We’ve been homeschoolers for almost a decade now. And, frankly, I can’t imagine living any differently, nor would I want to. But, for those parents who are, in effect, being forced to choose an educational path for their children, the mere idea of homeschooling can be daunting, at best, and overwhelmingly paralyzing. Sometimes, it is all too easy for me to “forget” the confusion and anxiety of those early years and the pressure I felt to “have it all figured out”.
But, here’s the thing. Homeschooling isn’t a destination, an end goal. It’s a journey, a path filled with turn-offs, bumps, detours and so many other twist and turns to navigate. Granted, school-at-home, or the online learning option that is available to families, certainly has an end goal. But, remember, that isn’t homeschooling. Homeschooling is about providing a learning environment that is personalized to your child, where your child is able to learn at his or her own pace. And, because each child is unique, so is each homeschooling experience.
That being the case, as I reflect on our journey, I believe there are a few principles that can guide your homeschooling, should you choose that path.
1. Relationship First. Whether you choose to keep your kids at home to homeschool, participate in the online learning option, or go “back to school”, remember to prioritize your relationship. Children need to feel safe. When they feel safe, they are better prepared to learn, in any environment. Include them the conversation. Ask them how they feel about the different options and take their feelings and concerns into consideration. For those kids returning to the classroom, they are walking into an environment that will seem strange, and, indeed, will be very different from the one they left. For families choosing to keep their kids at home, that too will be a challenge for kids who were fully expecting to return to school, to their friends, to the social world with which they were so familiar.
2. Trust your children. Trust yourself. Trust the process. If you decide that keeping your children at home for the next few months, the next school year, or indefinitely, is the right path for you, trust that this time will be fruitful. Children are natural born learners, and given time and freedom, they just may surprise you with all they learn. Will it be “grade appropriate” or “curriculum aligned”? Most likely not. Do all children need to know the same information at the same time, taught in the same way? Definitely not. Kids learn best when they are interested. So, provide experiences for them that might pique their interest. Let them play and explore whatever new ideas come into their minds. Allow them to RE-discover what THEY love, what excites them, what calls to them. Trust yourself as the observer, and observe your children. They will show you what they need.
3. And, finally, become partners rather than managers. Work with your children to create the home environment that benefits all of you. Maybe that means a schedule, maybe not. Maybe that means a few hours of “quiet time” each day. When we work WITH our children, we reinforce the first principle, relationship first. Children are fully human and deserve our consideration when making plans that impact them directly. Working together to find solutions is, in itself, a valuable life skill.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. But, for me, this list reflects my “why” for choosing this path for our family.