Homeschoolers and the Burden of Proof

I was at a grocery store today. It wasn’t an accident that I went to this specific store on this specific day. I was there for a reason. I was there to buy coconut milk, which had been advertised at what I thought was a very attractive price.

I picked up, amongst other things, a sizeable amount of it and made my way to the cash register, where I noticed I was not getting the advertised price.

I mentioned that to the cashier.

No, the cashier says, that’s the price.

That’s not what was advertised, I insisted.

Maybe that’s a different brand, she argued. This one’s price is right here on the screen. I just scanned it.

At that moment, pinned down with all my other groceries and my three children (because let’s face it, they’re almost always with me) I chose to return said coconut milk because it wasn’t at the price I had assumed I would pay for it. I paid for the rest of the groceries and left. (I make no excuse for my frugality. My husband works incredibly hard for the money he makes and I refuse to be frivolous with it.)

Anyway, because I’m obsessive or crazy, I chose to go back through the store to see if I had seen the advertisement incorrectly. As it turned out, I had been right. I had not made a mistake.

This time, as I loaded the cart with the coconut milk again, I took a picture of the advertisement under it and headed back the cash register.

It was only then that the employee decided she would send someone to check the price. After looking at my picture, enlarging it and turning it this way and that. It was only when another employee rushed to save her from herself that she backed off and gave me the discount and couched in an off-hand “Sorry.”

I walked out of the store with a smile. I had won.

Well, yes, I had won. And I felt good about winning. I may have muttered In your face! as I walked out of there.

But as I thought about it, besides the fact that this was just bad customer service, it made me think of how much this small interaction resembled the burden of proof that we, as homeschoolers, face in the world.

It reminded me how homeschoolers are questioned, looked at strangely and asked what it is they do and how they could do it even after it has been proven time and time again that homeschooling works, that non institutional learning yields better results than government schools can ever hope to provide.

As I have written about in my free giveaway essay Nine Questions Every Homeschooler Should Be Able to Answer, most people immediately shift the burden of proof of homeschooling onto the homeschoolers.

Homeschoolers and the Burden of Proof

The evidence that homeschooling works is there, but the picture must be enlarged, we need additional proof and perhaps we need someone to go and check it because, hey, perhaps it’s still not true.

But the system says, they cry, the system says. What the system says must be true after all! 

Sure, you’re homeschooling them, they say. Let’s see if they can keep up with their grade levels. Okay, you’re homeschooling, they say. Can we test them each year to see if they’re on par? Or perhaps we can just come and visit and talk to them awhile. See, because the system says all children must learn multiplication at this grade and algebra at this. The system, the system! 

What is it about the system that guarantees such adherence, such unquestioning obedience? The system is a liar; as in the grocery store, the system could have very well said something else had it been updated.

What most people forget is that the system was made for convenience. The system was put together so that workers could be churned out for industrial jobs. The system is defunct.

Homeschoolers and the Burden of Proof

The system was made for people, not people for the system. Homeschoolers see that. And even with the burden of proof on us, we are beating it.

Keep at it, homeschoolers. Even when your friends roll their eyes at you. Even when your extended family does not understand. You’re winning. You have the proof. Don’t bow to a failed system.

You’re winning. The facts are on your side.

5 Books To Boost Motivation

It’s that time of year when most people who have made resolutions flounder a bit. Is that you?

Or are you amongst my wiser friends who wait until mid January to really get going on them?

Whatever the case might be, changing habits take work and a decent amount of motivation.

Here are 5 books that can help you create better habits. While these books don’t deal with homeschooling or unschooling per se, much of what they can be generalized to create a better life for yourself.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg– Excellent, entertaining book with tons of examples to help you develop good habits and make you want to continue to pursue them.

Duhigg talks about how to stick with new habits and find time for them in your busy day. He also has a new book called Smarter, Better, Faster which I hope to get to read this year.

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin – I liked this book mainly for its central theme that individual differences between us have a lot to say about how we stick or don’t stick to our habits. If you are what she calls an “abstainer” there’s no sense telling yourself you’ll “just have one piece of chocolate,” if you’re a “night owl,” stop trying to wake up early to get work done.

