Are You Struggling to Homeschool?
This time of year it is nearly impossible to scroll through a homeschool Facebook group without reading about mamas struggling to homeschool. Most have multiple children which means multiple grades. Many have large families and/or babies and toddlers in the mix. The biggest thing I notice about the struggling moms is they are trying to do everything.
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Homeschooling Can Be Hard
Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling can be hard. Really hard. It takes commitment. It takes passion and patience. But the one message I wish I could send to my new homeschool mamas is to relax. There really is no one right way to homeschool. And whatever you are doing it is very likely enough.
I have been homeschooling for almost twenty years. We have gone through many stages of family life, medical emergencies, upheavals, moves, and even putting kids in school for different seasons. I have learned so much over the years about what is really important and what isn’t.
Earlier Doesn’t Mean Better
In the early years, I was always concerned about whether or not I was doing enough. It felt to me that my children’s entire future hung on the balance of math facts and sight words. As far as learning went, the sooner, the better. The more, the better. This lead to many discouraging days where I felt like I was failing and left me wondering if the kids would be better off in school.
Don’t Try to Do Everything
The most important thing I have learned from years of homeschooling is you don’t need to do everything. Every subject, every day, every activity, every co-op, every sport. I have had some of my kids in public school on and off since 2012 and let me tell you a secret. Schools don’t do every subject every day and they often don’t complete the textbooks by the end of the year.
I can’t tell you what a relief this was to me when I realized that even in school they weren’t completing everything.
If Your Child is Struggling, Try Taking a Pause
Over time I learned that when a child is struggling, often dropping the topic for a couple of weeks or even months, gives the brain time to process and catch up. Nine times out of ten when we “dropped” a subject a child was struggling with (reading, times tables, long division, etc.) and picked it up a few months later with literally zero practice in between, the child suddenly caught on. And usually quickly and easily.
It’s okay to take a break, for you and your child.
You Probably Don’t Need to Homeschool Six Hours a Day
I have seen so many homeschool schedules posted recently (and if they make you and your kids happy and your life easier, go for it) that are chock full. These schedules include Bible, math, reading, grammar, history, science, writing, music, and more. Moms are filling homeschool schedules that have the kids doing school for six hours a day. Our school days rarely lasted more than three or so hours. My younger kids were done in an hour or less. My homeschooled kids, even at the junior high and high school level, had plenty of time to pursue their own passions.
Does This Type of Hom
eschooling Actually Work?
I am here to tell you it does. I have graduated five children so far. All graduated from high school at age 17 or 18 with a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree from our local community college. Two of those children went on to four year universities. All are sucessful adults.
How to Know You Are Doing Enough in Your Homeschool
Provide a Learning-Rich Environment
Have you set up an environment that promotes learning, curiosity, independence, and life skills? Do you let them in the kitchen with you to cook? Do they help with yard work? Do you read them books and supply them with art materials? This doesn’t have to be complicated. Some paper and colored pencils are enough.
Do You Read to your kids frequently?
You don’t need to own hundreds of books, that’s what
Do you let Your Kids Help With Daily Activities?
Let them in the kitchen. Have them by your side while you are preparing meals. A three-year-old can peel carrots, wash potatoes, tear lettuce for a salad, and slice olives. Move them on to more challenging skills as they grow.
Do You Choose Your Toys Carefully?
Keep toys to a minimum and carefully choose the ones you do keep. Open-ended toys such as blocks, plastic animals, a few dolls and a few cars/trucks are perfect.
But What About Actual Schoolwork?
I don’t start my kids with formal learning before age eight. Despite this, all but one of my children could read well before this because they asked for “reading lessons”. I have successfully used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with all of my children.
We are big believers in Montessori-style education and the independent skills it teaches. You can check out my Montessori At Home board on Pinterest for more ideas. Free Montessori Materials Online also has great ideas.
I am a huge fan of Life of Fred for starting young kids on math. Obviously, at some point, math facts need to be memorized, but this doesn’t need to be started in first or second grade. I have set up some book-based activities teaching the Pythagorean Theorem, how to make a working compass, place value and more.
I don’t really do Language Arts when my kids are young. Being well-read and encouraging them to “write” down their stories and ideas was always enough in the younger years.
I often created unit studies based on whatever the kids were interested in. The led to me being able to (easily) integrate math, history, science, reading and writing into the kids’ passions and interests.
We have used Story of the World as the backbone to our homeschool for years. We read the chapter, do the map work, read at least a few of the suggested books for each chapter and do a project. Anytime a particular chapter really captured their interest, we stopped and studied that for as long they were interested; whether it is for weeks or months. Homeschooling meant there was no set timeframe for us to have to finish the book. We actually usually took two years to get through one volume.
What About Junior High and High School?
For 7-12th grades, we obviously required more formal schoolwork, but it still never took a full (six hour) school day. Homeschooling the way we do means that by the time our children are this age they know how to seek their passions and educate themselves. They have read hundreds if not thousands of books by the time they graduate.
For math, we used a combination of Teaching Textbooks and have had the kids take Algebra and Geometry
By this age teaching writing, simply meant teaching the basics. When you start formal grammar at age 12 or 13, they catch on quickly, within a matter of months. I used The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier and The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need. With just this preparation every one of my children has been able to test into college-level English at age sixteen.
For science, I had Iris, Judah, and Tilly work through a Biology text designed for homeschoolers. 11th and 12th grade they were enrolled at our community college and took their classes there.
So, really, mamas, what you are doing is okay. It doesn’t have to be all books and co-ops, memorization, and enrichment classes. Provide the books, the inspiration, and the freedom to learn and explore. Don’t worry about sticking rigidly to the public school schedule. Provide the right environment, and your children will learn.
You’ve got this, mama!