Our family has been homeschooling for going on six years now. It has been an adventure to say the least. When we first started homeschooling, Elisha had just turned six and was going into first grade. He had recently been diagnosed with autism and we were muddling our way through that whole process. Moses was four and Malachi had just turned two. It feels like a lifetime ago now.
This year, Elisha turned eleven, Moses turned ten, Malachi is turning eight, and the twins are three. We have have had some good years and not so good years along our homeschooling journey. I have learned a lot about the process of homeschooling through our experience and I wanted to share my thoughts with you today.
Finding Your Own Homeschool Style
We have tried just about every curriculum over the last few years and most of it is still sitting in the basement waiting for me to give it away. Some things we have loved and some things just didn’t work at all for our family. It has taken us six years to find our unique homeschool style.
We all still talk about the year we studied natives because it was our most memorable year. To be honest, I think it was our most productive too. That was 2 years ago. We were using workboxes and filling our days with creative activities. We have used two different curricula since then but neither of them had the same effect as we accomplished during that one year.
When my husband and I reminisced about that one year, we learned a lot about our family homeschooling style. When I planned this year, I took those things into consideration. I am actually really excited about this year and I can’t wait to share more, but that will have to wait for another post.
1) Don’t Just Do Traditional School At Home
If you really feel led and called to create your home into a traditional school and follow that path, then by all means, do that. Don’t just do school at home because you don’t know what else to do or because someone tells you that you have to.
2) Don’t Just Do What Everyone Else Is Doing
Make sure you are doing the things that are right for your family. Just because the most famous reading program worked for your best friend’s daughter doesn’t mean it will work for your son.
3) Trust Your Instincts
You know your family best. Trust your instincts. Maybe you haven’t spent much time trusting your instincts and you are scared to make mistakes. I totally get that. I have been scared to make mistakes (and waste money). It has taken me six years to finally feel confident enough to trust my instincts as far as my regular curriculum choices go.
4) Listen To Your Heart
When you are just starting our homeschooling you may be tempted to listen to everyone else and not yourself. Take it from me, listen to your heart. I am sure everyone has someone or a few someone’s in their life who like to tell them how to homeschool (even if they aren’t). Don’t let those voices crowd out the things you know in your heart are right for your family.
Discover The Learning Styles Of Your Students
If you take time to discover the learning styles of your children (and yourself) it will be much easier to choose materials for them.
Learning Style Resources
Consider The Interests And Passions Of Your Children
When you are planning your school year, take a few moments to think about each of your children and what their interests and passions are. If there is any way at all to include these into your school plan then you will have a better chance of engaging your young students.
For our family, life has focused so much on meeting the needs of Elisha because he has autism, ADHD, and is highly gifted. He receives extra funding, so he receives extra resources. This year I am making a special effort to look hard at each of the other children and see how I can really meet their educational and creative needs.
Create An Environment Of Learning
Is your home an environment of learning? What does that even mean? To me it means that learning happens wherever we are and not just in our school room (which is also our living room). For our family, I want the bridge between “school” and real life to be seamless. I want our children to love learning and happily engage in exploring and soaking up knowledge even “after school hours.”
Think about your environment and how you can make it work for your homeschooling needs. Do you have a small home? Do rooms have to do double or triple duty? In our house, the living room is also the school room and the eating room. It is very small and we have to make do. My husband and I have rearranged the living room several times to make it work for our homeschooling needs. I am thankful to say that this time it looks like it might actually work. I can’t wait to share more about our arrangements, but that too will have to wait for another post.
Choose Materials That Fit Your Family
When you are choosing materials, make a wish list and just put down everything you “want,” Don’t worry, you won’t be ordering everything on that list. It is just a place to start. You will need to research materials for each different subject you will be teaching your children. You can do this very easily with the Internet by looking at samples and reading reviews.
