Step 1: A Few Basics

Step 1: A Few Basics

As with anything new and exciting, the inclination is to jump in with both feet. Many times, however, we can prevent a trip down the fast track to burnout by learning a few things from those who have “been there, done that.” By educating ourselves, we can begin our homeschool journey on the path to success!

 

The Secret to Success

Successful homeschooling cannot be tied to any particular method, approach, curriculum, or publisher. Successful homeschool families have used the Classical approach or followed Charlotte Mason’s approach, or combined methods to create an entirely new approach. Copying others will not bring our family success. The success of our homeschool will depend on how well we do what other successful homeschool families have done — follow God’s design for our family!

“God is in control, and He is gracious. He knows me, He made me, and He gave me my teaching style. He knows my children. He made them with their individual strengths and their own learning styles. He also chose me to be their mother…. I have discovered the secret ingredient in the recipe of successful homeschooling: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight’ (Proverbs 3:5,6 NIV).”

Gail Shultz from Things We Wish We’d Known, Compiled and Edited by Bill and Diana Waring

 

Avoiding Curriculum-itis

When we begin homeschooling, we tend to first attack the one area over which we have a bit of control and with which we are the most familiar — curriculum. Unfortunately, choosing a curriculum is not the logical place to start.

The materials we use are tools. They do not determine our philosophy, but rather compliment it. Our curriculum fits our family’s needs, and our children and how they learn. It definitely won’t determine that!

Before purchasing books, we can first invest time in working out our philosophy and goals. Then our curriculum choices will fall into place.

 

Allowing Ample Time to Prepare

Once we have made the initial decision to educate our children at home, we are suddenly faced with countless issues for which to determine a course of action. There are methodologies, styles, scopes, sequences, materials, schedules, state laws, evaluation, and expectations to consider. Jumping in with both feet before planning a safe landing can lead to disappointment and frustration for both parents and children.

If we start slow, investigate the world of homeschooling and all it has to offer, prayerfully develop a unique approach that fits our family, then we will be more likely to enjoy the journey.

 

Broadening Our Concepts of Education

Most of us instinctively gravitate toward the familiar. We have our own idea of what education is, based at least in part on what “school” was for us. This leads many to start their homeschool experience by bringing those influences home.

Realize that:

  • In a one-on-one tutorial situation there is no need for busywork.
  • To find out if a concept has been understood, a simple conversation can replace a quiz.
  • Historical dates and facts can come alive through rich literature.
  • Grade levels, a modern invention created to help manage an increasingly large number of children in an institutionalized setting, are meaningless in the home.

In short, what works in an industrialized configuration may not work as well in a tutorial, or one-on-one, setting. By educating ourselves, we can expand our concepts of education and learning, and provide our children with an individually tailored, rich learning experience.

 

Avoiding Homeschooling Trends

Not unlike fad diets, there seems to be a new homeschooling trend every year. Jumping on the bandwagon can leave children and parents feeling frustrated and disoriented — not to mention reaping the adverse effects on their pocketbooks.

As more parents educate their children at home, more families are looking for and developing approaches that fit their unique circumstances. Each new approach will have its merits. We can pull out the concepts that we believe will be useful in our own circumstances and walk away from the rest.

Homeschooling is a very individualized endeavor. One size definitely does not fit all!

 

Implementing in Stages

Consider the following scenario: I have completed my research. I have spent time determining my approach. I have carefully chosen materials that reflect my philosophy and that fit my family. Everything arrives in the mail and I start the next day. Not long after, I realize that the math program I selected is taking two times longer to complete than I had planned. Language arts would have worked better if I had allowed more time to help the youngest with reading instead of parsing sentences with the oldest. History is far too time-consuming to allow for the science I had planned to occur on the same day. There simply is no time left for the music program I selected. This situation can be avoided very simply — by implementing one subject or project at a time.

By implementing in stages, we have the time we need to tweak our plans before becoming mired down in them. We also have time to ensure that the methods we have chosen in any given area will work within the larger scheme of things.

 

Limiting Outside Opportunities

Most of us go out of our way to provide opportunities for our children outside of the home. While most of our efforts in this area stem from a desire to provide the best for our children, we can also fall victim to self-doubts propagated by the world’s idea of what is best for our children. Before we know it, we run a shuttle service from one opportunity to another leaving little time for lessons or family.

Rarely is “more” better; and this would be one of those cases.

One solution is to select one or two activities in which the entire family can be involved, limiting outings to a more manageable number per week.

 

Further Reading

The Goal of Education
Setting our goals up front will help us succeed!

Helps for New Homeschoolers: Defining Success
We need to know what we are aiming for before we can hit it. Part of our series for new homeschoolers.

 

Additional Resources

The 16 Greatest Mistakes Homeschool Moms Make
“Even if you made some of these mistakes in the past (and who hasn’t!), it’s not too late to make corrections. Make a commitment with your husband, today, to avoid these 16 mistakes and then open your heart to hear from God.” Encouraging thoughts from Cindy Downes.

Common Mistakes Made by New Homeschoolers
“Once again, beginning to homeschool your children does not mean that you will make any or all of the above mistakes, especially if you attempt to tailor the academics to your children’s interests and fit the educational experiences into your family’s lifestyle (instead of the other way around).” From Guilt-Free Homeschooling.

Defining True Success
“So, what makes a successful homeschool? If our families win awards and acclaim, can we declare success? It depends on our focus.” Think eternal. Great article by Cindy Puhek that originally appeared in Home School Enrichment magazine.

From Confusion to Confidence
“…Despite my knowledge, purchase and use of the newest and best that the world of home education had to offer my children, uncertainty pursued me. Like a wave of the ocean, I surged upward with each new approach to learning, then sank down as my hopes were not fulfilled. With the second year rolling to a close, my plight became apparent to me: I was awash in a sea of curriculum confusion.” What it is — and how to avoid it! Great advice from Camilla Leedahl.

What We Really Need…Thoughts at the Start of the School Year
Want to focus on what is really important? Thoughts from Andrew Pudewa (Institute for Excellence in Writing).