I was asked this recently from someone just starting out; “What do you wish you knew before you started homeschooling?” Honestly, my oldest is only seven so I am not an expert. However home education is a way of life for us so I do acknowledge I hold some level of proficiency on the subject. I’ve actually been asked that question on more than one account. I find myself playing it back in my mind when I am out on nature walks with my children or even when something happens that makes me think, I wish I knew that when I first started homeschooling…
There is more than one type of homeschool style.
When I first started looking at our options, I purchased what most would consider, a traditional style curriculum. It was dry and boring, and while my oldest didn’t notice- I did. Which is why I
tossed it started a pile of unused curriculum that I save for later just in case we might use it. (That pile is becoming absurdly large and we never end up using it.)
Then I started researching different styles of homeschooling and discovered there are many.
This is just something I really wish I had known from the beginning. This way I could choose curriculum that was constructed based off of certain educational philosophies.
I did know that there are different learning styles. Which is something that I picked up from nursing school. Did you know one of the roles of a nurse is an educator? Which makes sense as it is unequivocally important for patients to know the ins and outs of their whole health. Therefore I was taught about different learning styles back then. (so I could teach my patients) Although newer research suggests that people learn through all different styles just some learn best through certain ones.
Different Learning Styles:
- Auditory Learner
- Visual (AKA visual-spacial) Learner
- kinesthetic Learner
- Intrapersonal (Online source)
All of this would have been extremely helpful to know ahead of time.
The opinion of others
One time I took my children out to lunch during school hours. My extroverted nonstop talker took up a conversation with a older gentlemen behind us. He had with him his five year old grandson. Then my extremely social one immediately befriended the grandson until the grandfather learned why my oldest wasn’t in “real school.” Suddenly the grandfather cut off the entire conversation and told my oldest, “Sorry he has friends already, he made them at school.” Deadpan face followed by the silent treatment.
It is extremely hard not to take the ignorant opinions of others personally, especially when it is directed at your child. I suppose after the fact I wish I had prepared my children for such an encounter. Now I point out all the opportunities they have because they are homeschooled.
If you find that you’re overwhelmed with the negative opinions of others remember it often originates from a place of ignorance. Especially when it comes to the ridiculous notion that homeschooled children are not properly socialized. For peace of mind remember this, our homeschooled children are experiencing a diverse and natural social exposure by interacting in the real world on a regular basis. Compared to being in a four walled room with same age peers for several hours a day, 5 days a week.
Since socialization and home education is a popular topic I have a few articles on this if you’re interested:
In short, you know what is best for your children and the opinion of those who have no prior knowledge of home education, matter none.
When Do I Start?
Ok, remember that part where I said my oldest didn’t notice her first curriculum was dry and boring?
That was because she was two.
If you are a seasoned homeschool mom go ahead and laugh, I know I have.
But there was a time that I was very serious about needing to teach my two year old through a educational resource. I believe many starting out find themselves thinking this too. Partly because there is so much pressure to start academic work incredibly early and because conventional school systems appear to heavily prioritize the academics.
We tend to (at first) model conventional school, after all Johnny next door is reading, can write his name backwards, speaks fluent mandarin and plays the alphabet on his violin at three.
But in reality Johnny is that one exceptional kid that excels regardless of his educational setting. That he would naturally progress faster if left to his own devices in a educational home environment.
Which is something I really wish I had understood from the beginning. To not recreate school at home at an ungodly early age. Instead I should have allowed my oldest to progress at her own pace without binding her to a curriculum until she was at least six.
Yes, I am serious.
The only exception (in my honest opinion) to this is if she or he is literally begging to do school.
It is becoming common knowledge that ADHD, ADD, and emotional/behavioral problems are on the rise in school age children. In fact, I was just having this discussion with my neighbor who sends her child to public school. She is already being pushed to get her young seven year old diagnosed with ADD because he can’t stay focused and moves a lot during lessons.
I wanted to blurt out, “It is completely natural, normal, and healthy for a young boy to move a lot.” It isn’t healthy to expect any young child to sit for hours with limited recess time.
This is supported by research…
From a Harvard study, “the possibility that large numbers of kids are being overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature compared to their older classmates in the early years of elementary school,” said study lead author Timothy Layton, assistant professor of health care policy in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School
”Researchers discovered that children who start school as among the youngest in their grade have a much greater likelihood of getting an ADHD diagnosis than older children in their grade. In fact, for the U.S. states studied with a September 1st enrollment cut-off date, children born in August were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their older peers.”
Know better do better
I am trying to know better do better with my four and half year old. He may sit and listen while I read chapter books to my oldest but I intentionally do lessons outside so he can play in the yard or ride his bike at any given point.
Our children’s early years should largely be made up of play, preferably in nature. That doesn’t mean they are not learning they’re by anything that comes under their nose. We can still teach them their letters, numbers, shapes, colors in the process as we happen upon it but we really don’t need a curriculum to do it.
With all of that in mind, I understand that it is nice to just have something that is already made for you instead of hunting and finding. So when my youngest was begging to “do school” like his big sister I got him All About Reading Pre-reading. We do it at his leisure with a heavy focus on spiritual needs, character development, and lots of play first. He spends about 10 minutes a couple times a week completing something from All About Pre-reading.
Ok, something I really wish I knew from the start. Curriculum companies sometimes give their curriculum away! I was actually pleasantly surprised to learn this a couple of years ago. All About Reading is one company that hosts a curriculum giveaway every single month!
You can find that here: All About Learning Press Monthly Giveaway.
Instead of Academics
Instead of focusing on academics I wish I had known to intentionally cultivate good habits from the beginning. For Christian families, who are just starting out, we even tend to prioritize the academics over character development. When really Christ should be the center of our home education.
I don’t know why I left this part for last but it truly is more important then any form of school work. Your relationship with your child. Home education should be a source of delight for both of you. If it isn’t, create it or cultivate it until you have achieved it. Let go of anything that isn’t bringing joy to your homeschool.
I don’t know if this stems from losing my own mom too soon or not but….
That expression, “the days are long but the years are short” is not any less true when it comes to your homeschool.
If it becomes a choice between forcing them through a lesson just to check off the box and cuddles-choose the cuddles. Perhaps they are asking you to read them one more story but you really have housework to do. Remember, soon they won’t want or need you to read it to them anymore. Allow yourself to feel peace when you choose the good book and a lap full of children over the laundry. Besides, everyone can do the laundry together after and you can just consider it life skills.