Saturday, May 03, 2008

Okay, they're home. Now what?

(Originally written Nov. 15, 2005, slightly updated)

I am sure that I was not the only homeschool mom asking that question on the first "official" day of homeschooling. Even you parents who have homeschooled from the start have had the moment or moments where you are pulled up short by the realization that you have taken the responsibility for the education of your children into your own hands.

I was not completely unprepared when we began this journey 13 years ago. I had read lots of books. I had heard Raymond Moore on the radio. I had ordered hundreds of dollars worth of the curriculum most frequently recommended in the books and magazines that I had found. But the information was a lot more limited than it is now, and I felt unprepared.

I didn't know any real-life homeschoolers. I had never actually met anyone who homeschooled or anyone who knew anyone who homeschooled. I come from a family with lots of teachers. Several of my aunts are teachers and so was my mother-in-law. To say that I felt a lot of pressure would be a big understatement!

So I did what hundreds of thousands of parents have done. We started.
We opened the books.
We started with lesson one.
And within a month I was sure that we'd made the biggest mistake ever!

Remember, I had chosen my curriculum based solely on what was recommended in the most books that I had read. I hadn't seen anything before I ordered it. We hated most of it. My daughter hated Saxon math. My son--who is very freaked out by clowns--had clowns all through his BJU Kg curriculum. As a history major I was totaly underwhelmed by the A Beka history book. And there was lots of theology spread throughout the books that was definitely not in line with what I was teaching my kids.

What to do? I had spent hundreds of dollars. I had to have a curriculum didn't I?

While I was struggling with this a very good thing happened. I connected to AOL. There was a homeschooling forum with hundreds of other homeschoolers from all over the country. It was like someone had switched on a bright light for me in the middle of a dark night.

I didn't have to use a set curriculum? My son needed to deschool? Unschooling?
Wait, there are other people who hate Saxon?! And Bob Jones! (This is where I learned about the rascism at BJU. These are the only homeschooling books I ever threw away instead of passing along.)

What I learned was that homeschooling is not a one-size-fits-all kind of endeavor. (Actually, I learned LOTS there, but that was just the most important at that point!) We decided to step back from what we were doing. We put the curriculum on the shelf. I asked my then-nine-year-old daughter what SHE would like to learn about. Boy did she have a list! My son--who was the reason we started homeschooling (that's another post)--was really struggling with wanting to learn anything at all. That struggle didn't magically end when we put those clowns in the trash. But we worked on it. I would like to say he came around quickly, but in truth it took years.

The answer to the "now what?" is that you begin to learn with them. It may go smoothly and within months they're learning Latin, churning butter, sewing their own matching clothes, and flying through Saxon math. Or it may be rough. There might be tears. You might buy something that doesn't work. You might have a child who needs to be motivated to want to get out of bed or do anything but play Legos. You might want to pull out your hair. But you just keep going. Tweak what needs tweaking. Or maybe throw it all in a closet and start over.

You can do it.


Anonymous said...

Dear Jane,

The ONLY thing that keeps me going are these Lutheran homeschooling blogs.

They help me to be true to myself, among other things.

THANK YOU for your inspiration.

Alex's Grandma

RPW said...

There have been times....when the kids don't get along, or my son couldn't stand the feel of the pencil in his hand (and I didn't think he was ever going to actually write), or I think that five hours alone I might actually get my house to not look like a whirlwind went through a papermill...

But you are right, I can't imagine what it would be like NOT homeschooling...having to get up at 6:30 in the morning and get everyone ready, make sure I am available to pick them up, and not to have the rights to decide what my children should learn and when (because they clearly are not on the typical classroom time schedule, reading at three and four, but struggling with so many other things until much older...and striving to train my daughter's attention so she doesn't feel like she's the flake that I feel like I am).

RPW said...

Anyway...what I apparently erased was that it really is worth it....but sometimes it is hard to remember that.

Anonymous said...

Now what? Yeah...I sort of asked that. While counting down the days until I could send them off to school. Somehow that date came and went and I never did it though. :)

Elephantschild said...

Oh, I needed to read this today. I had a blow to my mommy-confidence wandering thru a bookstore this weekend and seeing all these workbooks for summer study - most of which had math problems my DD is not even CLOSE to working on.

It can be hard to go against the flow.. so hard to remember that "almost six years old" is still a little tiny child with a whole world of wonder held in her sweet dirt-encrusted fingers. There will be plenty of time for two-digit subtraction (yes, that was in the K-1st Summer Bridge workbook!)

Today, there are holes to be dug, BBC Wild Africa DVD's to watch, Schleich animals to be played with, and lilac trees to climb.