Over the thirteen years that I’ve been homeschooling, I’ve learned something about good advice: every helpful tip has a balancing flip. Here are a few examples.
Good Tip! Know what your goals are. Does your fourth-grader need more work memorizing his multiplication tables? Does your seventh-grader have to learn how to compose paragraphs? You might be the person who always has a plan, so you’ve got school laid out for the whole year. Or maybe you like to just wing it—jotting a list of the day’s subjects while drinking your morning coffee. Regardless, you need to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
Flip Tip: Don’t put too much stock in your plan. It will go off the rails as soon as it encounters your real, live child. Whether it’s a difficult math concept or a sudden interest in the life cycle of a chameleon, your day probably won’t go the way you expect it to. But even as you navigate the detours, you can still get to the end if you know where you’re going.
Good Tip! Have realistic expectations. There’s only so much you can accomplish in one day, one month, and one school year. It’s all too easy to make plans on paper that aren’t actually feasible in real life. Keep your expectations reasonable.
Flip Tip: Reality has a way of shaping your expectations. As you’re sensitive to your child’s learning style, you’ll adjust your goals. You’ll take stock of your progress and realize you have to scale back what you thought you were going to get done. Alternatively, your student might blow through what was supposed to be a three-month process. Let it happen, because it’s not a problem. It’s reality.
Good Tip! Have fun choosing your curriculum, books, and projects. While it’s not my favorite pastime, my husband thoroughly enjoys piecing together our school plan every year. Even if you’re going with a pre-packaged curriculum, or involved in a co-op that allows you to build your lessons around its central themes, you can still pull in other ideas and activities that will make the process more fun.
Flip Tip: Be willing to adjust your choices. Here’s our sad story of the Wonderful Science Books. Darren and I found a set of three books with an accessible approach that we loved. We bought all three books, intending to use them in rotation with all of the children. We sat down with our then-middle school students, and . . . they didn’t like the books. It simply did not work. We sold those books and found a different approach the next year.
Good Tip! Let homeschooling create a personal, nurturing learning environment. Instead of school being a series of feeding-and-regurgitating facts, it can be a way to build a relationship with your children through learning together.
Flip Tip: There’s really no way around it—sometimes school is just a grind. Your kid will hate handwriting no matter what. You will get tired of reading about the American Revolution yet again with your next child. Some days, parents and children just agree to push through the lessons. The good thing is that not all days are like this, and you have the freedom to build on your foundation with some truly sparkling moments of learning and fun.
Good Tip! Enjoy the fact that you get to spend most of your time together as a family! These are the years where true relationships are built. Children feel accepted, learn conflict resolution, and cultivate a family identity. Siblings have fun together, and parents have ample opportunity to know and understand who their children are.
Flip Tip: Give everyone—including yourself—a break from family togetherness sometimes. Your children didn’t choose their siblings; it can be a point of deep contention that they have to exist together. Conflict resolution and tolerance of differences are valuable adult skills, but you’re the one helping develop them, all day every day. A happy homeschooling family is one that knows how to create space for everyone.
Just like every coin has another side, all good advice has a flipside to balance it. What advice and flipside have you learned in your own homeschooling journey?
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