homeschooling

Homeschooling Advice from a Noob

hannahhands

I have been homeschooling my kids for a grand total of six months. This makes me completely qualified to give advice, right? Right?

Of course not.

But, it does make me qualified to talk about what we have learned in the six months that we have been doing this. Just like with all things kid-related, each day is multiplied by 10 so it actually feels like we’ve been doing this longer.

Everybody says to think of the child’s learning style. But, what about your style?

This is a pretty big statement. In every seminar, every conference, every conversation I’ve engaged in , the first thing people say is that homeschooling should be tailor-fit to the needs of the child. Is your child a visual learner or a kinesthetic learner? What’s the typical reaction to feedback? The Montessori approach, which we use more often than not, always emphasizes to “follow the child”.

But, I find that this is only half of the formula. The more we homeschool, the more I realize that it is a collaborative activity between myself – the teacher – and my children – the students. While, I do my best to make sure that they enjoy the lessons, I can’t just ignore my needs. The reason for this is simple: I won’t be able to sustain it.

My daughter, H, loves games. She loves movement and outdoors. That’s the best environment for her to learn. On the other hand, I am the complete opposite. I would rather sit through a lecture and take down notes. Games are not fun. I think they’re a waste of time. (“You must be so much fun at parties,” you think as you roll your eyes. Well, joke’s on you. I don’t attend parties.)

H and I have to meet halfway if we’re going to make homeschooling work for us in the long-term. We play one game a day and then spend some time doing worksheets or reading together. If she gets bored, I let her have a break and play. Instead of making the first two days the best schooldays ever and then burning out the rest of the week, we’ve settled with having okay days all throughout the week.

Exercise restraint even if you don’t want to.

The sheer volume of books and materials that can be used for homeschooling is enormous. Think of all the DIY craft possibilities! If you’re like me, who gets intoxicated at the smell of stationery and newly opened books, it’s like a giant playground.

But like all playgrounds, it is still governed by the laws of physics. You can’t be at the swing and the slide at the same time. It’s the same principle when it comes to homeschooling. Do things one at a time.

Early on, I made the mistake of cramming so many crafts in a day. But eventually, H got tired of cutting and gluing things. I got tired of prepping materials. Plus, it got a bit too costly to keep up with the supplies.

I still pin a lot of projects that pique my interest on Pinterest, but we’re now better at pacing ourselves.

Get a support system.

I’m from the Philippines and there are a lot of misconceptions about homeschooling. Mostly it’s because not a lot of families choose to educate their children in this method. If homeschooling were a human, it would be in its toddler years — already walking, but not yet old enough to walk to the store alone.

For us, this translates to a lot of side-eyeing whenever we say that we teach our kids. I noticed that I have become quite defensive when I’m asked about it. Fortunately, our provider offers a great support structure. Our family is assigned an academic adviser as well as a family adviser.

There are also a lot of workshops and events we can attend. But, most of the support that I get is from the online community. I’ve joined groups for homeschooling families and it is a fantastic source of encouragement and information. Normally, the internet is a vast, terrible place full of trolls ready to pounce on you, but my homeschooling groups are the equivalent of warm hugs at the end of a long day.

On that note, check out how to transform holiday stress. It’s a link-up with other homeschooling blogs to find other friends who are on the same boat.

Don’t be afraid to make a change.

One of the best things anyone has ever told me about homeschooling came from my friend Rheea of Rainy Days and Mom Days.  She told me, “don’t be afraid to switch materials if they’re not working for you.”

At the time, my daughter was freshly enrolled with our provider and our books were newly purchased. I took her advice with a polite nod, but internally, I didn’t really let it sink in. I did browse through the books before buying them. That should be enough to make a wise purchase.

Turns out she was right. About a month in, I realized that the books weren’t working for us. Sadly, the ones published here in the Philippines were sorely lacking. For one thing, her science book dedicated a whole chapter on classifying animals as “harmful” and “harmless”. Tigers and lions are harmful, while dogs and cats are harmless. Obviously, the author has neither seen a cranky cat nor encountered the terms “untamed” and “domesticated”. Also, there’s this:

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This is going to be all innocence for a five-year old. But really, adult who wrote this? These words have such a common connotative meaning that it couldn’t have been a coincidence.

I knew I was being picky with the details and tried to make it work for a while. But, those little things bugged me so much we ended up using different books in the end.

We’re coming on the tail end of the school year and wow, it’s been quite an experience. It has been easier (knock on wood, throws salt over the shoulder!) than I expected, mainly because I was expecting asteroids to rain down while wildebeests stampeded around us.

H has learned to read full sentences and she can now add and subtract whole numbers. But, the most surprising thing about this is that it turns out, she’s not the only one learning. So am I. For the H and myself, the most important lesson is this: we both still have a lot to learn.

 

 

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