Homeschooling can be very rewarding, can take a little courage. Many people have joined the movement, but it is a less traveled path then the majority. Wanting the best for your children’s education and future, well, it can be a bit of pressure.
The first few steps might be the most challenging. You may convince yourself that you’re not cut out for this, your child will never cooperate with you, or this whole experiment just isn’t working. Rocky starts are common, and ‘perfection’ is a myth.
The key to starting is to ease in, give yourself and your children space. Slow down, and keep going. It’s not uncommon to take some months, or more, before you feel like you’ve found your groove.
In the meantime, though, there are steps you can take to begin to feel much better about the journey ahead. Following are four steps to take when it seems like it’s just not working. Excerpts from Barbara Danza, Epoch
- Trim It Down When Starting
I’m going to guess that you’re trying to do too much. We’ve all done it. You know the kids need math, reading, writing and spelling. And, of course, science, history, art, and music. Add in handwriting, typing, handicrafts, instrument lessons, foreign language study, and … I’m exhausted just typing all that.
It’s great to have high standards and big dreams. But – you don’t need to take every single subject your child might possibly study and dump it over their heads in the first week. In the beginning, pare the workload down to the very bare minimum.
Your goal in the first few weeks – and even months – is not to duplicate the school system! It is to connect with your children, establish a rhythm and routine to your days, and enjoy the fact that you’ve taken this step together.
You’d be amazed at how much your children can learn if you simply practice some math and read a variety of books together. Start there. As things start to flow, you’ll begin to sense when it’s a good time to add something else.
- Replace Your Schedule with a Rhythm
I’m also going to guess you’re over scheduling your day with an hour-by-hour schedule. If it is chock full of chores, subjects and to-do’s, you’re probably making yourself a little crazy, not to mention your kids!
You planned to begin math lessons at 9 a.m., but your child is still dilly-dallying over her breakfast and you’re falling behind schedule!
An easy way to free yourself of the tyranny of your own schedule is to aim for a daily rhythm instead. Try a looser framework for how you’d like your day to flow. Maybe there’s an early morning time for hygiene, morning chores and breakfast. Then generally getting ready for the day’s activities.
Next, you have school time. Somewhere in the middle, you break for a relaxing lunch and active time. For young children, that may be it for the day. For older students, you reconvene for some more schoolwork – maybe with an emphasis on projects or subjects they are particularly interested in.
Finally, you reach later afternoon when you tidy up, prepare dinner, and wind down as a family.
This is just an example. Your rhythm should be the one that works best for your family. The key is to make it much more flexible and to untie it from very specific hours of the day. Simply break your day into blocks – only a few of them. Give it a try and tweak and adjust, as needed. The simpler the better. If your tense shoulders relaxed a little bit with this, you’re on your way to better days.
- Slow Down
Do not try to check too many boxes to make you feel like you’re accomplishing something. This is done in some larger classrooms but home schooling has the advantage of leaning towards an art form that ebbs and flows. It’s a bit less predictable but opens a creative aspect for your children that is fuller with wonder.
If you’re focused on checking boxes rather than exploring the world through your children’s eyes, you’re missing the point.
Stop measuring success by the number of checkmarks you make, and, maybe, look at the number of hugs you’ve given. It might be the one magical moment of the week when your child tells you with the details of how an animal catches its prey after reading it in a book.
Trade in Your Teacher’s Hat for a Student’s Hat. Don’t be a school teacher first and a parent second. This means that you love and cherish your child beyond what any teacher could. Also, be a fellow student!
You don’t have to be the authority on every subject being taught. It’s far more authentic and wonderful to jump into the subject with your children. You will know some things, of course, but it works better working through that math problem or essay with wonder and curiosity. Follow that forest trail together, searching for the items on your scavenger hunt.
Sure, sometimes you’ll need to bring in expertise. Mostly, though, you’ll find that you’re learning right alongside your children, probably for the first time, if you’re a product of the public school system; and you’ll see the magic of true learning unfold.
While you’re learning, be sure to include good books about education and home schooling in your reading stack as you go. There’s an infinite amount of knowledge, insight, and inspiration to be had from those who’ve come before you. Soak it all in and gradually apply that which speaks to your good senses.
- Take Care of You
Your mood, your happiness, your energy levels, and your perspective will have a huge impact on your homeschool environment. Make sure you take care of yourself.
Exercise, good nutrition, regular breaks, and time spent doing what you love as an individual are crucial for the long-term success of your homeschool.
- If a messy space bothers you, ensure you have time to tidy up.
- If time alone renews you, make sure it’s a part of your everyday life.
- As you teach them how to read or research, you can leave them alone during a few study times to tackle other tasks.
Do whatever you need to do to ensure you can show up with your full potential and do your very best.
So, if you feel like you’ve gotten off to a rocky start in your homeschool and are considering throwing in the towel, I encourage you to give it a little longer. Try some of these tips and see if you can devise a new lifestyle that will make this rewarding experience work for your family.