sure that they understand you are the parent making the decisions. 

My son, age 11, has never expressed a desire to go to school and I doubt he ever will. Now, whatever happened to that finger wagging girl?  She's a teen now, and does not want to go to traditional school.  I do, however, check in with her on occasion and make sure that attending school is not a burning desire that she'd regret not experiencing.  I've tried to present real pros and cons of traditional school and compare it to homeschooling. If she really wanted to try out school, I would explore options, get her input for why, and see if we could come up with something reasonable. It might mean doing things differently in our homeschool if she felt she was missing out on something particular or it may mean visiting some local schools. It would not mean I would let her make the decision nor would I mean I would dismiss her.  Right now, however, the finger wag comes with a definite, "I will NOT be attending school!" 
4.  If your kids have spent many years in the school system, you may need to deschool a bit.

This is especially important if your child had a negative experience. What is "deschooling"?  It is allowing the child to rid of the baggage of the traditional classroom.  This does not mean you are to just let them do whatever.  However, allow the child to explore interests, gain some confidence, and learn to love learning again. Learning can happen without lesson plans and workbooks, and for a child coming from a bad learning experience, this may be the best thing for them at first. Even if there there are no negative experiences at play in the background, you may want to make a point to show your new students the benefits of homeschooling. "Buy in" will get you a long way.  Go on some cool field trips they wouldn't have been able to do if they were in school, head over to the park for a nature walk, or simply let them blast their music mid-day and dance around for recess.  Which gets me to my next point...

5.  Don't recreate school at home.

Many new homeschoolers think homeschooling needs to look like a classroom.  They have a rigid schedule.  The children are up at 6 a.m. and are doing workbooks by 7:30 a.m.  They get 20 minutes for lunch and mom marks their papers with a big red pen.  If that works best for your family, great.  However, realize it is completely fine for kids to call you "Mom" rather than "Mrs. Smith" and homeschooling doesn't have to look like a brick and mortar school.

6. Get plugged in!

I feel it is extremely important to get plugged in to a homeschool support group.  There is nothing like a group of people who know exactly where you are at to lift you up and give advice.  You'll have the benefit of homeschooling right alongside other families just starting out as well as veteran homeschoolers who have been-there-done-that.  There are all kinds of different groups, from co-ops to casual, large to small, so look around if the first one you come across isn't a fit.

If you live in a rural area and can't find a local group, be sure to get plugged in online.  There are many different homeschooling forums. You can also go to Yahoogroups and search for "homeschooling + your state".  You may find a chat group of other folks in your area.

For those of you just starting out this year, I wish you a very successful year! Realize that all those bumps in the road will be well worth the blessings of the journey!


Julie Coney said...

oh how i know #3!!! great advice!

Our Village is a Little Different said...

This is all such good advice. The flexibility part, especially.

Monica said...

I like #2 - move on when they know the content. BUT I HAVE TO check each box....I'm learning to move on this year! Thanks for sharing.

SisterTipster said...

Thanks for sharing such good insights! See you on deck! ;-))

Vickie said...

"DeSchooling"-great advice. Especially when pulling a child from school mid-term. All of it is great advice actually lol

God's Blessings

Lisa said...

Stopping by on a Blog Walk to say hi! Great advice not only for new homeschoolers but we all need a reminder from time to time :)

Heidi said...


I wouldn't want to take the satisfaction of checking the box from you! You can still check the boxes...just don't make them do the work if they know it. (smiles)