As we move toward back-to-school time I tend to reflect on our decision to home school our kids. We went into this out of necessity (there were no acceptable English-speaking schools in our town in Taiwan) but now we love the lifestyle and are continuing to home school now that we are once again living in the United States. When we began our home school journey, I didn’t get the typical warnings and advice because we moved very quickly and we didn’t have a choice about home schooling. This year, our first back-to-school time in the US as home schoolers, I am really caught up in the things I wish someone had told me before we started home schooling.
While researching this I found a great article from homeschool.com listing their most important things to know. These were good and are definitely things you should consider before home schooling. Here are my words of advice and experience for the new home schooler:
#1. Don’t get overwhelmed on curriculum choices. There are so many options and the truth is that most of them will guide you to teach your child what they need to know. Pick one you think you may like and get started. If it doesn’t suit your family, try something different next year – or even this year.
#2. Don’t be afraid to scrap something that isn’t working. I know you paid good money for that curriculum, but if it isn’t working for your child or family don’t be afraid to scrap it and move on to something that will work better for you. It will be worth the extra cost in saved headaches and tears for you and your child.
#3. Generally, the school day is a lot shorter than you will expect. I was initially often surprised by how quickly we got our work finished each day. I was tempted to try to fill the extra time with more lessons (RESIST!). But Husband, who is an elementary school teacher, explained to me that a lot of the time at school is taken up with things like moving kids to and from specials (music, gym etc.), and having the kids who understand something do seat work (code for busy work to keep them occupied) so that teachers can work more closely with the kids who are not understanding something.
#4. It doesn’t matter where the work gets done if it gets done. At first the temptation is often to do school at home, keeping the structure, having the kids sit at desks or tables, etc. and formatting your day like a school day. This is especially true for parents who were not home schooled and when the kids have already been in school. While we run a fairly regimented and well-scheduled day, part of the benefit of home schooling is flexibility. If the kids want to take their spelling test while lying on the floor, does it matter? I have one kid who seems to ned to stand up and move about the same time we do science. I spent a lot of time fighting with her to sit still and participate, but she wasn’t engaged and “getting it”. When I started letting her stand up and wiggle during science, she actually listened better and participated more.
#5. Try to teach as many things as you can just once. Many subjects (science, history/social studies, art, music theory, etc.) can be taught across grade levels. This means you teach it once to all the kids. This was a huge time saver because I don’t have to give one-on-one instruction for every subject. Many curriculums have activities that cross a span of ages for just this application.
#6. Don’t be afraid to let the kids learn on their own. My goal is not to teach them but to teach them how to learn things for themselves. As children age, they can become more independent learners. First Born reads her math or English instructions and then does the work related to that days topic. She only receives instruction from me when she has a question or doesn’t understand something or if, when I check her work, I see that she needs more help. This frees me up to work more one-on-one with the younger kids.
The best thing about home schooling, besides the relationship-building with my kids, is the flexibility it offers. Don’t get tied to someone else’s idea of what home school should be! Take the time to figure out what YOUR home school should be.