My son Michael wasn’t all that thrilled to be homeschooled the first year we started. He gave me a month, and then took matters into his own hands. He said we needed to set a schedule. We were doing something different every day! He wanted to have math at the same time followed by spelling (which I should be teaching, by the way) and then he wanted to go outside at 10:15 AM. I said “sure,” and did my best to accommodate his desires, because I was that kind of child-centered homeschooler. At the end of the first week I asked him why he was swinging so furiously on the swing set when he took his morning break. He hadn’t been interested in that for quite some time now.
Turns out, he’d surveyed the neighborhood kids who went to a “real” school and following a schedule was how they did thing there. The best part of the day, they had reported, was recess. Mike probed deeper and found out what you do at recess is swing on the swings. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, Mike was doing his best to be a “real” student so he could hold his own with his more conventionally-educated friends.
Many of us start our homeschool adventure with the same concerns my son Mike had. We want to be taken seriously, and we want others (including our spouse and children) to treat our homeschool as a “real” school, too. If you are anything like me, this can lead to a lot of angst and earnestness that puts undue pressure on us and fills the air with tension (just sayin’). Now with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight (my gang of four are all graduated—and they even have jobs!), I’m eager to pass along a few things I wish I’d known. It would have made the journey a bit more pleasant for all.
- There is a learning curve. My good friend, Marie, an experienced homeschooler, told me, “The first year’s the hardest. It gets easier after that.” I didn’t really believe her. I mean I was only tackling kindergarten back then. I couldn’t imagine that being harder than, say, high school physics. Now speaking from the other side of high school physics, Marie was right. Figuring out how to homeschool is really the toughest task of all. Tell your kids to expect the unexpected. In fact, the first years of homeschooling are really about finding out what doesn’t work. Ask any veteran, they’ll tell you, “Nobody does what they did the first year again!” So relax. Enjoy the process. That’s part of the fun. There isn’t just one way to homeschool your kids. You have a lot of options. It’s okay to try out a few different resources, schedules, philosophies, curricula, etc. until you finally settle into a groove. And just when you think you’ve found that groove, your kids’ needs will change; your family circumstances will shift; new options will come down the pike; and you’ll be on the upside of that learning curve again.
- Kids are resilient. Just in case you fear all this trial and error will mess up your kids, the good news is kids are pretty adaptable. Learning how to adjust and flex is an important life skill they are going to need in the future –you’re just giving them a head start. The best thing you can do is don’t pretend you have it all together. Ask your kids to pray for you. Mine let me know they were already on that when I suggested this source of comfort.
- You are going to skip something. And worse, it will be something really important. My twin sons enjoyed calling me from college their freshman year to report in on yet another news flash that would have been good to know! I told them thanks, and that I’d make sure their younger siblings benefited from their feedback. Seriously speaking, we are living in a world of rapid transformation. The skills and knowledge base our kids will need for their future lives is anybody’s guess. That’s why majoring on learning how to learn is the very best use of our time. My sons were teasing me when they called; they knew I was at home sweating bullets that first semester they were away at school. Fortunately, raising an independent learner had been a focus of our home school. And they just headed over to the library, searched online or visited their professors during office hours to get the information they needed to be successful. Posture yourself as a fellow lifelong learner alongside your kids. Modeling a love for learning and taking joy in the process will be a powerful influence on your children’s attitudes toward education and the effort they put into it. It’s also the best backup plan to offset the effects of your inevitable failures and oversights.
Stay tuned… Part 2 coming Monday.