Thursday, October 7, 2010

Top Five Pieces of Homeschool Advice and One More

I've been homeschooling for at least twelve years.  That figure is somewhat squishy depending upon at what age of preschool/kindergarten/first grade-ness one considers their child as starting school.  My oldest child is seventeen and a half, and a senior in highschool. Define it how you will.

Sometimes I have people ask me what it's like homeschooling; or how I do it with so many; or what advice I'd give new homeschoolers.  In public service, after a person has stepped down from active service, he or she is called an elder statesman/person.  His or her opinion is sought after and respected just by virtue of his or her past position.

Now I am only homeschooling one child (unless I am teaching four, there is that aforementioned pre-school squishiness).  I might consider myself an elder matron.  I'm no longer immersed in the homeschool world.  But merely by virtue of my past work in the field, regardless of the merits of my ideas, I am asked.

Well!  I've always given my opinion readily, but now I have some status, I guess.

Here is my list of top five pieces of homeschool advice.
  1. Focus on the one thing needful.  Spiritually training our child(ren) is really our primary parental responsibility.  How does this work out in real life?  Each family will fulfill this differently.  But it must be fulfilled.  
  2. This one is kind of a continuation of the previous point, but it is needs it's own number.  Take time to think about and write down your long, medium and short term goals. This will give you a rubric against which to measure your days.   And it will help you make time for the spiritual things even when it seems there is just no time.  It will give you justification to leave that load of laundry or that sink full of dishes or that football game or piano recital.  It will help you decide whether to include Latin or violin in your days and weeks.  All of the above are worthy things.  But only one is needful.  I've written in the past about time management (It has it's own indexed link, but this is my favorite).  When a couple decides to school their children at home, they are adding a large chunk of time to an already stressed parental and homemaking load.  Something has to give. Having written goals will help you decide what that will be.  Having long, medium and short term goals will give your goals perspective.
  3. Don't compare yourself to other homeschooling families.  All kids are different; all families are different.  Temperaments are different, abilities are different.  Teaching styles, learning styles, home management styles, discipline styles...all different.  A husband's career may effect how things are done.  Does the mother work part of full time?  Are there two parents in the home?  Are the parents and kids motivated?  Curious?  Physical?  Active?  Thoughtful?  Quiet?  Loud?  Witty?  Each personality will result in different combinations of everything.  It's really easy to beat yourself up as a homeschool mom when other kids appear to be further ahead or better behaved or more athletic or more curious or more responsible or more of anything...Don't give into that temptation.  Your kids are great, unique persons.
  4. All kids are smart; it's up to you as a homeschool parent to find the way to reach them; or to find their smartness. It may not be the same way for any two kids.  Be creative, be insightful. Watch. Listen.  But don't bind yourself to traditional pigeon holes.  They may not work for your child.  Each of us has a unique God-given personality and has been called to unique God-given vocation(s).  Sometimes that involves traditional paths; other times it does not.  Be content with and even rejoice in who you are, who your husband is, and who each of your children are.  Remember, God gave to you your particular child(ren) because you are the best one for them.
  5. Trust in God and His promises and His guidance.  He will direct you along the paths you need to travel.   Don't fret about what curriculum is best or what teaching philosophy to follow or at what age to introduce which outside activities, etc.  It's OK to consider such things, to read about what others think, and to discuss things with those whose opinions you respect.  But don't cross the line into worry.  Sometimes it is easy to be fearful.  Since a homeschool parent is the primary person responsible for all aspects of a child's development there is a big temptation to take it all too seriously.  It's easy to wallow in worry.  It's easy to feel our responsibilities so heavily that we become paralyzed when confronted by life's many different choices.
And finally, one more.  It's not so much a homeschool tip, but a homeschool attitude caveat.  Something with which I've had to struggle recently.  We as homeschoolers can be a bit self righteous.  I don't mean this in a bad way, necessarily.  But it can easily cross the line into a bad self-righteousness.  We have chosen a lifestyle that involves huge sacrifices in order to give our children the very best homelife, education, and religious training we can.  It is such an obvious decision to us.  This is so very, very obviously the right choice.  Why doesn't everyone choose this?  Duh!

But we must guard against judging others.  God uses many different kinds of individuals and many different kind of families.  He has not given you your neighbor's or brother's or best friend's child to raise.  We need to let those people make their own best decision for their own families.

But here is the flip side of that.  The thing with which I've had to wrestle lately.  Don't bind yourself into a homeschool mentality.  Those of us who are called by God to school our children at home often see that as our primary vocation.  This is the lifestyle choice that defines our parenting philosophy.  But things change.  God may put additional jobs before us; one of our previous tasks may need to bump homeschooling out, temporarily or permanently.  Think of homeschooling as an option to fulfill the academic aspect of child rearing.  If any of the other aspects of child rearing are being neglected, that may be an indication that something needs to change.  That change may involve a different educational choice.  It doesn't have to be a permanent change.  But sometimes things do need to change.  It's easy to put homeschooling on such a pedestal that it becomes an idol.  If we trust that God is guiding us, we have to listen to His prompts.  Sometimes that involves doing things we may not have been able to imagine doing previously.


meganmerseth said...

In the 2nd to the last paragraph, it is unfinished... If you're like me, you probably got distracted by a child. ;-)

Thanks for your post about homeschooling, it's definitely something to ponder. My husband and I have talked about it, but I feel my ability as a teacher of young kids severely lacking. Yet I am teaching them things every day, it's just not in a structured sense.

It's hard for me to think about planning with goals... I am not even sure what kinds of goals I should have, other than, "Learn the 10 commandments" and any number of hymns and bible verses.
Do you recommend any books about homeschooling?

Will I see you at the winkel on Monday? I haven't heard anything about it yet...

theMom said...

Thank you Megan. Weird, I wonder what happened. I just re-read it earlier and didn't even notice. I probably had distractions, then, too, you think, maybe? I think I probably inadvertently deleted the wrong line or section.

I wonder what I wanted to say. I'll have to make something up.

Re homeschooling, if you called to do it, God will provide the skills. There is lots of support out there. And YES, you are teaching them every day. Especially in the primary years, it isn't that much different.

Re goals, that previous post I linked to gives my system.

Re memory work, Pastor Jesse Jacobsen on his Congregational website redone an old OOP memory work book using the NKJ Bible passages.

Re suggested books, I don't know. There are so many more available now than when I started. I probably found Debra Bell's The Ultimate Homeschool Handbook the most helpful. But each person has different doubts, so read a selection. The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Bauer is very popular. Raymond and Dorothy Moore have written many books on the subject, Charlotte Masons writings are followed by many.

Thanks for reminding me about Winkel. I had forgotten. Lot's going on.