Encouragement, Getting Started

Keys to Homeschooling Success ~ Key Four

Abandon the Island

The famous John Donne quote says, “No man is an island…” That is true of homeschooling as well. We need the fellowship of other homeschoolers for the exchange of ideas, for gentle Tropical island, Thailandredirection when we get off-balance and for encouragement. If you are the only homeschooler in your church/area or are facing disapproval from family and friends, it is especially important to make the effort to build a support system. Online homeschool email groups or message boards, homeschooling social media sites, local co-ops or classes are just a few of the places to actively seek out people who can encourage and advise. Your support system might be even be a non-homeschooling friend who is willing to listen over a bowl of soup. If you are more of an introvert and joining a physical group seems overwhelming, try the online support group route. You can stay fairly anonymous and “lurk” until you are ready to join the conversation. Finding your best support group fit might require exploring more than a few options but it will be worth the effort.

Are you a veteran homeschooler? There are so many new families that would love to be tuckedKeys to Success under your wing for a bit of mentoring and guidance! Reach out those just starting out with a kind word, a brief phone call or simple email. Doesn’t have to be anything time-consuming or overwhelming. The year of my youngest son’s cancer diagnosis became so difficult that we ended up starting over again in the middle of the school year. I was very discouraged, partly from holding myself to unreasonable standards that I could not maintain in a crisis situation. A very dear veteran homeschool mom gave me just a few words of encouragement that bolstered my spirits to be able to face the remainder of the school year with new courage.

Encouragement, Getting Started

Keys to Homeschooling Success ~ Key Three

Give Yourself an Out

Keys to SuccessDon’t paint yourself into a corner with an overly strict schedule/routine. Building too tight of a schedule is a recipe for disappointment when the unexpected gets in the way. Lack of breathing room will also increase the chances of early burnout and decrease the chances of spontaneous teachable moments. Plan a little flex-time into your program. Sooner or later, you will need that extra time.

When I am making my lesson plans, I often leave a week open every six weeks or so for catching up or reorganizing if needed. Alternately, I will leave one math assignment open this week, a grammar lesson open the next, and science module open the third week. If we need that unscheduled time for catching up or re-teaching, the time is available. If it is not needed, we just keep moving. Think of the open time slot as a safety release valve. If you need a day off to regroup or catch up on the laundry- just consider it ‘staff -development’ time.

Encouragement, Getting Started, Preschool-Grade 12

Keys to Homeschooling Success ~ Key Two

Be Prepared to Un-Learn, Reevaluate and Think Outside the Box

box

Just because you have always ‘done school’ in a particular way does not mean it should stay that way forever. Be careful of falling into a homeschooling rut simply because you refuse to un-learn old habits. Being open to change can help you to avoid burnout. Year-round homeschooling worked well for my family for several years, and then suddenly it was a struggle. Instead of fighting it, we chose to adjust our school calendar and are much happier and productive as a result. Just as a tasty new curry recipe adds fresh life to your menu rotation, a new way of doing school may add fresh life to your homeschool program.

As your family grows and changes, it is important to revisit your goals, strategies and curriculum to make sure you are meeting the needs of your children in the best way possible. Sometimes a particular curriculum works well for younger children, but loses its effectiveness with older learners. We parents may have strong opinions about the materials our children are using, but have we asked our children to share their thoughtful evaluations? If its not broken, there’s no need to fix it, but at the same time there is no harm in re-evaluating what you do to find new ways to learn. It may be helpful to include an evaluation time in your calendar at regular intervals to specifically discuss with your family how to make your homeschool the best it can be.

The best learning opportunities don’t always come in a textbook. Look for ways to learn

Keys to Success

something new away from home. Botany can be studied by joining a gardening club. Sign up for a plein-air watercolor class as a way of learning nature journaling. Why not take a chance and move outside of your comfort zone? Try something new. You might discover birdwatching or stargazing or geo-cacheing to be not only educational, but truly enjoyable. Perhaps you never thought you would do a literature-based unit study or try a computer-based curriculum. Give it a try, you might like it! Check with your family members, friends or fellow church members who might jump at the chance to teach your family something new. Don’t make changes solely to keep up with the homeschooling Joneses, but to move yourself and your children to new heights.

Did you miss the first key to homeschooling success? Check out our blog’s recent posts.