It is an excellent book when it comes to learning to work with our unique gifts and talents. Chances are, once you do that with yourself, you’ll see those in your children and tailor their education to what fits for them. Gretchen Rubin’s other book The Happiness Project is excellent as well.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown was a short book packed with excellent advice for living a life that pursues what is essential. He makes a great case for thinking through your most important goals and not getting distracted on your way to them.

The Dip by Seth Godin has got to be my all-time favorites in the motivation department. Honestly, I have too many. But this book changed the way I saw quitting. Just read it.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell is another one of those classic must-reads. The sections on dyslexia and the advantage of attending a smaller college rather than a big Ivy League university is especially relevant for those of us who homeschool.

While these books may not be “motivational” in the strictest sense of the word, they should give you enough of a push to get going on your resolutions if you’re flagging a bit.

Happy reading!

Did Your Idol Disappoint You? You’re Reading The Wrong Books

Here’s a confession – I read my children’s books. And I actually do enjoy some of them.

Their books are colorful, they’re full of interesting facts and details – and they’re just plain fun.

Good books versus bad books

I find that good children’s books are a lot like good books for grown ups. They’re factual, they give you a sense of history, they have biographical details, they’re not overly speculative and the truly well-written ones have a plot that keeps you interested in what’s going to happen next. This is true even when the book is non-fiction.

The quickest way for me to tell that a book is bad is when it started veering off the road of normalcy into the land of idolizing.

You know what I mean. It’s when it starts building the pedestal of the man overcoming incredible odds to become the truly titanic person he is today, or was, before he died.

Did Your Idol Disappoint You- You're Reading The Wrong Books

We’re supposed to read with rapt attention, hoping to achieve that level of success. It makes us work harder, longer, because we want to emulate that person we just read about.

Or so the story goes.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. What usually happens is that we either see through the story because some detail sticks out at us and makes us skeptical or because this larger-than-life person fails to impress us and motivate us because he seems hollow.

And he seems hollow because, indeed, he is. He is two-dimensional.

But that is the better of the two scenarios. Because the flip side of what could happen is that you decide this person was truly remarkable and you can’t possibly be like him.

Bring Your Heroes Down to Earth

Now I’m not saying there are not people who live remarkable lives or that we shouldn’t be inspired by them. I’m just arguing for nuance.

There has to be something more to a book – even a children’s book – than just the individual overcoming obstacles. If there isn’t, it reads like just another Disney movie telling people to “follow your dreams.”

There’s nothing wrong with following your dreams, but without a sense of the time, the place and the truth, these books meant to inspire us just end up creating idols.

And idols have the annoying tendency of disappointing us.

Did Your Idol Disappoint You- You're Reading The Wrong Books

Has Your Idol Disappointed You?

If you are constantly bombarded with only the best details of someone’s life, chances are you won’t be motivated, you will be disillusioned.

And yet, there are books upon books that cherry pick the events in a famous person’s life, flatten them to the shape of a cardboard and then present it in the form of a book, a very bad book, that offers nothing.
Chances are, you’ve run into a few of these.

Chances are, you’ve read some of these as a child, given to you perhaps by a well-meaning adult. And now, with a slightly more mature view of history, you’ve realized that it couldn’t have been true or if it was, that it’s been heavily tampered with, that like most history-based movies.

So if your idol has disappointed you in some way lately, be motivated by the fact that he’s a real, flawed human being. If your hero was cut down to size, you can still rejoice in his victories.

We don’t need two dimensional stories to motivate us. We need real-life people who have done amazing things, even though we find out that they are not perfect. It’s okay to find out that they have messed up sometimes.

It doesn’t ruin their successes. It just puts them in relief.

Did Your Idol Disappoint You- You're Reading The Wrong Books

Wrong Books = Bad Worldview

The more insidious problem with bad books and the idolizing they create is two-fold.

For one, books tend to be overwhelmingly about famous people. Many of these people are currently in power or have been in power in the past. Putting them on a pedestal convinces us that they were truly amazing super-humans bestowed upon us to drag us into a better life. We could never aspire to be like them because they were made of something else that we mere mortals could never be, right?

Wrong.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. – C.S.Lewis

And secondly, the problem that proceeds from the above is that we think people like this are still running the show, that the leaders, the innovators, they are made of something different, something better than us – the child reading the book.

“I could never do that because I am not that,” is an easy conclusion to draw.

Call me an iconoclast…

…but I love it, when in the middle of a good book, I find that one of my favorite authors has made a typo. I’m not – mind you – rejoicing in his failure; I’m just happy that he’s like me and if he can be successful, so can I. He’s just worked harder and longer at it. So can I.

Did Your Idol Disappoint You? You're Reading the Wrong Books

If my children get that glazed over look when talking about a historical person or even a famous person today, we make it a point to talk about his flaws as well.

This is not about dragging famous people down into the dirt and it’s not about revisionist history. This is about giving them the right tools with which to see the world.

In OutliersMalcolm Gladwell says, “Everything we have learned in Outliers says that success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”

Give yourself and your family the gift of the right worldview, the right books, stories of successful people warts and all, so that when the opportunity presents itself, they are not fearful or lacking in courage or self esteem to have the strength and presence of mind to seize it.

Do Easy Things

We make learning harder than it should be. We favor difficult curriculum over what we perceive as easy.

We value grit.

The ability to tolerate adversity and thrive in spite of it is a good life skill. However, I wouldn’t try to inculcate it in my children through daily drudgery.

The Best Advice

My son was staring down at three workbooks yesterday. (He has recently decided to work at night so he has the day for more play.) He was beginning to get that overwhelmed look that said, “I’m not going to get anything done because I’m going to wish myself away and then cry because I’m not getting anything done.”

So I gave him the best advice I could: “Do the easy stuff.”

He stared at me.

“Do the easy stuff first,” I repeated. “Then tackle what seems hard.”

There is a time for grit and learning to do hard things, but usually the way to it is through the easy things. Sometimes, the key to grit is simply through momentum.

Working toward difficulties

When it comes to homeschooling, I often hear there are two extremes – 1. life is drudgery, get started now (grow up!) or 2. you’re a child (stay one!) and just do what I tell you.

You can sidestep both these extremes by just doing easy things until you have built up enough momentum to tackle hard things.

Dave Ramsey, debt guru & author of Total Money Makeover says to begin paying down debt by paying off the smallest debt first and building momentum. Michael Hyatt, author of Living Forward, simply fills in the titles of chapters as a first step to writing a book.

Easy, basic stuff first seems to be the key to success.

The best piece of advice I got for tackling my to-do list was simply 1. make a list of things I needed done, then 2. pick the easiest one to do.

Doing this enough times gets it all done.

Element of play

The reason this strategy works is because it brings the element of play into our everyday lives. Play includes a range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated activities normally associated with recreational pleasure and enjoyment.

Sometimes, in our attempt to teach grit, we forget to teach (and learn) play. Play is every bit as important to adults as it is to children.

In Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’sRay Kroc says: “…for me, work was play. I got as much pleasure out of it as playing baseball.”

Play and gamification as concepts have exploded in recent years. You can find tons of apps to do chores or exercise more often.

The simplest way to gamify life however is just to begin with the easy stuff.

So if you want to do big monumental things today, don’t get overwhelmed. Remember to begin with the easy stuff. Teach your kids to do the same. Before you know it, you’ll be scaling those mountains.

Now, go. Do the easy thing.

Excellent Homeschooling Advice

Things can always suck less. See if you can figure out how. – Isaac Morehouse

I’ve been reading Don’t Do Stuff You Hate, which if you have not read, you should go pick up a copy now.

You ought to read it as a favor to yourself and your family – especially if you’re homeschooling.

Now why would I say that? Clearly, it’s not a book about homeschooling or even about unschooling.

But it is a book about trying to change your life as much as you possibly can. It’s a challenge to reinvent what you can.

Part of the reason I’m the odd bird of a classical unschooler is because I’ve always been one for reinventing our homeschooling. I like blending opposites. I like being eclectic and picking and choosing things from here and there. I like quitting things that don’t work.

Does it get hard? Yes, of course it does. Do I question myself? You can bet every single time I see perfectly organized annual curricula by one of my friends who follows the more traditional classroom model, my heart skips a beat.

But in the end, it all comes down to honesty. I don’t want to have my children – pencils sharpened – at nine a.m. at the dinner table, for school. I don’t think it’s ideal for us.

I like classical unschooling. In fact, I absolutely freaking love it.

The easy question to answer, Morehouse claims, is what you hate and try to eliminate it or see if you can at least work toward what you love. In the beginning, it’s harder to find things we love, so begin by eliminating the things you dislike.

“As both you and the world change, the possibilities are untold. Don’t sweat finding that one thing right now. Figure out where you’re not in the zone. The sooner you ditch panhandling for fool’s gold, the faster you can start mining in places likely to have a mother lode.”

This is great advice. And it can apply to everything from picking a career to homeschooling to budgeting to running a household.

Think about it.

And, yes, read the book.

You Don’t Need Feedback; You Need Self-Directed Learning

You know that old saying about when the student is ready, the teacher will appear? I never put much stock in that one.

There’s a wonderful lie out there against self directed learning; it’s the lie of needing feedback. You may have heard it. It goes something like this:

“Oh, I’d love to learn something, but I can’t because I don’t have someone teaching me. I don’t have feedback.”

To get the basic objection to my argument out of the way, let me just admit that to some degree this is valid. Yes, you need some feedback. You need to know if you’re on the right track, you need basic help and some interaction. Mainly, you need someone to stop you when you are trying to do something and doing it wrong.

But read that last line again: you need someone to stop you when you are trying to do something and doing it wrong.

You are the one doing it. You are the one deciding to do it. You are the one in the driver’s seat, so to speak. You should be the one driving the car.

Unfortunately, when someone says they can’t learn anything because they don’t have feedback, it’s because they can’t envision themselves actually in the driver’s seat. They don’t want to be there. They want someone else driving the car for them – after the car has been brought to them. They want to copy, to follow.

They want to be taught. They say, in essence, You do it. Then, I’ll learn.

See the difference?

Education should not be something someone bestows upon us. It should rather be something we actively pursue.

When I hear the argument of needing feedback, I think, no. You’re just arguing for your own limitations and making them yours. When you’re starting out, you don’t need that much feedback from other people.

Especially as an adult, you are free to participate in self directed learning without needing to be pushed, goaded and cajoled. We are in the information age, after all.

You don’t need feedback. What you need, maybe – and that’s a big maybe – is accountability and interaction around the new activity you’re undertaking. You want to remain interested, have a chance to share what you’re learning and sharpen your skills. (And yes, as mentioned before, someone to stop you when you make mistakes.)

The problem arises when you think you have to pay someone to get this. You don’t.

That’s institutionalized, coercive, public school thinking.

It gets you efficiency, I’ll admit – 12 lessons on piano in 3 months for x amount of dollars, for instance – but you cannot mistake mere efficiency for education.

“All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.” – Sir Walter Scott

Seriously, what’s your hurry? Embracing a lifetime of education, a lifestyle of learning can mean learning at leisure, at your own pace; it can mean individualized, self-centered (in the best meaning of the word) education. Why would you trade all that and pay someone for the benefit of just efficiency? Why would you miss out on all the fun? For some sort of certificate?

 

Not too long ago, when public schools were non-existent, (incidentally, contrary to popular opinion, it is public school that is an experiment, not homeschooling) people did learn on their own. In fact, in that list are mingled autodidacts of today – people who were basically self-taught.

The feedback argument is tired and worn.

When you use needing feedback from people as an argument against self directed learning, what you’re saying in a very safe, sort of covert way, is that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of learning something new.

And that’s not a bad thing, really. Because you know what’s worse?

What’s worse is not learning.

What’s worse is waiting and waiting until the perfect teacher stops by and decides to teach you, to put you in that car, hold your hand, show you how it’s done and expect you to follow.

That’s worse.

A Lesson in Homeschooling From The Walking Dead

Sigh. The Walking Dead madness has finally caught up with me.

I just happened to watch one (count it – one) episode of the current season with my husband and I just happened to mention that I would – someday – maybe – like to watch the show from the beginning.

And then, before I knew it, that was that.

There I was, watching The Walking Dead from the beginning, getting upset at bad decisions as if I was watching sports, crying over babies been born and children growing up in nightmarish scenarios and generally making a mess of my evenings binge watching the show. And, oh by the way, thinking up ways The Walking Dead isn’t really that different from my comfortable, suburban, homeschooling world after all.

I know, I know. Overactive nerdy brains, unite!

So, yeah, you already know that I like to get my inspiration where I find it. And this particular time it was in Season 3. (No spoilers, please. I’m barely at the beginning of the fourth season.)

It was at the moment when the main character, Rick, is losing his grip on reality after his wife dies. The other people depending on him are understanding of his need to mourn, but in their rather, er, unnatural situation, their patience runs out and there are added dangers and complications which have to be solved. They need him. So they give him a singular perspective. They repeat to him what he has told them earlier when asserting his leadership.

“This is not a democracy,” they remind him, nudging him to regain his mental balance.

That phrase spoke to me.

As a homeschooling mom, I have used that phrase, often in jest, with my children.

“This is not a democracy, kids!”

“This is NOT a democracy! It’s a benevolent dictatorship.”

“Not a democracy. Do it because I said so.”

“You don’t always get to do what you want to. You don’t always get to pick. This is not a democracy, guys.”

I have said it more times than I can count with a scheduling chart.

The Walking Dead brought it into stark perspective. If it isn’t a democracy, that meant someone is in charge and that someone is me (and my husband, of course.)

On a daily basis, it is up to me to lead. As a classical unschooler, I am guided by my children’s needs and interests, but I am still required to steer, to know where we’re headed, to make decisions that affect all of us. I am required to lead.

It’s not just a good idea, it is absolutely necessary.

Our family isn’t a democracy. Neither is our homeschool. We have a leader. And it’s me.

It is a sobering, sobering thought. And a good reminder.

Who said watching TV was a waste of time?

I’m Planning Next Year’s Curriculum on Snapchat

Oh look, it happened – we’re out of things to do. Between the motivational chart and the burn out sessions and the readalouds – in the midst of life and whining and being bored, learning happened. We’re done.

We’ve exhausted all our planned, available resources. It’s happened sooner than I imagined. Not that I’m complaining.

So here I am scrambling to find more things to put on the agenda. Okay, okay, not scrambling exactly. While we’re enjoying the easy days of “just one sheet of math” and Minecraft broken in with some reading and writing, I’m beginning to start the search for next year’s (whatever that means!) curriculum. (whatever that means, right?)

In the upcoming weeks, I intend scouring the books/resources I have, checking off what I want them to learn in the upcoming months, gauging where they currently find themselves and working to engage them as much as possible in their education. As someone put it, homeschooling is of course “trying to work yourself out of a job.”

Only this time I’m doing it on Snapchat.

If you haven’t been on Snapchat, you should definitely check it out. The idea is that the content there only lasts for 24 hours. So come find me and watch the videos I put up. They can only be 10 seconds long, so I’ll try to make the most out of each snap.

I’ll provide you with a good idea of how to pull from many places depending on what you and your kids like. And you know I’m cheap, so I’ll do it frugally. If nothing else, you’ll come away from my snaps with your mind bursting full of ideas for your next curriculum planning session.

I’ll show you places I shop and what I buy and don’t buy. And also (to my great sadness) what I have bought in the past that was a complete disaster. And some curricula that looks nothing like curricula but teaches real life skills and even some – sigh – worksheets and flashcards. Because much to my disdain, I have one kid who likes them.

If I’m feeling really brave, I might even let you into the sit down work part of our day. Ten seconds at a time. Eep.

So come find me on Snapchat. Let’s have some real fun planning curriculum! Why should our kids have all the fun?

The Best Advice for New Homeschoolers

With the number of public school pullouts happening this week all around me, I thought I would pose a highly relevant question to those of you who correspond with me by email. (If you read my blog and would like to be part of this group please sign up by entering your email address in the space to the right of this blog.)

What advice would you give someone who confided in you that she was pulling her kids and beginning homeschooling tomorrow? This is a woman who does not believe she has time to read about homeschooling – she has to jump in right away. What would you say to her? 

The responses were great. There was such an outpouring of the wisdom of the homeschooling crowd, it was fantastic to see.

