You should have seen it! It was the newest hyper speed printer you’ve ever seen in a homeschool household. I kept it busy night and day printing hefty 3-inch binders full of every subject I could dream of to teach my then preschoolers. At the end of three months when it was time to start my first official day of homeschool, I was already burned out. Buying curriculum and printing everything I could find on the internet didn’t anymore make a homeschooler than buying my son’s first car made him an experienced driver.
You couldn’t have convinced me then that unless I had purchased curriculum, I wasn’t a full member of the national unified happy homeschoolers society. (No, there is no such club.)
So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler, Uh
Instead of focusing on buying curriculum, which is only part of the homeschool puzzle, I should’ve been educating myself on homeschool approaches, my definition of education, and trusting a child’s natural bent to learn.
Curriculum seems to be the hallmark of identifying yourself as a homeschooler. While it’s important to have curriculum, I’v learned that:
- curriculum doesn’t really teach anything,
- you need very little to get started,
- focusing on the three Rs – reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic is the starting point,
- subjects like history, geography, art, and science can wait for a for while as you focus on the three Rs,
- understanding what is the homeschool lifestyle is of much more importance, and
- understanding what is NOT homeschooling is just as important as calling yourself a homeschooler.
How to Instantly Become a Homeschooler
You don’t have to wait long to become a homeschooler. It’s not buying curriculum that advances you; it is about adopting ideas from the homeschool lifestyle.
One common weave of all successful homeschoolers is that they think out of the box. Determined to not follow the same method of teaching that wasn’t working in public school, a true homeschooler takes time to know her children first. Then, she finds curriculum to meet her needs. She doesn’t buy curriculum then make her family adjust to it.
True homeschoolers appreciate quickly that:
- they’re free to choose when and how they learn,
- they can set their own deadlines,
- more emphasis can be given to their child’s interests,
- lessons can be short and still be rigorous,
- kids are encouraged to be problem solvers and independent thinkers,
- the day and lesson plans can be flexible,
- traveling is part of the homeschool lifestyle and
- that kids do learn by living.
Although we say it all the time, a true homeschooler takes time to understand how curriculum is a tool. A tool can wield great power and hurt others if the user does not know how to use it well. Like any dangerous tool in our home, we take time to read the instructions well and take great care when using any tools around our kids.
However. new homeschoolers pick up curriculum and command it with such force and that if their kids have trouble, they question first the child instead of the homeschool approach or curriculum. When completing curriculum is set up as the absolute measure of a child’s progress instead of measuring progress individually, a child could be left feeling worthless.
Unintentionally, the harm at home may become worse than what was going on in public school.
Like any tool, sometimes it needs to be used longer, other times it needs to be put down. It reminds me of baking bread. At times, I need to use my kitchen tools and other times I put it away and use my hands. Using my hands is the only way I can tell how well the dough mixed and the consistency of it.
Teaching is the same. If we never take a hands-on approach to our child’s learning, learn to put down the curriculum and change things in the curriculum fit our child, we will never have a pulse for how our child is advancing. Homeschooling will be a struggle from the start and stay hard period.
One way to find how your child learns best is to use free online tests and free online curriculum. It doesn’t mean you’re using tests to induce stress; it does mean that if your child is old enough you need to explain that you’re using tests to gauge where he at level wise and not as a means to measure him.
Use free online curriculum like Easy Peasy All In One to find a true starting point for buying curriculum. I know some homeschoolers who use Easy Peasy primarily and supplement it. Personally, I prefer to buy curriculum and supplement with free curriculum because I want to hand pick curriculum that is unique to each child’s strength.
Also, true homeschoolers avoid the thinking that all of their kids have to use the same math or language arts program. One sanity saving tip is for your kids to learn together. However, you’ll want to take time to understand which subjects can easily be taught together and which subjects are best learned separately. Look at the tips here on my post Skill Subjects vs. Content Subjects: What’s the Difference.
Besides using free curriculum and free online tests to gauge a starting point, a seasoned homeschooler includes her child’s interest as part of her curriculum. When a child comes from public school they’ve been taught to take a passive approach to learning. In otherwords, the teacher dictated the lesson plans and subjects.
Although a child may have been a good public school student, had excellent grades, and be responsible, he was not a partner in lesson making. This concept may seem offensive to the average public school teacher. To a homeschool mom, the concept of including a child in what interests him and how he learns is the first step to independent learning. We’ve learned that an obedient child doesn’t always equal a child interested in learning lifelong. It just means they learned to do what was necessary to get by or to have good grades.
Intrinsic learning happens by independent learning. By giving choices to our kids, we seem them as a partner to their learning and not a passive bystander.
My bountiful binders full of printing material cost me a fortune to print and cost more in stress. Only doing a handful of the worksheets, I learned quickly that preschoolers learn best by doing and not by all the school-ish things I had got ready. Thankfully, my misguided exuberance didn’t mess my sons up for life.
I had time to change my attitude to appreciate that buying curriculum did not a homeschooler make.Have you made the same mistake?
Look at these other tips you’ll love:
- 3 Common Missteps in Teaching Multi-Level Children (And How to Fix Them)
- What Homeschool Subjects to Teach and When to Teach Them? Part 1 of 3
- Homeschooling Kindergarten : What Subjects to Teach and For How Long?
Hugs and love ya,