I’ve had this feeling over the past few weeks that I need to do a post on homeschooling. I have no idea why; it seems like an odd time of year to do that. However, maybe there’s somebody out there who’s contemplating whether or not to homeschool in the coming months or next year. I’ll scratch out a few thoughts if that’s you.
First, I’ll reiterate that this isn’t a homeschool blog and I’m not one of those people who believes homeschooling is the answer to the world’s problems. Jesus is the answer to the world’s problems and there are many good schools out there, along with dedicated parents who are doing a great job with their children in a traditional school setting.
1. Homeschooling is a matter of calling, and to my mind, that’s what you need to settle first if you’re a Christian parent who’s thinking of homeschooling your children. Has God called you to this? Because I’ll be honest, while homeschooling is a great joy, there are plenty of challenges. If you haven’t settled in your heart that you are truly called you’ll become discouraged and want to throw in the towel at the first bump in the road.
2. Is your husband on board? You can’t do it without his support. If he’s against it, don’t even consider it until you’re on the same page. If you’re convinced that’s what you need to be doing, pray until you come to a place of unity. Don’t nag.
3. Don’t be excessively idealistic. I think many of us parents come into homeschooling expecting a cozy one-room schoolhouse setting with our little students joyfully looking forward to all the lessons we’ve spent so many hours preparing. It’s not always like that. While homeschooling does provide the opportunity to tailor education to each child’s specific needs, and even to his particular interests, there will likely be something at some point that your child just is not happy about. Homeschooled children have learning and behavioral needs just like other children. Students and teacher in a homeschool have bad days just like people in traditional school. Again, homeschooling is immensely rewarding. It’s so exciting to me to see my kids have those lightbulb moments when they get something. I’d miss that if they weren’t with me. But every moment is not like that.
4. Allow for an adjustment period. My children have never even been to traditional school and we had an adjustment period after we began this school year. Although we were dedicated and consistent, the first couple months of this school year were challenging. It’s only started getting fun, and easier, over the past couple weeks. I’ll be honest, there were times during those first months when I wondered, “Is this really worth it?” Now I’m happy we stuck it out. We’re seeing the rewards.
5. Don’t copy traditional school. I’ve heard this advice from many veteran homeschoolers, and since they don’t often clarify I wasn’t really sure what they meant. Does this mean that we should not have high educational standards? NO! It does mean that homeschooling by its very nature will look different from traditional schooling. For one thing, a homeschooled student can often finish his daily work in just a few hours because homeschooling is more time efficient. No waiting for the period to be over, no changing classes or busy work. In my opinion, it’s important for homeschooled students to be disciplined and organized in how they approach learning, but this does not mean that they have to sit at their desks from 8 till 3. (I’ll add that I have friends who have taken a very relaxed approach to learning and still turned out brilliant children who earned scholarships, did great in college, and have successful careers.)
6. Don’t become overwhelmed by all the choices. When my mom started homeschooling, 25 years ago, there were only a couple of curriculum companies who would sell to homeschoolers. Today there are so many choices it will make your head swim. Rainbow Resource, which carries most educational materials for homeschoolers, is as big as the Dallas yellow pages. Personally, I have purposefully stayed away from homeschool book fairs and other venues where I will be overwhelmed by too much stuff. I’ve tried to stick to a few choices that are working for us and changing only if necessary. Too much can be distracting to me. On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who can look at a wide variety of materials and make a decision without feeling overwhelmed, a book fair might be really helpful.
7. Homeschooling doesn’t have to cost a lot. Even buying most curriculum new, I have never spent more than $300 a year on curriculum and supplies. That’s one month of private school. It’s probably as much as most parents spend on uniforms and supplies for a child in public school. But it’s possible to even spend a lot less than that, if you buy a few “spine” resources and take advantage of the library and other free/cheap resources.
8. Get support. Whether it’s a formal homeschool group or an unofficial circle of homeschooling friends, you need the support of others who are traveling the same path. Otherwise you and your children end up feeling very isolated and it doesn’t work well for anyone.
9. Don’t worry about socialization. The myth persists, even though most homeschool families I know have calendars packed with social and extracurricular activities. I know a lot of homeschoolers, and those I’d consider antisocial usually had antisocial parents… Antisocial parents who were not homeschooled. Raising a socially well-rounded child has more to do with parents than school, in my opinion.
10. BOOKS! Fill your home with books. Find used book sales that sell books for 10 cents to $1 each and create a home library. If our kids read every book in our home, they would have a completely well-rounded education, with the possible exception of a little bit of math and science. When books are important in your home, it creates and atmosphere of learning, both in official school hours and outside them.
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(This wonky wordpress spacing is driving me crazy! Sorry!)