Here are my favorite responses:

“Just pick something. It’s not going to be perfect – no curriculum is – so, just get started. You’ll never know what does and doesn’t work without doing SOMETHING first.

“Don’t worry about stumbling through things that don’t work in the beginning. Modify what you can while you find what fits you and your child(ren).

I’d also drop names like Susan Wise Bauer and John Taylor Gatto, and suggest attending a homeschool convention in time (if only to peruse the exhibit hall.)” – Stefani from Dallas, TX

“I would share my own experience of pulling my 6-year old out of first grade. It was four months into the school year and I didn’t have a clue about how to homeschool. I just knew it was what was best for my child. I had one homeschooling friend so I watched her in action.

Mostly, for the first few weeks, my son and I visited the library often and we took a lot of nature walks and we snuggled up together with books. During this time I read up on different philosophies. I was drawn to unschooling or letting my child take the lead.

One thing I would emphasize is to not even try to keep up (or down?) with what the public schools are doing. It’s simply not worth it and it’s completely unnecessary. Even if the child eventually re-enters public school, chances are they will be ahead of their peers in many areas and considered behind in a few areas but in the end it honestly doesn’t matter! I have 3 kids in college now to prove it.” – Camie.

“I would say that you shouldn’t start right in on your kids where they left off in school. If there was some sort of rush to get them out of a bad school situation, they probably need some downtime to recover. Even if there wasn’t a bad situation, everyone could use a break.

Your child will not be behind forever if they take a month off to get used to a new routine of being at home and responsible for their own education (with your help). You are more likely to last if you read the books as many as you can.

Talk to other homeschoolers or unschoolers if you can. Read their blogs. Then put it all away and live your homeschooling/unschooling life, which will not be perfect, which will change over time, and remember not to get so wrapped up in “schooling” your kids that you lose sight of their wills, desires, and personalities. Adapt your method to your child, don’t try to force your child to conform to your method.” – Cheryl.

“I would first recommend them looking into their state’s laws to see what requirements their state has set forth for homeschoolers and to see what organizations are available for their state. (For Texas it is THSC – Texas Home School Coalition that will give the help that can answer many of the legal questions they may have). If I have just a few minutes to talk to that person, this would probably be the primary advice I would give. All states are different, and have different legal requirements for homeschoolers.

If their child is older and is planning on college I would suggest they talk to their colleges of choice to see what specifics they require in terms of transcripts, etc.

I would also give them the list of the resources I have found locally. For example, the homeschool opportunities at the local library, museums and groups I know about.” – Amy.

“First, I’d say go spend the days together doing whatever comes to mind! Have fun! De-school yourselves! Write down all the things you see your kids doing everyday and learn to see that through an unschooling lens. Learn to translate that in your mind into educationese. Then RELAX, because you are going to see a wealth of education and growth happening without you, mom. 🙂

Then I’d tell them to work through the book Educating the Whole Hearted Child  that has some workbook aspects inside to help them craft some of the important things in their homeschool. It will jump start them quickly in the right direction that lends them to the path to those awesome other titles: a baby step that helped me get on the path that doesn’t recreate school at home. ” – Laura.

“When I decided to homeschool,  it became evident that I was crossing into/over some imaginary line that either I believed was a wall or it was just a line.  Along the way, I discovered that every book, everywhere will guide you it will tell you best approaches, best curriculum, grade levels, etc.  But the bravery lay in creating the best homeschool that fits not only familial dynamics but also your children. Because if homeschooling chose you and not the other way around, it gave you freedom to explore all curricula, all schools of thought.

“My favorite idea is taking a year off especially if they’re used to school and the routine.  You will never replicate school in your home.  Simply, home is home.  Life happens at home.  Messy, complicated,  life. School happens at school, structured, ruled school.  

“I took the year to discover how all this fits in to my life and my child’s. That not to say we did nothing.  I knew he likes science so, I found hands-on lessons, lap books, until I found my footing and my confidence. It is a marathon. Slow and steady.” – Candace.

“We have four children who are home schooled, 5, 7, 9 and 12, we also have two older 12 and 17. The older two, our 12 year old daughter, (the princess!) is off to an all girls high school which only accepts gifted and talented children. The 17 year old has always been mainstream schooled and now enjoys his 6th form freedom. The four home schooled children are helped with their learning by my wife and myself, together with our excellent network of home schooling families and groups.

