Monday

The Hidden Gems Found in Homeschoolers’ Mistakes

I’ve always been the type of person who learns best from the bad examples of others. I don’t need to hear about the person who got it right; I want to read about the person who got it wrong. I remember and apply those lessons much better. I’m assuming some of you might be the same way as well, so I asked homeschoolers from all different stages of the homeschool journey, from beginners to those who have homeschool graduates, one question: what are your top three homeschooling mistakes? The answers were uncannily similar, insightful, and absolutely convicting. 

The Hidden Gems Found in Homeschoolers' Mistakes

I found myself nodding my head so many times as I read their replies, so the first thing I want all of us to learn is that homeschooling mistakes are normal, and they are usually the same mistakes that homeschoolers before you have made as well. Hopefully this post will help us learn the right mindset and attitude to have as we homeschool so we can minimize the mistakes we make. In no particular order here are the compiled results of the homeschooling mistakes made by the experts.

Mistakes in Expectations

It’s so difficult when you are the person solely responsible for your child’s education not to feel the weight of that tremendous burden. Usually this manifests itself in having unrealistic expectations. One of the most common answers I received had to do with expectations: expecting all of their children to learn the same way, expecting too much academically of their children too soon, expecting independent learners before they were ready, expecting them to love the subjects you love and learn the way you learn. Expectations inevitably set us up for failure because life rarely fulfills our expectations. Adjust your expectations to reality, not your wish list.

Lesson to Be Learned: Fluid, individualized, expectations that are reassessed on a regular basis are much more realistic.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {One of my biggest mistakes is} letting my ego get wrapped up in the academic success of my kids. It's tempting and oh so easy when your life is homeschooling, but it also means that failure becomes personal blows, struggles are frustrating, and the successes are not given their proper context.

Mistakes in Curriculum/Methodology

As a curriculum addict I found this response to be the most common and the most convicting. The homeschool experts had quite a bit to say about curriculum and none of them said they wished they had more! They all said that they had too much, but the reasons for that varied. Some were trying to buy ahead so they bought every level only to regret that decision when the curriculum stopped being a good fit. Some tried to “do it all” and bought enough curriculum to accomplish that task only to find it sitting on the shelf. Misconceptions about using curriculum were regretted as well, such as curriculum hopping from one thing to another instead of sticking it out. Also being a slave to the curriculum or methodology instead of adapting it to your child and following their interests.

Lesson to Be Learned: Curriculum is a tool, use it as such. Don’t let it tie you or your child down.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My number one mistake was} desperately trying to fit ourselves to a method instead of making the method fit us.

Mistakes in the Research Phase

I fell into this trap for many, many years. I call it chasing the perfect. If I find the perfect curriculum, if I have the perfect schedule, if I have the perfect school room, etc., then I can guarantee success. Reading the answers to my question, I discovered I’m not the only one who fell into this trap. Everyone agreed that the fear of messing up led to a lot of problems during the research phase of homeschooling. One homeschool mom even called it “analysis paralysis”, which I thought was perfect. Analyzing everything about homeschooling to the nth degree instead of actually doing something for fear that you will make the wrong choice. All the moms who’d made this mistake talked about the anxiety that comes along with it.

Lesson to Be Learned: You should research before you begin homeschooling or before you start a new school year. It’s always wise to know what you are getting into, but limit the time you spend in this phase. There are no guarantees in homeschooling and perfection does not exist.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My mistake was} overcomplicating things - looking at every possible curriculum in an attempt to find what is THE best, and then stewing over decisions, and second guessing myself, and then going back and spending hours researching other curriculum, and spending oodles of time weighing the pros and cons of everything, to the point that I don't have the energy I need to get down to business.  {I should have} just started DOING and spent less time 'researching and reading'.  I made my best discoveries by digging in and testing and experimenting with my kids.  I should have been more hands-on. 

Mistakes in Personal Care

This one has been on my radar recently and I have been working toward implementing some changes in my life. When I saw how often this popped up as one of the biggest mistakes homeschool parents had made, I knew I needed to be even more diligent. Just like with an airplane oxygen mask, if we don’t take care of ourselves first, it is difficult to impossible to take care of our family and teach our children. One day this homeschool job will be over and we need to make sure that we have not let ourselves get lost in the process.

