Homeschooling is a uniquely different-looking journey for each family. Each child is diverse in strengths, weaknesses, talents, interests, aptitudes and perhaps disabilities. So even within one family, there really is no one-size-fits-all curriculum. Susie may have flourished using Sonlight curriculum while her younger brother withered on the vine with a literature-based approach. Truly, to buy one set of curriculum and expect to use it easily and seamlessly as a hand-me-down with all the siblings isn’t very realistic. It will very possibly require tweakage from child to child at the very least. Learning styles vary, and you may even find that through the years your teaching style will change also.
So, if we have this much variance between siblings in a family, it’s a given that there will be differences from family to family. Each home has its own homeschooling approach (and it may even vary from child to child what that looks like). What works wonderfully for a friend and her kids may not at all work for you. Then again, it might! How do you know?
Evaluate your style.
This is one of the blessings of experimenting with the high quality, free materials we offer at Schoolin’ Swag. You can dabble in things which are structured for a Charlotte Mason style learner (or Montessori, Classical, Eclectic, Unschooling, or School At Home…) without losing much except a bit of time and perhaps some ink and computer paper. When you find a good fit, then you can move on the invest in some books and resources. Taking a learning style evaluation can also big a big help. And you should take it along with your children, because your learning style will effect your teaching style…and it may not mesh with how your kids learn. I’ve wasted a lot of time and money this way (sort of “winging it” and finding that my student wasn’t “catching what I was throwing”).
So beware of comparison. Remember each child is unique. Celebrate it by choosing methods and materials that can encourage him or her to blossom!
In our home, I have one student who does best with an eclectic approach and lots of one on one personal interaction, while our oldest seems to thrive with a video approach with my personal input only with language-oriented classwork (mainly because of a reading disability).
Here’s the thing. I’ve had to teach myself something important before I could educate our kids well. It’s this: Do what is expedient.
What do I mean? I mean that my concept of what school should be like is not the priority. When we first started, we had a school room with desks, a board, maps, all of that. I soon learned that just because it looked like the school setting I grew up in didn’t mean education was happening. Through the years things have morphed in all directions. The kids can do their schoolwork anywhere they prefer, as long as it is clear that they are in a setting that makes it possible to concentrate. The only exception is that our youngest needs to have a flat, hard surface (read: desk or table) to do her writing assignments, to make sure she is writing well and neatly.
Educate the most effective way possible.
Now, I’m going to be honest. I “feel” like I’m teaching when I am interacting with my students. Reading together, talking about ideas, surveying the work, monitoring behavior. Our youngest is great with that. It is what she prefers. It nurtures the learning process. Not so much for our oldest, who has grown to be more independent. I plan out his schedule and put it on Homeschool Planet, and he completes things, checks off the boxes (which I can see on the parent page), and submits any work I tell him I need to see. Because I’m a teacher by nature, and did it for years on the college level, I don’t feel like I’m “teaching” our son. I need to be okay with that. Whatever is expedient for him to learn. That is what matters, especially in these upper level courses.
So, I’m choosing curriculum for next year, and struggling. I’m pretty confirmed that I’ll be using the Genesis Curriculum with our rising 5th grader. And I’m reluctantly biting the bullet and allowing our son (who will be a junior) to use an online program (state standard aligned and self grading, with quizzes and tests built into the program…it also keeps records) for his core subjects–for this coming year, that would be American Lit, Geometry, Biology, Geography, and US History 1 (pre-1850). We’ll supplement when needed, with interactive activities, worksheets and experiments. I’m reminding myself that I’m not copping out in making this choice.
These are the best, most economical choices for us for the coming year. It is also best for me personally because I’ve seen the need to streamline things for my own health and sanity. I need to be resolved in this. I’ll tell you why.
Establish your choices for your children.
At Schoolin’ Swag, we have over 4,500 homeschooling families represented. Every type of homeschooling (and combinations with charter, private and public schooling as well) exists there, every teaching style, every learning style, every preference, disability, and level of giftedness. I’ve learned through the years that homeschoolers tend to be a very opinionated, dogmatic lot, so if you are easily persuaded you’ll soon find yourself in a Slough of Despond. If I am not praying about our choices and committed to them, as Administrator of the group, I will drive myself mad being exposed to all the possibilities I see every day. This awesome unit study, that really cute lap book, the article I post on successfully unschooling, the blog posts on why Charlotte Mason is best…why your child should read McGuffy…why or why not to teach cursive…and the list goes on. My life would be one constant “Squirrel!” moment! The same thing can happen at homeschool co-ops and conventions. Here is a link to a free 40-week printable curriculum planner (it’s even pretty!) that can help keep you sane and focused!
So, in the past few years since the Facebook group has been in existence, I’ve learned to choose for my family, and then put on a pair of blinders. Instead of comparing with what everyone else is doing in their homeschools, I have been learning to watch my kids. What helps them? What has been a total trainwreck? Do we need to back up again and review instead of pressing on? Should we bypass a section because it’s too simple for them? Is the curriculum causing them to feel defeated, or is it just laziness because they don’t want to do something which may be hard an uninteresting to them? I need to have a finger on their pulses. It’s a very proactive thing, regardless of whether they are being “taught by me” or just guided while using a digital curriculum.
I’ve created a free, 4-page “Monthly Debriefing” form (it’s pretty too!) for you to use for each child. There is a place to enter (edit in Word, or print out and write in by hand) your child’s name, the curricula you are using for each subject, what strengths and weaknesses you are observing that month, progress you’ve seen (boy HOWDY it helps to see THAT in print!), and goals for the coming month.
Pay attention. Don’t compare. Do what’s best for your kids right now. It might change next semester. You may take a completely different direction next year, as a child matures and grows intellectually. Totally okay. You only need to “measure up” to your state standards and then whatever helps your child succeed. That’s no cop-out.