This is the fourth and final article in a series by Melissa Pinkley, designed to help new homeschoolers get started in the adventure of home education. This series is largely a compilation of input and feedback from homeschool veterans, sharing their own experiences and tips on how getting started in homeschooling can be made easier.
You have started homeschooling your children, but things are not going exactly as you dreamed. In your dreams, your children had been hanging on your every word loving every minute of learning with big smiles on their faces. In reality, there are days you wonder if they heard one word you said because of the blank stares that return your gaze. Honestly, some areas of learning seem to be going great, while others don't seem to be working at all. Your house looks as if a study on explosives got out of hand. And your biggest question is - Is all of this my children's fault or mine?
Take heart! You are not alone. Having taught in public schools, private schools and homeschool, I can assure you that all teachers have bad days. Days that make one wonder if any learning occurred. Try not to be discouraged on these days. One Home School Enrichment reader reminds us that “all of your time spent with your children is teaching time even though it may not all be textbook time.” Another reader shares some advice from veteran homeschool friends, “My friends told me that they felt the same way at times, and just to pray on it and remember why we made this choice to homeschool.” On those hard days, remind yourself that it is normal to have one occasionally.
If your reply to the above is that you have a hard day every day, then evaluating your homeschool process might help. First ask yourself, are all subjects going badly or is it only certain subjects?
If a certain subject is causing your homeschool to seem like prison, maybe your child is weak in this area. It might help to slow the pace in this subject temporarily or permanently. When my son was learning multiplication, he was still unsure and confused when he reached the end of the section. I decided to depart from the book for a month. We looked at multiplication in many different ways that month. We played computer games, card games, multiplication puzzles, and did oral and written drills. By the end of the month, my son felt much more confident about multiplication and proceeded in his math book at a regular pace. Try slowing the pace at your house and see if that helps the learning process go more smoothly. Watch and adjust to your child in this subject. Pushing ahead when your child has no understanding only frustrates you both. Remember that homeschooling is flexible for your child's learning needs. Take advantage of this benefit and help yourself and your child have less stress each day. If after slowing the pace, you still feel your child is struggling in the subject; maybe you should try a different book or program. “Know that not everything you purchase will work out for your family and that it is okay,” states one reader. Sometimes a different book will approach the subject in a different way which is easier for your child to understand. Don't feel like you have failed if you have to change books, just realize that you now know a little bit more about how your child learns.
If all of your subjects are going poorly, however, then you need to dig a little deeper.
Do you have a routine set for schooltime?
One reader suggests to “set routines as much as possible. Kids like routines and it makes your life easier.” I agree that children do much better when they know what to expect. When you set routines for your school day, it helps your children see your expectations for the day. Try making and following a school schedule. It can be very loose or very detailed. If you like, you can include chores and free-time along with school on your schedule. Our family uses a daily schedule. It helps give a guideline of what we are supposed to be doing at certain times of the day. We do not always follow it to the minute, yet it really helps us to get more done each day. When you begin using your schedule, remember that it will take a week or two before your family flows with it easily. Also remember that nothing has to be set in stone, if a part of your schedule doesn't work, then change it to suit your family's needs. Setting routines is supposed to alleviate stress . . . not add more.
Are you teaching to your child's learning style?
In the second article of this series I mentioned finding your child's learning style. If you have yet to do this, maybe this would help you and your child to have a much better school day. However, if you do know his learning style, are you helping him find ways to learn based on this knowledge? It could be that you don't realize that you are teaching a different learning language to him. I remember teaching about the French and Indian War to my sons. Being an auditory learner myself, I went into a great discussion about famous people and events. One of my sons had a great time and joined in the conversation. He, of course, is also an auditory learner. My other son looked as if he were a million miles away on another planet. This son is a visual learner. While evaluating my day, I realized that I did not engage my son because his learning style was not used. The next day I pulled out a large pad of paper and had my sons draw maps of the region. Then with each fort discussed, my sons would locate and mark that fort on the map. This worked beautifully! Both boys had a great time and learned. I have found that a lot of children find learning a lot more interesting and understandable when they are taught in their learning style.
Are you allowing too many interruptions?
If the phone rings during school, do you answer it? Is the TV on during school? Are you trying to get other things done while you are homeschooling? It is extremely difficult to do other things while school is in session and have success. I know that it is hard not to pick up the phone when it rings. I still fall prey to that enticing ring at times. One reader says her house has a “No phone, no TV, no visitors” during school rule. Of course, there are times when emergencies occur and the day has to be a little mixed up. I encourage you on normal days, however, to keep the priority on school. This will actually help school move more quickly and effectively, giving you time later for the other things.
Are you prepared?
Do you know what school work is being done this week? If your children are studying a subject in science, have you read a little about it? Now I am definitely not saying that you should be prepared for every question that comes from their lips. What I am saying is that you should be prepared for most of the questions. If all you can do is read ahead a chapter in the book your child is reading, then that little bit will help. If your child finds that you know very few answers to the questions, then she might stop asking. Admit your ignorance when you don't know, but don't stop there! Help your child find the answer. You will be learning together! It can be a lot of fun!
At regular intervals, I evaluate the learning process that goes on in my home. I tweak schedules and try to cut out bad habits periodically. Children change and so do their needs. My fourth grader does a lot more by himself than my Kindergartner, so my schedule reflects that. As homeschool parents, we are learning alongside our children. If we refuse to learn and adjust, our children may be just as stubborn with their learning. Remember the relationships of homeschooling matter a great deal. We are privileged to teach our children subjects such as math, reading, history and science; yet we teach them much more about life by our attitudes, actions and responses. The Home School Enrichment readers and I hope you have a blessed homeschool experience and that your family will be drawn together by the life you share.
This article concludes the four-part “New To Homeschooling” series by Melissa Pinkley.
Melissa Pinkley enjoys life with her husband, Wes. They learn a lot from their four children: Ben, Micah, Levi, and Abigail. Homeschooling goes on 24/7 for the whole Pinkley family. They have been homeschooling for more than ten years. The Lord is gracious and continues to help them follow Him.