Five Things Every Homeschooling Mom Should Hear
When I first began homeschooling, I dove in as a complete newbie. I was not raised in a homeschooling family. In fact, I thrived in public school. I did not have any close friends or even distant family members who homeschooled. I had never taught a single class much less every single subject. I was in all ways an accidental homeschool Mom. I came into this crazy homeschool life, completely unprepared and terrified of messing up the most important undertaking of my life, responsibility for my son’s education. If I could go back and tell myself just five things in those first tentative months of homeschooling, this is what I would say.
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- Homeschool is not a public school and that’s the point.
- It’s ok to buy used curriculum.
- It’s ok to switch curriculum at any point along the way.
- Student-directed learning is pure gold. Let it trump your lesson plan.
- Life Skills and Character Development are as important as Math and English.
Homeschool is not a public school and that’s the point.
When I first began homeschooling T, I was determined to mimic the education I had received. I tried to recreate the public school setting and schedule in our home. We were doing school, and that meant scheduled lunch, and recess as well as a strict and rigid lesson plan. It turned out that was absolutely zero fun and not only boring but actually took away all of the best parts of learning at home.
Such as flexibility in the lesson plans, impromptu field trips, student-directed learning, cooking class during a lunch hour instead of a cold sandwich and a twenty-minute break, and studying outdoors as often as possible. It is simply not healthy to be chained to our desks for eight hours a day. School is about learning, and that can happen in so many wonderful ways. Education should be fun. Learning should be an enjoyable experience. Reach for that.
It’s ok to buy used curriculum.
When I first started homeschool I bought the most expensive brand spanking new, shrink wrapped, crisp curriculum out there. I don’t regret it either. In those first months, I needed as much direction as a girl could get and the more expensive curriculums are awesome at giving you that line by line teacher direction.
But that said, six years in and guess what? I buy used curriculum off eBay. I know, GASP, right? But it’s true, a used curriculum is far more affordable and it’s the same stuff you get for the big bucks. Yes, someone else’s kid has probably used the book before, but I survived a similar experience in public school and I still was able to work past all that. The books may have a note here or there but that’s not a big deal. It’s really not. And it shouldn’t be because let me spare you the shock, a lot of times you end up with a curriculum you don’t even like. It’s true. The only thing worse than a curriculum that isn’t working for your family is a brand new super expensive curriculum that isn’t working for your family. Which brings me to my next point.
It’s ok to switch curriculum at any point along the way.
In those first few months, we ran into some materials that were not resonating with my little man. He hated that curriculum. It was dry and miserable and repetitive and just, yuck! It was his Math curriculum. I had paid a small fortune for the set and I was committed to making it work. All that commitment succeeded in achieving was feeding a powerful hatred of Math Class. I finally decided to let it go. It hurt, all that investment just getting packed right up like that. But then, I found Life of Fred. T loved Life of Fred. Math was fun again. We added in some dice Math games and another game using playing cards and soon Math was becoming his favorite subject. We added things like having him use the weights of his favorite wrestlers to practice his addition and subtraction and he was suddenly all in. Math was even cool now. Which, leads me to my next point for every homeschooling Mom…
Student-directed learning is pure gold. Let it trump your lesson plan.
In the beginning, I was so glued to those lesson plans. We HAD to complete this many pages of this subject, complete exercises A through G, and do this many vocabulary words, and read this many chapters of this and that. I worked hard on those lesson plans and we were getting it done. After a while though, I started to see something that made me loose the iron grip on the lesson plans. T learns best and I believe this is true of every human, we learn best when we are passionate about the subject we are learning.
No, you may be thinking, good luck having me show any passion for English, or Math, or whatever subject you totally dreaded in school. And you know what? That’s a fair statement. I believed the same thing. Getting T to read a chapter book was like trying to force feed a stuffed monkey a banana. They just won’t swallow that. So I get it.
But the longer I taught T the more I realized that the stuff he was truly absorbing was the stuff he was most interested in. And I started getting creative. He hated reading so I tossed aside the books he was required to read and found books about pirates, and jungles, or whatever his current thing was and he read those. Soon he had learned that he loved to read. And that was the trick. Before long he was reading the required curriculum without fussing because he now loved to read in general. His vocabulary exploded. His imagination caught fire. It was beautiful.
Teaching the love of learning itself is one of the most important things you will ever teach your child.
In Science, he would easily get bored with book work, so I started searching for hands-on experiments he could do that were related to the subject material at hand. And that was the trick. Not only was he super cute in his little safety glasses, but he also became completely fascinated with how things worked, what elements they were made of, and cause and effect. He fell in love with Science. He is still in love with Science.
When learning anything, if something gets him excited we will dig deeper. I will let him go as far as he wants with whatever has managed to grab his attention at any time. Because I can then be teaching him stuff that sticks instead of forcing him to absorb material he will have forgotten the next week. So one last example of how this works at our house.
So recently we had a Blood Moon, and this got his interest rekindled for the solar system and how all of that works. So, we got up from the books and drove to the planetarium and watched a great show all about the Solar System. Then for Art that week, we made a model of the Solar System. For his vocabulary words that week I included space-related terms. His Creative Writing Assignment that week was all about the first colony on Mars. We spent time on the NASA website and even attended a webinar on the latest space discoveries.
We fed that love of the solar system and it stuck. We make time for NASA everytime they get up to something really interesting. As a matter of fact, we made popcorn and watched the recent InSight landing on Mars totally on the edge of our seats last November. You would have thought it was a multi-million dollar blockbuster we were watching. The level of excitement was intense. We cheered like our team won the Superbowl when that baby entered the atmosphere all in tact like that. Our hearts were in it, guys. And that’s what we are after! Education that includes emotion and excitement. Passion. Yup 🙂
Life Skills and Character Development are as important as Math and English.
Now to the most important thing I would have told terrified newbie homeschooling Mom – me. You are right to believe that character development and community service deserve an equal slice in his education pie. Yes, life skills matter, teach him those. And let faith guide the both of you.
Let’s face it, there are some things that public schools don’t or often can’t (in the name of political correctness) teach. Really important stuff. In my opinion the most important stuff, like faith, service, and character development. The greatest blessing of this homeschool journey is being able to educate the heart of the student as well as the mind.
T and I start every day with a bible study. We pray at the beginning of our every school day. We often pray throughout the day. T is a boy who prays. This matters. He knows he has a purpose. He knows to who he belongs. His faith is his rock. I have taught him nothing else that matters more or will provide him more guidance throughout his entire life than who he is in Christ. It’s the best time spent in our classroom, hands down.
Community Service matters. We live in a world that can really be hard to handle. There is a lot of sadness and anger and hate out there. There are a lot of problems in the world. No denying that. The way I see it is this, we do live in a fallen world, and it’s our responsibility to be part of the solution. I don’t ever want T to view himself as a victim of this world. I want him to recognize that he has power. Power to change things for the better. Power to shine his light into every corner of darkness and illuminate love and hope. And so, we volunteer.
Volunteering is, however, a two-way street. When we went to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, I wanted T to feel good about helping a family have a home they could feel secure in. Which is amazing in and of itself but you know what, he learned how to use a hammer, how to build walls, how to run a power drill and a power saw, how to paint walls, and so much more in exchange. He also volunteers weekly at the stables working with the horses. The group he works with also assists At-Risk Youth, children with disabilities, and Vets suffering from PTSD. T works hard there. He has learned all about how to take care of horses, and a barn, and the property that barn sits on, and how to relate to the vets who he has developed these beautiful relationships with, he has prayed with and for those kids labeled At-Risk Youth, and he has raked that arena over and over again so every child feels a smooth and solid surface underneath of them when they get their lessons. We have also packed a ton of food for families in need, and cleaned trails, and collected liter, and delivered food and supplies for people, and provided whole Christmases for families in need and you know what, every single experience has given us back more than we were able to reach out with. And I can say to T, you know this is a hard world we are living in but man oh man, you sure are making a difference, My Love. What you do matters. Stay the path.
Character Development and Mental Health have made it into every single year of our homeschool. We have learned about depression and anxiety. We have studied autism and ADHD. We have worked our way through self-care and nutrition and it matters. Mental health matters. Teach them how to handle their emotions, how to be compassionate, how to handle themselves in the company of others no matter what each is facing, with love and respect and compassion and you have really taught them something that blows the rest away. Stuff that sticks.
As for life skills, yes its ok to use class time to teach them how to cook, and clean, and do laundry. Allow them to help you pay the bills and balance the budget and live the life of an adult in a nice safe trial and error environment without serious consequences. They need to know. Let them call and make their own doctors appointments, and set up family dinners, and shop within a budget and meal plan. They deserve to know. It matters. It goes toward the quality of life they will live when they leave your home and make their own. Send them out ready and able. If that’s not education, I need someone to redefine it for me.
And that’s what I would tell homeschooling Mom newbie – me. And I might apologize for getting all wordy like that… Possibly.
But here is the thing, if you are a homeschooling Mom at any phase along the journey, I am sending you my love and gratitude. This is hard work. This is a massive responsibility. It takes a lot to give all that it takes to really make this work. But isn’t it awesome too? Isn’t it fun? Aren’t your kids just so incredible? And how about seeing this opportunity as a great big blessing for them and for you too! We are so blessed. I am sending you a virtual hug and I am seeing you, recognizing you, and loving your Momma’s heart. You have got this! What are you doing matters! Thank you, sweet girl! Stay the path.
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