No matter how enthusiastic you are when you start homeschooling, there will be days when you wonder why on earth you’re doing this. The kids don’t want to do their math, your house is a mess, you worry they’ll be years behind in everything but home ec, and it frankly doesn’t feel very fun for anybody.
When those days arrive, it’s time to mix things up a little and put your priorities in order.
Here’s how to make it all a little easier.
1. Stop playing school! If you do “school at home” and you and the kids love it, by all means keep it up. If you’re assigning papers and giving spelling tests to kids who greet it all with the same enthusiasm they greet dental appointments then it’s time to find a new way to homeschool!
Go to a great free printables site like Donna Young and print out a weekly homeschool schedule. Don’t plan a thing in it, though. Write each child’s name in it and list the subjects you want to cover (math, reading, PE, science, life skills..). Now throughout the day write things down that count for those subjects as you do them. As the day or week progresses, you may notice things that don’t get filled. Fill them with a quick fun activity like an impromptu spelling bee while you prepare dinner together, setting the kids up with a math game online or reading aloud from “A Little History of the World” while everybody plays with LEGOS.
Even if you only do this for a week to give yourselves a break once a month, your kids will learn a ton and you’ll see how natural this homeschool business can be.
2. Keep your perspective. We’ve all had those moments — Your neighbor mentions that her third grader just completed a report on Chinese dynasties, and yours doesn’t know what a dynasty is. Your child mails a letter to Grandma and Grandma calls to say that half the words are spelled wrong and asks if you’re sure she should be homeschooling. You read a “scope and sequence” for what your first grader should be learning, and you don’t even know what half the words mean.
It’s okay! That neighbor’s child probably had no interest in Chinese dynasties and will forget it all by Tuesday. Your child also knows and does a thousand things that the local kids don’t know. That spelling will improve, just as speaking and walking improve as children do them in life. As for scopes and sequences, they are written in edu-speak. Most of the standards are common sense and basic skills cloaked in fancy words for administrators.
Also, remember your children’s ages. You have 13 years to pass this knowledge on. You don’t have to move along the same grid that your local schools do. You’ll find that kids often learn things much faster if they learn it later, when they’re fully ready, than when it’s pushed and drilled too early. If your child is 9 and doesn’t know her multiplication facts yet, there really is a bit of time!
3. Give your kids some control. Think of something you love to do. Now imagine if someone sat you down and made you do it, and then quizzed you on it, several times per week. How much would you still love it? Now imagine if someone else picked how you did it. Let’s say you love to paint. Would you still love it if you were allowed to use only these materials, do it in this allotted time, with these brush strokes, and only paint these particular subjects? Probably not!
Learning is naturally fun. You don’t need to force or trick children (or anybody) into reading, writing and learning. If you want to raise kids who love to read, write, draw, learn and otherwise grow, then give them power over those things. Let them own them.
Say your child loves horses. Support that love of horses and let it help her learn in all different areas. Encourage her to write stories and poems about them, read books about them, draw them, visit an equine veterinarian, ride them, find out the cost of owning and feeding them, help a neighbor care for them and otherwise embrace her love for them. She’s just effortlessly worked on penmanship, spelling, reading, art, science, physical education, math and life skills.
Trust your children to love to learn. It’s human nature. You’ll find that you have to actually teach a fraction of what you used to, and they’ll love homeschooling.
4. Give yourself a break. Chances are, you’re juggling a whole lot of things — homeschooling, housework, cleaning, employment or volunteer work, marriage or other relationships, parenting… It gets exhausting. Loosen up on your expectations for yourself and make time for relaxation and fun. If you have time for TV, the internet, talking on the phone and such, then you have time to grab a good book and sit under a tree while the kids play or to go take a bubble bath.
Be nice to yourself. You need it, and you’ll also be teaching another valuable lesson to the kids.
5. Keep your goals in mind. Really think about what you want your children to know when they’re grown. What’s your goal in homeschooling?
For me, my goals for my kids are for them to know the basics (how to read, write, multiply, etc.) and to know how to learn anything they need to. If they want to take a CLEP exam in high school to avoid having to take classes in college, for instance, I want them to be able to find and study the information they’ll need to know. I also want them to have life skills — to know how to garden, cook and preserve foods; to know how to earn and save money; to know how to have healthy relationships; to know how to build, repair and fix things, and so on. Lastly, I want them to have a well-rounded education. I want them to generally know about our world, history, literature, sciences, and so on.
Your long term goals probably don’t include your children needing to know specific dates of battles in US wars, Minnesota’s state tree or any of the minutia that kids learn (and then promptly forget) in most schools. If you fill your home with sources of learning, talk with your kids, regularly visit libraries and otherwise expose them to knowledge and experiences, all of these things are much easier at home than in any school!
I’m also guessing that some of your homeschooling goals don’t have to do with education. They may center around time spent with family, passing on values, teaching your religion, having more time to travel, protecting them from an unsafe environment, giving them educational freedom, encouraging their interests and otherwise nurturing who they are.
You are doing all of that and more.
So the house is a mess. So the kids are fighting. So nobody has a clue how to spell kumquat or do long division yet.
It will be okay.
Take the day off, do a craft, read a book, hug your kids and embrace all of the awesome privileges we have as homeschoolers.
Homeschooling can be hard. Keep these things in mind, though, and it can be pretty wonderful too.
Not a fan of homeschooling? Why you should keep it to yourself
Five fun ways to homeschool this week
Way past worksheets: Website offers free educational games, projects and more
Five fun ways to teach math
Homeschool 101: But how will you teach Calculus?
New to homeschooling? What you need to buy right now
Click to see more of my ideas for…