The Mistakes I Made….

I think I could write a book about various mistakes I’ve made along this homeschool journey but I’ll focus on a few that I think may be fairly common and hopefully either help keep someone else from that same mistake or at least make you realize you are not alone.

My background is that of a public school student, teacher, and principal. So when I started homeschooling, I tended to fall back on what I knew. I found a curriculum that while Christian was in a very traditional style, I set up a classroom for us to work in, and I set up a daily schedule that looked much like the schedule I would have had in my classroom.

That scenario might have worked well for some other family, but it was not a good fit for our family. We still have the room (though we don’t always use it) as it did work well for us to have a place to keep all of our homeschool things and to get away from everything else when we needed to focus on school.  I learned that school could happen in that room but it could also happen in our kitchen, outside, or even in our van. We have however, greatly changed both curriculum and scheduling techniques.

We went from a traditional curriculum to using a different company for almost every subject. Some children do well with traditional curriculum but for us it was not the right solution. We used a variety of curriculum, focusing on hands on lessons and programs that worked well across multiple ages. The children started to enjoy our ‘school time’ more and it was much easier for me to teach most subjects together and only have to do things like reading with each child individually.

When we first started I blocked out my schedule to cover each subject five days a week during a certain time. For example, 9:00-9:30 reading, 9:30-9:45 spelling, etc.  I found this was very frustrating for my children, sometimes we had to stop in the middle of a lesson, and sometimes they were done ahead of time. After a few weeks, I realized that I had the freedom to simply decide what we needed to cover that day and then work through it. We could move from one subject to another in natural progression. If my son drug his feet doing his math work (I’m sure that only happens at my house), instead of not finishing that day he knew he would have less play time that afternoon.

In addition to changing our daily schedule, at the end of our first year I realized that I needed to make a change in our weekly schedule. That change made such a huge difference for my planning and implementation. That first year I had planned out five days a week but it seemed like almost every week there were great field trip opportunities that I found out about and wanted the children to participate in: a trip to the local science center, a tour of the fire department, homeschool day at the local aquarium, etc. These trips were valuable learning experiences but because of how I had planned they made me feel chronically ‘behind schedule’.  That second year I planned out our work over four days each week instead of five. This made all of the difference for us. It meant there was a day open for field trips or other appointments. If by chance we have a week where we do not have a field trip or appointment, the children have a day to enjoy playing Legos, working on projects, or other activities and I can get caught up on some household chores.

I’m so glad that I learned from those mistakes and found curricula that work well for my children and a schedule that allows us to fit in a variety of fun field trips and extra curricular activities. I hope that this helps someone not make those same mistakes. I’d love to have you share in the comments about what mistakes you made when you first started homeschooling.

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