One of the easiest mistakes to make when beginning the homeschooling journey is to model our homeschool after our local public schools. Each of us has our own reason for choosing to homeschool, most often that reason includes the thought that we want more for our kids than our local school offers, or we want something different than we experienced when we went to school.
Where we run into problems is that when we begin to think about homeschooling we go back to what is familiar. We think about desks, supplies, curricula, and how to set up a classroom in our home. We structure our days to resemble a typical school schedule, and for all practical purposes, we have just moved the location of our child’s schooling, but we haven’t really transformed their education into something new.
None of this is particularly bad, it’s just not what it could be. When we begin to homeschool we have the opportunity to transform our child’s education into something richer and deeper than what can be offered in a large group setting. We can take advantage of the unique opportunities we have to do things differently.
Here are a few thoughts to challenge you. You don’t need to change everything at once, jumping into homeschooling can be challenging enough without leaving everything that is familiar behind. But small changes add up, and as you gain confidence in your ability to nurture your child’s mind, you can continue on the journey to truly transforming your approach to education.
So here are three simple things you can do to make the most of the uniqueness of homeschooling.
Get rid of the ‘classroom management’ components to your curriculum. Often, purchased curricula include a lot of ‘filler’ that is used by teachers to help manage their students, basically, busywork. When you have a room full of children who all work at different rates you need to keep the ‘fast finishers’ busy. I think this is why worksheets were invented.
At home, even if you have multiple children,
YOUR KIDS DON’T NEED BUSYWORK!
Children need books, music, art, and problems that engage their minds. They don’t need endless worksheets that review material they have already mastered. Evaluate all that you ask your children to do, particularly worksheets, and ask if it’s busywork, or truly helping them master a skill. Respect your children’s minds and time.
Toss out the Twaddle! Charlotte Mason, a wonderful educator that you’ll hear me reference frequently, had little patience for what she called “twaddle.” These are books that talk down to children, that oversimplify and fail to engage a child’s mind.
Often, books written for children fail to recognize and respect children’s minds. Children are sharp, they can spot condescension. If a book is boring to you, likely it’s also boring to your child. Most curriculum would fall under the “twaddle” heading. If a book fails to be compelling or interesting get rid of it. Nothing will kill your child’s love of learning quicker than forcing them to read boring or childish books.
The real tragedy in “twaddle” is that there is so much wonderful literature out there for children: real life biographies, clever picture books, compelling stories about historical figures. Find ‘living books,’ those that come alive for your child, engage their minds and hearts, and provide them with true food for their souls.
Don’t settle for curriculum that merely meets the ‘standards.’ Find curriculum and books that are engaging and challenging, that offer your child the best of what is true and beautiful.
Take advantage of learning outside the ‘classroom.’ Often kids (and parents) have the mistaken notion that learning is what takes place in school. Instead, expand your child’s understanding of education. Help them see that a trip to a museum, a library, or a visit with an older relative, are all opportunities to extend their education.
Structure your days so that you can take advantage of the freedom homeschooling offers; study nature by going for a hike, study music by going to a concert, learn history by visiting a historical site. Make what your child is learning come alive for them whenever you can and wherever you are.
Think of your role as a teacher as spreading a feast before your children, a feast that will nourish their minds, and feed their souls.
As your move through your homeschooling year remain conscious and critical of what you are doing. Don’t default to doing what is familiar, but try to see the possibilities of this new way of educating and embrace all the opportunities that homeschooling presents.
If you want to check out the other post in this series, here they are: