We began homeschooling a few decades ago, flying by the seat of our pants. Yes, we winged it. After talking it over with a few friends and drooling over their stash of product catalogs, we made some quick decisions and just dived in. Of course, it’s only preschool, we told ourselves. It’s hard to go wrong when you’re reading books aloud, working with Play-Doh, and taking nature walks.
Yet, we always wished we’d had a mentor in those early days of homeschooling. We fantasized about taking a continuing education class in “How to Homeschool.” We knew very little about what the job of homeschooling parent actually entailed. Why did we really want to homeschool in the first place? What should we expect of ourselves and the children? What was our goal? Did we have one? To whom, if anyone, were we accountable? These were fundamental questions we asked ourselves.
There were many things we didn’t know about homeschooling; in fact, there were many things we didn’t know about children! It would have been valuable to know how children learn and that each child can differ. And we would have saved ourselves much trial and error if we had known what was developmentally appropriate for each age. We thought there was one way to teach, and we had no idea how to find material suited to our child or our family circumstances. And what a blessing it would have been to know how to organize, memorialize, and simply keep track of all the above.
Instead, our self-education in home education was haphazard. One week we would read a book about teaching reading. Then we would get distracted by the published research on learning styles. For a season we went nutty over teaching history with “living books.” Our children’s heads were spinning as we rode each wave of interest and chased each rabbit that crossed our path, only to grow weary of the pursuit by the next season. We longed to make our lives and our teaching express the ideals and values we had come to cherish as a family. We rarely succeeded for any length of time, flitting from one curriculum to another and trying to heed the counsel of countless experts who each promised us the keys to effective homeschooling.
How much more effective we would have been right from the beginning if we had spent a season in preparation – a time immersed in Homeschooling 101.
What do you need to know to homeschool? First of all, you don’t need a degree in education. Education majors learn how to function in the public school system – and you don’t need that. You do need to know your vision, your goals, yourself, your children, and your family dynamic. Once you put together the pieces of your unique design, your path will unfold and you can step out in faith.
Until next time, you can read more about Homeschooling 101 here: Homeschooling 101: The Essential Handbook