Lesson to Be Learned: Take time to do things for yourself that you enjoy and that will keep you physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My homeschool mistake was} not scheduling time for me to regenerate and refresh ("me time") rather than being haphazard about it.  It would have headed off burnout. On a related note, not asking for help/accountability for taking better care of myself.  If I had an accountability buddy to make sure I did the self-care before I needed it, I would not have had such a difficult time.

Mistakes in Scheduling

The responses in this area were a little mixed, but the overwhelming majority seemed to fall on the side of wishing they had been more scheduled because they saw the correlation to more productivity. Homeschool parents that were farther down the road repeatedly said that they wished they had been more strict and consistent with school times. They felt that they had been too soft and gave in too much when the kids wanted time off. It had bred laziness and a lack of progress. They wished they had helped their children realize that not everything is fun, and even when you don’t want to do things many times, you still have to do them.  One mom even said that being too flexible with their homeschool time had done nothing but tie them into knots!

Lesson to Be Learned: At some point your child will have to begin a consistent school routine, better to train them to do that now than later.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: I started off thinking not creating a strict school calendar meant we would have more freedom and be more efficient. The opposite was actually true. Creating a calendar had all of us working harder and more efficiently and our vacations were well-earned. We ended up being far more productive long term.

Mistakes in the Home

I don’t know of any homeschooler who hasn’t asked at some point, “How do I take care of my home?!?” Many answers to my question dealt with some aspect of the home life. The physical home was cited as an area when it came to wishing they had decluttered more and been more consistent with chores. Others talked about taking time to nurture relationships in the home, especially with their children, relating to their children as a parent and not as a teacher all the time. One mom talked about taking off her teacher hat, while other moms said that they shouldn’t have made everything be school or educational.

Lessons to Be Learned: Take time every day to focus on the “home” in your homeschool.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My biggest mistake is} forgetting to enjoy my kids.  That's mistake one, two, and three. Academics are important but my first job as a mother is to love my kids and that requires a good relationship.  Sometimes that got sacrificed in the name of "education". 

Mistakes with Children

I read a quote on a blog a while back {I wish I could remember which one!} that basically said, “How you respond to your child when they struggle with a math problem for the 10th time is what you will teach them about how God responds to them when they continually make mistakes as well.” It was unbelievably humbling to say the least. Quite a few homeschool moms cited their reaction to their children’s struggles as one of their biggest homeschooling mistakes. Some felt it was so severe that it actually damaged relationships. Some moms said they should have worked more on character training and obedience during the early years.

Lessons to Be Learned: Frustration and angry words can damage a child. Take a break, count to 100, or read a book, but don’t wound them with your reaction.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My mistake was} working for perfection - anything that was wrong we corrected. My kids translated that into a belief that they can only win my approval by being perfect - not even close to true. {I did} not emphasize how hard work counts as much or more than talent.  I think this would have helped my kid to not feel so inferior as well as encourage my more academically talented kids to have higher goals and be more proactive for their futures.

Mistakes in Self-Confidence

When you go against the grain, it’s easy to let negative voices into your head, to start doubting your path and your decision to home educate. Even the experts aren’t immune from these feelings, but none of them said that these voices were correct. In fact all of them said that one of their mistakes was listening to the voice of doubt. This can manifest itself in comparing your children and your homeschool to the public school or to other homeschoolers. A few even said that there biggest mistake was letting their kids go back to public school or waiting too long to pull them out. A couple of homeschoolers talked about caring too much what others thought of their child’s progress and second guessing their ability to teach their child.

Lessons to Be Learned: Your decision to homeschool is YOUR family’s decision. Stop listening to any other voice. Trust your instincts.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My biggest mistake is} comparing! To public schoolers, to other homeschoolers, to the other sibling... It's never good.

In a nutshell, here is my big takeaway from the homeschool experts: 1) it’s all about balance and 2) we get in the most trouble when we forget that our homeschool should reflect our individual children and our family. Almost all of these mistakes can be avoided if we balance between the extremes of scheduling, curriculum, and self care while letting the uniqueness of our children and family guide our expectations and homemaking while being confident in our choice to homeschool. No problem, right? I wish. It’s a daily struggle, but you are in good company. We’ve all been there.

What’s your biggest homeschool mistake?

Let me know in the comments.

