Homeschool Basics to Stay the Course
Whether or not you receive grief for homeschooling, let me encourage you to stick with the homeschool basics and keep your eye on the finish line. One can expect negative feedback from those who might not understand the choice to homeschool, but thankfully very little came our way. So when I was hit with a rude comment from a homeschool leader during a support group meeting, I was caught off guard. We’ve now crossed the finish line, and we’re so thankful for the journey. We even used the rude comment to our benefit, and I identified some homeschool basics throughout the years. Maybe we can use these homeschool basics for yours as well.
The comment actually came during a homeschool support group meeting for mothers. Our children attended a weekly gym class for homeschoolers sponsored by a local university, and this was when the support group met. A few weeks into our first year of homeschooling, the first day of gym class finally arrived and we were all excited. After registration, the kids went to the gym and I took the baby with me to the meeting. Announcements were brief, then came introductions.
I gladly shared our story when my turn came. “Our children are 5, 4, 2, and 6 months. After teaching in a public school for nine years, I resigned so I could stay home with our first baby. In a little under five years, we were blessed with four children. We have decided to homeschool while we have preschoolers. I’m not sure if we’ll continue after that, or if I’ll go back to teaching and send the kids to a Christian school. Like many families, we are praying it through one year at a time.”
As soon as I finished, here it came. The leader leaned forward against her podium and declared, “I have found teachers make the worst homeschool moms. They try to recreate the classroom at home, and that doesn’t work because homeschooling is a lifestyle. Welcome, and thank you for coming.” I couldn’t wait to leave. The rest of the meeting was a blur.
On the bright side, the older kids had a blast and couldn’t wait to go back. The next week my baby and I parked along the side of the gym. Oddly enough, several other moms and infants were in the same area. We made new friends and felt right at home with our new community.
Reflecting on the previous weeks of starting our oldest in kindergarten, I licked my wounds and sifted the rude comment to see if I might find some usefulness. I also remembered advice from my brother-in-law as I headed to college, “Don’t let the books get in the way of your education.” It’s not too hard to figure that one out. Have you ever met an educated foolish person? We wanted our children to be well educated, but we also wanted to foster biblical wisdom and understanding.
And so began our eighteen-year journey of learning together. I stayed home and spent the years with our children and teaching at the co-op. Each year we found our new balance of staying socially involved while getting work done at home. In keeping that balance, families will differ because we come in all shapes and sizes. Available resources vary. Emergencies happen. But when we are called and committed to the homeschool lifestyle, we can have confidence in God’s provision. As Mother always said, “Things have a way of working out.” I hope you will find yourself crossing that finish line one day and feeling thankful for the homeschool lifestyle. As we journeyed, I identified four homeschool basics that served us well.
Here are 4 homeschool basics we found helpful.
Add arrows to your lesson plans. Make adjustments. I learned this first of the 4 homeschool basics right away. According to our wall chart, the first day of kindergarten would begin with devotions, opening exercises, pledges, etc. Phonics would be finished by 9:15. Break time: change a diaper or two. 9:30: kindergarten math with the baby in the playpen, and toddlers playing nicely nearby. Yes, I thought I had it figured out until I drew my first arrow around 8:00 am. My ‘book education’ had just gotten in the way of doing life together. Only a few weeks into our journey, both comments were ringing true: homeschooling is a lifestyle and we can’t let the books get in the way of true education. Adjustments were made as we learned to accomplish the important elements of our education while staying flexible.
Subtract; simply take away what doesn’t work. We are doing life together, not crowd control. Each phase of the journey will have a rhythm of its own, so it is beneficial to put aside old routines and find new ones periodically. For us, desks were fun at first, but they eventually sat empty as kids relaxed on the couch or climbed trees for reading spots. We stopped going to gym class once we joined a co-op. We replaced curriculum when we couldn’t make it work. Changes can be scary, but they can also keep us motivated and excited. Personally, we didn’t try to participate in everything, but we chose our favorites and eliminated the rest. No family can do or have it all; trying to will only lead to stress and burnout. Like old food in the refrigerator; if in doubt, throw it out.
Multiply resources and opportunities by tapping into your community. Work with the talented people around you while you make your own contributions. Grandparents, neighbors, and others may have skills they can pass along to your children. Co-ops bring together parents with a variety of career backgrounds, so the potential is abundant. Some homeschool parents offer classes to others in their homes. Online live and recorded classes, such as those available through Apologia Online Academy, provide support no matter where you live. Even siblings can quiz and tutor each other. 4-H is fun and educational, and projects can count toward credit in subjects such as art and home economics. Sports create a wonderful sense of community. Researching apprenticeships, internships, and dual credit courses can potentially save money. With my husband in business, our children earned credit with internships while gaining work experience. Multiplying your resources will lighten your load and make the journey more exciting.
Divide and conquer. Time management is a key to keeping your sanity. I struggled the most when I neglected personal devotions. Time alone with God kept me grounded, focused, and enabled me to keep things in proper perspective. Divide the workload by teaching children how to help with housework and meal preparation. They need these skills anyway. Next on my list, buy a good planner. I enjoyed choosing books for the kids, but this one was for me. With all the kids out of school now, my planners have become special keepsakes. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Debra Bell became a favorite during our last few years. Where were these in 1998? Her planners not only have pages for lesson plans, but include sections to journal memorable moments, keep track of appointments, and provide encouraging quotes and bible verses. Homeschool moms wear many hats as they keep a lot of plates spinning, so they need all the help they can get to divide and conquer.
Just think of the many hats a homeschool mom wears through the years. Sometimes she’s also juggling a home business or working away from home. She stacks the hats on top of one another and keeps the plates spinning. A poem entitled “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost states, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” It is challenging, but this is a journey worth taking. Be encouraged to stay the course and stick with the homeschool basics.
Gerri Smith spent nine years as a public school teacher before homeschooling their four children. She is also a customer service representative for Apologia.
The following books are recommended for additional homeschool encouragement: 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child’s Potential by Zan Tyler, How to Have A H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids by Rachael Carman, Seasons of a Mother’s Heart by Sally Clarkson, Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson with Sally Clarkson.