When my family and I decided to begin homeschooling about 10 years ago, I found myself asking the same questions of every homeschooler I met, for probably about the first three or four years: “How do you homeschool?” I received many responses, each one different from the other. With each different response, I would wind up in a panic, thinking “I’m doing this all wrong! I’m going to mess up my kids forever because I’m not doing <insert any advice you’ve ever received here>!”
Now, after years of asking the “How do you homeschool?” question, I find I’m the one answering the question for many new homeschoolers. I’m always reluctant to answer this because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. How my family has homeschooled has changed and evolved each year, as our needs and situation changes. We’ve implemented many different homeschooling approaches, ranging from unschooling to unit studies to boxed curriculum. There were things we loved about each one of them, but what works for us one year may not work for us another year. No matter what approach I’ve taken to homeschooling, there are few words of wisdom that always apply:
Relax: Take a deep breath, calm down and relax. Stressing and obsessing won’t help educate your child, and it certainly isn’t going to help you! Try to enjoy the journey and the time with your children.
Don’t compare your homeschooling style with others: It’s always helpful to “peek” into another’s home classroom; you can find lots of inspiration and ideas! However, don’t compare your homeschool with someone else’s. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. No matter how similar two families or children may be, each one is unique.
We’ve implemented many different homeschooling approaches, ranging from unschooling to unit studies to boxed curriculum. There were things we loved about each one of them, but what works for us one year may not work for us another year. No matter what approach I’ve taken to homeschooling, there are few words of wisdom that always apply
Don’t believe the hype: People are very passionate about what they use and how they do things. Before drinking the Kool-Aid, do more research first. Try it out, and see whether you can borrow the books from a friend for a few weeks. I’m speaking from experience on this one, my friends. My oldest daughter was really struggling with math for several years. Naturally, being the concerned homeschool mom I am, I asked around. Everyone was raving about a particular math program. It was supposedly the best. Everyone loved it. I bought it, lock, stock and barrel, only to find that it did not work for us.
Because this was the “very best math program in the whole world,” I figured we just had to keep at it. So, we kept at it for two full years before I came to the realization that maybe this wasn’t the “very best math program in the whole world” for us. Since then, I’ve found some lesser-known programs, and both of my girls are flourishing. The shame of it all is that it took me so long to figure it out. Don’t believe the hype!
Let go of the guilt: There will always be something you could have done better. On the flip side, there will always be something you could have done worse. Let go of the guilt. Not all children learn the same things at the same pace. Sometimes, you just have to realize you’re doing the best you can and recognize the baby steps you and your child have taken towards reaching your educational goals. In my book, if your child knows you love her at the end of every day, you’ve done a good job.
There is no definitive answer to the question “How do you homeschool?” It’s a lot like trying to answer the question “How do you mother?” People can tell you how to become a mother and that you need to change diapers, make sure the baby is fed, take him to the doctor for checkups, and so on, but nobody can really tell you how to mother your child. It’s something you just have to do and figure out what works best for you and your family. As your child grows, his need will change, and (with a little perception on your part) you will naturally adapt.
The same holds true for homsechooling. There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to homeschool. What works for one family may not be the right choice for your family. What works for your family this year may not work next year. In fact, what works for one child may not even work well for your other children. Enjoy the journey, love your children, and enjoy the benefits of the homeschooling lifestyle; you’ll be just fine.
*this post was originally published at the LessonPathways Blog.