What I’ve Learned About Homeschooling So Far

30 Jun

Well it’s been about seven years since we officially started homeschooling, twelve if you count the lead up years, since we made the decision to homeschool the week Ethan was born and I jumped into learning everything I could about homeschooling with two feet right then and there.  No, it’s not nearly as much experience as many homeschooling Mummas, but I have learned a few things along the way that have been invaluable to me, so I’d like to share them.

Firstly a plan of some sort is vital to success.  Without goals we’d just wander aimlessly through the year never achieving what we should.  The three most important plans I use are my yearly overview, my term plans and my detailed weekly plans.   My best days are those that start with a plan to follow, even if we deviate a little from the plan as the day progresses.  Never underestimate the value of a good plan!

A routine is probably the next most important thing.  At our house school starts after breakfast.  The boys expect school to happen on Monday through Friday after breakfast and so they wait expectantly to start…okay, yes I still have to round them up, but they don’t protest too loudly as they expected to do school.  They also know the kinds of things our school day will include as we have a routine, not a timed schedule but an expected pattern to our day.

However, a plan and a routine isn’t much use to me if I don’t make school a high priority.   School is more important than many of the things I could find myself doing in its place.  I think this is one area in which many homeschoolers sabotage their homeschooling efforts.  Housework is less important than school so I do only the housework that absolutely must be done in the morning – beds made, breakfast dishes soaking and a load of washing started.  Everything else waits until later or on the weekend.

Family and friends have been kindly asked to respect our school time.  Just because I’m home doesn’t mean I’m available to chat, visit or drive them places.  If I don’t value our school time, my family and friends won’t either and I’ll spend our school time doing others’ favours while my children are deprived of their education.

I also have to be firm with myself as well;  sometimes it’s harder than being firm with others.  My own interests have to take a back seat to school time.  I find that there’s plenty of time in the evenings for my time, or, if I prefer, which I don’t, I could get up with the sun and utilise that time.

As for formal study and work, realistically, I don’t feel that the homeschooling years are the best time for these.  It’s leaves mothers spread too thinly and everything suffers, most commonly the children and before long they end up back in school.  There’s a time and season for everything and for me, right now, it’s the time for homeschooling, as it’s my priority.

Once I had a homeschool with priority status and a plan and routine, I had to protect it from too much time out of the home.  Homeschooling really does need to be done at home.  We’ve tried co-op type classes, excursions, and even doing school at the park, and none of them were as valuable as a day at home doing our regular school work.  Sure theses outings are nice for a change but they were never meant to be more than icing on the cake. In hindsight I’ve learned to be very selective about the events we attend, preferring to take these outings during our holidays as a family rather than with a large homeschool group.

Errands and appointments are another lure that draws us away from home and school.  These, too, need to be reigned in.  The way I do it is to keep all errands and appointments scheduled for one afternoon a week, if at all possible.  All the to-ing and fro-ing from the home erode into our school hours and undermine our homeschooling efforts.

I’ve also heard homeschoolers tell me that they just need to get out of the house each day.  That’s going to be a dangerous habit to fall into and to be honest not a healthy lifestyle to encourage.  I know society encourages us to ‘go, go, go’ but I believe the slower pace of life and taking the time to enjoy each others’ company is much more valuable.  Perhaps grander outings could be replaced with a walk or bike ride each afternoon.  Homeschoolers really have to learn how to be content at home.

Another key ingredient you need for a successful homeschool day is a present, interested and informed teacher (no qualifications required).  As the teacher, I need to be there teaching my boys.  I can’t be at the computer, on the phone, engaged in a hobby or off deep cleaning the house…at least not during school time.  By being present I show my boys that I value what we are doing.  Sure they still have some independent work to do, and that increases with age, but there’s still plenty of school stuff that I can be doing at the same time.

As well as being present, I have to learn alongside my boys, modeling the curiosity I want to foster in them.  Since I started asking questions and seeking my own answers my curiosity has built.  Now I’m even starting to experience that elusive ‘love of learning’ that so many books talk of…and something I never experienced at school (I was too busy loving achievement, which I’ve learned is not the same as learning!!).

As the teacher I also need to be informed and prepared to study and research.  Homeschoolers teach; we don’t remove our children from school only to pay other teachers to teach our children.  That’s missing the whole point and value of homeschooling, but many are.  As a homeschooling mother I have had to learn all sorts of things – like how best to homeschool, how to teach a child to read and write, then Latin and soon Logic – it’s what homeschoolers sign up for, whether they realise and accept it or not.  A mother with her sleeves rolled up, a book in her hands and a pen tucked behind her ear is one ready to make this homeschooling thing work well!

No, I haven’t forgotten that much talked about socialisation.  Yes, it’s important too but not nearly as important as society will have you believe.  We don’t need nearly as many opportunities for socialising as we fear we do.  I have noticed though that the more we socialise, the more we feel we need to, which is why I think homeschoolers, straight out of school, desperately clamber for larger homeschool groups and classes to replace what was once normal to them.   Sadly, these larger numbers and children not long out of school, foster negative socialisation, and also were the only occasions of bullying in homeschooling that I have witnessed. I am also selective about the children and families that we choose to socialise with, which is another reason why we’ve found large group socialising a negative experience.

Healthier socialising and deeper relationships seem to happen in smaller selective circles.  Once I figured this out we settled into a pattern of one or two smaller social engagements a week, aside from visiting extended family on the weekends.   The only problem I have not yet solved is how to spend time with all the lovely people we would like to spend time with.  I fear it’s just not possible, so we do have to decline a lot of invitations.  Socialising is important and should happen, after school of course, but we need to be careful about the kind and amount of socialisation that our children are experiencing.

Notice that I haven’t referred to books or curriculum as vital to a successful homeschool.  It’s true.  I haven’t…which is hard for a booklover to say!  Books are obviously important and spiffy curriculum is a sweet treasure to a homeschooling mother but I don’t believe they are central to success.  You see, without a plan, a routine, priority status and an engaged teacher, who keeps her students home doing school, the most wonderful curriculum and books will just sit on the shelf gathering dust, doing nothing of value for anyone.  I also believe that with all of the critical factors taken care of, a teacher could put any book to good use and succeed.  Which is interesting in itself as the books and curriculum are usually the first things homeschoolers scramble to organise, innocently overlooking the more important things, which set you up to achieve.

So that’s what I’ve learned..aside from seven years of content, much of which I don’t remember from school.  Yes, I’m finally getting that education that my parents paid good money for me to receive but never did.  And to think that my boys are getting it for free and all within the loving environment of their own home.  What a bargain!!



Posted by on June 30, 2013 in Homeschooling Thoughts


5 responses to “What I’ve Learned About Homeschooling So Far

  1. Petra

    June 30, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Tracey, this is a great post. I like what you wrote about errands – they do need to be minimised or they take valuable time out of a “lesson”. Also, the bit about a teacher being able to put any book to good use – so true – and that’s where imagination and interest come into it. Thanks for this post.

  2. Jen in Oz

    June 30, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Thank you for these points to ponder as I decide whether returning to homeschooling all my boys is an option in the future. In an ideal world I would love to but our family income is struggling to meet our essentials, let alone extras like books and the occasional field trip. Time will tell!

    Best wishes,
    Jen in NSW

  3. Hayley

    July 1, 2013 at 12:56 am

    Thanks for your post Tracey, some interesting points. I’m one of those that has to get out of the house each day, so does my son. I think to stay home each day is actually unhealthy, especially for young children as they need outside stimulation, sunshine, fresh air and also to mix with other people, friends, family. Our co-op is also very valuable to us, because it gives my son the chance to make life long friends, children he meets up with on a regular basis. I also consider it to be enriching for him. But for external classes, I could not offer him this enrichment myself. For example, he attends with his co-op choir classes, music theory and voice training, piano, guitar, sports, drama and art lessons (sure I could do the art lessons, but it makes it all the more fun to share this with his friends). We tried doing excursions and the ‘6 week courses’, however that does not allow for deep friendships to develop. We do have to stick to a tight schedule to be able to fit all of this in, but it creates a content and fulfilling life for us. I think if I insisted that my son stay home every day Monday to Friday and school, he would begin to resent it, and probably hate schooling altogether. Balance is what it is all about. 🙂

  4. Petra

    July 2, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Me again – had to respond to Hayley’s comment! I think some h/schooling people really need to get out of the house and be quite social with their learning etc. My boy prefers to stay at home and do quiet school work. Socialising and excursions are when we get out and about (and errands of course) however if I was offered the opportunity to do co-op learning I may look at it, perhaps for one or two subjects. In summary, I think Tracey AND Hayley are right with their h/schooling styles – it’s really about what suits your own personalities and personal needs, and goals of course. There is no right or wrong as long as the “teacher” and “student” are happy.

  5. Tracey

    July 2, 2013 at 7:32 am

    I did the co-op scene in our early years thinking it was a good thing, a necessary thing. For about two years we ran ourselves ragged, doing half school days. We did all sorts of great things and surrounded ourselves with people. But it didn’t stand the test of time and hindsight taught me that we were wasting our precious time. I would do things differently if I could go back and change it. We get so much more value out of our day doing school at home. It reminded me that this is why we homeschool because I don’t believe group education works well. It’s something that many veteran homeschoolers tell us and why most of the people in co-ops and larger hs groups are younger children or new homeschoolers (or unschoolers but for different reasons)…the rest are at home. This isn’t to say others shouldn’t choose the busy out-of-home path, just sharing what I’ve learned and feel about it.


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