5 Helpful Tips for the Home-school Mom
When I began homeschooling a couple years ago, I did so because I was inspired by the writer of a blog that I had been following. I could tell from her every post, that her life and the lives of her children were enriched by a love for learning- a love for great literature, and a strong sense of family and fellowship. I was intrigued, mostly because my own adolescent academic experience couldn't have been more different. I knew instantly that this was what I wanted, for myself and for my children. My husband was home-schooled for 2 years as a child and LOVED it, so of course he was all in. But starting out, I knew absolutely nothing about teaching my children at home! And the journey to discovery can not only be daunting, but also bumpy! So to pass down the wisdom that I've picked up in my few short years as a home-school mom, I have formulated a list of things that I wish I'd have known from the beginning. I hope it helps!
The absolute most important piece of advice that I can give you, is this:
1. Make Learning Fun.
When I started out, I was a rigid, borderline obsessive home-school teacher. I love a good check list. I love calendars, and timers, and worksheets, and anything else that shows visible progress. But I learned very quickly that just because my daughter put it on paper, doesn't mean she learned it! At 6 years old, miss thang is smart, and can fake a fact with the best of them. It took me a little while to catch on to it, and even longer to relinquish my idealized version of what school at our house would look like. But ironically, I learned, that the best, most lasting type of learning, is through experience! And those experiences and lessons are much more likely to stick if they're attached to a meaningful memory!
2. Be willing to give up. (For the day!)
I know it seems counter-intuitive to cut a lesson short when things start getting tough, but as soon as you lose your patience or let on that you're frustrated, the quality of the lesson has been compromised anyway. And it's much better to walk away on a happy note than to fight through it and break fellowship with your child. I learned this while teaching my first child to read. Going through our reading book at times would be so frustrating- especially when she would get hung up on things that I thought should have been easy for her. I would push her harder and tell her that I knew she could do better. But that wasn't at all an effective way to encourage her. And in those moments, the healthiest anecdote is simply to get some air. Walk away, so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes and a good attitude. And always walk away on a positive note! Hey, baby... Let's take a break and go do a puzzle. We'll finish this a little later!
The last thing that you want is for your child to feel like you are frustrated or disappointed in them. And you may find that when you come back to it, the problem actually was not the child, but you! I have so often done this and realized that the problem was not laziness or a lack of enthusiasm on her part, but unclear explaining and poor teaching on mine!
3. Learn the benefits of predictability.
I've learned, since having 3 kids especially, that having a predicable schedule is invaluable! We get up in the morning, eat together, do our Bible study, and then break for morning chores. When the chores are done, we quickly begin school. This predictability gives my children expectations for the day. For instance, they know that when they get 2 subjects done, we can all break and enjoy a snack. Or, they know that when their rooms are picked up, they can do a fun project like art, or science. This takes away some of the chaos, and gives them motivation to do the things they need to do. And building these habits from the beginning will set a strong precedent for the rest of your home-school experience!
4. Don't be afraid to change your curriculum.
The wrong curriculum can make homeschooling a nightmare. And it's very tempting to try and stick it out and work through it, because books are expensive! And it's intimidating making the decision to start the search all over for that perfect one. But it is so worth it to have the right one. The first curriculum I bought was $700! So obviously, ditching it was a last resort! But in the grand scheme of things, I realized that the price of the curriculum was a lot cheaper than the price of a bad year. I nearly quit homeschooling because our curriculum was a bad fit. I thought perhaps the problem was me! I thought I was just not organized enough to make the curriculum work. But in the end, I did make the switch and the difference was night and day! Instantly, home-schooling became joyful for all of us! Don't hang on to a curriculum that's fighting you. A good curriculum will work with you, not against you.
5. Set your sights on the big picture.
I have to remind myself constantly that home-schooling is a totally different animal than mainline school. In a school system, my child would be in a classroom with 15 plus students. She would sit in a desk from 8 to 3 with few breaks in between. She would be assigned busy work, and learn everything from a text book. At home, she gets one on one attention. Her assignments are specific to her learning type and ability. When she finishes, she studies life by playing outside, going to the museum, or doing an impromptu science experiment. In two hours, we cover more ground than a classroom does in a week. What's my point? The rules are different! For a long time, our 'schoolwork' was very sporadic. I had my third child. We moved to another home. I got bells palsy, and then the holidays happened... things get crazy sometimes, and school suffers. So I felt guilty that my child was not 'being educated' every day. I spoke to an older lady in my church about this, confiding in her about my insecurities and feelings of failure. She reassured me that I was doing the right thing by home-schooling her. She reminded me of the big picture. In a week, sure, a normal school might do more traditional school work with my child, but my child is reading 3rd grade reading material...and she's 6! We may not meet a certain criteria for 'hours put in' , but we certainly see results. So my advice? Set long term goals and see them met. The beauty of teaching from home is that you can tailor school to fit you! Don't confuse the need for a good education with the need for an 8 to 3 babysitter. Broaden your vision!
And remember, while you're teaching, you're always learning!