With this year's unique worries, many parents are considering switching to homeschooling. But how to do it in a way that is sustainable and joy-filled?
Too often, we parents start out homeschooling by trying to re-create school at home, with too much structure, too much focus on curriculum, and too much trying to cram knowledge into our kids' brains. We push, we cajole, we spend hours trying to find the "perfect" curriculum that will solve our problems. All too soon, it leads to kids who resist (or even hate) school and parents who feel like they're losing it.
I've been there. I've been homeschooling for nearly 9 years, but those first couple years were rough! I pushed too hard, too fast, leading to homeschool burnout and damaged relationships. But then I found a new way.
For the last 7 years, our homeschool has been purposely geared towards cultivating a love of learning in my kids. Instead of trying to force our way through a specific curriculum, I'm following my kids' own interests and creating a home culture that weaves learning into the fabric of our days.
In focusing on creating a love of learning, I intentionally do not require or push or bribe my kids to do anything academic. But guess what? Quite a lot of academics still does happen in our house! So it's not that we don't do academics, but that "how" we do them is very different.
A few of the questions and concerns I often hear are:
"My kids hate school."
"How do you do school without requiring?"
"How do you know you're doing enough?"
"My kids will never want to do math [or science or writing or whatever dreaded subject] if I don't make them."
This post will give you the resources for creating a sustainable homeschool that will bring joy back into your homeschool. Along the way, I'll share the details of what has worked for us, and how we do school time without requiring or bribing. The overall plan looks like this:
Catch a Vision - Find your true focus in homeschooling
Create a Rhythm - Implement a daily rhythm that creates a culture of learning
Follow Their Passions - Let your children's interests drive their education
Expand Their Horizons - Give exposure to the wide world of learning
Keep in mind that every family is unique! My kids are currently 13yo and 10yo, and although I will share what's worked well in our home, your own best homeschool may be quite different from mine. Younger kids have different needs than older kids, some people need more or less structure, and some households just function differently.
It's all good! Please be gentle with yourself and your kids.
Catch a Vision
We homeschool parents tend to get stuck thinking that if we just find the right curriculum, everything else will fall into place. In reality, though, it is more important to develop a vision of what we are trying to achieve in our homeschool and let that vision be the guidepost for all the follow-on decisions.
If you really want to create a sustainable homeschool, you've got to start with figuring out what your real long-term goals are. Take some time to sit down and ponder what you're trying to achieve in your kids' educational experience. For instance, some different objectives include:
kids who are at grade-level in all areas
kids who love learning and think homeschool is fun and engaging
kids who learn to follow instructions and do what they are told rather than charting their own paths
kids who are prepared to be self-directed students in the teen years
kids who think that their own passions are important
kids who think that some specific emphasis (such as math/science/etc) is more important than their own natural passions
kids who believe that learning is a finite objective that is best if completed as soon as possible