Encouragement, Getting Started, Home Life, Preschool-Grade 12

Keys To Homeschooling Success ~ Key One

Join us each Tuesday this month as we share 5 keys to having a successful homeschooling year. We pray that these posts will both encourage and inspire as you endeavor to educate your children this school year.

Keys to SuccessFind Your Fit

It is easy to look at what other families are doing and get discouraged. Does your friend create fabulous in-depth unit studies for her children that leave you feeling envious? That’s okay, she is not making the adjustment to caring for an elderly parent in your home like you are. Go ahead and purchase the unit study kit you’ve had your eye on and enjoy using it. It really is okay if you never ever write your own curriculum or make a lapbook!

I remember a mom who proudly announced that she never used workbooks – as if workbooks were the lowest form of education. I had just bought a stack of workbooks for my 4th grader and it was very hard not to take her statement personally. I had to remind myself that her conviction was for HER household. I had a newborn baby and was doing what I could handle at the time. If your child is excited at thought of a new workbook, then go ahead and give your child a reason to smile. Don’t forget some new colored pencils to go with the new workbook!

Your household structure, your child’s learning style, the support systems in your area and other factors will all combine to create a your family’s unique homeschool. Prayerfully work towards doing what is best for YOUR family. If you are a square peg, don’t try to fit in a round homeschooling hole.

Encouragement, Getting Started

Dealing With Negative Reactions

 

We are a homeschooling family. That statement will evoke a variety of responses from family, friends and even strangers. Many people will be happy and supportive of your choice, but others will immediately respond with criticism and negative comments. How do you deal with the negative reactions and comments? Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.

Keep it Simple. You do not have to give a detailed summary of how you came to choose homeschooling. You do not have to support your decision with the latest research or long quotes. The choice to homeschool is private family business and it is not rude to keep it as such. A simple “After much thought and prayer, we are homeschooling our children.” is a perfectly sufficient response. Do not feel obligated to share more if you don’t want to do so. 

Keep Motives in Mind. It is helpful to consider why the person is being negative. Is the person doubting your ability to homeschool? Are they concerned about the financial impact of one parent staying home? Is it jealousy or plain curiosity? Is the family member concerned about what others will think? Does the person just want to understand homeschooling more clearly? When you consider the motivation behind negative comments, it helps not take them so personally.

Remain Positive. You are happy with your choice, and leave it at that. Don’t make negative comments about the local church school or public school. That invites negativity towards your choice. It also invites the temptation to gossip or spread rumors. It is better to leave the local church school or public school out of your response. How can you expect to gain support of a public school parent if you are denigrating their choice?

Agree to Disagree. You may come across someone who is set in his/her mind against homeschooling and has no intention of changing his/her opinion. That person may even share the latest homeschooling horror story that’s in the news to bolster his/her opinion. That’s okay. Breathe deeply, send up a quick prayer, smile and let those comments float away. Don’t engage in debates or arguments because there will be no winners. You have more to lose than to gain by letting a conversation become heated. Diffuse a potential argument by stating that you agree to disagree. Then change the subject or leave the conversation completely.

Let time bear witness to your prayerful efforts of homeschooling your children. As you strive to follow the True Education principles laid out in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, the blessings of your work will become evident to all. God will honor your efforts to be a homeschooling household of faith for Him.

Getting Started

Asking the Right Curriculum Questions

One of the most common questions asked by new homeschooling families is “What’s the best curriculum? The short answer is, the ‘best’ curriculum does not exist. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum because homeschooling just can’t be categorized that way. An infinite number of factors make each household’s homeschooling experience unique. Homeschooling parents who work outside the home will have different curriculum needs compared to a parent who is able to stay at home. A mother caring for a new baby may not be able to give the detailed  question markattention some curriculums require until the baby is much older. A child with strong independent study skills may find success in a program that might cause another child to struggle. A single program cannot meet the needs of a infinite range of situations. So now what? How do you choose?

Instead of the one question, ask a series of questions. Not to others, but to yourself. The answers to these questions will help you to wade through the myriad of choices available to you and begin eliminating options that don’t meet your needs.

A crucial question to ask yourself is, What your homeschooling philosophy? Are you looking to replicate a traditional classroom in a ‘school-at-home’ approach, desiring a very relaxed learning environment or a variation along that continuum? Also think about your personal family standards. These considerations will immediately put quite a few programs in the ‘not for our family’ pile.

