10 Things Mom Learned in Homeschool This Year
This year went by in a blink, folks! I cannot believe that it has been over a year since our decision to suddenly, unexpectedly, homeschool. We survived our first year! And, not only did we survive, but we actually enjoyed ourselves most of the time. I can honestly say that Leo is not the only one who learned oodles. I learned so much during this first year. It would be impossible for me to list everything that I learned, but here -in no particular order- is a taste of what Mom learned in homeschool this year:
1. Learning happens all the time.
It took me quite a while to relax into a homeschooling rhythm, but once I did I had the realization that learning is everywhere: it’s in your living room, in the grocery store, at the restaurant, in the meadow, at the gas station, at church, at the playground, while watching a movie, while doing laundry… learning is everywhere. Any activity can be educational with a homeschool mindset.
2. That socialization question is just plain silly.
Whenever I tell folks that we are homeschoolers, I get the socialization question. And, to be completely honest, I was a little worried about socialization when we first embarked on this journey. Why? Because my oldest has so many strengths but his weaknesses (read: overexcitabilities, impulsivity, persistence, etc.) can have negative impacts on social relationships. I wanted to be sure that he had ample opportunity to practice his social skills so that we could see growth in these areas.
And, here’s the thing… Leo is not in school. That means that from 8:00 am until 3:50 pm, when he would have been at school or on the school bus, he is either involved in activities or he is with me. So, he’s either being social at a given activity, whether it is piano or church group or soccer or Destination Imagination, etc., etc., or he is out in the world with me. I am able to model social skills for him, to guide him through social situations, and to help him when he’s having trouble. That is a whole lot of time, folks. It’s a whole lot of 1:1 instruction and support in an area of weakness. I’m certain that he wouldn’t have received the same level of support had he been in the classroom or on the school bus. Is he still impulsive and boisterous and impatient? Well, of course he is…he’s a seven-year-old boy! But he’s a seven-year-old who has shown remarkable growth in him this year- so much growth. And I’m not the only one to notice it, as over the past months I’ve had multiple strangers approach me to comment on his manners, his caring for younger children, the way he interacts with his siblings, and his conversation skills.
After one year of homeschooling I am here to tell the interwebz this:
That socialization question is just plain silly.
3. I’m not the teacher, I’m the facilitator.
When I first imagined myself homeschooling, I pictured myself in a teacher role. I had visions of Leo and I, sitting at the kitchen table with papers flying.
After a few weeks of homeschooling, it became clear to me that my role would be different. I am fortunate because my son is an independent learner. I do not need to sit at the kitchen table and teach him, I just need to serve as his learning facilitator. I need to pay attention to his interests and provide opportunities for him to learn, keeping in mind his strengths and weaknesses.
4. Strew, strew, strew!
I’m convinced that that the only true homeschool must-have is a library card. Is your child interested in bugs? Guess what? There’s a book for that! Is she really into computers? There’s a book for that! Does he want to walk on the moon? There’s a book for that!
Our family goes to the library at least twice each week. Each child has a library bag that they fill and, while they are occupied, I gather books that I know they will like on topics that they are passionate about at that moment. And then, when we get home, I leave those books laying around the house. And, do you know what? They always read those books I selected for them. Strew! Strew! Strew!
5. Board games continue to be awesome.
I’ve always loved board games. Always. But, do you know what? Now, they are part of our curriculum. Why? First of all, homeschooling allows our family the freedom to play board games often because our schedules are far more flexible. We aren’t confined to lazy Sunday afternoons- we can play daily, and multiple times daily, if we feel like it! Second, playing games with such frequency has allowed me to witness, first-hand, how educational board games can be.
6. I don’t have to know everything, I just have to be willing to learn alongside my children.
When I first decided to suddenly, unexpectedly, homeschool, I felt overwhelmed. How would I teach him all the things? I soon realized that all I need to do is to find good books and read them with my son. Homeschooling is very similar to what we were already doing.
Here’s the thing… You don’t have to know everything. In fact, you know your child(ren) more than any other being on this planet and therefore you’re already well-equipped to homeschool. You taught your children how to eat, how to brush their teeth, how to tie their shoes, how to ride a bike, how to treat one another with kindness- just continue doing what you were doing!
7. Reading aloud is always a good idea.
I am a firm believer that reading aloud is the single best thing you can do for your children’s future success in this world. Read aloud early, read aloud often, read aloud even when they are reading to themselves. And, if you haven’t read it by now, you must read THIS.
8. Some days are ugly.
Homeschool is not all sunshine and roses. There are bad days and bumps in the road, just as there would be in a public school setting. And, honestly, some days are downright ugly. In fact, some days are so bad that you might even threaten to send him back on that big yellow bus.
Take a deep breath, regroup, and don’t be afraid to call it a day. The beauty of homeschooling is that it can happen anytime, anywhere. If you’re having a terrible day, throw in the towel. Try again tomorrow. Everyone has ugly days, folks.
9. The deepest learning happens when it is fueled by passions.
The wonderful thing about children is that they are natural curious creatures. They can’t help it! They are born that way! If you allow your child to pursue his or her passions, the result is genuine, joyful learning.
As a former school psychologist and product of public schools, I am amazed by how quickly I was convinced that homeschooling is, in so many ways, a better option for education. You truly cannot beat the individualized, interest-led, supportive environment that homeschool provides. I wish more schools would take a look at this framework because I have a feeling they’d leave fewer children behind. And, if you don’t want to take my word for it, check out this 1996 EdWeek article written by Mark Weston titled Reformers Should Take a Look at Home Schools, especially this bit:
But if the oftentimes emotion-laden issues associated with home schooling can be pushed aside, and the home-school community agrees to collaborate with reformers struggling to fix public education, we may have much to learn. The issue for public education is not whether, as some opponents claim, home-schooled children have an unfair advantage because they receive such prime pedagogical fare as one-to-one instruction. Rather, it is whether and how such an advantage can be gained for all children. By studying home schools, reformers perhaps could find something in how children engage in out-of-school learning experiences that could work inside the education system as well.
10. When in doubt, simplify.
It can be easy to get caught up in all the things you should be doing, or the things that you see other people doing. When you start to doubt or second-guess, stop for a minute and ask yourself if you could simplify things. Are you trying to do too much? Does your family have enough space between all the things on your calendar? I am consistently impressed by how stopping to simplify improves almost any situation. And, if all else fails, read a little Holt.