I was inspired today to write about what I have learned since starting my homeschool journey. I was looking once again at alternatives to public school at home, not because these are bad or wrong, they just don’t fit my family. I am often asked what kind of homeschooler am I? I answer with eclectic, un-schooling, child led, and most importantly FUN. As I was perusing a particular site (more on that later) I discovered that I am all of those and then some. Sometimes though, I feel we don’t do enough and I find myself spending THOUSANDS of dollars (yes, no joke) and THOUSANDS of hours trying to make a certain curriculum work for my family I have concluded, for us, it doesn’t work.
For us, our top4 rules to follow are:
1) Dont over-plan or over-schedule. This is easy to do. After all, we want our kids to have the best of everything. We can get caught up in the “My little Johnny’s playing the lute” and think, why isn’t my kid doing that. Then we rush out and sign up for Lute lessons only to find no one likes playing the lute.I have learned toaccept my kids for their unique talents and desires and help to foster those, without going overboard.Our learninglifestyle works best when there is A LOT of unstructured time for whatever catches the kids’ interests. As I looked back overthe yearsso far, the days that are most memorable were completely wrapped up in a particular activity or topic that we took the time to really explore and enjoy Dinosaurs, trees, birds and where babies come from, just to name a few. Not surprisingly, these were days when we had the least on our family calendar and the most time to just explore and have fun.
2) Dont over-organize. We tend to keep a pretty neat house. Living in the country has made this easier for me. I endeavor to put everything nicely away as often as possible but some of the best chances to get the kids’ interested in learning happen when weve had stuff strewn about.Sure this might mean having people over a lot less often, but I am willing to sacrifice that in the name of education. So what does it mean to strew stuff about? its the conscious choice to put things that encourage discovery in the path of your child. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us. We find that some well-placed books and papers and art supplies masquerading as clutter have made a big difference for us and, yes,Dad has had to get over the piles of stuff that seem to multiply on the coffee table, dining room table and counter top. When we need the space, we clean it up. No damage done and fun discoveries of learning taking place. I figure that soon (all too soon for me) these kids will be gone and then I can have the nice, neat, museum-like house. But for now, I have kids, and I LOVE IT.
3) Days off make it harder to have days on. I learned this lesson long ago with my oldest. I want my kids to think of learning as something you do everyday no matter what is happening. Life is about learning. If you stop learning or only learn through books, you miss out on the beauty that life has to offer. That is not to say we don’t use books…we do. But we look at everything we do as an opportunity to grow in an area of life.This might look to some people that were not doing any work”. I’ve learned to be ok with that. I know what we are learning and if I have doubts, I just ask the kids. They are more than happy to share what they have learned.We dont have days off because our days on are just regular days. Were truly trying to embrace everyday learning, and that doesnt stop on Saturdays and Sundays. Ill also add that, because ofsome of the children’spersonalities, days where we truly are off our game, where were not engaged as a family in anything that stimulates us to learn or experience new things, are really hard for them. They just kind of kind drift, and don’t react well to that. Then, the next day, its really hard to getthem engaged again. I think of it like a gear system once the motor is turning, if all the gears are meshed, itll keep running. But when the motor stops, you just cant get everything moving again without some work. So, for us, we stick to everyday life and everyday learning and try to limit our time off.
4) Beware of curriculum overload. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use one. After all, the point of homeschooling is to do what works best for your family. Just be aware that not every curriculum is going to work for you and you DO NOT have to spend thousands of dollars for your child to learn. Getting catalogs in the mail, seeing/reading the latest and greatest can make a mom drool…not to mention those AWESOME homeschool fairs. After all you get the chance to touch all that great stuff. But remember, people who send the catalogs and have booths at those fairs, are not your friend. They are there to sell. After all, that is how they make money. It not be feared, but rather looked at with an understanding of your child’s learning style.
So if you’re new to homeschooling, head to your local library and do some research for yourself. Find out YOUR learning style, because this has a direct affect on how you will teach your kids. Then learn their style of learning so that you can mesh to two for maximum learning and fun. Books are great. Plans are great. But you cant follow ALL the plans, or read all the books. Pick what works, and let the rest go. Dont worry.