By Cindy Koch –
One of the first reactions I hear from others when they discover that we homeschool our 5 kids is, “Oh, I could never do that.” Now about half of the people who ask about our life at home are just being friendly- and they think we are crazy for opting to keep our children at home during their formative years. Although much can be argued about the benefits for children with their involved parents or the myth of socialization, we will not dwell here today.
The other half of the inquiries are serious reflections on the day to day trials and failures of a parent who undertakes the education of their own child. The dirty little secret is – it is much easier than you may think. The reality is you can do it. You taught your child to eat solids, potty train, and dress themselves; you are fully capable of homeschooling your child.
- Identify educational goals for your child. Do you want them to be able to get a job? Go to college? Participate is the arts? Receive a religious emphasis? Adapt for special needs? Prepare for anything they set their mind to do? When your end goal is established, then the educational path is easier to see. You are the parent. You have a responsibility to think through these complex questions for the good of your children.
My husband and I identified early that we wanted our kids to be able to converse with the great thinkers of Western Civilization. We began to research the best way to prepare young minds for these great books and found a lovely article about the Trivium. When considering the bits and pieces, classes and curriculum, we often ask the question, does this support our goal?
- Find supporters for your goal. Make sure your spouse is on board. When you break down in tears because you think you are ruining your child’s life, he/she will remind you of the original educational goal. You may even be fortunate enough to find a group of homeschoolers who share your philosophy. Here you can exchange ideas and frustrations, and learn from others who strive towards the same objective.
I count on my husband to remind me why our homeschool task is a good thing. When I am an emotional wreck and ready to call it quits, he calmly reminds me why we have chosen this road in the first place.
- Make a plan. If your goal is set, just map out how you will get there. It could be as simple as a list of general subjects that completes your child’s education, or it could be as detailed as a year by year progression to the goal. Do whatever is helpful to keep you on track. But, A WORD OF CAUTION; plans can change. That is one of the beauties of homeschool. If another track begins to work better for achieving those original educational goals, go for it! You are in charge of the plan.
Our plan has been very simple and general. We found an online “school” (The Great Books Academy) that provides the type of education we want for our children. They have laid out the plan for us, year by year. Simply enough, we follow the academy’s recommendations for curriculum and look forward to the great conversation beginning in their high school years.
- KISS (Keep It Super Simple) Use the full extent of the abundant resources available to us today. Teacher’s manuals come with every textbook; get them & you will know as much as any elementary school facilitator. There are online classes for everything from math to discussion groups to health class. (Check out my new favorite Kahn Academy; it’s free!) These classes often provide instant feedback and individualized attention, even if you don’t know the first thing about the subject. Books, CD’s and DVD’s are available at your local library also for free. There are classes in your community that may support your goal; explore these options to provide an outside voice that will inspire your child, and give you a few hours off!
I’ve had to learn to not do everything from scratch. I was stressing myself out with field trips and complicated projects, when they really just need to have consistent and reliable material that was already prepared. There is so much available.
- It’s still school, and the kids will have days that they hate it. Get over the romantic ideal that they will rejoice in every paper that is passed to them over the kitchen table. There will be subjects they like, and things they hate. Welcome to life, kiddo. At least you get to be the parent figure that teaches them to deal honorably with these hard situations.
I have learned more from my children than they have learned from me. Patience, kindness, persistence, grace and forgiveness are in constant practice. I am still observing the personalities of my children, their strengths and weaknesses, and their God given gifts. It has been an amazing journey seeing my kids persevere through their hard tasks.
- Go out. You will go nuts. Sadly, I know more than a few mamas that have crossed that line. Just because you have chosen to take on the sole responsibility of education for your children does not mean your whole world should revolve around them. Leave the house and get coffee – alone. Schedule a babysitter and take your man out on the town – often. Reserve time that they cannot be your focus; it is good for everyone that they remain your children, and not let them become your god.
It might seem like there is no time to get away. When they are young (and babysitters are expensive) it is even more of a burden to get out of the house. My amazing husband recognized this early in our childrearing adventure and made sure that I had regular time away. He would watch the kiddos while I had an hour at the gym, or he would encourage me to meet up with the girls for a glass of wine every once in a while. Regularly we go out together and make a point to splurge on the babysitter. I owe every bit of my sanity to these tiny moments throughout the years of schooling at home.
It is encouraging that we are concerned for our children whether they are at home, in the Christian private school, or the local public school. Homeschooling is just another venue to obtain that desired education for your child. And you can do it. It is a beautiful thing that we have the freedom to choose the path of knowledge for our children, and that we can shape their young life as a parent sees fit.