We might have loved school. We might have hated it.
But the fact is that we’re homeschooling now. It takes place (mostly) at home. We don’t have to wait in line for lunch or sit in uncomfortable desks. It’s home. It’s different than regular school. Some of us, though, feel this awkward disconnect when we stray from the ways of the school we grew up in as if somehow if it’s too different it won’t work or it won’t be valid. Can I squeeze your shoulders in encouragement and let you in on a little secret?
And it doesn’t work because it mimics a school room. In fact, there might be a few things hindering you from having that homeschool you yearn for because you’re trying to imitate the school room. Are you guilty? I have been.
Here are a few myths to ditch. ASAP.
1. We Need to Finish the Whole Book
Take a long trip down memory lane. Don’t you remember packing up your desk on the last day of school, gathering up all your broken pencils and used up glue sticks? Remember what else you packed up? Yep, workbooks. I remember there being several of them. And my favorite part? They were unfinished! I remember because that meant I had some pretty legit props for my play school room at home that my sister was soon going to fall prey to the next time we played schoo. And yes, I was always the teacher.
My point is, they never finished the entire books in school, nor should we be hung up on it. If your child does 80% of his or her math lessons and knows them really well, that is good enough! The next math book’s first 30 lessons are just going to be review. Skip over them and start on lesson 31 and give everyone some freedom to goof off for a few days of the year. It’s ok. No one will come and check that you have finished 180 math lessons.
2. Our School Days Should Look Like Regular School
I am all for having a good daily routine. I think it’s great when my kids wake up to their alarms and come down dressed and ready for school in the morning. But what I want more than efficient mornings is memorable mornings. I don’t want my kids remembering how crabby I was to getgoinggetgoinggetgoing in the morning. I want them to remember coming down to a kitchen with to a mama who greeted them with love and a hot plate of breakfast (or a nice bowl of cereal if I’m being honest).
Furthermore, some days of school last for three hours, and sometimes they’re just one hour. Some days we learn with reading and some days it’s documentaries. We don’t have to look like a typical classroom to be productive. My kids can learn math just as well at a table or a desk or their bed if they want to. You chose to homeschool for a reason. There’s no reason to reproduce a classroom at home. There is plenty to learn right in their own cozy spaces.
3. Progress Is Tracked by Grades and Tests
One kid studies for hours and hours and hours and knows the material like the back of his hand. Another kid studies for five minutes. First kid bombs the test; the second kid aces it. Some kids simply do not test well. While I know that someday, if my children go to college, they will have to know how to test efficiently. But my point is a test is not the tell-all to end-all.
- Does your child read really well and retain what he’s reading?
- Does your child do division in his head?
- Is he able to talk to you confidently about an entire chapter in his science book without checking back?
If so, your child is learning.
Letter grades are just letters. Progress is seeing a light bulb go on after using fraction manipulatives for the tenth time. Progress is your child finish his first chapter book on his own. Progress is hearing that click when your child figures out the difference between proper nouns and regular nouns.
We know our children better than anyone. Don’t get hung up on tests. Their day-to-day discoveries mean so much more.
4. My Kids Are Behind
I have one child doing a math curriculum that is one grade level ahead of what his grade would be if he were in public school. I have another child that’s working through a math book one grade behind where he would typically be placed. These are the levels that match their skill level with just enough challenge while avoiding frustration.
When we are at home, we are not behind anyone. Don’t let comparison of other children put your child in the behind category. The thing about homeschooling is that it is efficient. I worried my daughter was behind in her reading skills. I let it go, worked with her, kept changing things up to keep it interesting and not monotonous, and before I knew it she was reading chapter books and loving it!
Trust the process. You might have to call in a tutor or change up the curriculum if your child is really struggling. But don’t ever feel like they’re behind the regular school kids. That’s a term used in school. Ditch that terminology and meet your child right where he is and love him right there.
Homeschooling can feel like uncharted territory where everyone has taken the more trusted and sure path. It might very well be uncharted, but it can’t be enriched by trying to imitate the very institution we’ve chosen to avoid. Pave your own way with your little navigators, mama. Do your own thing. It’s going to be great!
About the Author
Alicia Hutchinson is the homeschooling mom to four. She and her children love reading and history and exploring outside. They are just settling into their new home in the Minneapolis area, where they just relocated from North Carolina.
You can read more about Alicia and their homeschooling adventures, current projects, and thoughts on motherhood at her blog Investing Love.