As I am going through the homeschool year, I keep a running list of things I might like to use in the future. When it comes time to order for the next year, I start with what we used this year and the “wish” list. Then I take time to go to the websites of the curriculum publishers and find samples online to look at. I might read reviews of products written by other bloggers or ask around and see what other homeschooling mamas have to say. I don’t let these ideas and opinions have the final say, but I weigh them in light of everything else.
1) Keep Things Simple
I admit that I am guilty of wanting to do everything. This will be why you see me doing Mystery of History AND Ancient Civilizations this year. I didn’t want to miss anything.
I always under estimate the time it takes to do things. This year I had other things on my list to order, but ended up deciding against it because when I honestly looked at the schedule there just would not be any time to do them.
Avoid the urge to over plan. It can be really hard to resist the urge to just squeeze everything in. You only have so many hours in the day. You also only want to do homeschooling for so many of those hours. Be realistic. You are not super homeschooling mama. You can’t do it all. I know, it is painful to realize that, isn’t it.
2) Be Creative
Use creativity to make your homeschooling interesting. Be creative and colorful in your homeschool. It is cheaper to print in black ink and keep things simple, but a little creativity in some areas can add so much.
I was truly inspired by a homeschooling mama who purchased beautiful scrapbooking papers, card stock, and stickers for her children to use for their projects and reports. My scrapbooking paper is coming to the classroom this year. I am looking forward to seeing how it can creatively inspire the kids. It has been sitting in the cupboard for a couple of years now waiting to be used by someone. Who knows, maybe I will even be able to complete a page or two while they are working on projects?
3) Plan Time In Every Day To Have Fun
I think fun is a really important aspect of homeschooling, but unfortunately it is the piece we leave off in the attempt to simply get work done. Last year for us was not very fun. We spent all our homeschool time hitting the books. There was no time for inspired creativity or fun because there was too much work to do. I want to create a love of learning and I can do that by making time for the kids to have fun in their homeschool day. Everyday.
4) Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Things
Don’t avoid things just because you have never done them before. Yes, I am guilty of this. I have purposely avoided many things because I was afraid they would cause stress for Elisha (or me). I have held the younger kids back from experiences simply because I knew they would cause Elisha to melt down. He is now maturing and has more patience for trying new things. We also have the option of sending him out of the house with his teacher’s aid or having him do something else in another part of the house.
It is really important to be willing to try new things. If you are nervous that something might not be a good fit for your child, make plans to check it out before you introduce them to it. Don’t be afraid to waste money. While I am not advocating consciously wasting money, I do think it is important to be willing to give things a try at the risk of it not working. You can always sell it later.
Not Every Year Will Be Perfect
We just finished a really bad year. I am here to remind you that not every year will be perfect and you need to give yourself grace to have a bad day, week, month, or even year. Sometimes circumstances come into our lives that we have absolutely no control over. It is really important not to let one bad year taint your view of homeschooling. It is important not to give up. Keep pushing on.
Reflecting On The Past
It was very interesting thinking back on our homeschooling experiences over the past six years. I am see a great deal of growth in all of our children (and even in myself). I can see how my ideas and thinking has changed over the past few years. I am more relaxed. I am more sure of myself (not in a bad way). I hope you will be able to come away from this post with something to inspire you or encourage you in your homeschooling journey, whether you are brand new or an experienced mama.
If Homeschool Walls Could Talk…
This post is part of a link up with some other awesome homeschooling mamas. Make sure you take a few moments to visit them and check out the things they are sharing from behind their homeschooling walls. (Most of their posts will be going up on August 8th).
Lisa @ The Army Chap’s Wife
Megan @ Half Pint House
Maureen @ Spell Out Loud
Reesa @ Suburban Tree Hugger
Laura @ Day by Day In Our World
Tiffany @ Sweet Phenomena
Jasmine @ Ponder The Path
Lee @ Homeschool Canada
Jimmie @ Jimmie’s Collage
Honey @ Sunflower Schoolhouse
What would your homeschool walls say if they could speak?
Link up a new post or a previous one and come join the party.
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