Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Secret to Homeschooling

Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught. ~Winston Churchill

This is something I tend to forget now and then.

I knew years before my daughter was born that we would be homeschooling. Mind you, the first homeschooling family I met did not impress me, not at all. In fact, they really concerned me because they had an philosophy that literally jolted me having been raised from the school classroom perspective. They believed in the "better late than early" philosophy, so they were not planning to teach their daughter to read until she was between seven and nine years old. Even though they explained that an older child can learn to read at the expected level for his age in just a few months rather than taking years as when started with a young child, I still thought, at that time, it was just irresponsible. I have changed my perspective on that point since. It was not irresponsible, just a completely foreign concept to me. Thankfully, my own daughter was ready to read early; she was reading second grade level books at four years old.

Many of us who begin homeschooling tend to read books about it and eventually gravitate to a particular approach. For me, it was the classical approach with living books and journaling or notebooking and some unit studies in the mix. I wanted as little to do with workbooks as I could. Yes, that was the plan, but then I found my daughter had a particular interest in maps at just four years old and the next thing I knew we were using a geography workbook she really liked. She enjoyed learning geography that way and I saw it a benefit in that it limited how much she had to write, which was difficult for her at the time, yet encouraged her to do so.

Like many first-time homeschooling parents before and after me, I then fell into the curriculum trap. I enjoyed looking over curriculum probably more than actually using any of the materials. I bought more than I needed, certain that I would use it all eventually, even though much of the stuff strayed outside of my desired approach. I was convinced, however, that such things would be good supplements, not fully taking into consideration how many more hours they would add in a given week to fit them in.

I also fell into the homeschool support group trap. I joined a co-op group for the social aspect that did not really enrich our homeschool approach. In fact, it took more time away from it. The co-op expected a certain level of participation, including teaching other children than my own as they were organizing classes and that was not what I wanted to do at all.

Then I joined every homeschool message board I could find online too. I think I used more time in learning how to homeschool, how others homeschool, how I would not homeschool, and even advising others in how to homeschool than I did actually homeschooling! I guess I would say that I fell in love with idea of homeschooling, but I had not really fallen as far in love with the doing of it.

Once on a message board, I wrote something advising someone about the simplicity of homeschooling that seemed rather wise...so wise that I had to remind myself often how much wiser it would be if I had approached each day, each lesson, each moment with this simple philosophy:

The secret to homeschooling
is all in making good memories!

Think about all you have ever learned. Everything you remember is a memory, just simply a memory. Some of those memories are associated with good feelings and some are not. I wanted my daughter's memories associated with learning to be good ones and I admit that I have fallen short of that goal, but it is one worth the striving, nonetheless.

What that means is I need to really be involved with educating her, finding ways to make it enjoyable for her, and sometimes listening to how she would like to do something and seeing if it will help her learn better. In the end, all the homeschooling things I had been doing was mostly for me...not for her. Yes, I did learn some things that I use and perhaps it is a phase I needed to go through, that most homeschooling parents need to go through to discover what kind of approach and structure works for their families.

Oh, and I am sticking with my original approach, not because I am determined to do so, but because it actually was the right one for my daughter. I give the credit for that one to my Lord! (That whole thing where God somehow makes me desire what I need to desire always gets me.) She journals about everything and makes up projects on her own, usually about anything that I introduced into her head at the time. There are times I give her an assigned project with guidelines and times I do not and she just makes one up on her own. The difference:


  • The first has rules and that is not a bad thing, but the downside is that I have expectations with it and often am more critical about how she completed the project. For her, this is just another homeschool lesson she has to get through and she does not put her heart into it as well, but there are expectations in life and she needs to learn how to follow directions and meet expectations.
  • The second is far more enjoyable for me because I do not give her any assignment at all. I have no expectation so I am surprised and pleased with whatever she makes up. Often she goes off and later presents me with something far more elaborate than I would have asked her to do. For her, she is just being herself playing, drawing, or creating, and even though she is incorporating what she just learned, it is fun for her.

I have had to learn to let her process the information into a lasting memory by giving her time to do so in the quiet of our home without TV or computer games. This child who thinks she hates math, actually writes math equations on paper or tries to teach a preschooler in Sunday School how to do math. I have learned to step back from the lessons and watch my daughter. When I push her, she is not really learning. When I give her freedom, she is. The results I really wanted are not in a curriculum or highly structured lesson plan, but in my Lord's guidance of this highly-gifted child, who seems to instinctively know how to process the information so that it does become a lasting memory.

Although I know the secret to homeschooling, some days I have to remind myself of my goal: simply to make a memory.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for this reminder that I still have some things to learn myself. Please continue to guide our homeschooling adventure. ~

3 comments:

  1. Yes, ma'm!
    It's alot of work, but it's good work!
    I am even sorta hoping our grandson will be homeschooled....much prayer is needed for that.

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  2. I forget why I am doing this a lot ~ especially on math days. :( Then Star says something like how she could wag if she was going to regular school & I remember! lol We may be shonky some days but at least she's not roaming the streets & she is getting an education.

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  3. Mrs. Bee: Welcome! If it is God's will, I pray that it will be so for your grandchild. For course, I am quite biased on the subject: I think homeschooling is a wonderful lifestyle of the entire family.

    Ganeida: All homeschooling parents tend to be highly committed, but often forget our purpose when in the daily grind of it. In retrospect, I think that was one of the reasons I was so drawn to message boards where we would get a homeschool harasser now and then; in a weird way, I would end up reminding myself.

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.