Here is My Best Advice About Homeschooling.
Relax and make yourself at HOME!
It’s called HOMEschooling for a reason. You are at home. Your children are at home. Now the question is, what do you do with each other?
I started out homeschooling like most of us do. I did what I remembered from my school experience. Shawn was my guinea pig. I started him with a preschool magazine from Sesame Street. We had fun with the activities and enjoyed spending focused time together.
As he got older, I went to homeschool conferences and learned about the different curriculum and about styles and best practices of seasoned homeschoolers.
I had an advantage in that I had the privilege of being an assessor for other homeschoolers, since I had a teaching certificate in the state of Ohio. I was able to see what lots of other homeschoolers were doing before I officially started homeschooling myself!
I got a feel for the different types of curriculum and the ways that moms were conducting their homeschools. I observed the emotional state of the moms who were very structured and anxious about doing everything just right. I felt the need to put them at ease, and encourage them to ease up on their expectations of their children and themselves.
I met a few who were more relaxed and seemed to enjoy spending time with their children and were sincerely thrilled with the chance to learn right along with them.
That relaxed, laid-back style appealed to me. I heard the delight these moms expressed in their homeschool experience and saw how calm and peaceful they seemed. They were not stressed out about whether they were doing enough or if their kids were doing well enough to get a good review from me as their assessor.
But I still felt like I should make Shawn do some “school work” every day. I worried about not doing enough. I pushed and cajoled him. I used curriculum that I thought was engaging, and I was excited about working with him, but he was not excited about working with me. He was a reluctant learner and a late reader.
Many days I would get exasperated at him for his attitude, and I would call his dad at work. He would always tell Shawn to just do his work, and then he could do whatever he wanted. We spent several years in that tug of war, and I was continually being a tattletale to his dad.
One day, Shawn made a decision to just get his work done as soon as I told him to do it, and then he would get to go outside or play his games or whatever. Life got a lot more enjoyable.
But then the game changer was when I started reading aloud a really good, engaging, classic book called “Tarzan“. Shawn was entranced! He loved the story so much that he was always anxious to sit down to let me read to him. We interacted about what was happening in the story, and he told me that he now realized that reading was fun. He said he could imagine what was happening and what the characters looked like, and he loved using his imagination like that. He decided that he wanted to learn how to read.
Phew! What a relief! He was already 8 or 9 years old. I realized that the best thing we did for school was reading aloud. He learned from the great stories I read to him. I chose books from the Sonlight curriculum, which is literature-based.
I also read other booklists, and the titles I saw repeated often, I made sure to get from the library. Those stories were often historical fiction or stories from another country and culture and historical era. The stories were by wonderful authors who used rich vocabulary, were exceptional at creating memorable characters who developed during the telling of the story. We got caught up in the story and sometimes spent hours reading.
As I had more and more children, I started to understand that I could not micromanage so many different learners. I had 6 children ages 10 and under. Then we added 4 more babies later on. So reading aloud with all of the children together became our main modus operandi for homeschooling every day. I bought a few supplemental books for phonics, vocabulary, grammar, handwriting and math. But those things were done on their own, and I checked them from time to time.
Learning mostly came from the things that they were interested in, projects they worked on, subjects they wanted to learn more about, and I got library books for them on that subject, (now they research a lot on the internet), field trips, nature walks, discussions, and life experiences.
We learned together naturally at home. We took what life gave us and turned most of that into learning experiences. So if you want to keep on homeschooling over the long haul, you need to make it sustainable. You all need to enjoy it as much as possible. And make it as easy and effective as you can by making it real, natural, simple, and relaxed. This is my best advice about homeschooling.