One of the best things about being a homeschooling parent is that you don’t have to have it all figured out before you start. You don’t have to be an expert on every subject and you don’t need a five-year educational plan to be successful.
It’s quite the opposite. You can take it day by day and learn the ropes of homeschooling as you go. It’s an incredible thing to learn along the way, but it’s also nice to have a heads up from time to time. That’s why I’m happy to share some homeschool lessons I’m learning as I wrap up middle school with my oldest kiddo.
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As it turns out, I’ve been wrong about a few areas in our homeschooling. I thought I had a good handle on what’s required from me as a homeschooling parent as my kids get older, but that wasn’t the case.
Fortunately, I’ve learned some homeschool lessons the hard way and I want to share them with you today so you don’t have to.
Homeschool Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way
Keep in mind that none of these are the sort of thing that will scar your kids or destroy your homeschool. Even so, they’re fresh on my mind and in my heart because they’re based on things I wish I hadn’t learned the hard way.
1. Independent learning shouldn’t be the only learning.
Now that we’re coming to the end of 8th Grade with my oldest kiddo, I’m learning a lot about the differences between partnering with my kids and overseeing their education.
You see, there was a time where I assumed the goal of homeschooling was to “work myself out of a job.” I thought I was supposed to get my kids to the point where independent learning was the norm and that we should reach that normal by the time middle school rolled around.
I thought homeschooling should resemble one-on-one (or two) instruction for the elementary years, with a transition to independent learning as my kids got older.
I thought the goal was to get to a point where I’m basically the person in charge, the one ordering the curriculum, the guidance counselor available for direction, and the responsible adult for the kids not in school.
Don’t get me wrong, in some ways, those things are the goal. A homeschooling parent does usually fill all of those roles in some capacity, but those things aren’t the heart of who we’re called to be.
Instead, we’re called to be co-learners and co-laborers in the homeschool journey. If we’re not careful, we’ll lose all of that when the promise of independent learning is on the horizon.
This hit me in a major way last year when I asked my son if he’d like for me to sit down with him and do math lessons like we did when he was younger. It turns out he needed this one-on-one time more than anything, but he assumed it was no longer an option for him.
This lesson stings a little, but I’m not really doing my kids any favors if I’m not willing to teach or learn with them. Not only am I not doing them any favors, I’m not stewarding this opportunity to educate them.
It equates to having the chance to give them more than they would receive at a public or private school, but actually giving them less:
Schools don’t teach independent learning. A teacher lectures, kids are required to show up at the same time each day, readings and homework are assigned, and progress is measured based on compliance.
Homeschool parents expect kids to work alone, independently. School doesn’t.Julie Bogart, The Brave Learner
Independent learning isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. That’s a homeschool lesson you don’t want to learn the hard way. There’s nothing wrong with kids who enjoy learning and know how to research and ask questions — that’s a great thing!
But we don’t want our kids to ever feel like their on their own. That’s why we have to be so cautious about making independent learning the end-all, be-all homeschool attainment.
2. There’s still room for fun.
Some call it wonder, some call it magic, and some call it pixie dust.
Enchanted education and living are all about small surprises of happy –scattered, littered, peppered throughout garden-variety days.Julie Bogart, The Brave Learner
Regardless of what you call it, there’s always room for creative learning in your homeschool. We’re never too old to have fun and — if we’re being honest — it’s something that motivates us even into adulthood.
I saw this for myself in my Poetry Teatime Co-op class last semester. I taught a class for 7 and 8 year olds, but something interesting happened with the teens and tweens each week as I prepared and hosted.
The teenagers didn’t pass that room without stopping. They all did doubletakes and some even stopped regularly to ask about our weekly teatime themes and what we were reading.
This isn’t just a Poetry Teatime thing. I’ve mentioned that I’m not the fun homeschool mom before, but I’m learning that a little bit of fun goes a long way when it comes to homeschool morale and family culture.
From surprise writing assignments using Story Cubes, to completely self-led art projects (you know, the ones without any educational agenda), to making slime just for the heck of it, our big kids need to get in on the fun too.
The takeaway? Don’t stop doing the fun stuff when they get older. You’re never too old or too busy to need some magic in your day.
3. It’s never too late to do the right thing.
It seems a little silly when I share it here, but for years I thought we were too far into this homeschooling thing course correct.
After ten years of homeschooling, I’m learning that you’re never too far into this thing to start doing what feels right for you and your family. If there’s something you need to change in your homeschool, change it. Don’t settle for good enough in your homeschool.
After all, anything worth doing is worth doing right; you don’t want to learn that homeschool lesson the hard way.
It’s okay if you’ve never read Shakespeare before or done the read alouds. It’s okay if you’ve been hands off until this point. It’s even okay if you’ve followed a specific method, but know you need to go a different direction. Make your move. It’s not too late at all.
You don’t have to do it overnight. Instead, be a glacier. Shift a little each day and track your movement over time. It won’t take long at all to see how far you’ve come.
Got older kids? You don’t have to leave them out or leave them behind. If you make steps to “do the right thing” with your younger kids, remember that your older kids can have the same truth, the same beauty, and the same magic in their days. It doesn’t matter that it’s not always been there. What matters is that it’s there now.
In closing, let us always remember that homeschooling allows us the freedom to make changes whenever we want. We’re never stuck with our choices and we’re never too far along to follow our instincts.
Embrace this beautiful freedom, friend. Give yourself the grace to fix what needs to be fixed and then move on. That’s how you avoid learning those homeschool lessons the hard way.