*** Attention Homeschoolers: Be sure to read through to the bottom of this post for the chance to win $500 in PayPal cash!***
Like most moms, I haven’t got a degree in child psychology. I can’t claim to have the answers to your problems, nor can I claim to have it “all figured out.”
Truthfully, after reading countless books and articles, spending innumerable hours collaborating with other parents, and generally studying my children everyday of their short lives, the only thing I’m an expert in is knowing my own shortcomings as a mother and a homeschooler.
Every time I’ve finally figured out what works for my children, they go and grow on me! What worked 6 months ago would never work now, and what works now will probably cease to work by this time next year. For example, when LittleMan turned 4, he desperately wanted routine and structure. Starting every morning with circle time, singing the same songs and talking about the same subjects every morning got him in the mindset to “do school.” However by the time he turned 5 he was resistant to those old routines and was very vocal about craving new experiences. He needed something he’d never seen before to pique his interest and get him excited to learn.
So my first tip is to Be Flexible. If something isn’t working anymore then don’t be afraid to try something new. Children grow. Growth is kinda the whole point of childhood. Be willing and able to grow with them.
Routine and Signals
Sometimes children need something to help signify that it is learning time or school time. Not necessarily a schedule, but anything that is the same each day. For public school children, they ride the bus, they sit in a classroom. They have the routine of traveling to school, they have environment of the desk that both signify “it is time to learn.” For homeschool children, the idea that they must “do school” at home can be confusing.
Think about your morning routine: do you always eat breakfast, do chores, and start lessons right away? Or do you sometimes run to the bank or enjoy an impromptu playdate at the park before you break out the books? Think about your homeschool environment: do you have a specific room or even a specific table that you only use for homeschooling? Or do you have your reading lessons and math work on the same couch that your children sit on to watch tv?
It doesn’t have to be some big thing. If you don’t have the space for an entire homeschool classroom, or if you don’t have the money for a desk in your living room- thats ok! Get creative. There are all sorts of little ways you can signal school time to your children. A special place-mat that you only lay out on the table during school hours. Starting every homeschool day by listening to a chapter of an audiobook. Whatever you do, make it easy on yourself. If you try to start every homeschool day by baking fresh blueberry muffins then you’re going to get burnt out really quick, no matter how much you love baking.
Spontaneous No-Body-Knows-What-Will-Happen-Next Fun
This is harder than it sounds! Before I even started homeschooling my children, I used to do something called “creative table.” Every Saturday morning I would lay out a different artistic invitation to play, my children would wake up and be surprised every week by what they found. One week it was playdough, feathers, and googly eyes. Another week I drew a circle on a piece of paper and invited them to finish the drawing. After a few months of this, I was surprised to find how difficult it was to come up with new ideas.
This sort of “always something new to discover” way of homeschooling can be both exciting and exhausting. Of course, sometimes the new thing you’re trying will be an absolute hit with your children, and other times it will be a total flop. This is due in part to luck but you can increase your chances of success if you try to gear things towards your child’s interests. This will be admittedly easier if you’re an unschooler or making your own curriculum, all you really need to do is a bit of strewing and let the child come to learning in their own way. If you are using a boxed curriculum then you’ll have to make an effort to find fun ways of supplementing the lessons. Consider hands-on activities and field trips to get your children interested in the topics before doing lessons.
Bribery and/or Consequences
I am of the personal belief that knowledge is in and of itself, its own reward. My son does not always see eye-to-eye with me on this particular topic. I would not consider outside motivation necessary for LittleMan when he is learning about dinosaurs or Australia or life cycles or Ancient Egypt because these are things that he finds fascinating and the mere act of learning about them is wildly exciting for him. That said, things like spelling and math facts he sometimes needs an outside push.
I try to keep things positive, I try focus on the good. “When you finish your lessons, we can go to the park.”
But I’ll be the first to admit that I have struggled to stay positive when life was stressful and getting LittleMan to do anything was a fight. “I swear, if you don’t do your school work I will take all of your LEGOs for a week. Just do it already!”
Learn from my mistakes. Don’t do that last bit.
Homeschooling isn’t always going to be pretty and there will be bad days, even horrible days. Sometimes when homeschooling is going great, other aspects of life stress you out and that stress will spill into your lessons. Remember to take care of yourself, step away if you feel like you’re going to snap. If you find that your bad days are outnumbering your good then it is time to re-evaluate your methods.
Things to consider:
What is your child’s learning style?
Are you sure?
What is your teaching style?
Has it changed?
Does your curriculum fit your child’s learning style as well as your teaching style?
If not, is there anything you can do to improve it or supplement it?
Is it time to just throw out the entire system and start with something fresh?
Sometimes the smallest thing can make a huge difference. A fidgety child might resist sitting still but will happily do schoolwork if given an exercise ball to bounce on at their desk. A fussy child might find renewed energy if allowed to take 15 minute breaks or if given a light snack to munch on while reading.
Not sure why your child is struggling? Ask them!
You might be surprised to find that children want to be active participants in their own education but they do. Many times the requests LittleMan makes are so ridiculously easy to implement, I often regret not asking him sooner. Things he has asked for that have made all the difference in our homeschool:
– more learning games
– more outdoor lessons
– more opportunities to express his ideas, less being lectured
Now for the fun stuff!
I have joined with some other homeschool bloggers to bring you a fantastic opportunity to win $500 to use towards whatever your homeschool might need, whether it be books or art supplies or whatever else.
You will need a PayPal account in order to receive the money if you win.
Good luck to all entries!