Today Aadel from These Temporary Tents is sharing some of her tips for new homeschoolers. She shares her thoughts on buying curriculum and getting in to your homeschool groove!
Starting out homeschooling is like taking on any daunting task; you want to be prepared. But educating your children is a little different than making a list and packing a suitcase for vacation.
A lot of homeschoolers start out in fear, and they allow that fear to convince them into replicating a school curriculum and structure in their home (even if those tactics didn’t work for their kids in school).
Many new homeschoolers feel that starting out with a schedule and lessons that are all planned out and ready to implement will be much easier than just piecing together resources and creating an environment of natural learning. The problem with that theory is two-fold.
- First, your children are not going to fit into a standard, packaged curriculum. Each child will be stronger in certain areas than others. They will each have a unique way of processing and understanding information.
- Secondly, following someone else’s plan and schedule will lead to anxiety and burn-out. In school, there is an entire institutional structure in place to maintain order and make sure that teachers don’t get behind in lessons. At home you will experience times when everyone has the flu and no-one wants to get out of bed, let alone look at a workbook.
The idea that learning has to be scheduled, structured, and coerced comes from the institution of school. When you opt out of that system, you can also opt out of that mentality.
A more peaceful way to approach homeschooling is from the perspective that learning happens as a cause, as well as a result, of life. We learn things because we want to reach certain goals, and we learn from experiences we encounter.
When you start to think in those terms, the schedules and curriculum become a secondary resource to achieving the educational goals you and your child have determined. They also provide rich experiences that you normally couldn’t produce in your home.
So when you start homeschooling, it shouldn’t be a first priority to go out and buy expensive curriculum and implement a schedule. The schedule should form itself naturally around the child’s peak times of interest. And resources should ideally be purchased after you have an idea of how your child learns, what their personal interests are, and what goals you have agreed upon together.
I myself have experienced the thrill of thinking we had found the “right” curriculum, only to be disappointed months later when everyone was struggling with attitudes and execution.
The easier way, by far, is to start out very relaxed. Let learning and education become part of your daily life, rather than something separated by time and material.
If you are starting out with young children, by the time they get to an age where they “need” to know certain information (which I argue is around age 12), you will have a pretty solid idea of what structure and resources will work well for them.
If you are starting out after your kids have been in traditional school, you will all need that time of decompression and deschooling anyway. You will need time to get accustomed to learning together as a family- and to process the difference between how learning is defined and assessed in school vs. how that happens organically.
How long should you wait before buying curriculum? Well, it depends. But I would say you should wait at least a good 6 months before jumping into any expensive purchases. By then you will have an idea of what might work for your individual children, for your family dynamic, and for your personal style and philosophy.
You don’t really need the big, pricey curriculum anyways. Many families learn through free resources, the internet, and life experience. They go on to do great colleges and careers despite never having had a rigid structure or curricula.
What should we do in the meantime? Won’t we get in trouble? I know of no law that states you must homeschool exactly on the public school schedule, or that you can’t use library books and trips to the space museum as part of your records. See? There is that school mentality rearing its head again- trying to cause you to fear what has been happening for centuries before the institution of public education was invented.
Here are a few suggestions of what to “do” when you start homeschooling:
- Go to the movies together
- Play games
- Read interesting books
- Visit cool places
- Have deep discussions
- Enjoy being with each other
- Pray, eat, and work together
- Live life!
Before you know it, you will find your groove and start to wonder why you were so stressed out about all this “schooling” stuff. And then you can introduce mathematics, phonics, or whatever as part of your already fulfilling, interesting educational journey.
Aadel Bussinger lives and learns alongside her Army husband of 12 years, their 2 girls (11 and 7), and a rambunctious toddler boy. They reside among the rolling hills of Kansas. She writes about their nomadic, Christian, unschooling adventures at These Temporary Tents. You can also connect with Aadel on Facebook, Twitter and Google+