We often focus on what homeschooling means for our children, but what about the things that we learn as parents? Here are 10 lessons you will eventually learn as a homeschool parent:
1) If you say you see your children as individuals, you must treat them as individuals. As much as we talk about our kids being unique and special, we still tend to compare them to other children their age. The reason we continue to think chronological age is the best indicator of what-a-child-should-do-when is most likely an unfortunate byproduct of age segregated classrooms. Just as children grow physically at different rates, they also develop learning and thinking skills as their minds and bodies are exercised and allowed to explore. Choose methods and resources that fit their developmental stage and academic needs.
- Don't get caught up in the web of measuring your children with charts and graphs and standardized testing. They are not accurate and effective enough to be useful.
- Don't be influenced by the 'amazing' families and students featured in homeschooling magazines and in the media. You aren't called to be someone else, and they weren't called to be you. And do you really want to raise llamas?
- Don't be pressured by family and friends who want to give pop quizzes over dinner and test your child's knowledge. It's not only inappropriate, but would they like to pass a surprise history exam before they dig into the roast and mashed potatoes?
2) Know how and when to lead. Children are influenced more by our example than by our lectures, which are often rather hypocritical. They know it, and you know it. While you speechify about self control at 137 decibels, your credibility decreases while their resistance increases exponentially. When we complain about their progress in reading, spelling, and math, we must ask ourselves if our kids ever see us read a book, or if we, in fact, can differentiate between they're, there, and their. We may find ourselves dusting off our rusty, creaky academic skills and giving them a fresh coat of paint and some polish.
3) Know how and when to follow. Children are curious and energetic by nature. Parents are often control freaks. These characteristics can clash with frustrating results for both parties. However, mom and dad, you are the adults, and sometimes getting your own way is not the best way. We don't need to control every minute of every day. We do not need to bind ourselves so tightly to lesson plans that we strangle our child's creativity and desire to learn. Find ways to give your child the lead and let them take some ownership of their education.
4) Seek out and listen to the counsel of others. The abundance of books and blogs about homeschooling is both a blessing and a curse. The internet, the library, curriculum publishers, and local homeschool support groups and co-ops offer parents a multitude of resources from which to gather information and encouragement. Take advantage of the experiences and wisdom of parents who are already a little bit farther down the homeschool path. However, after awhile, the sheer number of choices can become overwhelming, therefore you must -
5) Learn to listen to yourself. You know you, and you know your kids. And if you are still not sure, take some time to deschool, evaluate your family dynamic, and then follow where your parental instincts tell you to go.
6) Listen to the critics. Even though critics of homeschooling appear to be hostile to the idea of parents educating at home for reasons that seldom make sense to me, they sometimes have a point. Microscopic, and occasionally subatomic, but hey-
- When nay-sayers ask if parents are qualified to teach their kids. . . well, are you? And I'm not talking about college degrees here. Will you be disciplined enough to keep them on track? Are you going to provide them with opportunities to become responsible, contributing members of society? Do you even know WHY you want to homeschool? Is this a real commitment, a shiny new hobby, or a Band-Aid?
- Then there's that pesky "What about socialization?" question, known amongst homeschoolers as the 'S' word. But do you teach your kids how to respond in social situations? Do they know that even though mom thinks they are the sun, moon, and stars, that no one else thinks that climbing on tables and constantly interrupting adult conversations is adorable? Can they play with other kids without insisting on their own way, demagoguing the jungle gym, and tattling every time someone looks at them cross eyed? Seriously, people - teach your kids to behave appropriately and respectfully so we don't have to hear any more "I met this weird homeschool family" stories.
- Do you engage in demonizing other educational choices in an effort to defend your own? We are offended that homeschoolers are lumped into categories- religious, fanatic, religious fanatic, isolationists, wealthy, entitled. . . but if we use the same ad hominem tactics when explaining our reasons to educate at home, we are simply reaping what we've sown. Stick with facts and principles that have a basis in reality. Leave the name calling for the local playground.
7) Don't be afraid to try something new. If there is one thing that being part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew has taught me, it's the fun and excitement of trying new methods and curricula. It's great that my kids have been on board with me to use and review the materials we receive every month, and we've learned so much about how we learn simply by being able to try new things. If you think that another method or resource will fit your students better, don't be stubborn and stick with something you aren't satisfied with simply because so-and-so uses it, or you feel like you paid too much $$$ for it and "I must squeeeeeze every penny out of this $75 textbook!". Homeschooling requires us to be creative, responsive, and open-minded. Sell the book, for cryin' out loud.
8) Don't be afraid to stick with what works for your family. Every year, as the mailbox fills with catalogs and the inbox fills with recommendations, discounts, and free shipping promotions, the lure of curriculum that is shiny and new is almost irresistible. They all look incredible and effective, and promise that they hold the key to your child's learning. And you have friends who swear by this program and that workbook. But wait - if what you are doing is working just fine, don't give in to the impulse to try something new just because it's new. Make sure you use your homeschool dollars wisely on resources that provide real educational value for your family.
9) Homeschooling is both easier and harder than you thought it would be. It is not difficult to find resources so that your child can learn a foreign language, play an instrument, tackle advanced math, so there is no need to be worried about how you are going to teach Algebra or French. Where you may find yourself challenged:
- Dealing with ingrained ideas about what learning looks like
- Being tempted to become a little too casual about education and character training
- Coping with the criticism and suspicion of others that cause you to déjà vu back to high school where you find yourself ogled as part of the 'uncool' clique
- Spending too much time in extra-curricular activities
- Not giving your child enough extra-curricular opportunities
- Making a dinner that doesn't come out of a box
10) Your every day life, wherever you go, is the real world. For some reason, people will either wonder, or just come out and ask you how your homeschooled children are going to learn to live in the real world. When asked this, I can't resist looking around and wonder- "Have I stumbled into an alternate dimension? Is there a rip in the space/time continuum?" What is this 'real world' of which people speak, that is somehow restricted to the public school classroom, and yet when I am asked this question, neither myself or the person to whom I am speaking are actually in a classroom? It's a stumper. I highly recommend living your life in a way that enriches your family and those around you. That's real enough.