It’s the dawn of a new day. We begin anew with our struggles and successes. There are many reasons we continue to home school our children, and lots of things we have learned over the years. Here are a few thoughts to share on the subject:
1. The Approach: We have tried all the different home school approaches including classical, unit studies, literature, virtual schools and traditional text book. We have learned in ALL of them. Pick the approach that works for you and stick to it. Most of our learning has been classical, but at times I have felt it was easier to teach certain subjects in different formats. For example we did a unit study on garden bugs and spent the summer digging and identifying critters in the garden. Had we read a book on garden bugs it would not have been as interesting. Just because you choose one method however, doesn’t mean you are locked into it. Life happens, it may be easier to do virtual classes in high school, or just read great literature when your new baby needs more attention. Whatever you choose, love it and know that your kids are learning even when you have your doubts.
2. Burnout: The amount of books available on home schooling is staggering. The amount of curriculum available is incredible. The amount you actually have to accomplish each year for your own piece of mind, without thinking your kids are behind the public school system is probably even bigger. It’s okay to pace yourself. We had some years where we only did science and history every other day. We also had a year where we were totally burned out on history and only did science. Currently we are motivated and doing both subjects each day. It’s okay. By the way, did you know there is no history on the SAT? Don’t sweat it.
3.The Grass is Not Always Greener: I remember trying all 4 or 5 English programs other people were recommending. One day our 8 year old son said “Mom, why can’t I just use the program we have? I LIKE this one?” Enough said. I never wavered again. It’s great to try new things, but there is something to be said for picking a program and persevering through it to the very end. English is English, and whether you choose Mc Guffy, Explode the Code, Bob Jones or Abeka, your kids will have a good understanding of the language in the end. I would have saved myself hundreds of dollars and many years of frustration had I known this simple thing.
4. Life Skills: One of the most important things you can do for your kids is teach them Life Skills. Whether it’s painting, repairing walls, changing a tire, fixing a household appliance, balancing a checkbook (which I still can’t do by the way), sewing or managing their time, these skills are invaluable. Kids can always check out a book and teach themselves how to do chemistry, but there are far fewer books on Life Skills. It’s amazing how many people can’t do (or are too lazy to do) simple things that were once essential for survival in modern society. Check out How to Videos on YouTube there are lots available to learn from.
5. Know What You Believe and Why: Many Christians fall away from grace at some point in their lives. As much as we try and establish our children’s faith, there may be times when they question it and are drawn away. Firmly teach your children not just your beliefs, but WHY you believe what you do. Your faith is easier to defend if you have the right tools.
6. Know Your Kids Learning Styles: This is critical to your homeschooling success as far as I am concerned. Read “Discover Your Child’s Learning Style” by Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson to figure out how your child learns best. It will save you years of frustration. If you can’t figure it out, try having your child analyzed by a professional. I was amazed that our two dyslexic boys learned completely differently. One was completely auditory, and the other was completely visual. I had no idea part of their difficulty in academics was that they could not learn by the same methods. Years of money and time were wasted before I figured this out, don’t make the same mistake, homeschooling will be so much easier!
7. Support: It is so important to have others who support what you are doing. Find them, they are out there. Whether you join your local home school group, email group, or blog network we need daily affirmation that what we are doing is right for us and our families. Many a great home school Mom has quit what they enjoy doing because they lack the support to keep it up.
8. Fruits of Your Labor: They say patience is a virtue. When homeschooling it is very difficult to be patient when you wait years and years to find out if your kids will be successful. Passing the SAT/ACT tests and actually get into college seem like the lights at the end of the tunnel. I was sure we weren’t doing enough as home school’s until I did my oldest son’s High School transcript. He went to a local school beginning his Sophomore year, and needed a record of all he had learned. By the time I got it all down on paper, it was TWO PAGES. His student councilor called me over and over, convinced there was some mistake. There was no way we could have accomplished so much. He had enough credits to graduate as a Junior. Make your child a transcript for fun, even if High School is a long way off. Include a reading list, service project list, athletic activities, awards and honors. You will be amazed how much you have done. Our son is still in school by the way, he will officially be a Senior next year, but he takes classes just because there is so much he wants to learn before he goes out into the world.
9. Put Blinders On: Sometimes I think we struggle because of all the distractions in life. Opposition to home schooling is out there, so needy family members, rotten politicians, mass murderers, Tsunami’s and all sorts of other disasters. We get much more schooling done by unplugging from the world and just concentrating. There is plenty of time to send emails, surf the web, watch the news, and answer the phone when the school work is done.
10. Never Give Up: If your child is struggling with a concept, explore alternative ways for him to learn it. Explore auditory, visual, and tactile viewpoints. When all else fails seek professional opinions. If he still struggles try something else, but NEVER give up. One of our dyslexic boys didn’t learn to read until he was 12. We would work on something simple like reading short words (cat, dog, etc.) and learning the alphabet song each fall, but he couldn’t do it. He could not memorize the letters and sounds for anything. So we would work for a couple of weeks each school year before we were both so frustrated we would give up. Eventually we came across a reading expert that specialized in right brain development and learning. With her methods, he began to learn to read at age 12. She told me that he was the most right brained child she had ever seen, and if we hadn’t come to her, he probably would have never learned to read. Today, he loves to read. He personally spends a part of each day teaching and reading with his younger brother so he won’t ever have the same issues. The struggle was incredible, but the lesson of perseverance we have all learned is priceless. Don’t EVER give up!