One question I get (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Karen Gann had a marketing communications career in high tech before taking a sharp turn into stay-at-home-momdom and homeschooling. She grew up in the Tennesse Valley, lives in Huntsville, and is wife to the wittiest man alive, mother to two head-strong and independent girls (they're adorable, really), and human caregiver to Gomez the dog. Addictions include Facebook, Pinterest, NYC's Radio Lab, coffee, and politics (not necessarily in that order but sometimes all at the same time). She's a foodie, too.