So, on to your question, if home schooling was mentioned, our children would prick up their ears and excitedly tell you all about it, what they like, how they like to learn, how its great to learn through just looking around, experiencing life, expressing their feelings and opinions and recording all these by taking pictures, writing stories, doing research and creating their files and diaries which they can read later and remember their life experiences.

My wife or myself would share the joy of our children learning without boundaries, living their parents’ values (rather than someone we don’t even know), having the freedom to learn without the constraints of a some brand of learning for their age, not feeling pressurized to do things they object to, not just learning during the week and being too tired to even communicate at weekends – but, instead realizing life experiences are all around and through them anything can be understood, learnt and used to equip our children for a successful and rewarding future in life.

Sometimes however it becomes stressful, persuasive tactics don’t work and it seems like your not getting anywhere. These are the moments when your own determination, commitment to ensure your children ‘are the best’ and your love for them wins – and perhaps a glass of red wine, hehe! – Michael.

“If I were to meet someone in that position I would say, take it one step at a time, don’t be too hard on yourself or your children. Research on the go, if you have to. Don’t be afraid to change resources as you see fit. It’s not about completing any set amount of work or meeting any requirements, but your own.

As long as something positive has happened that day, that enriched your child as a human-being, that day has been productive. And soon enough you’ll see, you’re on a roll! Oh, definitely there are those horrible days, self-doubting days, I-can’t-seem-to-be-able-to-keep-up-with-the-house-work days, but truly homeschooling is the most rewarding experience between parent and child!

I could go on for a while yet, but suffice it to say that our kids are little for a short time only, I for one prefer to spend maximum amount of time with them, instead of sending them away for the largest portion of that time, to be conditioned in the hands of strangers that other strangers have told me I should trust.” – Name withheld by request.

“The most helpful advice I’ve received so far is to deschool for a good length of time when you pull your kids out of traditional school. It was suggested to deschool 1 month for every year your child was in traditional school.

I was not homeschooled so it is a new mindset for me as well as for my son. A little background – we adopted our 13yo son in December and withdrew him from middle school on the last day before Christmas break. Our motivations are as much or more so about building attachment as they are about academics. We gladly took the advice to deschool and get to know each other better and go on field trips, go to the library, enjoy the outdoors, etc.

It’s also given me time to read about various homeschool philosophies and methods and observe how my son learns. We’ve tried some things out, but we’re staying flexible, keeping things light and fun as we develop a rhythm of schooling that will serve us best.” – Susannah.

“I have given this advice many times to moms who are pulling their kids from school. You have TIME. More time than you realize.

Once you pull them from school, take a few months and get to know your child(ren).  Start developing a routine for living at home together all the time. It will be an adjustment. Spend time at the library, the zoo, the park, in the backyard, etc. If they can read, encourage them to read a lot.

Your child needs to de-school. You can use this time to start educating yourself on homeschooling philosophies and ideas. After a few months off, maybe introduce one subject at a time and get to know how your child learns. Pacing yourself is the best thing you can do to ensure success in homeschooling. Finally, and maybe most importantly, find a community of homeschooling moms near you that you can talk to and get together with from time to time. You will need the support and your children will love the time to play with other homeschooled kids. You have TIME.” – Meredith.

“Take your summer break now. Relax and enjoy time with your kids. Talk about what they know and find out what they want to learn about next. Go to zoos and museums before the summer crowds and without the field trip mentality. Play board games and have fun worth each other. Read books together. A strong relationship with your kids is foundational to successful homeschooling. And then you’ll have time to research a couple months and make a plan. Start homeschooling when you and your child are ready. There’s no rush or reason to follow the traditional school schedule.” – Christa.

“I’d have to say to that mom that she can absolutely do it! And, she needs to know that every doubt she is having, the public and private school teacher has also had at the beginning of her career.

Know without a doubt that you can provide AT LEAST as good an education for your child if not a significantly better one!  I speak this as a former public school teacher with 3 grown children who attended public and private schools and a 7-yr-old who I now say will be sent to public school only when you pry him from my cold, dead hands! Yes, I’m a bit dramatic about it! I’ve experienced the inside of public school as both a teacher and a parent.

Trust me when I say that if you have Internet access, a library card, and can find a group of like-minded mamas with kids somewhat close in age, YOU ARE GOLDEN!  The most important of those three, I believe, is the group! If you are pulling your kids tomorrow, I’d say find a group that suits you as soon as possible!  They don’t have to do school the way you do school. They don’t have to have the exact same educational philosophy. They simply need to be supportive and available to interact with on a regular basis. ALL mamas need interaction and support, and the ability to ask questions, share ideas and struggles, and do life together makes all the difference!

If you can’t find a group that fits, start one. That’s what I did 3 years ago, and we now have over 30 families. Several, but not all, meet weekly. We do field trips together. We have monthly Moms’ Nights Out. Our kids love each other, we love each other! I don’t know how I’d make it without them.” – Rhonda.

“Find out what matters most to you and focus on it. Everything else can wait. When we began homeschooling, I focused on character. The kids read, I read to them and we focused on their piano lessons. That’s it. In the next quarter they had outdone years of work at the public school!” – Linda.

So there you have it! The best advice from homeschooling families.

Now, go forth in confidence, new homeschoolers! Welcome!

“Why Do I Have to Learn This?!”

This is a guest blog post by Shell Higgs. She is a freelance writer with many skills up her sleeve. She cannot cook or juggle, but she does specialize in writing about parenting, technology and education.  You can follow her on twitter @higgshell or visit her blog at techeduchat.

To this day, I don’t know why I had to learn long division. While the actual process was taught to me, the motivation to learn and remember it was neglected, so I immediately went straight back to doing division in my preferred way.

We’ve all heard the words “why do I have to learn this?” usually accompanied by a groan. The lesson has struck them as being boring or difficult, and generally not applying to their life at all. This is where great learning goals are worth their weight in stress-free gold.

[clickToTweet tweet=”A clear learning goal answers the not just the what and how, but also the why of the lesson.” quote=”A clear learning goal answers the not just the what and how, but also the why of the lesson.”]

The why is a vital but often missed step. By revealing why the child should learn the subject or skill, you allow them space to assign value to the lesson. It connects the lesson to their world, community, belief and self-knowledge.

By framing your learning goals in a WALT/WILF/TIB format, and displaying them prominently, you can provide children with the opportunity to take ownership of their learning. It should be stated that this format doesn’t limit bonus learning from additional branches of exploration, it merely directs children to the high point of your intention. It might just be a springboard for a whole new project!

Here’s how it works.

WALT: Write learning goals that work. WALT is We Are Learning To…

In one short, snappy sentence, explicitly tell the children what they are supposed to be learning. Make sure to include an action verb.

We Are Learning To: ‘Explore narrative structures in classic literature’ or ‘Learn about bees and what they do’. If another person asks your child what they learned today, they don’t have to try and uncover the point of the lesson, they know exactly what they learned today.

WILF: Action verbs, explicit statements and links to the child’s world. WILF is What I’m Looking For…

This is your success criteria. How will the child know when they’ve learned the lesson, especially when the goal was to do something unquantifiable, like ‘explore’? What I’m Looking For: ‘Able to draw a narrative structure diagram’ or ‘Able to label a honey bee diagram and explain bee roles’.

By letting the child know exactly what success looks like, they are able to self-evaluate, and clarify their learning if required.

TIB: Learning goals assist students to become invested in the lesson and take ownership of their learning. TIB is This Is Because…

This is your opportunity to link the lesson to the child’s world and what is important to them. If the lesson is about physics, link it to how much they love skateboard tricks. If the lesson is teaching teenagers to be safe online, link it to their desire to connect.

A good TIB statement is a powerful learning tool. Even when you aren’t quite sure how to link it to them specifically, a little explanation goes a long way. This Is Because: ‘Knowing the narrative structure means you can write your own stories’ or ‘Honeybees are vital to propagating plant life on Earth’.

It’s not necessary to write a WALT/WILF/TIB for every lesson, or even change them every day. Some learning goals will carry across a whole week or even a term.