What does homeschooling REALLY require?
The current trend seems to be hybrid schools, box programs, online schools, or homeschool communities that claim to be the "answer" to a successful homeschool experience.
Granted, all of these things can be great HELPS in homeschooling. I have, however, seen some claim to be all you would need to homeschool your children.
A successful homeschool lies within the homeschooling family. Never forget the HOME in homeschool.
In this four part blog series we will delve into COMMITMENT, LOVE, CONSISTENCY, and COURAGE it takes to homeschool our children and homeschool them WELL.
First and foremost, a successful homeschool requires COMMITMENT.
When you decide to homeschool, and as you continue on your homeschooling journey you have to solidly committed to your children's education.
Approach homeschooling the same way you would approach running a business - because it is no less important! (Of course, we're dealing with precious little souls so there will be some differences, but you know what I mean!)
5 Steps in Homeschool Commitment Include:
Vision, Research, Planning, Execution, and Evaluation
WHY are you homeschooling?
What do you hope to accomplish when you choose to keep your children at home to educate them?
I can share the three big things we pray to accomplish through our homeschool. Yours might be similar, or it might be very different.
- Develop compassionate, caring children who want to serve God and follow their passions.
- Maintain a high standard of academic excellence, without adhering to a traditional system of worksheets, dry textbooks, and standardized testing.
- Create a close knit family - siblings that will be lifelong friends and supporters of each other.
I found it very helpful to write down our reasons for homeschooling, and to keep a written record of our good and bad days.
Post your vision/goals prominently in your home and make sure that everything you do in your homeschool works to that end.
This ensures your COMMITMENT TO HOMESCHOOL will remain focused and solid.
I've written a short eBook, You CAN Homeschool: Encouragement for the Journey. It is a free download, and I know it will be helpful to you in creating and maintaining that homeschool vision.
There will come days when you doubt your decision to homeschool - days when people will make comments or express doubts. There will come days when family members attack your decision to homeschool.
If you remain steadfast in your decision and can remind yourself WHY you started homeschooling in the first place it will be much easier to stave off the doubts that swirl around you.
(You might also want to read some advice I gave my younger homeschooling self - it rings very true!)
Research is a HUGE part of being a successful homeschooler.
I spent many months researching homeschooling.
It became my new part time job to learn about different homeschooling methods, curricular options, and so much more.
I do not believe you can go into homeschooling unprepared. Research is a huge part of your COMMITMENT TO HOMESCHOOL.
Do not think by joining a homeschool hybrid school, co-op, or franchised community that you can skip this important step in homeschooling. When you homeschool YOU are responsible for your children's education, and it is negligent to let that responsibility fall to some homeschool group or "school".
Trust me on this. It becomes very important in the middle and upper grade years to stay very well informed!
Never put all of your eggs in one basket. If you decide to join homeschool community XYZ because everyone is doing it, remember that community XYZ cannot be your savior. YOU are responsible for your children's education!
Familiarize yourself with different methods, leaders in the homeschool field, and curriculums.
You are now solely responsible for your children's education, and it is a job that will consume MUCH of your time.
It's not impossible, but it is a big job. You can do it.
Another huge part of your homeschool commitment is PLANNING for your homeschool year!
In the interest of 100% transparency, I am NOT a planner. This has come back to bite me many times in the past eight years, and I'm finally learning my lesson now that my oldest is in high school.
Find a planning system that works for you. Devote plenty of time for planning.
My friend Pam, at Ed Snapshots, recommends actual days of homeschool planning for moms. I'm also going to be using Pam's Plan Your Year this year - it's already helped me so much -- and (did I mention this?) I am NOT a planner!
Check out the FREE PLANNING PAGES which can get you off to a great start, too.
Here's briefly what planning looks like in our homeschool:
- Start with prayer!
- Create goals. What are the goals for each of my children? Consult with each child to go over their plan for the year.
- Plan with friends? (This is something I just did this summer... I met with two friends who each have boys Grant's age. We know we have similar goals for our children. Spending a few hours together on a Saturday morning allowed us to exchange ideas, divide work, and encourage one another. I highly recommend this if you have people like this in your life!
- Organize shelves for the coming year.
- Create notebooks for subject areas (Notebooking is a huge part of our homeschool!).
- Finalize our calendar -- school start and end dates, holidays, etc... always remaining FLEXIBLE!
- Don't OVER PLAN! Less is always more. You can always add subjects or activities if need be.
Effective planning requires COMMITMENT.
I schedule a solid week of planning. Usually that entails my youngest being at a morning VBS or other camp, and my high schooler gone with our church on their annual mission trip. If I can plan 2-3 hours each day to focus on homeschool things, my week is a success.
I've heard of moms checking into a hotel for the weekend, shipping the kids to the grandparents, or taking several nights (leaving the kids home with dad) to plan.
Whatever works for you. If you are COMMITTED TO HOMESCHOOL you will find a way to get your planning accomplished.
The execution in our homeschool is that day to day work we do.
To say this work requires COMMITMENT is an understatement.
Don't be a GOOD BAD EXAMPLE of homeschooling.
For me, this requires structure and discipline in our daily lives. This is such a broad area, but a few tips for successful execution include:
- Stick to a ROUTINE each day - a strict time schedule has never worked for us, but a routine is a must.
- Begin each day with Morning Time. Our simple morning basket is integral in our homeschool.
- Put your most difficult subject first. Or, put the subject that you really want to focus on that year first. For example, if you want math to be a priority for your year, put math first. If you want to conquer Latin this year, put Latin first. That way, you will have that one thing that has always gotten done, and gotten done well, and that does wonders for your homeschool psyche!
- Allow plenty of time to follow interests. I leave large chunks of time for reading, LEGO robotics, piano, and other things that interest my kids. I want to cultivate wonder in our homeschool, and carving time out for interests is the best way to do that.
- Don't get too ambitious! This goes back to over planning. A few things done well will be more beneficial to our children than many things done haphazardly.
- Don't forget the WONDER! This becomes tricky as our children get older. Never forget the wonder involved in learning something new and try to provide as many varied experiences to cultivate that wonder in your children.
Constantly evaluating your homeschool is the final element of commitment in your homeschool.
After you have done all of the research, planning, and execution, it stands to reason that evaluating your homeschool is the next logical step.
Do we ever stop long enough to ask ourselves if what we are doing is really working?
Do we take a quiet evening with our spouse to evaluate how our children are doing that particular year?
Are you required to test your children each year? While I'm not a fan of standardized tests, I do believe they can point to areas where our children may be weak or may be excelling. And, as our children enter the high school years, evaluation will become much more important.
Each year of our homeschooling experience I have kept a Rubbermaid storage box for each child. Pertinent school work goes in the box, along with test reports, and anything else I wanted to save from their year.
At the end of the day your COMMITMENT to homeschool must be firm.
It requires vision, research, planning, execution, and evaluation.
You can't depend on a box curriculum, online or hybrid school, or the latest homeschool community to homeschool your children.
ONLY YOU CAN DO THAT.
Talk to me about commitment and homeschooling.
Do you have questions? Comments? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
In the next part of the Homeschool Requires series we'll explore LOVE - something a bit more nebulous, but perhaps THE MOST important ingredient to a successful homeschool!
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