Check out what other expert homeschool advice my fellow iHomeschool Network bloggers have found for you. Just click on the picture below:

experts

Learning from those who’ve gone before me is my favorite way to learn in the tree house,

Signature

Friday

Anchoring Your Daily Homeschool Schedule

“Aweigh” to Plan Your Day Without Running Aground in the Details

I swear I’ve tried every daily planning method out there. I attempted full on scheduling with specific times for specific subjects and activities. I’ve tried following a routine for our day where there aren’t set times, but more of a general flow. Anchoring your day is a hybrid of both approaches: scheduling and routine. Instead of scheduling every subject or activity, you only schedule certain items in your day or homeschool. Anchoring also is similar to a routine because your anchors keep your day flowing so you don’t get bogged down or off track.

Daily Anchors to Schedule Your HomeschoolI started anchoring our homeschool because scheduling felt too stifling and stressful while routine was too loose and resulted in inefficiency on my part. To determine my anchors I asked myself some questions:

What time did I want our school day to end? We are not morning people so when the day ends is more realistic for us than when it starts. If you are a family of morning people, you would want to ask yourself when do we want it to begin. My answer was 4:00 PM. I don’t want our school day to take longer than that because most of the kids’ outside commitments start right around there and because I want to be done before dinner time rolls around. This doesn’t mean our day could be shorter than that, but I definitely do not want it to be longer.

How long is our school day on paper? If I write out the amount of time I think it should take to complete each subject or activity how long would our school day be. Now add an hour. That’s actually how long your day will probably run when dealing with transitions, personalities, bathroom breaks, pencil sharpening, etc. My answer to the second question was 6 1/2 hours once I add in my extra hour of swing time. Knowing how long our day takes on paper along with that extra hour helps me determine my first anchor of the day.

What are natural transition times in our homeschool and home? This one was pretty easy for me since I already had our day divided into four major categories any way: Morning Meeting, The 4 R’s (religion, reading, writing, and arithmetic), Lunch, and Table Time. All of these require moving to different areas of the house and preparation on my part to get ready for those learning times so there are natural breaks there anyway. Some other natural breaks could be breakfast, chores, quiet time, devotions, etc.

Now I take this information to determine what anchors I want and what time I want that anchor to be placed in our day. The anchor is my “buck stops here” point in the flow of our day. In other words, when the time for that anchor arrives, everything else stops and we begin that activity or subject. This allows me the control of a schedule, but the freedom of a routine

For example here is our Normal Anchor Plan:

9:00 AM = Kids up and breakfast

9:30 AM = Morning Meeting

11:00 AM = The 4 R’s

1:00 PM = Lunch

2:00 PM = Table Time

4:00 PM = End of school day

When these times roll around those anchors MUST happen. Planning our day this way helps me stay on track, but it’s also really flexible. If something happens that we can’t hit one of those times, we just begin our anchors when the next one rolls around.

Now I will admit that some days we sleep late, some days we’re all moving slowly, some days someone is ill,  and some days we are just in a funk. Because of these real life scenarios I came up with my bare bones anchor schedule as well. I pull this one out on those days where we can’t fit in a full school day for whatever reason. It is also anchored, but it is more fluid. You can start the first anchor whenever you need to and just adjust the following anchors to fit your start time.

Bare Bones Anchor Plan:

10:30 AM = Shortened Morning Meeting

11:00 AM = Shortened 4 R’s (Bible, math, and phonics (for Sophia) or literature (for Grace))

12:00 PM = Shortened Table Time (reading only, no activities or notebooking)

1:00 PM = Lunch and end of day

I’ve found it super helpful to have a fall back plan when the full plan is not possible. We probably use our Bare Bones plan at least once a week, and it helps me know that we are still moving forward even if it’s not a full day of learning.

What’s your preferred method to plan the flow of your homeschool day?

Let me know in the comments.
 
Going overboard (I did it again!) with the nautical theme in this post in the tree house,
Signature

Wednesday

Please Don’t Take My Scholé Away!

How to Keep Restful Teaching in Your Homeschool

One of the most misunderstood ideas when people talk about scholé or teaching from rest is that your homeschool is an island of peaceful tranquility. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Teaching from rest has more to do with the teacher’s state of mind than any external circumstances.

One of my favorite Bible passages illustrates what teaching from rest looks like in reality. In Matthew 14:22-33, the story is told of a storm during which Jesus comes to the disciples by walking across the water to their boat. They are initially frightened, but once Peter realizes it’s Jesus, he asks if he can walk on the water as well. Jesus tells him to get out of the boat, and Peter begins to walk on water just like Jesus is, but then he notices the wind, becomes afraid, and starts to sink.

