I was a bit green when I began my homeschool journey. I didn’t know a single person who homeschooled, in fact, I didn’t know there was such a thing as homeschool until I walked into a library and spotted a book on the subject. At that moment I would have told you that I was a blank canvas, but I would have been wrong.
What I soon learned was that my canvas was anything but blank. In fact, it was almost entirely covered with 18 years worth of ideas and formulas that were born of a system that was clearly more interested in quantity than it was quality. I had spent twelve years in the public school system abiding by every law that the great state of Tennessee mandated. And, I did it while maintaining the status of a straight A student. So you can imagine my surprise when I reached my freshman year of college and realized that I didn’t really know how to study!
As I embarked on this new homeschool endeavor, I felt the weight of the policies and procedures that had been so deeply imprinted on me during my time in public school. Not one thing I had been taught had any real place in a homeschool environment. It took a couple of years, but I eventually was able to reprogram myself and open up to the advantages of a homeschool education.
Listed below are six things I wish I had known before I began my homeschool journey:
1.) Don’t Impose A Strict Schedule On Learning
In public school, your entire day is determined by “the bell.” The bell tells you when to start class and when to end it. In a homeschool environment, it just isn’t necessary to adhere to such strict time constraints. Now, to be clear, I am not saying that a start and stop time isn’t valuable. Because it is. Especially when your kids reach that particular age range that makes them feel like they require eighteen or so hours of sleep per day. Getting a late start or having a late finish now and then isn’t going to wreak any kind of havoc on your children’s well-being. Promise.
The beauty of homeschool is that it is a chance for you to teach your children that opportunities to learn are all around them. They can take advantage of them all day every day and are not bound by the confines of a clock. Embrace this. Set a daily goal for skill achievement and celebrate when you meet that goal! If you don’t meet that goal, it’s ok. Your aim here is to instill a love of learning that will stay with your kids for the rest of their lives.
2.) Don’t Follow A Rigid Twelve-Year Scope and Sequence
Scope and Sequence are what public schools use to determine curriculum per grade level. For instance, your 1st grader should be able to count to 100. Or all 10th-grade students will take Geometry. You don’t have to adhere to this with homeschool. You have the freedom to allow your children to experience school at a pace they can handle. That may mean that they finish school in ten years instead of twelve or study the migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly. Either way, it’s ok! You chose this path to allow them to become free thinkers.
Your state’s laws may require attendance reporting and that you provide similar content, but don’t let that stop you from allowing your kids to learn in their own way, at their own pace. You don’t have to abide by a calendar. You can teach your children all year long if they prefer it.
3.) Don’t Plan 36 Weeks at a Time
While we’re talking about schedules, do yourself a favor and plan multiple-week learning units instead of daily tasks. There is nothing worse, or more frustrating, for that matter than to toil over daily calendars and lesson plans only for some unexpected something to turn up and ruin all of your beautiful daily schedules. Expect the unexpected and prepare short learning units.
4.) Don’t Give the Kids a Textbook
We can all remember being issued textbooks at the beginning of our public school year. They seemed like such a vital part of our education then. But when you’re homeschooling, they aren’t necessary. In fact, they aren’t even advisable. For example, a history book may teach your kids a point of view with which you profoundly disagree. Or, your children may find them so boring that they nod off at the mere mention of that subject. So, save yourself the effort and the money and don’t bother providing textbooks for all of your kids.
However, if you already have textbooks, or if you just have your heart set on using them, then YOU use them. Use the table of contents as a point of reference for you to further your own research. Instead of teaching directly from a book, YOU can supplement with visits to the library, field trips or experiments. This is your chance to think outside the box. Just like you are trying to teach your children to do.
5.) Don’t Keep Grades Until Your Child Turns 13 Years Old
It just flat out isn’t’ necessary to record grades for your kids until they reach 13 years of age. They don’t even do it in public school! Some homeschool curriculum vendors are making a pretty penny by convincing parents to purchase grading software for their young children. Unless your state requires letter grades, walk past this aisle at the homeschool convention and get yourself a latte!
I can assure that no college or university is going to ask you what your kid’s math grade was when he was seven years old. There are plenty of other ways to get a check mark in the box by a mastered skill. You could give an oral exam. Ask for a demonstration or a writing sample. You could even ask them to teach the new skill to someone. If they know the material well enough to do that, then it’s a pass.
One exception to this will be if your 13 or 14-year-old is doing high school level work. If there is a chance that you may put some of their 7th or 8th-grade work on their high school transcript, then it’s best to go ahead and tabulate an actual grade for them. Otherwise, save yourself the time and headache.
6.) Don’t Label Your Kids by Grade Level
Public school systems use school hours, schedules, scope and sequence to classify students to keep them moving forward. It is the same with grade levels. You are their teacher, so you know the level at which they are currently learning. It isn’t necessary to label them or limit them by grade. If you need to or want to classify them by grade level then, by all means, go ahead. Just make sure that your children know that they are not defined by it. That it is not a marker for who they are or how much they know.