So perhaps you’ve made the decision that you’re going to educate your children at home this year, but now you’re trying to figure out the logistics of how you’re going to run your homeschool. This may seem like a daunting task and I definitely empathize with new homeschoolers on having to sift through all of the choices out there. Especially when you may not be sure how you want your school to look. It may feel like you’re trying on different boxes to see if you can fit your family into them. If that’s the case, stop right there.
I want to give you a very important piece of advice to carry with you throughout your school year. Use it as a mantra. I even stuck it on the top of my homeschool room’s bulletin-board to remind me where I stand between all of these books and lesson plans. Simply put, it’s this: Let the curriculum serve you, do not let it become your master. In other words, do not become a slave to those beautifully organized, laid out lesson plans. Do not beat yourself up if you’re halfway through the year and are realizing this box isn’t working for you. Allow yourself to break out of it and rebuild it. It doesn’t mean you have to return or resell all of the curriculum you bought and start over. It doesn’t mean you failed the curriculum. It means it failed you in the form that it was presented in. But it is salvageable. You can make it your own. And you will not ruin your children’s education!
Before I go any further, I just want to say that if there is one book I would encourage you to read before jumping into the new school year, it is Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. It really helped to re-frame this frazzled mom’s anxious mind and was recommended to me by a veteran homeschooling mom. In the book, Mackenzie discusses how to let the curriculum serve your needs and does a beautiful job of explaining it.
Anyway, back to that mantra. The minute you let the curriculum start becoming your master, what do you become? Yup–a slave. Yuck. I caution you against this because I became a slave to our curriculum the first year and it is not a fun place to be, as you might have guessed. My first year homeschooling was basically me trying to replicate public school at home. Please save yourself and your kids some stress and don’t do that! I outfitted an entire classroom out of our home office and bought the most cookie cutter curriculum I could find. I had my preschooler and kindergartner (both boys, mind you) doing distance learning via a DVD classroom experience. Sounds fun right? Well fun wasn’t what I was going for.
If you read my first post, you know I was kind of thrown into homeschooling by circumstance. I truly believe God uses circumstances to call us to things we would have otherwise said “no way” to. I didn’t exactly feel prepared to educate my kids without following some strict guidelines. I was going for “not failing”! Fun could come after the not failing part. Ha! I don’t think at the time I was willing to admit it, but I believe my reasoning for choosing distance learning was something like this: If I had a virtual teacher teaching them and we were checking all of the boxes that public school checked, then we wouldn’t miss anything, they couldn’t fall behind and if they did it wouldn’t be because I am a horrible teacher who struggles with planning and executive functioning! Can you tell how scared and insecure I was? So if that’s you, I get it! If it’s not you, then you’re already ahead of where I was in the beginning!
Anyway, the way I started out is a lousy way to start homeschooling! But I had to work through that and figure it out for myself. We suffered through this style of learning for almost a whole year. And bless those boys of mine, they did a pretty good job going along with it. Completing the lessons in our curriculum usually took 4 hours a day! There was so much busy work and sitting still. And because I was following the curriculum to a “T” with the fear of missing things and falling “behind”, I put way too much pressure on my kids and myself to complete each lesson in its entirety every day. I never considered the question, “Who, exactly, will your kids be behind? And when, exactly, do they need to catch up to this illusive student body?”
I didn’t know that education didn’t have to look like this. That’s just what I’d come to know about school from attending public school my entire life. But public schools operate in that way out of necessity. They have 20-30 children per classroom and they need to fill an entire day so that parents can work. While going through this journey, my pastor, who has his Master’s Degree in Education, let me in on a secret which felt like a boulder rolling off of my shoulders. At 5 and 7 years old, my kids only need an hour to an hour and a half dedicated to school time…TOPS! The rest is learned from play and the world around them. It had never occurred to me that my kids can learn and absorb in less than 2 hours, what the public school system teaches children in a 6-7 hour day because I only have my children to teach.Here’s a helpful chart to see where you stand with your kiddos.
Our second year went much better. I slowly and cautiously broke out of the box. I still needed some coaxing and re-framing with regard to my thoughts around education and school. I still didn’t feel entirely confident that I wasn’t going to mess up my children’s education by veering off the well traveled path of public school methods. So I geeked out a bit and purchased this book, which I found incredibly helpful:
I threw in a preview of one of the helpful tools (for K5-8th grade) that is provided in the back of the book, which is there to assure the reader that their kiddo is on the right track.
But what I really found helpful about it was the information it provides about the history and philosophy of state education and Biblical education.
I’m going to wrap this up here for today, but I want to just lastly say that when you’re choosing how you want your homeschool to look, remember that you are the boss! You don’t need to fit any mold and your children will learn. When you’re homeschooling it is not about testing and passing exams. It’s about progressing in their learning. So as long as you’re doing the work every day and building onto what they know little by little, at their pace, they won’t fall behind–there is no one to fall behind! I grew up studying for tests, passing them and then forgetting the information. A child will retain much more if they learn at their own pace until a concept is mastered and find joy in learning through spending quality time doing it together with their family! Try not to stress whether they’re at the same level as everyone else or not. It isn’t a race.
I hope you’ve found some of this helpful. I want to encourage you to check back soon. I’ll be writing about a few different topics in the near future including:
- What it looks like to homeschool in under 2 hours
- How you can have your own IEP for your special needs child at home
- How you can introduce a light summer schedule to keep your kiddos structured and help ease them into the new school year
- How reading aloud together can be a great asset to your homeschool and your relationship with your child
Thanks for reading 🙂