Homeschooling is not just an educational choice; it is a lifestyle choice. Just like having children changes your life more than you can imagine, so does homeschooling. So, with that in mind, I thought I would offer you some “Dos” and some “Don’ts” of homeschooling. I am sure this is not an exhaustive list, but this is the list I made. (Is it just me, or does everyone think like this – seeing the word “exhaustive” always makes me think “exhausting!”)
Do Plan and Prepare
Doing homeschooling requires planning and preparation. There is no way around that! Now, can you “over-plan?” Sure, and that’s not necessary. But some amount of planning and preparing is required. Plan your school year, plan the materials you need to prepare or order, and plan your school day. So, to be an effective homeschooling parent, be sure to do your planning!
Don’t Be Haphazard and Lackadaisical
Your children need structure and organization in their learning. So don’t haphazardly approach your homeschooling. Children learn best when that learning is ordered and sequential. They also thrive on structure and routine in their days. So, don’t be careless in your approach to homeschooling.
Do Be Flexible and Adaptable
Flexibility and adaptability are a homeschooling parent’s superpowers. Life happens. Learn to adjust to what happens and keep going. Because interruptions will occur during your school day, decide how you can best handle them. Our reactions to interruptions will teach your children lessons about coping with life.
Don’t try to stick to a rigid schedule
Rigid schedules will doom your day. I guarantee it! Assignments take longer than expected, or someone spills their cereal at breakfast. Perhaps the phone rings, or the power goes out. If you are trying to stick to a rigid schedule, any of these things (and countless others) will throw you off track. Instead, go for a daily routine that allows for flexibility.
Do Strive for Excellence
Strive for excellence in everything. And don’t equate excellence with perfection, either. Excellence is giving 100% and doing the best that you can at the time. Teach your children that they don’t have to be THE best, but they must always do THEIR best. Do you see the difference in that statement? I think that is important. There will always be someone better; trying to be the absolute best in everything is just a way to increase everyone’s stress levels. Instead, teach them to do THEIR best at everything they do.
Don’t Constantly or Continually Change Curriculum
No curriculum, book, or teaching material is perfect. What works for one family may not work for you. Don’t continually change your curriculum, always trying to find the “perfect” one. Work with what you have, adapt, adjust, supplement, and make it work. Remember, curriculum, teacher’s manuals, textbooks, and workbooks are just tools. Use them as guides and suggestions if you aren’t thrilled with them.
Do Think Outside the Box
What does it mean to think outside the box in the homeschooling world? That could mean so many things! Mainly, I want you to focus on doing what works best for you and your family, not just what works for everyone you know. Don’t be afraid to study history chronologically. Don’t worry if your school day runs from 10:00 to 4:00 instead of 8:00 to 2:00. If it works better for you to do school all summer and take a long break from December through January, do that! If you love some “unorthodox” curriculum, use it. You don’t have to follow the crowd and do what everyone else does. Do your homeschooling in the way that works best for your kids!
Don’t Try to Function Like a School Classroom
Homeschooling is not the same as having school at home! Don’t try and model a school classroom. Your kids don’t need to raise their hands to speak or answer questions. They don’t need to sit at a desk all day for every subject or assignment. They can listen to you read aloud while they color or quietly build with blocks. Are they just reading from a textbook? It’s okay to sit on the floor. Be flexible!
Do Make Homeschooling Fun
If anyone tells you that homeschooling is 100% fun all the time, they are not being honest with you at all! Math assignments are not always fun. Writing reports or essays is not usually enjoyable. Grading papers does not qualify as fun in my book! But make homeschooling fun when you can. Take a picnic to the park for lunch someday. Play some games to supplement what your kids are learning. Read aloud – stories that will capture your kids’ imaginations! Add some brain teasers or puzzles to your school day. Incorporate some fun elements for your homeschooling.
