Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lessons I've learned about Homeschooling


Yesterday, my sister-in-law and I were discussing homeschooling, choosing curriculum, other people's expectations and oppositions, and also comparisons. 

The big sister in me wanted to pass on all that I've learned on these topics in my 6+ years of homeschooling.  (I'm not her big sister, but I am a wee bit older than her, and I'm the oldest in my family, so it's a habitual feeling and action.)  

But I realized that these are lessons you can hear from others, but you can't really embrace them until you need them yourself.  Hopefully when she needs that lesson and is ready to embrace it, she'll either remember my words or someone will be there to teach it to her.  And my lessons may not be the same lessons she needs to learn.  Everyone's journey is different and while some lessons are universal, others will vary from person to person and family to family.

Lessons I've learned:

Don't push or you'll turn them off to learning.

Every child learns to read (or understand math) at their pace, kind of like potty training.

Every child is different and what works with one may not work with the next one.

Don't push or you'll turn them off to learning.

Sometimes it isn't the curriculum's fault ... it's the teacher's fault for not using it correctly, or not using it diligently, or not adapting it to fit her child.

Don't compare yourself with other homeschool Moms.

Don't compare your children with their children.

Don't compare your home or decor with others' homes.

Decide what you want to accomplish for the year for that child, and work toward it, without letting other family's goals sway you.

Your homeschool is NOT going to look like anyone else's homeschool.  It is uniquely your own, just as your family is unique.

Don't push or you'll turn them off to learning. (can you tell I had a problem with this when I began homeschooling?)

Don't let your pride and desire for your children (and you) to look successful cause you to push harder than your child is ready for.

Be humble -- otherwise you might be humbled.

Outside activities and involvements are not necessary -- and they may actually be detrimental.  Too much running around can be a strain on the family and lead to disorganization and pressure.  Choose carefully.  Which activities have the most benefit to your family?  Can these individual activities be replaced with a family activity instead?  Is there a Christian alternative to help you meet those same goals?  Is the benefit of this activity worth the time and money and stress it will cost your family?

Don't give up.  Keep looking for the right key to teach your child. (Carol Barnier)

Don't consider "sending them off to school" as an option.  Don't let yourself focus on that escape.  Be committed.

Homeschooling is your job.  Work at it as diligently and regularly as you would a job.  Give yourself "work hours". (OreoSouza)

You don't need every new curriculum or tool that is out there ... no matter how cool it looks or how much your friends rave over it. 

If your husband says no to something new, it isn't because he doesn't care.

Despite what you think, you can teach your child without all the bells and whistles, and on a budget.

Your husband, your school principal, is wiser than you think he is.  Follow his lead.

Similarly, you aren't as smart as you think you are ... and you aren't always right.

Think outside the box!!

Books and reading are the most important part of your homeschool ... nurture them!!

Learn to use the library as a resource!  Especially the inter-library loan program.  It will save money.  Not only because you can borrow books and return them, but you can also read a book before deciding if you want to buy it.  I've used this with reference books, homeschool parent resource books, and also children's books.

Stay calm ... getting emotional will only make things worse.

It's not your child's fault they aren't "getting it".  It's your responsibility to find the right key to help them "get it".  (Carol Barnier)

Yelling will not make them understand, just like yelling won't make a deaf person hear you.

Sure, you can make your child complete a whole workbook page, but if you drive them to tears in the process ... they won't learn what you wanted them to learn.

Apologize when you need to.

Sometimes a tactical retreat is the best thing.  Put that school stuff away for awhile, or put that specific subject away for awhile.

Sometimes we need a clean slate and a fresh start.

You can not make your children perfect.  Don't push your perfectionism onto them.

If your children are showing too much of an attitude, look at yourself.  Usually they're reflecting back what they've seen in you.

Don't worry about what "they" say your children should be learning or how advanced "they" say your child should be.  Just keep taking things at your child's pace.

God didn't call you to homeschool and cross this river ... just to let you drown in the middle.  If He called you to do it, He will carry you across this river safely. (Steve Lambert)

Homeschooling is a marathon ... not a sprint.  It's a long process, not a quick race.  Don't rush and push too much.  Relax.  Save your strength for the rest of the race.  (Steve Lambert)

If you push too much, *you* will burn out, too.  Not just your children.

