Saturday, July 16, 2011

Just a Bit of Advice for Homeschooling Novices

So what is the difference between home schooling and home educating? You are home schooling if your children’s learning is centered around what your state, neighbor, or cousin says that they should be learning. Home educating, on the other hand, is taking the initiative to prepare a home that is rich in learning opportunities. ~Deb Deffinbaugh

I have never really liked the term "homeschooling" because it does make me think of school at home. I much prefer home education. However, "homeschooling" is a widely acknowledged term and I do use because of that.

I was reading Getting Ready…posted by Terri at Breathing Grace and remembering those same feelings when I began homeschooling... formally. Having read homeschool message boards and talked to homeschool families, I have noticed a pattern in homeschooling parents that can be described in stages, particularly when starting with young children.

First there is the homeschool fever. This affliction begins the moment a parent thinks that homeschooling is a "good idea." Excitement mounts as many books are read about learning styles, approaches, and methods. One becomes even more convinced and determined when talking with other homeschool parents and seeing their children! Eventually, the parent will gravitate to a particular approach and/or curriculum. Some might think this is the planning stage, but in reality the planning stage never ends until homeschooling ends. You will be planning for many years...planning and planning.

The homeschooling parent usually has been casually homeschooling since birth, but at some point will become more formal, at least in her mind. This is the onset of the rookie homechooling parent syndrome, with high expectations intermingled with excitement and "what if" fears. It usually takes a couple of years (or a couple of children) to wear down and realize that the shift in formality was of her own making and not really that necessary.

By the time you have become comfortable with homeschooling, you realize that is not exactly what you thought it would be. You are not doing it the way you thought you would...well, you are somewhat, but you changed some things to accommodate the child's tastes and skills as well as your lifestyle and finances. At this point, you might feel that you are not covering as much as you originally planned and yet you are pleased with how it is going. This is when you are really not homeschooling, this is when your child is learning, because you have adapted to make your approach work better. The best education a child can get is found in his desire to learn.

I like the classical approach favoring journaling and living books. I remember all the plans I had when we first started and how I read through many homeschool message boards where veterans would say to be more relaxed to newcomers with young children. Well, that was just crazy talk to me then. I thought at the time that the more we covered when she was younger, the more she would learn.

Well, she did learn to read early, but that was mostly because she desired it. I also ended up breaking my own rules on workbooks when it became obvious that she really liked anything to do with geography, but did not like writing as much because she was just five years old at the time. I thought the workbook would be a compromise to help her write short answers about something she loved where the complex spelling words would be readily available. It worked.

A year or so later, while I was concerned about her spelling and handwriting, she began journaling with drawings about everything on her own: movies we saw, books she read, Sunday School lesson, just anything! I found myself thinking things like: She cannot be journaling! She is not ready. I am not ready for her to be journaling. Isn't this what I wanted though? So what is my problem? I began to understand that my problem was that although I had trained and prepared her to journal, I was not controlling it; these were not assignments I placed on her and I felt that I should have been controlling the content and time spent. It was then that I realized, God was the One who put this desire in her and even though I did not think she was ready for it, He knew otherwise: she was. It was bit unnerving trying to come to terms with home education was not about me.

I had prayed about specific things for my daughter and God was answering those prayers. I realized then whatever I failed to teach her that she needed in God's plan, He would provide it. I have also learned that teaching some things early is helpful, but some things are also mastered faster and more efficiently when a child is older. My daughter was ahead in everything but math...and I used to tutor math, so it isn't like I don't know how to reach a child in math, but that does not mean that every child will enjoy it. I did not pray about math specifically (maybe because I thought I had it covered?), but I do now.

So, my best advice for homeschooling parents starting out is this: God has a plan for your children and He will provide what is needed for them by way of education, experiences, social interaction, and so on, especially if you are praying for them and trusting His guidance. Praying and hearing God are far more important than deciding on the approach or curriculum for educating the child He placed in your care.

~ My Lord, I am thankful for the homeschool break we took and I am getting excited about homeschooling again, making a few changes and making it work better for both of us. Thank you for Your guidance. ~


  1. This was encouraging and I appreciate your letting me know you wrote it.

    Your description of the various feelings you felt at the beginning echo mine almost 100%.

    I sincerely thank God for the way you and the other ladies offered such sage advice.

  2. Terry, I decided to write this post when I saw how long my comment was getting. I just wanted you to know that we all have been there and it often is a nag in the back of our minds if we are doing enough or doing it right or should be doing it at all, but I really have seen God works in the education of my daughter. I find that is such a relief that He is really the One in charge.


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