My Best Advice about Homeschooling

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.

Turning Homeschooling into Family Schooling

Turning Homeschooling into Family Schooling.

I was reading a book by the brilliant homeschool expert, Diana Waring, who wrote the fabulous history curriculum, History Revealed. I loved the way she told stories. I loved her style, her philosophy, her wisdom, and her obvious intelligence and understanding of learning theory.

In the book, she was telling about some ways to get children excited about read-aloud time. She suggested several well-known titles of Classics and books I had seen on many reading lists. But I stopped short when I read the title of a series that she suggested that the family read together for fun. It was called, “Hank the Cowdog”! Did my eyes deceive me? Was that a real title? Of a real series? And was the super intelligent, highly academic, paragon of educational virtue suggesting that I read a book called “Hank the Cowdog” to my little homeschooled prodigies?

This was during the days before the internet was widely available, at least in my house. I couldn’t just Google it real quick and see what in the world a cowdog was. So I had to go to the library and see if it was a real book, and if they had it. To my utter amazement, they had it on the shelf!

Thus began our fond relationship with Hank the Cowdog and his furry and not-so-furry friends. And we developed a deep admiration for the author, John R. Erickson.

We actually got to meet him at a conference! This is my daughter, Abby, with John R. Erickson. He spoke at the conference and read from one of the misadventures of Hank the Cowdog. It was so fun! Our family attended the conference together in Huntsville, AL.

To me, this is how homeschooling becomes Familyschooling. It is far more than teaching children academic subjects. The conference I was referring to was about entrepreneurship. We are learning how to start a family business together. Family business is not a typical school subject, but we think it is very important and are glad to be able to dedicate time to learning and implementing it together.

We read aloud together and enjoy the shared experience of a wonderful story, and it bonds us together as a family. We’ll just be hanging out together and suddenly something will remind one of us of a “famous” line or favorite scene from a Hank the Cowdog episode, and we all start laughing and repeating it and building on it in our own special way. It’s like an inside joke that the whole family understands. It’s great fun!

Other ways that we could build our family culture through homeschooling are:

  1. Cooking together
  2. Baking together
  3. Holiday traditions – certain foods, decorations, books and activities that your family enjoys every holiday
  4. Cleaning together
  5. Family projects, like building or gardening, craft projects, community service projects
  6. Games
  7. Science projects, like raising caterpillars, tadpoles, or a pet or farm animal. Sometimes even a baby animal that is found without its mother.
  8. Music – singing together, playing instruments, listening to music together, concerts, etc.
  9. Field trips, vacations, and traveling together

When we homeschool we have more time with our children. It gives us lots of opportunities to connect with them and get to know them well. We can help them navigate through misunderstandings with siblings and friends. We can encourage them to pursue their interests and passions and support them in activities that would take place during “normal” school hours.

In this way, we instill trust, confidence, and security in our children. They know that their family will always have their back. They are more grounded and willing to try new things. They feel like they belong. And that’s a good feeling.

At home with their family is the best place for children to experience relationships, conflict resolution, loyalty, honor, selflessness, and so many other character traits. If we cultivate a warm, loving, open relationship with our children, they will come to us with questions and concerns.

And family meetings and prayer time can be a time of great learning and camaraderie and bonding. As we pray for each other and share our hearts, the bonds grow stronger, and the hearts and minds become united.

So let’s be intentional about making our homeschooling more than just “school”. Let’s emphasize relationships, encouragement, love for each other, good character, family identity and culture, building each other up, and being there for each other. Cultivate friendship among the siblings and with the parents as they grow older. And let’s show the world that family was Gods’ idea by Turning Homeschooling into Family Schooling!