Eight years. I still find it hard to believe that I have been homeschooling for eight years. Through death, moving, sickness, and more, we have paved a path for ourselves that has become more of a lifestyle than I ever could have imagined it would become. If I knew then, what I know now, if I were to give homeschool advice for those starting out, my number one word would be – flexibility.
Anyone who knows me even a little, knows that I am extremely type – A. Therefore flexibility is not so ingrained in my personality! It is something I have worked to learn, to strive for, to incorporate into my vocabulary. You will often hear people talk about homeschool burnout and while it can easily happen to anyone, it often happens to those that are so rigid and schedule based like myself. When we allow the schedule, the curriculum, the need to check boxes off to run our lives, it can often lead us right into the ground!
The first year I homeschooled I had just given birth to our third child. I finished out the school year with our oldest in first grade, gave birth in June and began homeschooling 2nd grade in September. By October I had hit my “wits end”. We shipped the older two off to my parents’ house, my husband took a couple of days off from work, and I had to take a deep breath and regroup.
I was already at a point where I hated the science curriculum I had chosen because one or two sentences on a topic just wasn’t enough. We were just “work sheeting” through on a very skimming type of level, and I wanted more; more fun, more in-depth, more hands on. On top of that, my daughter hated math and was hitting a brick wall with it (you can read that journey in my article in the 2014 Jan/Feb Old Schoolhouse Magazine), and I still had a 3 year old and a newborn to contend with. Needless to say, something had to give.
What I started to realize right then and there is that I had to find a way to allow for change, adaptation, complete turn arounds even! I needed to learn to leave breathing space for all of us, learn to be ok with letting go, altering our path, taking a break or whatever the case may be, I needed to be more flexible.
So what did I do? I realized it didn’t matter where the math curriculum said we needed to go next. I realized our daughter needed more time and more practice right where we were at. I stopped trying to move forward with our math and realized it was ok to STOP and take the time we needed, right where we were. (What Happens When You Know a Curriculum Isn’t Working) That is exactly what we did. We stopped moving forward in the curriculum and I found more practice activities for the concepts she was struggling with. Math is made up of building blocks, and if you pull some out the tower will fall. Taking the time for her to be confident in each step is an important part of the process and we needed to allow for that.
As for the science, I used the curriculum as a guideline for the topics I wanted to cover. Then I spent time doing a little looking and a little digging to find a method of teaching science that we would love, that would enrich our minds and keep us engaged. What I found was that I could still teach the same concepts that were covered in the book, I just needed to teach them my way, our way.
So looking back over our previous eight years, and thinking forward to the many more (possibly another 10 if I see each of our children through high school) years I have in this journey, I have to stress the importance of being flexible. Being flexible means so many different things, from little changes to big ones, we need to keep our eyes wide open and be alert to ways that we might need to adapt our course to suit our needs.
So if I could do it over again, and as I continue down this path, my homeschool advice for those starting out is to be flexible!
Check out what advice other iHomeschool Network bloggers have for themselves: