May families are starting homeschooling this year. When asked for advice, the word “deschooling” might come up in conversation. This can be scary, because it’s hard to imagine doing “nothing” while waiting for homeschooling to actually start. Your want to get started right away!
Here’s how to adjust to your new homescooling life without feeling like you’re doing “nothing”.
1) Buy a very cheap curriculum to start. My preferred advice would be not to buy any curriculum at all. But that is hard advice to take in the beginning, especially for older children. So, a middle ground is to buy a cheap one, perhaps from a large bookstore’s educational section. They carry all-in-one curricula for under $40. The reason? The first curriculum you buy will almost always be the wrong one. The first curriculum (or set of books) you buy are your “get to know you” books. This is what you’ll use to figure out how your child learns, what kind of work they prefer, how many hours a day they are able to work, how to work together as a team, and how to back up a bit when things aren’t working. If your first curriculum is expensive, or the result of LOTS of research, then you’ll have more of a desire to force it to work, and to do every page in order to get your time and money’s worth. If you have a cheap curriculum you picked up from B&N (which are very good BTW), you’ll be willing to skip pages, take a break, and just toss the whole thing all together if other things seem more appropriate.
2) Focus on field trips and real life experience. Even though you have your cheap curriculum (or cheap set of 5-10 workbooks on various topics), your main focus should be things not to do with school. And keep yourself busy! The results of this will emerge immecdiately – it will increase your child’s interest in learning by being curious about the world around him, it will provide you an opportunity to connect to one another and find out who your child is and it will give you, as a parent, time to become enthusiastic about learning too, in your own way. It’s just as important in homeschooling that the parent is enthusiastic about learning *for themselves* in order for her children to be enthusiastic too.
3) If you feel the need to make a schedule, do it. Schedule yourself to the very minute if that makes you feel comfortable. However, once you make a schedule, don’t force it. Use it as a guideline. Keep track of what you get done and what you don’t (without judgement). After a few weeks, look back at your lists and you’ll have a really good idea of what you are realistically able to do in any given day. Also, if you have a schedule, be willing to break it for better things. Better things would be; impromptu get-together, a cool field trip, running outside in the rain, taking a bike ride, looking at the full moon together, etc. Homeschooling is NOT just about books. It’s about *everything*. If you focus on books, and make the rest peripheral, you are missing out on 90% of the benefit of a homeschooling life. Have the books. Have the schedule. But make it a point to be spontaneous, flexible and live your life to the fullest.
4) Get involved. Part of keeping yourself busy and interested in the world is to get involved in that world that your child is studying so hard to understand. Rather than talk about environmentalism from a book, volunteer to clean up the community or to gather soda cans to take the recycle center. Learn about your city by going to the events that happen around town. Talk to people in the community about what they do. And, don’t do these things as “learning experiences.” Do them as “life experiences”. Just by being there, everyone is learning. You don’t have to point out that they are learning. In fact, that might spoil the whole thing for the kids if you shift their perception from experiencing something interesting to a “learning” opportunity.
5) Read, read, read, read, read. As a homeschooling parent, one of the best ways to keep our homeschooling life relaxed, focussed and interesting is for mom and dad to read. Read a lot about homeschooling/learning/education. But also read about other stuff too. Read about whatever interests you. Then, because the things you are reading stimulate your enthusiasm, the subjects will come up in conversation and the kids will learn from your new understanding. Also, when a parent reads a lot and comes to new ideas often, it becomes clear how there is no one “right way” to do or to think, and that we can be successful by one of the million different paths. When we start to see that learning and the world does not have to be filtered down to one information funnel for us, as adults, it’s easier to see how our kids are learning and how they can also be successful in their own way even if we don’t do things the way we think is “perfect”. By being learners ourselves, we can put ourselves in the place of our children much easier, and understand their perspective on wanting to experience the world and be a part of it.
So, if you’re just starting out, but you’re not sure what to do yet, start out with this simple plan:
1) Buy a cheap curriculum now, get to know your child better, then in 6-12 months, invest is a bigger, more expensive curriculum when you know exactly what you’re looking for.
2) Fill your life with lot of field trips and life experience
3) Make a schedule if you need to, but let life trump schoolwork. And make sure to schedule in time for rest, fun and alone time.
4) Get involved in the community
5) Become a student of the world yourself as well.
There, now you have a plan, and you can fill your day with lots of stuff. In fact, if you follow this plan, and keep a journal on all the things you’re doing, you’re going to look back in a couple of weeks at your life and go, “OMG, we did all THAT?”
Good luck, and don’t stress. You’re free now.