Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The First Year... What NOT to Do

(This post is the beginning of a series for new homeschoolers, called (simply) "Homeschool 101".)

I don't know about other people, but when people ask me about homeschooling, I always think of what my first year was like and what I would want to tell myself if I could do it over again.  So, this is my top 5 list of things NOT to do in your first year of homeschooling. (Followed by the more excellent way.)

1.  Go Prayerless - You can do this in your own strength!  You've got great curriculum!  You've got a neat-o planner and new school supplies!  You (might) even have a teaching certificate! Most of all you have enthusiasm and lots of coffee!  Let's go, go, go, go!!!
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

2.  Schedule Everything - Ring your school bell at 8:00 and begin on time.  Plan subjects to start and end on time.  Workbook pages should take about 15 minutes, right?  Plan "recess" for exactly halfway through the morning and don't take a break until then.  When that doesn't work...
2.5   Let Chaos Reign- Wait a minute, we are homeschooling.  We can school in our PJ's!  Let's have a leisurely breakfast, start when we are good and ready and do subjects when we feel like it.  Today we will start with math, tomorrow we will do whatever the kids don't complain about because starting with math was really a trial.  Keep the kids guessing, that will make it exciting, right?

After making BOTH these mistakes I found a good middle ground was to establish some rhythms that ruled our day.  We had definite starts and definite stops, the in-between time was flexible but ordered so the kids always know what to expect and weren't always asking, "What do we do next?" 

3.  Get out those workbooks! - Find some workbooks for each subject you want to teach and set the kids at little desk and get working!  It's what we did in school, right?  And we LOVED it!  As soon as you finish this page, you can be done!  This is why homeschoolers can finish so much faster than public schoolers - get the workbook page done and no waiting on the slow kids.

Unless your kids are the slow kids.  And who isn't, when it comes to workbooks?  OK, you might have SOME workbooks, especially to practice handwriting or math facts - but there is so much more interesting ways to teach things.  Start with reading aloud- snuggling on the couch or while the kids play legos on the floor.  Take some nature walks, do some projects and then read aloud some more.  Got older kids?  Don't stop reading aloud!

4.  Turn discipline upside down - When the kid is struggling with their workbook page, or with reading or not wanting to do math - assume that it is rebellion and needs to be disciplined.  They need to learn how to stay on task, right?  The reason they are taking too much time with this particular activity couldn't be that they don't understand it, can't process it or need it explained differently, or maybe that they need glasses?  On the other side of that, when there is a real discipline problem, like sassing mom or throwing a temper tantrum - just ignore it because you feel guilty about disciplining the kid wrongly for something that was really a learning problem and not rebellion.

Wow, this is really a hard one.  It is hard sometimes to discern what is rebellion and what is a struggle with learning.  Pray for discernment that you will be able to tell the difference between childish responses to frustration with learning and true heart issues of rebellion.  Oh, and pray for that for the kids too.

5.  Go the way of culture - Not WORLDLY culture, silly.  You are homeschooling to get away from worldly culture!  Go the way of homeschooling culture!  Look at what other homeschoolers are doing and make it part of what you should do.  If they are baking bread, you should make bread.  If they are involved with this group and that activity you should be involved with it too.  If they go to a new church full of homeschoolers, you should change churches too.  And don't forget the rules!  (There are plenty of rules, I won't list them here - but you can probably go to a your local homeschool conference and find out what they are for yourself.)

Please don't do this.  Homeschooling is a way of life, it's true.  Your family will develop it's own way of doing things and it will probably look pretty different than the world.  But that doesn't mean that it has to look like how everyone else does homeschooling.  Decide what works for your family and don't be drawn in to a list of rules and regulations and activities and structures. 
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery....  For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another....  Galatians 5: 1, 13

How about you?  If you have been homeschooling for more than one year, what would you tell yourself if you could do that first year over again?  What would you tell a friend who will soon be starting their first year?  I would love to hear your thoughts...

No comments:

Post a Comment