Wednesday, May 9, 2012

5 Things I Wish I'd Known Then (About Homeschooling)

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Whether you homeschool or not, you might find some helpful insight in what I've learned along the way. If you have a friend or family member who homeschools, let them know even a fraidy cat can get the job done! My journey is almost over. That thought takes my breath away. 

1. Let Go the Tyranny of the Scope and Sequence – Enjoy the Day.
Especially for former classroom teachers like myself, it is tempting to bring the classroom model home with us. Here I am 14 years later, and I still love a good work or textbook. Actually, no, I don't. I'm held captive by them. It's too late for me. Save yourself!

I sigh with envy at families doing unit studies, discovery based learning, and lapbooks. While we did a lot of reading through the years, we didn't do a lot of hands on things. Instead, we plowed right thru those workbooks and textbooks page after page. I knew better. I was just afraid. I mourn what we missed on the road to discovery learning. I wonder what memories we failed to make on the way. When you only have 2 and the oldest is in high school, you don't get a big margin for do-overs. :-/   If I knew then what I know now....
2. Demand Less When They Are Young. The Future is Coming.

Many moms burn out because they started teaching 'school' when the baby was a mere 3-years-old. Once upon a time, I met a mom of a delightful sib group of 2 born only a year apart. She was nervous and on the verge of tears most every time I saw her. Her fear? She wasn't “doing enough”. They were 3 and 4. “Relax!” I said, “You can't break them! Put them in the yard; let them play and explore. Call them in when they are 5. Even then, remember: it's not a race. It's a journey.”

Young children learn via play not via workbooks. Read about nature and connect it to what you see. Read fairy tales and make puppets to act out the story. Relax. They more you read to them, the better readers and writers they will be. The time for books and learning to read and write will come. Teach them to love to learn new things now before the book work becomes a task master in the upper grades.

3. Demand More When They are Older. The Future is Finally Here.
Perhaps because we start out at a gallop fearing we can't keep up with our neighbors' kids, it seems that as our students reach middle school, our expectations sometimes fail to match their increasing maturity. Is it burnout? Is it balancing the demands of several children at different educational levels? I'm not sure.

As middle school begins, we are beginning to prepare the launch pad for their departure. It's time for them to shoulder more responsibility both around the home and academically. Due dates should stick. Logical consequences should follow failure to complete assignments. Core academics matter. Your attitude as a teacher should reflect that you trust them to be able to manage themselves in the world. You show that trust by treating them as if they are not babies anymore!

4. Always Allow For 'Serendipity' Even When They Are Older.
Embrace any opportunity for learning. You never know how God is using that moment to prepare them for the future. When Son #1 was only 15, he interned in a real estate office. It wasn't the most fun thing he ever did, and he did not learn the things for which I'd hoped. In fact, I pulled the plug sooner than I had thought I would because I didn't think it was meeting my objectives for him. 

Five years later, he traveled to Australia, in the middle of his college career, to work as a consultant for the largest children's photography chain in the country. They paid his round trip expenses for travel and accommodations on top of his salary and bonus.  See those dots connect? You call it serendipity. I call it Providence.

5. Be Prepared for Midnight Pow-wows That Seem to Have No End.
2011 - Courtesy H. Wills
Take it to the bank: the teen years will include plenty of times when the truth of a hurting, confused heart reveals itself at midnight. Once the words roll, they will be hard to stop. On those nights, rejoice even tho' you want to pull the pillow over your head and drown out the world. You have homeschooled for these times. You don't live at the tyranny of the big yellow bus's schedule, and your child has time to work up to unburdening his or her soul. You are blessed as is your child. Nights like these will make the trips they make to the other side of the world a lot less daunting....even for fraidy cat parents like me! 
The homeschooling journey is not for the faint of heart. Individual days sometimes seem as if they will be fatal. We doubt our bodies survive, and know if they do, our spirits may not. Then, we turn around twice, look back, and wonder how the sum of those grindingly hard days evaporated so fast. We watch the plane to Australia take off, and every day was worth it. 

Ecclesiastes 2: 24 (NIV)
A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.


  1. Great post! I kept feeling like I hadn't done enough "schooling" with my 4 year old. Thanks to everyone who has told me lately, that it's okay! I feel pressured by those with kids in school that I won't be able to teach him to read, write, etc. But, I wanted him to be little while he was little and we haven't done any real teaching yet.

  2. Nancy, I fear it is a trap we all fall into. This is a time for discovery, exploration, and fostering curiosity. If you want a great site for a wonderful approach, investigate the 'Learning Table' link on my right sidebar. She has such a relaxed approach. Her kids are older now, but when I grow up, I want to be her! (PS...we did K5 followed by Transitional 1st with both our boys. It was a wonderful way to give them time to mature into school.)