Don’t Turn your Homeschooling into a Race or Competition with Others
Homeschooling is not a competition! It’s not a race to see if your kids can finish their math books ahead of the other kids in your homeschool group. Just because your friend’s 7th grader is finishing Algebra 2 does not mean you must push your 8th grader into Calculus! It matters far more that your child learns the material and content than it does to move them through books sooner than everyone else. You and your kids will be happier if you let them proceed at their own pace than if you push them to “keep up” or pass everyone else.
Do Read Aloud to your Kids
Please, read aloud to your kids! Reading aloud will help build their vocabulary and their imaginations. Choose books or stories that will capture their interest, engage their imaginations, expand their horizons, and move them out of their comfort zones. Let your kids draw or quietly play while you read; you will be amazed at how much they absorb even though they may not seem like they are paying attention. And those books you read to them? They will provide connections between your children for years!
Don’t Doubt Yourself or Your Abilities
I think that doubting our abilities is part of our nature for many of us. We never feel like we are good enough. We believe that others are doing everything so much better than we are. Too often, some of us look in the mirror and see “failure.” Don’t do that to yourself! Please! Especially as it relates to homeschooling. You CAN do this. You do NOT have to be “perfect!” There is no “perfect!” Don’t doubt yourself or your ability to homeschool.
Are your kids learning? Then you are succeeding. Have they made progress compared to a year ago? Then you are doing OK. Can you be a better teacher/instructor/guide? Probably – we all can improve. But don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t as good as someone else or if your kids can’t do whatever as well as the next kid. Look for progress and improvement. You CAN do this!!!
Do Relax and Enjoy Your Kids
Relax and homeschool; that sounds like an oxymoron, right? Too often, we are so busy grading papers, making assignments, and seeing that our kids finish their work each day that we forget to enjoy our kids. Please, take time to enjoy your kids. Get excited with them when they learn something new. Praise their efforts. Celebrate their accomplishments. Give out rewards! Laugh at their jokes. (OK – you don’t have to laugh at every joke!) Enjoy your kids.
According to the dictionary, stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Hmm – does that sound like homeschooling? Sure, homeschooling can be stressful, but there are things we can do to eliminate much of that stress. Most homeschooling stress results from our unrealistic expectations of ourselves or our kids. Get realistic with your expectations. If your child doesn’t learn to read today, maybe he will catch on next week or next month. If you keep working at making progress, you don’t need to stress over the lack of achievement. Give it time. Maybe approach the concept differently. See if you can make the learning into a game. Adapt your expectations, be realistic, and reduce your stress levels.
Do Stay Current with Grading
Not that I speak from experience here (HA!), but stay current with grading or reviewing your children’s work and assignments. In the homeschooling world, grading and giving grades is a very opinionated subject. Whether you decide to grade everything, just grade tests, don’t grade anything – that’s up to you. But if you choose to grade, be consistent and stay current with your grading. Once summer comes, you do not want to sit down to a foot-high stack of papers to grade! Even if you don’t grade everything, you should at least review your children’s work to ensure they understand the material. However, if you are homeschooling through high school, you do need to grade and record those grades to provide accurate transcripts later when your child finishes school.
Don’t Make Comparisons
Don’t compare your children to each other or others’ children. And don’t compare yourself or your family to other homeschooling parents or families. Each person (kids and parents included) is unique, has his learning abilities and rates, and special skills and abilities. None of us are the same – and that is a good thing! And no two families have the same family dynamics. So don’t try to make your kids, yourself, or your family just like someone else! Embrace your uniqueness, your family dynamic, and your own kids’ abilities, and work to the best of your abilities in your way. Sure, we can learn from each other and get ideas from others, but STOP with the comparisons!
As you finish out this school year or get ready for the next one, or if you are thinking about homeschooling, please keep these Dos and Don’ts of Homeschooling in mind. Most importantly, remember this: These are your kids, family, and home school. Do What Works Best for You and Your Family!!! Always!
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