They say hindsight is 20/20 and that phrase rings true more times in my life than I’d care to admit. That’s how life is, though. It’s a learning process. While we can begin any ambition with the best research and intentions, there are some aspects we simply won’t know until after we have gone through the process. For me, that has certainly been my experience with how to start homeschooling. Looking back, there are some things I would change if I could, and a few things I’ve learned to do differently. Let’s chat about a few areas where homeschooling has taught me lessons that I wish I knew before I started to homeschool!
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Homeschooling Doesn’t Have to Be School-at-Home
Creating a school-at-home environment is a very popular choice among new homeschoolers. After all, if your experience with education is based solely on a public or private school, it’s hard to imagine homeschooling any other way. It’s easy to think that’s how schooling simply has to be since that’s how the “professionals” do it. And so, you create a schoolroom with dedicated desks, cubbies, and a whiteboard. You’ll choose a strict starting time and consider when to schedule recess. Pretty soon, your homeschool has turned into a school-at-home.
For some homeschoolers, this works well and they enjoy the structure. However, school-at-home can limit the freedom of homeschooling. One of the many benefits of homeschooling is the ability to learn wherever and at any time. Your homeschoolers can study on the couch, in bed, outside, or in the car! They can learn in the morning, late afternoon, or even at night if that is what works best for your family. Oftentimes, homeschooling parents find themselves lost and frustrated when they try to mirror their homeschools after traditional schools.
Find What Works for Your Homeschooling Family
In the end, homeschooling is about what works for your family. At the beginning of our homeschool journey, I was so focused on the activities other homeschooling families enjoyed that I didn’t notice if those things worked for our family. It’s important to base your homeschool on what works specifically for your children. Regardless of whether all your friends use a certain curriculum, if it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay. If your current curriculum works amazingly, you don’t need to buy a new curriculum simply because other homeschool moms rave about it. Even if inspirational homeschooling podcasts suggest a certain schedule or method, but you know your children are not going to benefit from the change — that’s okay! Let’s determine what to do for our homeschool by first establishing the reasons behind those choices.
Embrace the Benefits of Homeschooling
The anxiety of a homeschooling parent is real. There are constant worries about whether you’re doing everything right, if you are teaching your kids enough, if they are missing out on anything, if you need to do anything differently, etc. To top it off, the whole world will have an opinion about how to homeschool your children. Try to avoid feeling so nervous about missing something that you don’t enjoy the homeschool journey and all the amazing home instruction that goes along with it. It is a process and you and your children can both learn together. In addition to studying together, you can also learn what works for each other as you go along. With homeschooling, there is always trial and error, but that is part of the journey! Embrace the moments, embrace the occasional mess, embrace the benefits of homeschooling! Homeschooling is forgiving!
Homeschooling Should Meet the Child Where They Are
When parents first start homeschooling, it is tempting to try to fit your kids in the conventional box. From experience with traditional schools, you’ll have phrases such as grade levels, assessments, and percentages bouncing through your head. While certain people will ask about milestones concerning your child’s age, it’s important to remember that each child learns at their own rate. Homeschooling doesn’t need to force your children to rush to a certain level through stress and tears.
Homeschool curricula often allow children to work at different levels for various subjects of study, according to what they need. As a broad example, if your children can read at age four and write in cursive, wonderful! However, even if they don’t read until age eight or later, just keep going.
Tailor Your Homeschool Style to Fit Your Child’s Needs
Every child has different interests, learning styles, and needs. With homeschooling, you can individualize your education plan for each of your children. Once you are aware of your child’s learning style, you can begin to tailor your homeschool resources and methods to how they learn best. Consequently, this customized approach allows for your homeschoolers to study effectively.
Additionally, consider anything your child enjoys or finds fascinating. How can you incorporate those elements into your home instruction? For example, if you have a technology-loving kiddo, perhaps utilize that enjoyment with a digital core curriculum or electives. Including elements of fascination for our children, whether as resources, classes, electives, and so on, can add dimension and depth to their homeschooling experience, as well as help them feel engaged.
Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been an integral part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional schooling and homeschooling became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, remote project manager, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children (ages 11-17) in southern Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience and help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected]