Friday, February 21, 2014

15 things I've Learned About Homeschooling

We've been homeschooling for 3 and a half years now.  I've taught my kids to read, worked through math struggles with them, and even watched friends and family make the decision to homeschool themselves.  :)
It's been wonderful, and I wouldn't choose anything else for our family.  It's definitely been a learning experience, though, and I thought I'd share some of the things I've come to discover since we started a few years ago.

15 Things I've learned about homeschooling:

1.   It's not for everyone.  This one needs to be mentioned first.  I'm a HUGE fan of homeschooling, because it's so perfect for us and it works so well for our situation (and I love it).  But I know that it's a calling, we're not all called to the same things, and that's okay.  Just like parenting styles, food choices, and clothing styles are all individual choices, traditional schooling vs.homeschooling is a choice and what works for one may not be the right fit for another.  Don't ever judge or feel that your way is the best way.  Frankly, that's pretty arrogant.

2.  It's not easy.  It's not.  It requires patience by the bucketful, organization, dedication, discipline, and a recall of all those math lessons you learned in 8th grade that you forgot years ago. But it's worth it.

3.  You will want to quit. It's true.  There are good days, for sure.  But ohhhh...the bad days. When life happens and your kids are cranky and uncooperative, your house is falling apart, and someone *accidentally* throws a pencil at a sibling.  It happens.  Do your best to find the humor in it (after taking care of the pencil situation, of course).

4.  Your kids will fight you to do school, just like they fight you in other areas.  I don't know how things go in your household, but my kids wake up and just want to play and have fun. They know they have responsibilities, but they're not very happy about it.  And when school time interferes with the 12 hours of Minecraft they were hoping for, they put up a big stink about phonics and times tables (at least, mine do).  Working on discipline and consistent expectations won't get rid of all the fights, but it definitely helps.

5.   Homeschooling encourages individuality and possibly weirdness (embrace it).  We were fortunate to join a homeschool co-op this past Fall, and I remember having an actual moment when I realized how different the homeschool kids really are.  Sure, they participate in the latest trends and they're very much like their traditional-schooled peers, but there's something about them that makes them...different.  And that *thing* is their own sense of individuality.  I see it in so many of these kids, including my own.  It makes sense to me, when I stop to think about it...when you're surrounded by your siblings all day, do you want to look like them, dress like them, and act just like them?  No way!  You focus on your uniqueness.  And when you're surrounded by family who loves you for you, and encourages you to be yourself (and not wandering the halls of the local junior high and trying your best to "fit in" every day), you have the courage and confidence to be you.  I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but in my personal observations, individuality is the norm.

6.  No two homeschools are the same.  One of the benefits in homeschooling is the ability to tailor things to your own style.  I love reading, so our curriculum uses a lot of books to teach, and less workbooks and hands-on learning.  In another homeschool, there might be minimal reading, but many projects and field trips.  You do what works for you, and your children.

7.  Comparing yourself to other homeschoolers can be a bad, bad thing.  This one goes hand in hand with #6.  In our homeschool, we don't do many crafts and hands on projects, because I stink at them.  It's true.  I see other homeschool families who build life size teepees in their living room, or an entire model of the solar system, to scale, and I feel really, really guilty.  But you know what?  My kids are perfectly happy with the few projects I manage to pull off every year, and I haven't heard any complaints or comparisons from them.  And they love when it's time for me to read to them, but it's something I enjoy, and that makes me enthusiastic about it.  It shows in the way I read the words and tell the story.
Find what works for you and embrace it, not compare it to others.

8.  Just when you think you have your curriculum and teaching styles set, things will need shaken up a bit.  This one I really struggle with, because I'm not a fan of change.  I want to stick with one thing, forever, and not even question it.  But a year ago, I noticed that my kids were outsmarting their math curriculum, and not truly learning the concepts being taught.  I also wanted more repetition with previously taught concepts.  After doing some research and talking with other homeschoolers, I made the switch to a new math curriculum and I am SO GLAD that I did.

9.  It can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be.  There are Ebay sales, used book sales, library books, free things on the internet.  You may even have a friend with the exact books you need, sitting in her basement, that she'd be willing to loan to you.  If you set out to buy everything that looks good, brand new off the shelf, you're going to spend a lot of money. Keep in mind, too, that a curriculum that uses a lot of consumable items is going to be more expensive in the long run than a reusable one, if you're homeschooling more than one child.  Hand me down books save a lot of money.

10. Your house will get messy.  As with anything, some days are better than others.  Surprisingly, for me, the craziest, busiest days are when I keep up on the mess.  Relaxed days, when we get a late start, tend to be the worst, because things pile up when I'm not looking and schoolwork takes priority over vacuuming.  This is where assigned chores and making your kids help goes a long way towards keeping your house clean, and keeping your sanity.  ;)

11.  There is something truly beautiful when you've been working with your child to overcome a learning struggle, and they finally "get it."  This is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling.  There is a look on a child's face, when a concept that you've gone over multiple times,  finally makes sense.  It's a beautiful mix of relief and pride, and it makes the effort to get there worth it.

12.  Your kids will grow closer.  And if you're like me, you'll quietly observe them interact, as your heart swells with gratitude and love for each of them and all of them.  My kids play together, share secrets with each other, and have an unbreakable bond.  This is the benefit of having siblings, but when your sibling is the one you're with all day, building memories and sharing moments with, that bond grows tighter.

13.  Having some sort of routine/schedule (even a loose one) makes a world of difference.  I have had to learn this the hard way.  As much as I love making routines/schedules, I am terrible at sticking to them, and it shows in the chaos of the day and the struggles with my kids.  I guess it's safe to say that although I've learned this lesson in homeschooling, it's one I'm still trying to conquer.

14.  Think outside of the traditional box.  Homeschooling stopped being the "traditional school" over 100 years ago. Now, 30+ kids of the same age sit in a classroom learning the same thing, mostly at the same pace, for the same 7 hours on the same days.  That's traditional.  Is that what you want?  Not likely.  Since I work 4 days a week, we sometimes save some schooling for the evenings.  On occasion, we do school on a Saturday.  We don't have homework, because all of our work IS "home work," and we even pack up our books when it's nice out and head to the backyard, the park, or the library.  I saw a blog post from someone once doing school at Panera Bread, and I've been determined to try it ever since!  Throw out your preconceived ideas of "school" and see what happens.

15.   It is a choice that brings much joy and blessings to your life, and the lives of your kids.  Despite the messy house, the extra responsibility in taking on schooling my kids, and the fact that they're with me all the time, there's has never been a moment when I've regretted my choice to homeschool.  As much as Aimee misses the social aspect of school, she has admitted a few times that she would choose to homeschool if it were up to her.  And years from now, when my kids are all grown up and living their lives independent of me, I will look back on these days and be grateful for the time and the memories we have (I try to focus on that when the day is long and hard and I want to quit).

Those are my top 15 things I've learned since we began this journey.  I'm sure there are many more lessons ahead.  :)

If you have anything to add to this list, please share it in the comments below!

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