Know when to hold them (in there seats), know when to fold them (and let them play).  When their eyes have glazed over and their minds are a million miles away, they aren't learning anyway.  So, put it away!!  As Charlotte Mason says ... if you continue to teach w/o their attention, you teach them to be inattentive.

Also, know when to continue on with a subject or curriculum that isn't clicking ... and know when to set it aside for awhile. 

Enjoy the process!!  Enjoy the journey!!

Never say never!  What isn't right for your family now, may be right for your family later.  (I'm referring to curriculum choices, activities, and teaching methods.)

Similarly, don't say always!!  What is right for your family at this stage, may not be right for your family in the future.   (still referring to curriculum, activities, and teaching methods.)

The best science lessons happen outside ... in nature!

Children have a strong need to be outside exploring their world!

Don't forget to stay in tune with your children.  Stay connected.  They are the reason you're homeschooling.  How are they doing?  Do they need a break?  Do they need a snuggle with Mom?  Do they need a field trip?

We aren't a business, we're a family!  (my husband Steve)

Be flexible!!  Life has a way of messing up the best laid plans.  Don't let the plans become a god.

It's about the relationships, not just the lessons.

Character training isn't a separate thing from homeschooling. It's part of homeschooling.

Keep homeschooling fun!!  (Diana Waring)

Children remember best the lessons they learn in a way they can relate to and in a way that interests them. 

Capitalize on your children's interests.  They want to read about horses, but you have bugs on the lesson plan ... go with the horses!

Teach your children to read, how to find information, and to love learning -- those are tools they will need for life.  With those tools they can teach themself anything they need to ... and fill in any gaps they have in their education.

We all have gaps ... no matter what type of education we have.

There are very few (if any) things that your child MUST learn at a certain age.  And many things are learned faster and more easily when the children are older. 

So the public school children learned W X Y Z this year and yours didn't?  But your children learned L M N O P and the public schools didn't.  It doesn't matter.  Yours will learn W X Y Z at some point, too.  You don't have to follow the public school's methods or their scope and sequence.

Many lessons come from life.  Life learning can't be traded for book learning at all.  Sometimes the lesson isn't even academic.  Sometimes it's learning to trust God in a tough financial time.  Sometimes it's learning to serve others outside your family.  Sometimes it's learning to serve the family in a time of illness.  Sometimes it's learning to be flexible in a time of change for the family, like moving.  Don't disregard these lessons.  They are as much a part of your homeschool as the math lessons.

Let your faith be a part of your daily life and your homeschool.  Be real with your children.  Live your faith before them openly.  You are their example.  "Don't hide your faith under a basket" in your own home.

God placed these children in your home, with you as their parents for a reason.  You are the best parents for this child.  It was not a mistake. 

God cares about their education even more than you do.  You are not alone in carrying this burden.  Trust Him.  Seek His guidance!!  Pour out your burdens on Him.  Relax!! 

Many of the things we stress over and get worked up about will seem trivial a year or two or three from now.  Relax and look at the big picture.

Relax!!  Period. 

Oh ... and most importantly ... PRAY!!

Wow!!  I've learned alot more lessons than I thought I had.  From other homeschoolers, from books, and from God speaking through my own experiences.  (Obviously proper sentence structure is one of my educational gaps.  My friends Rosanne and Dawn are probably trying very hard not to have a cow about it.)

I keep editing this to add more lessons I've learned as they come to my mind this morning.  I can see this will be an ever-growing and evolving list.  And I know that there will be many more new lessons.  I could make a new list 2-3 years from now that would look quite different, I'm sure.


  1. Wow, wow, wow! What a great summary of homeschooling! Inspiring! I'm going to print this one out and post it where I can refer to it in those "AARRGGHH!" moments!


  2. Sorry ... that was supposed to be L M N O P, as opposed to W X Y Z. I edited it to make it clearer.

  3. Great list! You should send this to Kelly at She's compiling links for new homeschoolers or those considering homeschooling.

  4. Fabulous list, thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this list for my tips and advice project!


  6. Thank you for your honesty! It is refreshing to hear the TRUTH from someone. Now I won't feel crazy when I run across these things next year.


  7. I love this list! This is really good advice! Lots of truth here!

    I'm coming over from Pass the Torch. I don't believe I've ever stopped by your blog. Glad I did.


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