Getting Started Homeschooling
A few years ago, my family toured a lovely estate. As we walked around the grounds, I saw the gate in the picture above. It grabbed my attention. Clearly, it was not supposed to be open. I wondered who had just gone out or come in. I imagined what might be just ahead on the path. If it were not for my strong inclination to obey the rules of staying within the boundaries, I might have just walked down the path that seemed to be calling my name. This year I am nearing the end of our family’s homeschool journey, but I clearly remember standing at the beginning. It seemed like this gate. So much possibility lay ahead.
If you are considering homeschooling, take some time for reflection. First, determine your goals for homeschooling. Changing schools at any time causes a redirection of the family lifestyle. Some parents select homeschooling because they are running from something. A teacher who does not understand a student’s learning style may discourage his student. The school environment may not be strict enough to force the child’s behavior into compliance. Bullies may be threatening their student, creating a fearful setting that prevents any cognitive progress. Others choose homeschooling because they cannot imagine their child spending all day away from them. They enjoy the joys and challenges of parenting. Some desire a private-school education for their child but cannot afford it. Homeschooling seems a viable route to reach this level of education. Still others dream of what their entire child could be if they custom design her education and skill-building development. Begin by answering the “why.”
Support of Spouse
Whatever situation brings a parent to educate at home, a supportive spouse is key to success. This encouragment combined with assessment of both the parent and child makes for the strong foundation necessary to plan the student’s education experience. Often one parent proposes homeschooling for the children. Frequently, one parent is more eager and more ready for the commitments involved in the lifestyle of homeschooling. Educating yourself about the time, cost, and lifestyle of homeschooling creates a more prosperous adventure. My personal decision originated from a positive academic experience as a student.
Investigate the cost of schooling at home compared to the cost of private or public options. Even children enrolled in public school incur costs. The public school may require uniforms and fees for sports or band. It will take time to determine the cost of homeschooling your student. Each family has different goals. Each child needs an individual plan. This cost varies greatly, based on the number of children in the family, supplies available from previous years, used resources that can be bought or borrowed, classes taken outside the home, tutors and decisions on curriculum.
Spend the time and energy necessary to establish your goals for homeschooling, secure the support of the reluctant spouse and gather anticipated costs. To feel confident, some may need a great deal of information or the opportunity to meet some mature, thriving homeschoolers. Take the time to tackle the reluctant parent’s concerns. It is worth the investment. A team approach proves invaluable.
Assess Each Parents’ Strengths and Weaknesses
Each parent considering the seriousness of being responsible for his or her child’s education must pause to consider his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps these are known easily. Write them down. Ask your mother, sister, close friends, or your spouse to respond to your list. Perhaps they will deny or embellish your evaluation of these qualities. Let’s say that you love to read. This feature promises that you will more willingly trudge through the book catalogs, used-book sales, and lesson preparation.
If you enjoyed your years as a young student, schooling might present an unexpected opportunity to relearn and absorb subjects. If you were not an eager student, now may be the time to find the excitement of acquiring knowledge with your child. Just watching a child progress is sheer excitement. Whether or not you maximized your own educational experiences, your child deserves to benefit from ongoing, positive energy concerning his or her education.
Other strengths that add to the ease of schooling include organization, attention to detail, a playful spirit, relational strengths, and a servant attitude, just to name a few. From one perspective, a naturally organized mom will look ahead to the long-term goals for her student’s educational experience as well as at the month and year ahead. Equally valuable is the ability to make learning fun. After establishing goals and ordering them into hourly segments or daily assignments, a parent must douse her plan with grace. Consistently expecting the unexpected each day will allow her to adjust accordingly. Working toward a goal always produces a more productive result. When a student does not complete a list, you can still celebrate all that has been accomplished. Approaching every day with just a vague idea of what must be done certainly means that much less will be completed. Long-term goals are much more difficult to achieve without strategizing how to meet them day by day.
A playful spirit stimulates ideas and learning games, which lull students into learning while diverting them from the necessary rigors of school. For example, plugging away through workbook pages in language followed by a bingo word game stimulates academic progress while adding in the fun factor. Memorizing geography by constructing a puzzle proves entirely more enjoyable than simply working out of a book. An extensive world of educational games and manipulatives exist. Locate inspiring accessories through catalogs, the local school store, and the Internet. Your student may accomplish sizable jumps in knowledge just by playing. Playing your way through academic games on a day when there is sickness, a new baby or an expected family problem gives relief from the planned academic discipline while staying on track learning. A smart mom might plan academics with scheduled easy days.
Develop positive relational skills that encourage the student to learn to interact properly with others of all ages. If a parent possesses tact, discernment, and manners, the student will absorb these mannerisms as they spend time together homeschooling. A child attending school in a traditional setting misses so much of his mother’s interaction with others on a daily basis. Making the most of growing up together is one of the best perks of homeschooling.
Practicing a servant attitude with your child benefits the student greatly. A do-as-I-do approach can be easily mimicked. When a family determines its own schedule, intentional planning to serve encourages the family to locate more opportunities to volunteer. Since homeschooling allows the student to work ahead or make up work on the weekend, a full day of serving is feasible. Giving to others provides insight into what a student should be grateful for in her opportunities.
Weaknesses that affect homeschooling may include disorganization, poor time management, unattainable expectations, and irritability, all of which may be adjusted with prayer and proper training. Numerous resources exist to improve organization. My book, Nurturing My Nest, offers many ideas. Poor time management could improve with willpower and intentionality. Hum of the Home: Routines and Rhythms of Homemaking, my second book, offers domestic organization thoughts. If you want something badly enough, you usually do what is necessary to get it. Search for people who have gone before you and created a working plan. Ask experience moms what they would do and what they would not do. Listen and learn. Read.
If you desire your student to succeed academically, start school at 8:00 a.m. or soon after 8:00 a.m. Before school starts expect your children to wake up, make their bed, brush their teeth, dress, spend time reading their Bible and praying individually or together, do a family contribution, and eat breakfast. If they were attending a traditional school setting, much of this would be accomplished before leaving the house for classes. Schoolbooks can be completed each year. Housework will be accomplished as a team. When all seems overwhelming or hopeless, it is helpful just to put one foot in front of the other.
Some dream with expectations too large. (I am raising my hand in confession.) The challenge, then, becomes selecting the best and eliminating the good. A conscientious effort toward achievable goals enhanced by some dreaming works beautifully!