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How on Earth Do You Do It? Four Ways Our Family Figured out Homeschooling

How on Earth Do You Do It? Four Ways Our Family Figured out Homeschooling

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As a homeschool educator, one question I get a lot (along with socialization) is, “How on EARTH do you do it?” Usually, this translates to “How do you get your kid to listen to you?” which usually gets lumped in with “I have no patience” and “How do you keep from going crazy?” I usually answer with: “I’ve always been my kid’s teacher and so have you, right? Now it’s just a little more intense and structured. She understands the boundaries and I roll with it. And when I yell ‘Uncle’ I take time to myself.”

But that answer is not the whole story. It’s not that easy some days. And, I generally don’t tell the inquirer the whole process we went through to get where we are now or how we manage day-to-day.

There are strategies and techniques that will work for you and your child(ren) and you’ll find your own way. But below I offer four things we’ve done and still do to make sure our kids learn something and we (mostly I, since I’m the primary teacher) don’t go bouncing-off-the-walls crazy.

DISCLAIMER: The below is how we’ve (specifically us because I can’t speak for everyone) approached homeschooling and keeping our wits about us. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are students being homeschooled. That’s just the nature of it, so your mileage may vary. I’m not a professional. Etc.

Find A Groove

When we first started homeschooling, I had grand expectations. And spread sheets. And schedules. And thought I’d accomplish A, B, C, and D, every single day before noon. That went on for about eight weeks until I was pulling out my hair and stressing out my kid. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t natural. And learning was turning into a chore because I wasn’t allowing her to explore beyond what we were learning that moment. We have to move on to subject C by 10:30 or we’re behind!!! It was insane.

Because of this, I was second-guessing the decision to home school until I reminded myself: I am not here to recreate traditional school else I would send her there.

Another six weeks with more relaxed and less time-bound schedule – and we’d found our stride. Rather, I relaxed and my child was more receptive.

Bottom line: we couldn’t force the groove. Once we let it unfold naturally, most everything fell into place.

Be Flexible

Then we changed curriculum because what we’d picked wasn’t really working. I figured out the curriculum style was not for us (me) and we needed something a little more challenging. And this was okay, because we’d found our groove.

Sometimes flexibility means doing school work in our pajamas.

The new curriculum had a nice rhythm and seemed to strike a good balance between regimented and loose. It was structured enough so I wasn’t feeling lost, but flexible enough to allow time to explore deeper. I learned if the teacher can’t be comfortable with a curriculum, the student can’t either.

It’s a good day when *I* am relaxed and ready to learn right along with my child. My kid feeds off my mood and things work best when I’m not a dictator. I find if we ease into the work and I let her pick the first subject we study, then things run smoothly.

If she balks at doing work (which I even do some days) we sometimes just forget about school for the day – or at least lighten the work – and go to the park or library or watch a movie. I know I’ve got the whole year to “catch up.”

Be the Teacher. And the Student.

It’s a learning process on so many levels, this homeschooling thing. If anything, I’ve learned as much about myself and how to manage my patience (and lack thereof) and expectations as my kid has learned about her various subjects. She has a lot to teach me.

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But, how does one become the official teacher? For us, we rarely call me the teacher. I’m still Mom, but she knows we set aside mornings to do academic work. That expectation was set from the beginning. Even so, some days are smoother than others.

Plus, I think the more enthusiastic I am about the work we’re doing, the more likely she is to respond positively. I think part of being successful with homeschooling is if you’re a life-long learner yourself and have wonder and curiosity right along with your student.

Have Fun

Can’t stress this enough. It shouldn’t be a chore (see Find Your Groove above). And part of making it fun involves variety and field trips and play dates and “extracurricular” classes. Every day need not be the same. Sure, you are doing academic work (or unschooling) to meet whatever goals you’ve set for your child, but it’s not all work, work, work. This is both for your child’s sanity and for yours.

Don’t forget you need a break, occasionally! Don’t get into the trap of never taking time for yourself (which some parents do anyway). A refreshed, relaxed teacher – with clear mind and enough energy – is a good teacher. Just like regular ol’ teaching and parenting!

Learning About Learning

We’re still learning about learning and finding new ways to approach it, and I expect that will go on during our entire homeschooling career.
If you already home school, what are some of the things you’ve learned along the way? Comment below and share your knowledge because I still need all the tips and tricks I can get!

Looking for more topics about homeschooling, specifically in Huntsville & Madison County?
See all the posts in this series HERE.

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View Comments (16)
  • I encourage people to give it time. We didn’t find our “groove” until the end of the second year. It will happen. In our fifth year and we all love it now. It truly has become our way of life and I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

  • Thanks for another good post addressing those questions people always ask. Another thing we emphasize is playing to the child’s strengths and interests. My daughter loves reading, writing, and science, so we do a lot with those subjects and wrap them around the ones she likes less (math and PE) to keep the day moving along.

  • I do not home school, but this was good advice for me on helping kids learn outside of school. Thank you

  • Thanks for a great post! We are just starting out homeschooling (4 weeks now) and your posts are helpful!

  • Even though I don’t homeschool, it’s great to read about it and how it is a wonderful thing 🙂

  • Thanks for the encouragement! We’re in our second year (first year with more than one “student”) and it’s still a learning process for all of us! We love it though and wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂

  • I love the idea of homeschooling. I was a public school teacher for 16 years, but can see the benefits of both sides. I have always been afraid that it would be too hard for me to let go of my “school” mentality and be flexible enough for my kids. It’s still something on my mind though as I have one starting middle school this year and one starting kindergarten. I just love having options.

  • Thanks for this. We just finished our first week of our first year. Love reading little tips!

  • Thanks for another great article! I’ll definitely be referring back to this series when we start ‘officially’ homeschooling next summer.

  • I commend you. I think home schooling is great and anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t looked closely enough.

  • Hello to all the homeschoolers- this is a nice encouraging article that cites the importance of flexibility. I appreciate the reference to finding curriculum with the right fit- important information that all need to hear. Teachers will feel like they have failed when a curriculum doesn’t work. This is just not true. A little tip that can help all homeschool families- jot a list of things that your family does. Then look at those unique things and see how they fit into learning- give yourself credit for those things. Example, family game night- Yatzee is math, Scrabble is spelling, etc. This is our 8th year of homeschooling and we do enjoy it. I have three girls and an older son. I also love to scrapbook and attached my web link- contact me: we can chat about homeschool and scrap together.

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