Teaching from rest and scholé work exactly the same way. Our daily lives may look like a storm of toddlers and babies, tweens and teens, cooking and cleaning, math and handwriting, but our hearts and minds are at rest and peaceful, walking on the water. If we begin to focus on the storm, though, we quickly begin to sink and scholé goes right out the window.

Please Don't Take My Schole Away

I know that I find our homeschool flowing well and, before I know it, stress and anxiety begin to creep back into our day. Incorporating scholé into your homeschool is not a one and done proposition, but a constant striving. Thankfully I’ve been through this cycle enough that I know to expect it. Here are the four key areas I look at to make sure that I’m being proactive with scholé maintenance to stay in that sweet ‘walking on water’ spot of teaching from rest. If you are feeling a little like Peter sinking into the ocean, you might see how you’re doing in these four areas as well.

Personal Spiritual Health

I’m sure we’ve all heard it mentioned when talking about the story of Peter walking on the water that when he takes his eyes off of Jesus to focus on the storm around him, that is when he begins to sink. Restful teaching has the exact same correlation. When I begin to skip my morning devotionals or procrastinate spending time with the Lord in Bible study and prayer, my focus quickly turns to the storm. Once I focus on the storm, rest and scholé make a quick exit. The first area that I give attention to if I feel I’m losing that restful feeling is my personal spiritual health. Am I spending quality time and quantity time with Jesus? Am I studying my Bible? Am I praying? Am I praising and giving thanks to Him? How I answer these questions can be a HUGE help in determining why I feel exhausted and stressed about our homeschool.

Perceived Milestones

I haven’t met a homeschooler yet who hasn’t fallen into this trap: comparing your child’s education to another’s. We compare our child to other homechoolers. We compare our child to public and private school students. And inevitably there is some category, some perceived milestone, that our child is not reaching as quickly or as advanced as another child. These milestones are not real. They are not based on YOUR child. They are contrived in our minds to feed that voice that whispers our greatest fear: you are failing your child.  If I begin to listen to that voice, this restful homeschool mom turns into the crazy, slave driver mom who feels an all encompassing desire to keep up with the educational Joneses. Sometimes I need to repeat to myself daily, “My children are going to be fine. I am educating them to the best of my ability.” Find your own mantra and keep that voice at bay!

Packed Schedule

Nothing can sink a homeschool mom quicker than a packed schedule. Shuffling children here and there multiple times and places a week is stressful for any parent, but for a mom who is trying to teach from rest, it can be kryptonite! How much is too much will depend upon your personality and comfort level, not to mention how many fast food dinners you can stand each week! I’m not going to tell you how many nights a week to have an activity is too many. That is totally a personal family choice. I will say, however, that sometimes in an effort to make sure our children participate in as much as possible, we forget that everyone in the family needs space and time for rest and leisure. Masterful inactivity as Charlotte Mason called it. I always make it a point to visibly write down how many days and nights we are on the go participating in extra-curriculars. If our week has four nights or more where we are committed to be out of the house, I start to scale back. Too much of a good thing is still too much.

Prerequisite Fail

Another Charlotte Mason gem that I ignored for too long is habit training. When you are in your house schooling and living, things can get messy and cluttered {that’s putting it mildly!} Nothing can throw off my teaching from rest mindset more than having to deal with house issues before we can even think about focusing on truth, beauty, and goodness. At times like these I know that I need to do a quick reminder lesson on my number one homeschool prerequisite: habit training. Not just for the kids, but for myself as well. Peace and rest for me have a lot to do with the state of our home as well. I don’t need perfection. I don’t need floors you can eat off of, but I do need relatively clutter free and walking space. All of us can slack off. All of us can skip some of our chores and habits here and there, but if it gets to be consistent and multiplied by more than one person, it becomes a problem that needs to be remedied for me to function from rest and for leisurely learning and contemplation to be present in our homeschool.

So far whenever I’ve found myself becoming more and more stressed and anxious, one or more of these key areas has been neglected for too long. It’s amazing the impact that these four things have on my peace of mind and, thus, our homeschool. If you find yourself seeking scholé, but finding it difficult to hold onto, you might take a look at these four areas as well.

Everyday Schole Final Image

Curious how my other Everyday Scholé blog buddies deal with keeping scholé and rest in their homeschools? Click below to read some great blog posts about it!

restful learning when life is busy sunny patch      keeping scholé classically homeschooling

What areas keep you from teaching from rest in your homeschool?

Let me know in the comments.

Maintaining a restful mind and homeschool is a fulltime job in the tree house,

Signature