Homeschool Lessons I Have Learned Along the Way
Since we have been homeschooling, I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. We started our new school session this month. Promotions to the next grade will not be done until next month, but starting now has given us an opportunity to do a dry run–a test of how our upcoming school year may come together.
Although we have what appears to be a heavy workload, I want more simplicity in our school year. I have taken time to reflect over our past school years, and some points stand out to me as lessons learned that I need to remember during the upcoming year.
1. Have a dedicated time for starting and finishing the school day.
When my children were younger, I allowed them to roll out of bed whenever they woke up, and we would get on with the day whenever we felt like starting. That worked fine for us. This past summer, however, I found that starting early allowed us to not only finish our work in a timely manner (by noon), but it also enabled us to incorporate more fun activities–like tennis–into our days.
With all of the things we need (and want) to complete each day, getting up later does not allow for us to finish everything. I have early risers, so I am taking advantage of that by having my children do their chores, eat, and then start school work soon after. This gives them a sense of responsibility because they know they are responsible for completing their morning chores (no dallying!) and for being ready to start school on time.
You may not have early risers. Just make sure that everyone has an understanding of what time school starts and ends each day. This helps each student work toward that common goal of completing his work.
2. We can’t do everything.
This is a hard pill to swallow, but it makes sense. I love that I am able to decide what my children learn each school year. There are certain subjects that are required by law in my state (You’ll need to check the laws in your own state since homeschool-related laws differ from one state to another.), so of course I teach those required subjects each year. Then I have a long list of subjects that aren’t required but which I want my children to learn/experience during their homeschool years. Each year, I try to teach one or two of these subjects that aren’t required but which I want my children to learn. Over the years, I’ll be able to teach many (if not all) of these “extra” subjects.
3. Spend time on the basics building a foundation.
Take the time when your children are young to make sure they have a solid foundation–especially in the basics–like math and reading. Often we pay too much attention to keeping our children on track with other homeschoolers or public schoolers, so we rush our children along. Don’t try to keep on track (or catch up with) other students! Maintain a consistent school schedule that gives your child(ren) plenty of time to learn at a comfortable pace. This will ensure that your students learn the basic subjects, and that will enable them to build on those subjects later. If you rush through these foundational years, you may find that you have to spend more time later going back to catch up.
4. Be flexible.
We choose to homeschool year around. This decision was probably brought on originally because of my inability to keep to a schedule, but it has been working well for our family, and we are going to continue. Although we do school year-around, we do have a “starting point” for each new school year. Even if you opt to teach for just the required 180 days, be flexible and plan your schedule around life/family, which also has some great learning opportunities.
5. New information isn’t learned immediately.
It took me many years to learn everything I know now. Some things were easier to learn, and others I’m still in the process of learning. My father always jokes that I should be really smart because I know everything he knows plus what I know!
Be patient with your children when they don’t immediately grasp what you are teaching them. I used to get impatient with my older son and daughter when they didn’t quickly grasp a concept I was teaching them for the day. I understood the information and, because I consider them bright children, I expected them to understand it right away.
Having high expectations for your children is fine, but be conscious of the fact that the material you are teaching them is new to them. Even if your children are very bright, you need to give them adequate time to learn and be able to implement new information. Also, your children may not all have the same learning style. As their teacher (and loving mother), you may need to change your teaching style for that child, and then you’ll need to be patient as she learns. (Click here to read a recent article about learning styles.)
What lessons have you learned along the way as a homeschool parent? What changes have you made to improve your school?
Image credit: Microsoft Office
Great points, Jennifer! Homeschooling definitely challenges me in the area of self-discipline!
I have to say that homeschooling challenges me daily in that area. I am the one who easily gets distracted during a school day. I love the freedom of homeschooling, but self-discipline is a must.
The most important thing I learned from my experience is this; at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter much what I taught my children, it’s what they learned that was important. My children almost never took the information I presented them away from their lessons, but through their own curiosity and initiative, they gained a wealth of information that I couldn’t possibly give them.
It is amazing what our children accomplish without any assistance from us.
Great points, Jennifer! The best thing I learned as a homeschooler was to let learning be something you enjoy throughout your entire life. Learning doesn’t end when high school and college do so there’s no need to squeeze everything into a few short years. I learned that everyone learns very differently and you don’t get as much out of learning if you do it someone else’s way.
You made a great point. In the beginning, I taught my children the way I wanted them to learn. Over the years, I’ve learned to accommodate their learning styles. I want them to be life-long learners and enjoy it. Even at my age, I still enjoy learning. That is a lot of learning in my response.
I confess that in years passed, I have been a lazy homeschool mom, and called what we do (and don’t do) “unschooling”. While I do believe their is a legitimate way to unschool, that wasn’t what I had going on! This year, I have resolved to give myself a kick in the hind quarters and get real! Thanks for the great list.
Be confident and know that you are not the only one who schooled that way. I didn’t call it unschooling, I just called it eclectic with a little bit of classical thrown in. It was neither. There will be some butt 🙂 kicking (of mine) this year too at our school.