3 Tips to Homeschool Better
A lot of people ask me about homeschooling as I'm still fairly new on this journey with my daughter. But, I can say that it reminds me most of my early months and years as a new mother. Remember that time when you were still trying to figure out what worked and you weren't caught up in a routine, so everything really was learned trial by error? Remember those times you grabbed a nap when your baby was sleeping so you could have those small precious moments to regroup because everything seemed to be going so fast? Well, that's how this journey has started out. It has been a whirlwind.
And, it hasn't stopped.
But, there were a myriad of reasons that I chose to homeschool, and giving up on homeschooling isn't an option merely because it is a challenge or it isn't convenient. I started this because I believe it is in my daughter's best interest.
For starters, it's important to understand that people homeschool for different reasons. Mine weren't because my daughter wasn't doing "well" in school. In fact, my daughter was tested as being "talented and gifted" when she was in public school. She made good grades throughout (though, honestly, she had started to check out the last year when she knew I was going to be homeschooling her the following Fall). But, despite being identified as being gifted, what that meant in her school was more rote work. She was sent home every day with more homework than my college students receive for month-long projects. If she was getting out of school at 3pm, after getting home an hour later, then she wasn't finishing homework until around 6 or 7pm which left dinner and then time to go to sleep. Homework was cutting into our family life. That meant, no extra-curricular activities, no family field trips after school, etc. And, this was taking its toll on my daughter's interest in school. Learning wasn't as fun as it was in the early grades. It was becoming a chore.
And, that's what I was having a problem with. I think learning can and should be fun moreso than not. I also think that schools needs to take in consideration learning preferences, cultural difference and the cultural experience of the learner. I began homeschooling because I not only wanted to have a cultural (read: African) focus, but also wanted her to have some flexibility in finding out different ways to learn and learning, most importantly, how to build skills in self-directed learning. I teach college students and I the students who take ownership of their learning process always do better in comparison to other students.
Albeit, our journey during the past few months has been bumpy as I've had to build my reserve in patience while balancing a college teaching job and my consultant work with homeschooling. A lot of stuff doesn't get done. But, wow, how I'm amazed with the tons of stuff that does get done.
This homeschooling journey reminds me most of the early days of parenting when I started to discover who my daughter was and learning my role in helping her discover who she is as well. Homeschooling reminds me that that process is ongoing.
So, if you are considering homeschooling for your family, here are some tips I suggest:
(1) Understand that Homeschooling Will Require Flexibility.
You will believe that because you are now responsible for leading the way when it comes to your child's education that you are in "charge" of everything. That is not the reality. In addition to the fact that you will NEED to build your support team, you will also HAVE to step back sometimes and assess who is the best person to be in charge of certain area, and sometimes that won't be you. I determined early that I would not be in "charge" of teaching science to my daughter. However, I would be in charge of finding the appropriate science course(s) for her and support her learning of science by assisting on home labs, making inquiry a part of other subjects so that she was prepared to engage in science classes as a participant, not an observer, etc. Some classes I signed her up for were not good-- and we saw that early on and withdrew. Plan B stepped in. One Plan B, when it came to Spanish, was that I became the Spanish teacher suddenly after a bad experience at a center we had signed my daughter up for Spanish. And, wow, what fun that has become. I realized I hadn't given myself credit for how capable I am as a Spanish teacher. And, that is what flexibility is. Being open to doing something unexpected. Stepping out or in as necessary.
(2) Know That Community Is What You Make It
I was very nervous starting out about making sure that I could provide enough social opportunities for my daughter now that most of her time would primarily be spent with me. I also was very nervous about making sure that I had enough community support from other homeschooling families to be able to stay abreast of what best practices are, where resources are, etc. I found that online homeschool communities have been crucial to me staying in the loop. While may seek a community to link up with other families in real life time, I have been finding the online communities helpful in other ways ranging from finding resources to having a space to vent with other like-minded parents. What I didn't expect was enjoying sharing my own resources with these groups as well. Being a participant in community is much more to me than being able to take from the community. It is also about what you are able to put back in.
For my daughter, community has been seeing the same homeschoolers at her gymnastic, and science classes and having kids to share with. It also has been staying in touch with her classmates from her old school and feeling comfortable to still interact with them around other common points of connection such as cheerleading, gymnastics, etc. So many people think that kids only become friends when they share a school, but kids are as dynamic as adults, making connections based on interests that don't always revolve around school activities.
(3) Be Present For the Process
The hardest area of growth for me is being present to the process. I am attached to social media. I am on Facebook at 4 am as soon as I rise. I am checking emails like a maniac at every hour. I write a creative piece once a day on my computer. I read voraciously online. And, when that happens, I am not paying attention to what is going on with my daughter who is working on her assignments.
Let's face it. Homeschooling your child does not mean that you will transform into the attentive Holly-homemaker vision of extreme doting overnight. No way. But, what it REQUIRES is that you strive for doing better when it comes to paying attention to your child and being present during their "a-ha" moments. That has been hard for me due to my attachment to my computer. But, I'm doing better. And, I think it is very important. My daughter appreciates it, too.
You have questions about homeschooling? Write to me at email@example.com and I will try to answer them through a blog post. Thanks for reading!
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a writer and editor of several books, including the anthology Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul. She offers writing services for those seeking content and outlining, editing and creative coaching services to authors who self-publish. She is currently preparing to tour her production IN HER WORDS.
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