If you’re like most moms who homeschool or are considering it, you are – to put it lightly – on it.
Before pulling out the sleeping bags and cleaning them for summer, you have scoured the catalogs, overwhelmed yourself with yet another Google search on homeschooling curricula, your Pinterest boards are full of ideas for the next three grades of schooling each child and you’re even braving the Facebook homeschool curriculum groups, with Paypal on overdrive.
Are you making one of these five biggest blunders?
Asking this question early can save you heartache, yes, but it can also protect you from spending thousands of dollars on curricula that will leave you unhappy, your kids grouchy and you hating the very idea of homeschooling.
BLUNDER #1 – Not taking the time to recognize your child’s individual personality
Every child is different. As a mom, you already know this. You know which one out of your children is the social butterfly who chats with all the grocery store clerks and you know who is the recluse. You know your singers from your drummers and your – ahem – controlling ones from the kids who are happy to just follow along.
When you buy a curriculum, remember these differences.
For some reason, even though as moms we understand our children’s unique personalities, as homeschoolers, we fail to acknowledge them. There is no one style that fits all and if we try to teach all our kids the same way, it’s only a matter of time before we teach them to dislike learning.
BLUNDER #2 – Not understanding your own unique teaching ability
To understand your unique teaching ability, you have to first go back and think about what drew you to homeschool or unschool your child in the first place. What is your gift? What about having your child with you all day long resonated with you? What did you hope to achieve by this togetherness?
Think it through and try to formulate or find a curriculum that works in accordance with your vision.
There were months that I spent feeling guilty for not reading enough to my children, not doing what all my other homeschooling mom friends were doing. It was only after I took this quiz that I realized why I had been feeling like I was teaching differently from the others. Most of my friends followed the classical system; I was more of an unschooler.
Whatever your style may be, to avoid feeling like you’ve been put into a straight jacket, play to your strengths in what you choose to do this year.
BLUNDER #3 – Overscheduling your school days
This usually happens because either you’re trying to replicate school at home or because you’re just having tons of field trips and fun, fun, fun. If you (and your children) enjoy either of these, there’s nothing wrong with it. But most of the time, children, especially younger than ten years of age (or the third grade level) do not need hours and hours of sitting down and working at a desk. Some studies suggest that it could even be detrimental.
Leave room in your homeschool days for segues, for spontaneity. Leave room for fun.
Do not, I repeat for emphasis, do NOT schedule 180 days of school. Yes, I know, that’s what the State of California requires, but trust me, if you teach them diligently, you will have 180 days of school even without scheduling them all. I would start by scheduling three solid months at a time.
After those initial three months, you can take a week off, review, and see what pace works for your family and plan the next three months accordingly.
BLUNDER #4 – Buying a premade curriculum for a specific grade level
Okay, okay, before you throw my blog to the curb, unfriend and denounce me publicly, let me say this. Some homeschoolers do just fine with pre-packaged curricula. They find just the right one that works with their style of teaching, their children’s style of learning and they don’t hold so tightly to it that they can’t veer off the beaten path ever so often.
However, the problem with a pre-packaged curriculum is that most moms are tempted to follow the guidebook that comes with it. If you don’t follow the guide, you worry that you won’t finish in time, aren’t doing it right, and so on.
The other problem with pre-made curricula is that it often does not address children working a grade or two above or below their grade levels, which can happen often before middle school. My son, for example, started second grade math while he was at kindergarten grade level. Because I homeschool multiple children, I could accommodate his needs but if I was limited by our curriculum choice, I suspect he would be bored.
Pre-made curricula takes the guesswork out, but it also takes away from your personal touch and sometimes your (and your children’s) unique personalities. Refer #1 – #3 above.
BLUNDER #5 – Failing to include cross-disciplinary learning
This one is by far the most important, which is why I saved it for last. I have said before that I see homeschooling as a journey not just for the children, but also for the parents. I see homeschooling as a fun, creative, educational pursuit for the entire family. Your goals might be different but they do not mean that you have to be so focused on textbooks and workbooks that you forget curricula that can be had for free!
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read about how Finland recently decided to get rid of individual subjects and teach only through cross-disciplines.
Consider including different media or chucking media altogether and learning through field trips. Think about free classes and other free or inexpensive resources all around you. Engage extended family members, friends, specialists in their fields, go on tours, learn a new craft yourself! Learning is fun. For everyone, regardless of age!
Steer clear of these five most common blunders and have the best homeschool year yet! See any that I may have missed? Have personal experience with any of these or others? Be sure to comment!