At the surface, homeschooling looks like just another school option. Are you sending your child to PS #5, St. Mary’s Academy, or STEM Charter School? None of those, I’m homeschooling. However, homeschooling is really a lifestyle. The ways to homeschool are as unique as the families who chose to do it. I get many requests for what curriculum is the best one to use, or do I have a checklist of how to homeschool. I don’t, because I believe that if you are locking yourself into the public school box you are missing out on the beauty and freedom of homeschooling. There are states and provinces that have more stringent and restrictive requirements than other. That is a fact, however even in the most restrictive states, there are still full, fledged unschoolers marching to the beat of their own drum. So, how can you get your homeschool to work for your family?
Don’t Be a Slave to the Curriculum
Whether you wrote your own or you purchased a box, that curriculum is a tool, not a tyrant. Lesson plans are useful and I highly recommend you having a complete plan for the entire year. However, it’s a plan not a rule book. Be willing to rearrange things when you need to. Do something a little different than what is written down. Take the opportunity to learn in your natural environment, and remember that learning doesn’t have to come from textbooks and flashcards. Use whatever you have in the way of plans and curriculum as a guide, but you are always the captain of the ship!
Set up a Schedule that Fits Your Needs
We are conditioned to believe that school has to happen Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 3 PM. School must start bright and early. You must have Saturday and Sunday off. Well, for brick and mortar schools that is true. The reason high schools start so early is to allow time for after school sports. Children need sleep, though. Our society is chronically sleep deprived. Moreover, family time is crucial. So, build a schedule that is healthy and comfortable for you. Who says you can’t school from 2 PM to 7 PM? If Dad is only home on Wednesday, why not take that day off and school on Saturday? Education happens everywhere and all the time. It really can’t be constrained to set hours. Set up a schedule for your formal lessons that makes it easiest to get them completed. The health of your family is more important than following a typical schedule.
Be Willing to Try Something New
The world is your oyster. We could each study every day of our lives and never learn all there is to know. Like most things, though, we have this idea of what MUST be learned. It is a narrowed scope that easily fits into textbooks and sells across the land. Dare to be different. If you would rather study meteorology than earth science, make it happen! If you want to use hands on experiences, go for it. Try something new. This is your school, make it fabulous.
Also, if you purchased THE curriculum that everyone wants and all the bloggers are raving about, but it just isn’t working, let it go. Try something new. Just because it is working for your favorite blogger or has a five star review, doesn’t mean it is what your child needs. Being flexible is key to a happy homeschool
Find the Melody that Creates Harmony
In the end, make your own path. Take what you have to learn, sprinkle in what you want to learn, and mix it up with the life that makes your heart happy. Childhood is so short. Those long days of 3rd grade spelling are going to melt into longer days of high school algebra! In a blink, it will be over. You won’t sit there checking off every time you used the most popular curriculum, or rejoicing over the hours you dedicated to replicating public school. You will remember the special times you had as a family. You will miss the afternoon tea parties, and marathon read aloud sessions. You will pine for the time that everything went wrong and you spent hours laughing about it with your husband. Don’t lose sight of your family harmony in an effort to “keep up” or “get ahead” or “do it the right way.” Find a way to make the homeschooling work for you, not the other way around. “I wish I had spent twice as much time doing spelling tests and math drills,” said no retired homeschool mom, ever.
How do you make your homeschool your own?