In my homeschooling journey of 37 years, I learned a LOT and changed the way I approached education as well. When I started out, I had a pretty traditional approach to education and never questioned that what was in the book was what my child needed to know.
Here are some conclusions I came to and things I would have done differently from the start had I known.
- Don’t feel like I have to teach everything that is in the book or finish every book.
Don’t be afraid to scrap a book mid-year and try something else. Some books that worked well for most of my kids, just frustrated others. What works well for one doesn’t necessarily work well for the next child. Kids just learn differently. If you’re rolling along and find something included in the book that you don’t think your child will ever need, feel free to skip over it. Or if you’re in mid-year and the book you’ve chosen just isn’t working, try another. It’s okay. It’s not only okay, it’s the wise thing to do.(Here are 5 tips for choosing curriculum)
- Don’t assume that a government school course of study is best for my child
I just automatically thought that government schools had studied kids and knew what was best to teach each child at each level/age. That just isn’t true! You know your child so intensely. Don’t be afraid to follow your instinct, or better yet, God’s leading for each individual child.
- Don’t hold my child to standards of “where they’re supposed to be” or hold them back because they are learning too quickly
I allowed each of my children to progress at their own rate in every subject, at least after my first few years of teaching them. They may be a couple grades ahead in history and a year “behind” in math, but that’s okay. They need to be free to progress at a rate that challenges them but not overwhelms them and that that will be different for each child.
- Realize there is no average child
Your child is uniquely made by God and God has equipped you as a parent to be the best guide for that child. Don’t put undue pressure on them by telling them they are “behind” . Emphasize doing their best, not achieving a certain level of performance by a particular time frame.
- Don’t feel pressure to prove to others that my kids are “where they’re supposed to be” or being “properly socialized.”
I think as a home schooling parent, especially in the early years, I felt like I had to prove to parents, friends, neighbors, etc, that my kids weren’t being deprived of social opportunities or skills learned by certain times that I put undue pressure on my kids. Let them be free to learn in an atmosphere geared to be uplifting and encouraging. Praise their achievements, especially when they’ve struggled to learn a particular skill, but don’t try to prove anything to others. God is our judge and He’s the only one we will answer to.
- Refrain from feeling inadequate to teach my child. Instead, develop dependence on God to creatively supply what each child needs
I struggled thinking I’d do something to mess my kids up or not teach what they had to know to survive. It was very freeing when I realized that God cared about my kids even more than I did and He would guide and direct me. Be sure you spend time alone with God so He can direct you. Pour out your concerns to Him. He’s waiting to pour out wisdom upon us.
7. Don’t assume my kids need lots of involvement with kids their own age, but instead expose them to all ages of people
As a matter of fact, I found just the opposite. When my kids had too much interaction with kids their own age, they started growing apart from their siblings, their attitudes became more selfish, and generally, they just needed a break from kids their own age. When you expose your kids to older and younger people, they will develop a sensitivity to all ages and learn better people skills and more self-confidence.
- Don’t be afraid to discern that certain subject material is detrimental to your child’s spirit and refrain from using it even if everyone else thinks you have to teach it
My first experience with this was with the classic literature. Everybody’s supposed to read them, right?? One problem. I grew up as a Unitarian. When I read the classics, I saw a Unitarian/transcendentalist philosophy coming through strongly in many of them. Did I want to take my kids down that path? Absolutely not. Starting out ,I checked the stories in their literature books that I required them to read and left out the false philosophy. Fill their heads and hearts with truth, not falsehood. In very recent years I read a book called Apostate , and it explained in detail why you shouldn’t fill your kids heads with that type of literature; boy, it clarified for me what I’d felt in my heart, but hadn’t really been able to verbalize. Excellent read.
- Use textbooks, but not exclusively. Get my child into the real world. Use books as tools, but not be enslaved to them. Practical implementation is a very good teacher.
I love books. I love textbooks, but don’t deprive your kids of putting into practice what they are learning about.
- Waste large quantities of my child’s time with skills they will never need.
Evaluate what you learned in school that you’ve never used. Now, I’m not saying that just because you never used it, your kids will never go into a field where they might need it, but that evaluation needs to be done on a child by child basis. Make the best judgment you can. If you don’t teach something they will later need, let them learn it later. They’ll learn it faster if they see a need for it. Teach your kids how to learn, and don’t squelch their love for learning and they can learn anything they may ever need to know. Life is a school and God is our teacher!
Next time, I’ll post about 10 things I WOULD do again!