Take some time to study your child and evaluate how he or she learns. A highly visual child might struggle with listening as the sole method of instruction. Your child with the wiggly fingers will likely learn more from a hands-on activity as opposed to just watching someone else do something. A musical child will enjoy learning the months of the year via song while another child may find the activity quite silly and annoying. Understanding the learning style of your child will help you to narrow your options to choices that complement your child strengths.

How much structure or flexibility does your child need? Do you want your child to stick to the subject at hand or are you willing to go down rabbit trails as teachable moments arise? Does a computer-based program sound appealing to you or do you prefer to avoid large amounts of screen time? What are your needs as a parent-teacher? Can you handle a program that requires extensive preparation before a lesson can be taught? Do you have access to good library or the budget for a literature-based curriculum? Thoughtful questions like these will help you make thoughtful decisions concerning your child’s education.Stack of Library Books

If you are not sure what thoughtful questions to ask yourself, it helps to seek the advice and recommendations of others. Listen carefully to the reasons that parents give for liking or loathing a particular curriculum. How do those reasons fit with your philosophy, standards and child’s learning style? What another family finds a poor fit may be a perfect fit for yours.

Sometimes it boils down to trial and error. You may find yourself switching materials mid-year. That’s okay. Don’t torture yourself or your child with a curriculum that doesn’t work for you. Also, as your children mature and your family needs change, be ready to revisit your questions and curriculum choices. Sometimes what worked well when your child was 9 years old turns into an exercise in futility at age 14.

A time of parental reflection before evaluating curriculum will help you to wade through the overwhelming amount of homeschooling materials available. Considering your philosophy and family standards, in addition to looking to complement your child’s learning style, will set you on a path for an enjoyable homeschool journey.

 

 

Getting Started

Don’t Start Out Overloaded!

It can be overwhelming when you first decide to homeschool your children. Questions abound – what curriculum should you choose, which one is the best? Should I use textbooks or go with computer-based learning? Do I need lots of supplemental materials? What if I forget to include something important? It is easy to become discouraged before you even begin.

So where do we start? Every Adventist family should first prayerfully study the idea of Christian education and develop a personal homeschool philosophy. What are your family’s spiritual and academic goals? How do your spiritual goals affect the academic ones? Next, parents should observe their children and examine how they learn. Are your children hands-on learners or do they learn best by hearing information? Does your child memorize things set to music? Why start with these two ideas? When you have personal homeschool standards in mind and an understanding of how your children learn, then you can more easily evaluate curriculum and materials. For instance, if you have studied and decided not to use fiction as part of your family’s learning and you also know that your child is an auditory learner – now you can narrow down your curriculum choices based on those personal guidelines. You now know specifically what you are looking for in a math program or history curriculum. Don’t choose curriculum based solely on others recommendations- develop your own personal homeschool convictions first and couple it with an understanding of how your child learns. Only then should you begin to use the recommendations of others.

Don't burn out before you begin!
Don’t burn out before you begin!

One of the blessings of reading the books Education, Child Guidance and other Spirit of Prophecy books on education is that we learn that education for young children does not start out at full-tilt, with a full day packed with a complicated curriculum with six or seven subjects. When you consider most families are starting homeschooling with one or more “littles” under the oldest, that is a wonderful burden lifted off of a mother’s back! Bible and nature study are a child’s first subjects. Those are subjects that don’t leave out the younger children, all can join in. Formal subjects are added later, a little at a time with short, interesting lessons. Easing into homeschooling gives a family time to enjoy the transition towards a lifestyle of learning.

What if you are pulling an older child out of school to begin homeschooling? The advice is still the same. If a child is leaving a traumatic classroom situation or is discouraged about his/her learning abilities and education, a time of ‘deschooling’ may be of great help. Deschooling is a time to forgo formal studies and regroup. How much time? Depends on your family. Spend time on topics of interest to the student. Get outdoors for some extended nature study. Create a new learning routine and develop new learning habits. In the meantime, develop a homeschool philosophy for your older student, find his/her learning style and use that information to create a set of educational goals.

Starting the homeschool journey does not have to be a stressful experience. Ask God to guide you as you first study and then create or choose a program that fits your needs. The vast amount of homeschooling materials available can seem overwhelming, but take a deep breath; a slow and steady start to homeschooling can and will win the race.