We all have an idea in our head of what school is “supposed to” look like. We likely picture our own education. As children, we spent our days sitting quietly at desks, filling in blanks and reading passages out of textbooks. We didn’t have input into what we were learning and weren’t able to work at our own pace. If we’d already mastered our times tables, we sat quietly during math – bored and unchallenged – unable to move on to division. If we were struggling, we didn’t have the luxury of spending another week on the material – working through it until we understood. Our education wasn’t personal.
I spent five years as a classroom teacher. While I bucked the system a bit, refusing to send home homework in kindergarten and minimizing worksheets as much as humanly possible, I still taught within the confines of traditional school. When I made the transition to homeschooling my children this year, I went into the experience with a few mental constructs that were initially hard to break.
It can be difficult to allow ourselves to break the “rules” of traditional schooling. It may even feel wrong in the beginning. You might feel like your child can’t learn unless you do XYZ.
Your child might be very successful following the model of traditional school. Some kids love workbooks, excel at memorization, and prefer a quiet environment – and there is nothing wrong with that. However, as you work through your year, you may discover that the traditional mode of education just isn’t working – and there is nothing wrong with that either! Give yourself permission to break some of the “rules.” As homeschooling parents we get to do what works for OUR kids! We can make our own rules.
Here are a few common myths you may struggle with as you begin to homeschool, as well as the truth that can free you from the confines of things that aren’t working.
Myth: You Have to Follow the Curriculum Schedule Exactly as Directed
Truth: You Can (and SHOULD) Work At Your Child’s Pace
One of the best things about homeschooling is the freedom to work at your child’s pace and using a schedule that works for you and your family. Many textbooks provide schedules, timelines, and lesson guides. The important thing to remember is that these are just suggestions.
Our science curriculum suggests doing science 2-3 times per week. My kids happen to love science, so we tend to move at a faster pace. If you are working on patterning in math and the book says to move on before your child has mastered the concept, keep working on patterning! Meeting your child’s needs always trumps the timeline. Every. Time.
Myth: Learning Happens at a Desk
Truth: Learning Can Happen ANYWHERE
Most of us spent 99% of our time at school sitting quietly at a desk. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the freedom to learn anywhere! The first time I told my kids they could do their reading anywhere they weren’t distracted, they could hardly believe it! They love cozying up with their favorite blanket, reading under the table, or out on the porch swing. We work outside when we can and take as many field trips as possible.
While we do end up around the kitchen table quite a bit, we don’t feel tied to it. Experiment with what works for your kids. If they can concentrate on the couch or on the trampoline – let them go for it! Take your math materials to the park. Do social studies in a blanket fort. Learning is explorative, portable, and adaptable. Don’t box yourself in or lock yourself to the table.
Myth: Kids Need to Sit Still to Learn
Truth: Kids Need to MOVE
Can kids sit still for hours? Yes. Should they? Not in my opinion. I was a classroom teacher – and a fairly academically minded one at that. My students spent a lot of time at their desks. I know that kids are capable of long periods of sitting. I’m capable of eating an entire chocolate cake, but that doesn’t mean that’s what is best for me.
I just don’t believe that six year olds were designed to sit still for hours on end. Nine year olds aren’t meant to stay silent. Kids are designed to play, move, giggle, wiggle, talk, share, explore, create, and emote.
Our homeschooling days go SO much better when we take frequent breaks, have extended recess time, and allow the kids to get up and move around when they need to. My son likes to stand while we he works – something he was never allowed to do at public school. We’ve discovered that short spurts of focused schoolwork is what works best for my youngest son. When someone starts to get frustrated, we take a break. We move. We recognize that kids are easily distracted, and that no one likes sitting still and staring at something for long periods of time. (Remember how fun 3 hour college lectures were?) Enjoy the freedom of movement, breaks, playtime, and recess. Work with distractions instead of letting them work against you.
Remember that homeschooling is freedom. You have the freedom to do what works for your child when it works for your child. Set your own schedule. Work at their pace. Experiment. Explore. Keep the rules that work for you and break the ones that don’t.