Monday, November 26, 2012

Top 10 Lessons I've Learned While Homeschooling

At this point we are 4 years down our homeschooling path and although we are still not a veteran homeschooling family, I as a homeschooling momma have recently experienced the ahhhhhhh haaaaaa moment that many veteran homeschooling mamma's will identify with.  It's a pivotal moment, a turning point, in your homeschooling journey.  It reminds me of when I first felt like an adult.  I was about 25 and I was washing the dishes at my kitchen sink, looking out the window and listening to my kiddies play happily in the background,  and I finally felt like this was my life and I wasn't just playing house.  I was an adult!  In this same way, I came into my homeschooling maturity.  This is not an experiment or a test run, I am officially a lifer ready to earn my stripes and badges.  Before this awakening, it had never crossed my mind to quit homeschooling, but I held it loosely and without confidence. 

If you are like me, you have heard this wise advice from an owl among homeschooling mothers before and time and time again. 

Even after hearing it, and it making sense to your ears, you return to your busy work of educating your family and organizing, and planning, and worrying, and stressing.  Then you go to your computer for encouragement and inspiration.  You browse blogs, curriculum sites, and pinterest and think one of two things.

1. What is wrong with me?  What is wrong with my children?  Why are we not accomplishing all this, and how come are art projects look more like finger painting from a toddler instead of the master pieces I just saw?  Or, my personal favorite; we have work to do before we can be in public with other homeschoolers because I don't mill my own flour or own any chickens, and my kiddos can't recite all the president's in order.  Maybe, just maybe we aren't cut out for this homeschooling thing and the children would get a better "education" at public school.


2. Or, if you are more like my alter ego, you are thinking, wow that looks like fun!  We will do all that before lunch tomorrow and then get to our core curriculum and it will be sooooooo much fun!  Then at five o'clock you will be rushing around to make an amazing dinner with multiple courses that you found on pinterest yesterday.  After your kids are in bed, you will be the most exhausted super hero that ever lived and see the need to start one of those fancy blogs that showcases everything you and your children have exhausted yourselves accomplishing.  You will expect your children to appreciate the education you are providing, and they will want a nap for the first time in their lives.

If you have experienced this and you are reading my homeschooling blog right now, it's safe to assume we have both learned something about ourselves and have taught our children as well.  We are not quitters!

This past year I spent $2,000 roughly on homeschool curriculum for 4 children.  Now, about half of that money was spent on curriculum that would last us more than one year and was non consumable, or a software program.  I researched, and planned, and I only bought a little at a time over a year.  I ended up with a beautiful, well thought out, dream curriculum.
 We began the school year excited and ready to get started, but in the middle of a move.  Our dream curriculum had to be put on the back burner for a more manageable schedule of lapbooking, reading, and unit studies.  When we finally were settled in our new home we dove into our core curriculum.  Wow, it was a blend of AWESOME and INTENSE!  There isn't a subject that we don't love and wouldn't wish to continue with the curriculum we have.  So, what was the problem you ask?  The problem was it was too AWESOME for a simple family with a real life that included doctors appointments, church, co-op, sickness, chores, and last but not least the need to eat and sleep.  This extraordinary curriculum was taking over our ordinary family and running our life.  We became slaves to the curriculum.  Of course, it was partly because of the investment, but mostly because it was a perfect fit for all my children and we really enjoyed it. 

We had completely forgotten all the reason's we had chosen this less traveled road to begin with. 

 I don't know about you, but I didn't decide to homeschool my children to skip field trips so we wouldn't get behind in our curriculum, or drudge through a science project with toilet paper sticking out of our noses.  It is a sad sorry day when you are doing school work on your husbands day off! Even if that day is a Monday. 

Here are our reasons for homeschooling:

  1. To truly live a Christ centered life

  2. To savor every moment of our family all being in the same home

  3. To let our children learn from successes and failures in a safe and loving environment

  4. To create a lifestyle of discovery and wonder

  5. To take the God given right and responsibility of teaching my children

  6. To develop a tighter bond with each of my children and them with each other

  7. And, of course to "shelter" them from worldly values

None of those reasons support the rigid schedule of a well planned, thoughtfully executed, year long core curriculum.  Follow me back to when I spoke of the owl among homeschooling mothers.  I had been told before to let the curriculum work for you, and not to become a servant to your curriculum.  I totally agreed and understood, when I heard this multiple times, but why couldn't I live it?  That brings me to my first lessons in homeschooling maturity.

  1. Some lessons you can only learn through life experiences.

    1. There are levels of acceptance and the first is hearing and agreeing, next there is living  and learning, then you relate in your heart, last your moved to change.  It took me going through it and experiencing all the levels of acceptance before I was moved to change.

    2. This was a two part lesson for me because after dissecting my own transformation I realized that my children might also need to learn some lessons through life experiences.  There are many lessons I want my children to learn that can't happen on paper.

  2. Don't spend $2,000 on curriculum EVER!

    1. If you do, that will be the year that none of your well thought out plans will work and you will have to scrap most of it and start from scratch.  At that point you will find that there are so many less expensive ways to provide an excellent and superior education.

  3. Don't be a slave to your curriculum.  Don't allow directions and a timeline in a curriculum dictate to you what your families schedule or educational goals should be.  Always remember to own your place and responsibility as the teacher.

  4. You have to be structurally flexible.

    1. I know that sounds like a contradiction and to some degree it is.  Think of it like this; Make an outline not a final draft and write in pencil.

  5. Homeschooling can and should be easy, and if it's not, you are doing it wrong.

    1. If you are struggling it get through your homeschool day and your children are in tears, it's time to evaluate and make some changes.

    2. If your homeschool lifestyle isn't fluid with you family lifestyle that is another indication that burnout in knocking on your door or already living in your house.

  6. The Internet can be your best homeschooling friend and your worst enemy. 

    1. There are so many amazing FREE resources on the Internet that you can't overlook it's usefulness.  Not only that, but if you are alone in your journey there is such a huge homeschooling presence on the web that can really help you stay strong in the beginning when people (maybe even you) are questioning your decision.

    2. It can be completely overwhelming!  There are so many choices and different theories on what and how to teach.  Not to mention all those amazing homeschool super heroes with their chickens and fifteen children that take college level classes in 6th grade.

  7. Don't compare your behind the scenes worst to others success stories on the news stand.

    1. Not very many of us are brave (or crazy), I mean humble enough to announce our failures and disappointments on center stage to fellow homeschoolers.

    2. It's a dirty secret, but the homeschooling arena can be pretty competitive. It's easy to get sucked into that, but just focus on your own families needs and pay no mind to those distractions.

  8. You will NEVER, EVER and I mean EVER use a "school" room to teach your children in the things they should know and ways they should go.

    1. Real lessons are learned at the dinning room table, on the couch, or maybe even the trampoline, but NEVER the "school" room.

  9. Your home was never meant to morph into a public school system.  Lessons should seamlessly blend into your natural family rhythm.  You will quickly plunge into burn out, if your "school" course work or schedule resembles that of a public school system.

  10. Last but not least, PAY IT FORWARD!

    1. Always remember the feeling of a warm cup of coffee with the veteran homeschool mom who showed you the ropes.  Offer your knowledge, experience, and time to homeschool mommas in need.

    2. If you've ever used a resource that was free to you think about that blessing and be a blessing to someone else.

In my four year homeschooling journey this is what I have learned.  I genuinely hope that this blog can and will be a service to fellow homeschooling mommas and special mention to those that are just beginning.

What lessons have you learned and would like to pass along to me and other homeschooling mommas?

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