June will mark the end of my family’s ninth year of homeschooling. It feels longer than that but the math has been done and it doesn’t lie. This fall my oldest will begin the high-school years and goodness gracious do I feel like that is another level of insanity altogether.
Here and there, blog posts have been popping up in my Feedly account with titles such as “What I would do differently” or “Things I wish I had known.” What homeschooling parent has not thought of things they would have done differently if they had the knowledge of well-earned years? Since we cannot know what we have not yet learned, we start by doing our best and hoping it will all work out in the end.
I think it is helpful for younger homeschooling parents to learn from the older ones. Now, I have not graduated a child yet, so I can only give limited advice. If I start telling you the best way to teach the high school years, then run for the hills, because I haven’t been through that yet. But the early years I have done many many many times and so I would like to think my experience is worth something.
All that being said, here are my three top things I would have done differently:
Educated myself on different educational philosophies
My first mistake when I began homeschooling was looking at all the curricula available. What could I afford? What would be all-encompassing and fit my child’s personality perfectly? (Haha!) What would be a sure-fire way to make sure he learns to read by 4 and can draw like van Gogh at 7 while putting him on the path towards graduating from Harvard at 13?
I should have started by reading up on the different educational philosophies available. You’ve heard of many of them, I’m sure: Classical, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, classroom model, unit studies, eclectic, Waldorf, Montessori, Thomas Jefferson, etc. etc. etc., breathe in and breathe out. Whoo! There is just so much out there in regards to the how and why we teach the way we do. The truth is that we can save ourselves much time and money if we can look at a curriculum and know if it will or will not fit into our chosen philosophy for home education.
Not started too early
I remember being quite eager to “start school” when my oldest was still a toddler. Curriculum purchased, I readied myself with all sorts of recommended materials. We followed that curriculum to a t, sitting at a small made-for-the-classroom table and treating the time as if we were a public school environment instead of learning at home. The natural curiosity my child had was pushed aside for my need to be the teacher. The materials I had spent time and money on became tools of instructing instead of tools to facilitate curiosity. I’d love to be able to say that I quickly learned this was not jiving with my personal educational philosophy, but unfortunately that philosophy was not yet formed. “You live, you learn” they say, whoever they may be, but by the third child, any formal curriculum for the tender young years was trashed and a mode of learning that matched my child’s maturity level and bent towards natural curiosity was used instead.
Spent more time outside
Note: If you are modeling after the public school classroom, then obviously this will go against your educational philosophy and this section will not be helpful for you.
We spent a lot of time indoors. Looking back, the majority of our days, even during the moments we were schooling, should have been outside. What better way to broach the subject of science than by observing our natural world? The sun’s rays of vitamin D are the perfect pick-me-up for the grumpies (and I’m not necessarily talking about the kids. Ahem.) Moving around and sitting somewhere new and enjoying the weather in a great, big, wide-open classroom is an amazing way to lift the spirits.
Of course, many of us don’t have the luxury of a safe place to be outdoors to learn, or maybe the weather is not conducive to the outdoor classroom. Or maybe, just maybe, you live in the land of postage stamp backyards with nothing but a bit of grass (I’m looking at YOU, North Texas!). Well, we have to make do. Open up windows or even just the blinds. Bring in artwork about nature. Find local state or national parks, city green areas, outdoor science programs. Sometimes it takes more work than we would like. But it is so worth it, I promise.
I’d love to hear from veteran homeschooling parents what things they wished they had done before they started homeschooling. Please share in the comments section!