Many months ago, I posted that we had taken the leap and would be homeschooling our child. At that time a commenter suggested I provide my thoughts once the school year was over. Since we’ve done this, I suppose I can no longer be counted as a rookie but now be a young veteran here are some thoughts on the experience:
Like everything else, changes require the ability to adapt. We stuck to our general plan of education and tweaked parts as we began teaching and finding what worked and what did not for our child. We will also be making a few changes for next year, as well.
The first adjustment we made was to put a list of all the day’s learning tasks, which our child would pick from and scratch out as they were satisfactorily completed. That gave them a sense of greater control and allowed them to learn to get the least preferred subjects out of the way first and move on to the favorites (save the best for last).
One of the first benefits of homeschooling was immediately apparent: teaching time management. Our child was most ready to learn in the morning so that is when we did the bulk of instruction. However, kids can be stubborn and decide to test their limits, so, of course, we got the “I’m not doing school today”. When this occurred, we just shrugged and said, “you can choose to do the work now or later, let us know when you are ready to complete you assignments”. There were a couple of occasions where work was not completed until night time but that quickly subsided as they learned that it sucks blow a whole day when you could have had fun and working at night really stinks after a boring day. Once it was realized that they had full time control, school was frequently completed before lunch.
Two rules also help bolster the above: 1. Unfinished work would be added to the following day and 2. No special fun/treats would be had until school was complete (work before fun).
Another benefit was the ability to focus on your child and tailor teaching methods and materials to fit your child. However, the greatest benefit was the ability to teach your child and actively watch them grow in capacity.
Of course, there are drawbacks and challenges to homeschooling. First, is that you and your spouse need to be available for the schooling and ready to make the commitment to take the time to teach you child. Plus, kids always ‘lip off’ (and test limits) more to parents than teachers – be sure to have clearly stated rules and expectations to mitigate the inevitable. Additionally, high performance expectations are great IF they are reasonable – your child will impress you with their ability and desire to reach those goals.
You will also find that the wealth or resources can be a challenge. Ultimately, we overbought a bit, but I prefer to have more than I need than not enough.
Another draw back can be socialization. This can be overcome but, as noted above, requires a time commitment. We had a good homeschool association that planned activities throughout the year which we participated in. Additionally, siblings are helpful as are play dates with their friends and team sports. It is also worth considering that not that long ago kids didn’t have much socialization outside siblings and previous generations didn’t crank out drooling, knuckle draggers. Speaking of siblings, they also benefited from homeschool as they also wanted to be involved.
Making a list of subjects we would cover and making sure those subjects were covered each week, helped quite a bit. For us, that included the basics (English, Math etc) but also included science and US history. Various field trips were also thrown in the mix. As an aside, I really enjoyed teaching history. I was surprised at how well they took to it (I hated history as a kid but, eventually, grew to like it). We had a lot of fun with the science and history stuff.
Finally, we also incorporated testing into the schooling. It was important in order to check progress but also to introduce a semi-stressful situation and allow them to learn how to manage it, including a bad grade. If a poor performance occurred, we were sure to reinforce the fact that mistakes are 100% fine and serve as an opportunity to learn from and improve. We also emphasized that tests were an opportunity to find our strengths and weaknesses. We also used some standardized tests from the schools and our child scored at or above grade level in each test. They may have received better scores if we had “taught to the test” (some question formats threw them a bit) but it was still a good look at where they were at and their ability to decipher unfamiliar question formats.
One of the highlights of the year came when we were told, “this is harder than school, how about I go back”. Both of us laughed. Our child didn’t find the humor in the situation. We knew the complaint would come up and just restated that the program we created would be tougher than school.
Overall, we had a great experience and look forward to next year. The best payoff, however, was when we asked our child about returning to public school. Unhesitatingly, they said, “I want to do homeschool”. As I said about a year ago: This is going to be a blast!
Final caveats: Keep things positive and keep in mind that all children are not the same. For example, our child was a morning learner, yours may not be. You have the ability to tailor your program to your child. Use it!