What I Wish I’d Known about Homeschooling (Part 3)
Read previous articles in this series: Part 1 or Part 2
“We assume there is only one right answer for every decisions, and we equate a choice that doesn’t work out well with failure. Not true.”
5. Enjoy the choices. A couple of decades ago, we didn’t have many options. There were only a few curricula suppliers; co-operative activities for homeschoolers were non-existent; the Internet was in its infancy. Today the challenge is sifting through all the choices available. There are any number of good phonics-based reading programs you can try; conventions are held in nearly every state with a full slate of speakers and a vendor hall filled with wares; support groups and co-ops in many towns offer monthly opportunities for parents and kids; and all of us, no matter where we live, can find virtual classes and support online. For most of us, all these options are stress-inducing. We assume there is only one right answer in each of these decisions, and we equate a choice that doesn’t work out well with failure. Not true. As long as we learn something from decisions we later need to abandon or tweak, our kids benefit from the process. It will help them become risk-takers themselves, and give them a healthy attitude toward their own missteps and mess-ups.
6. Don’t try this alone. I need my girlfriends, and I’m grateful the women I shared my homeschooling years with are still among my dearest friends. My kids are still close with the friends they made during our homeschooling years, too. I didn’t anticipate this side benefit to homeschooling. Find out where your local homeschool community is hanging out (in real time or online) and start networking like a pro. Your best advice is going to come from those in your neck of the woods. They’ll know the ins and outs of complying with state regulations; they can recommend the resources that have worked best for them; they can keep you abreast of all that’s happening in your area. Your kids will likely enjoy homeschooling more if they have their own network of support as well. So don’t let the curriculum enslaved you. Seize opportunities to take field trips with others or join in some co-operative classes; such as, a homeschool chorus, a Spanish class, or a basketball team.
7. Exploit the advantages of homeschooling. Don’t re-create conventional schooling in your home. There’s no need to. Homeschooling looks more like mentoring or tutoring. You don’t have to use materials created for a classroom of 20 kids – you can use your local library for a lot of stuff – and it is usually more engaging. Tests and quizzes don’t need to be the only method of evaluations. You have time for projects, papers,and performances – the kinds of activities that kids will remember and value. Get out of the house and into the world, you have the time and freedom to explore. When I was a classroom teacher, I could only take one field trip a year with my students. With my own kids, we did a dozen or more a year. Some were pre-planned and carefully built into the curricula; but some of the best were on a whim often after catching a notice in the morning’s paper.
I enjoy asking my adult children what they remember most from our homeschooling years. They each take a shot at teasing me about the math program that flopped or the history lessons I skipped. But then they list the field trips, the projects, the friendships, the plays, the interesting people we met, and the wonderful children’s literature we shared together. Their childhood friends from our homeschool community tell me the same. Homeschooling your kids will certainly give them a different education but it will be a “real” education, too.
Debra Bell, PhD, is the author of Writers in Residence and Readers in Residence language arts program from Apologia Press.