I was talking to a young mother that was considering homeschooling her little family, especially her oldest, a very bright 4 1/2 year old. As I discussed her concerns and questions, her ideas sounded very familiar. I realized that I had said those same things and thought that way a long time ago! New homeschooling moms often have the same questions and some of the same ideas. I pondered our conversation for a long time afterwords—what happened to those ideas of mine? How had my homeschool evolved to where it was now, in the years that I’ve been teaching my children? There were definitely myths that had to be dispelled, as well as some good ideas that really worked.
Myth #1: Cooking for Math
I usually hear the enthusiastic comment, “We could do cooking for math!” from those new to homeschoolng. I thought that too when I began. Now that my oldest is 23 years, I want to vouch for the fact that cooking for math is a sweet idea, but it just isn’t complete enough. Yes, it is fun to cook, and you do get familiar with some fractions (1/2 cup, 1/4 tsp., etc.). You can double or triple a recipe (multiplying by 2 or 3) or even increase a recipe to fit the number of eggs you have (proportions). You can figure out how much a meal costs, or learn which can of tomato sauce at the grocery store gives you the most for your money (unit price). All this application of math to cooking takes a lot of masterminding by Mom. My kids were more interested in getting the cookies in their tummies than figuring out fractions while we cooked. Cooking is a wonderful and essential life skill. But cooking is not math, and does not prepare your child for the real world as far as math skills go. Not in the least!
Myth#2: One Room Schoolhouse
Another quaint idea is that we can run a “one room schoolhouse”. I like that idea. It sounds warm and cozy and a lot like Little House on the Prairie. In reality, you can do some fun and exciting unit studies together with children close to the same age or understanding. But little ones get very restless and older ones are bored and feel they are wasting their time if you try to teach them all the lessons. You can keep the family on the same topic. If you are studying Greece, the young ones can learn about it as well as the older ones, but each level of understanding must be enriched and challenged with age appropriate information for real learning to take place. If you don’t have textbooks doing it for you, you are asking for a lot of lesson preparation and research.
Myth #3: Older Ones Teach the Younger Ones
Wow, that always sounded like a dynamite idea to me because I have lots of children and not so much energy and time. This idea has merit in the fact that the teacher often learns the most when a lesson is presented, due to the preparation time and effort. However, teaching is a skill (as we who teach homeschool know too well—when our own teaching is less than dynamic.) It takes maturity and understanding the level the students are on to be able to teach a good lesson. When I have my older children teach my younger children, I do it for the sake of my older children. I assign it so that the older children will learn to teach children well. It takes them a long time to prepare. They do not have the experience or ability to judge well how long to make the lesson, how much material to prepare, and how to catch the interest of the younger children. Older children can also become quite frustrated (just like Moms do) if their students don’t pay attention, don’t participate, or misbehave. So, it becomes a lesson in teaching and the topic of study is not the issue. From my experience, don’t count on the idea that older children will be surrogate teachers and give you more time. It takes me more time to help prepare my older child to teach, than it does to teach it myself. But it is a very valuable way to help your older ones learn, and the little ones enjoy a change of pace too.
Areas where an older child can be very helpful are: listening to a younger child read aloud, correcting a math facts page, playing a math game or doing a puzzle with a younger child, or watching a piano piece played to make sure it is done correctly. In all of these activities, unless your older child is advanced far beyond the younger, some mistakes may be overlooked: the teaching is not very thorough.
Myth #4: Write Your Own Curriculum
I remember vividly my first visit to a Homeschool Counselor at her store. She outlined a program for my children, listed and stacked the books and added up the total. I appreciated her advice, but when I saw the total price, I flipped. I figured I could do it on my own, using library books, shopping yard sales for books, and writing my own custom-fit curriculum for my children. Looking back, I now realize I would have been far ahead had I bought those books that seemed so costly and started my children on a ready-made program. Until I had much more experience. It would have given us a wonderful jumping-off point, and as I learned what my children enjoyed, I could (and have) customized their curriculum.
You can write your own curriculum. Anybody can. It just takes years of homeschooling experience and teaching experience and knowing children—what is age appropriate, what they are interested in and enjoy at each stage, how to motivate them, and what they will need to know for life.
When I began homeschooling, I barely understood these things for my own self, let alone for my children. I spent a year or two of homeschooling trying to do it without textbooks or a program. I thought up topics and made up worksheets spending many nighttime hours. I made long library trips, trying to gather materials, gleaning a few pages from each book. It took major preparation time and it seemed the children could whip through the assignments I created in a fraction of the time it took me to pull them together. Mothers are busy! Trying to create my own curriculum was more than working a full-time job. I just couldn’t keep up with my other duties and try to create a custom-made program, inexperienced as I was.
Over the years, I have come to appreciate using textbooks for homeschooling and ready-made programs even if they aren’t perfect. Some things I have created by myself, but only if I could justify the time spent by sharing them with others who are homeschooling. It only makes good sense to use the things that other experienced educators have written that have stood the test of time.
Math-it was my first curriculum purchase. I have used it in homeschooling my 7 children and it has saved me countless hours. It would have been foolish to try to reinvent such a useful program for teaching the math facts.
Having children who have “graduated” from homeschooling has greatly altered my perspective. Now I see the short years of homeschooling as precious time that I don’t want to experiment with. I use only the best resources and budget money for the homeschooling materials just like I plan money to purchase the healthiest food. Children can only learn or eat so much during the years you are setting it before them. It should be the highest quality so they will have the best growth.
Myth #5: They Can Still Keep their School Friends
Maybe this works for some homeschoolers, but it hasn’t worked very well for us. My first 3 children were in public school when I decided to do homeschooling. I just assumed that my children would continue in their relationships with their school friends. In fact, because they could get their work done within school hours and had no homework, I thought perhaps they would have more time to play and be able to increase their friendships.
That didn’t work for us, not with one of my children. Why? Because public school is a mini-society that consumes the attention of the children who attend. Everything revolves around who said what on the playground, which teacher is hard, the fight at recess, who is having a test on Friday and the activities and sports—which pretty much leaves your homeschooling child out of the conversation. As they grow up, homeschooling children may find less and less in common with their public school friends because their values often diverge.
We are working hard to teach our homeschooling children values, virtues, manners and religion. Our values are reflected in every lesson, whether science or English. But even good Christian children get a worldly flavor in the public school system: being taught the details of AIDS and same gender attraction, copying the clothing fads, going to rock music dances, feeling pressure to wear immodest prom dresses, racing for the highest grade rather than valuing true education, and more. These experiences create a very different child, and the divergence is more apparent year by year. My 5 to 7 year olds play happily with the children who go to public school. By the time they are 8, 9 or 10, the rift is becoming too great and my children enjoy friendships with other homeschooling children the very most.
Myth #6: Community Classes Will Provide Social Life
It sounds like a good idea, but most of the children who attend community classes also attend public school, and so the same differences I just discussed will also plague your child’s involvement in community classes. Besides, kids need some relaxed and unstructured time to talk and get to know each other and most often, every minute of a class is pretty busy and occupied and talking is usually discouraged. Another drawback: many children take a class with a friend so your child may be a third wheel. Over the years, my children have been involved in many types of lessons: dance, gymnastics, choir, drama, science workshop, swimming lessons and more. They are friendly and talkative. I’ve taught them to reach out and be the first to strike up a conversation and be a friend. I’ve seen them in action. But, attendance at all these lessons never did truly foster a friendship. You need frequent hours together to create a friendship. I am not saying that a friendship couldn’t result, but if the class only meets for an hour once a week, it isn’t as likely.
Looking for what works in homeschooling? Read Homeschooling Ideas that Work!
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