We recently transitioned from a homeschooling family to putting our kids in school this year. (You can read more about it here).
It was a difficult transition for me, there was so much about homeschooling that I loved and I was sad to give it up. However, I was shocked to find that MANY of the concepts and principals and ideas at the HEART of homeschooling could still find expression even with the kids in school.
I would love to introduce and explore these concepts with you, I feel like they set the tone for any other resources, guides, etc that I may create in the future. My vision is to create seasonal guides, discussion prompts, activity packets and more for homeschoolers AND parents with kids in school to help parents connect with and take full advantage of these young years. Because, lets face it, sometimes it’s a struggle to connect with our kids in a meaningful way and it can be intimidating, but here is my encouragement to you: THESE ARE YOUR KIDS – you are the perfect parent FOR THEM. Most of the time, simply showing up and being present with them (not just physically but mentally and emotionally) is all they want.
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen and heard my kids being CRAZY and all I have wanted to do was run away and hide, but when I realized that they were acting out because they NEEDED some direction and attention, I decided to PRESS IN and in those moments I found the most profound connection and amazing memories that I never would have built without the courage to be present, even through the hard. It feels so counterintuitive but the more I do it, the more natural it becomes and I have been able to transform difficult situations into an opportunity for me and my child to grow together.
So, yes, I am excited to, in the near future, bring you some great resources that will hopefully serve you, especially if you have never homeschooled or thought you could or even wanted to, but I really feel like these principals are super important to lay down as a base before we get into all of that.
The first concept I am bringing over from my homeschooling days is the belief that I am the primary educator of my children and I am capable of teaching them.
This is a concept that every homeschooling parent has to believe and understand. They are personally taking the full weight of educating their child so they must believe they are capable of doing it. However, even if your children are in school and a teacher or administration is handling the curriculum and the implementation of it, doesn’t mean YOU aren’t also capable of educating your children. Don’t let ANYONE tell you that you can’t because you aren’t a “professional”. Don’t ever believe the lie that you are not able to teach your kids – you were their first teacher and will be a teacher for them for the rest of their life, not only with your words, but with your life.
Plus, YOU are the expert on your child AND education is something that is NATURAL to children and not something that HAS to be structured.
Believing that you CAN teach your children (even if you choose to outsource it) and that you are the primary educator of your child is something that ALL parents, homeschooling or not, should believe. It’s SO empowering and having that mindset will allow you to see and seize teaching moments wherever and whenever they present themselves.
Speaking of teaching moments, that brings me to my second principal: Children are ALWAYS learning, structured or unstructured.
Homeschoolers don’t think of education as ONLY happening during a certain set of hours or in a certain atmosphere. In school, for sheer necessity, learning must be structured and measured and planned ahead, but one of my FAVORITE things about homeschooling was how much learning took place organically. If you have the eyes and ears to see and hear it, you will be amazed at how often children are learning and how hungry they are for information.
As parents, it is our job to notice when our children are hungry for information and provide as much of it for them as we can. As soon as you realize the WORLD is the classroom, the more enriched your moments with your kids can be (and not JUST for them, the world is a classroom for us as well!)
The third principal is that education is more fun and effective when done together.
There are many types of homeschooling, so this may not be true of all, but the method of homeschooling that I employed was not to replicate a classroom in my home (at desks, with a strict time table, very structured), instead, I chose to weave schooling in and out of “living”. Yes, we had time for memory work and that was structured, we did follow a curriculum, and had time for reading and doing math, but it wasn’t always the same time every day, and sometimes memory work was done at a park or in the car.
Sometimes, we’d take a full day to explore a natural wild reserve because the weather was beautiful. Because of that flexibility in education, and the way that we would weave education in and and out of our lives, I realized that teaching my kids is most fun when we are learning things and doing things that I’m interested in and curious about. This has to be the starting point for those of us wanting to engage with our children and teach them.
Instead of starting with what you think you SHOULD be teaching your kids, or what other people are teaching THEIR kids – start with what YOU love and bring your kids along.
One of my favorite concepts when I was homeschooling, was to remember that I am the lead learner, not the expert. I don’t have to know it all, but if I am willing to learn and lead the way and expose my kids to the world, it will spark their curiosity and mine as well.
This is actually a MUCH easier concept to employ with my children in school because I know the basics like reading, written and arithmetic are already being taken care of. I can simply take the time we are together and be learners together. If I am curious about gardening – we can go learn together about soil ph and pollination. If I want to learn an instrument, we can take lessons together.
If I want my kids to think learning is fun – I have to SHOW them that learning is fun. If I want to connect with my kid, I need to be INTERESTED in the activity we are doing and invite them to join me.
The last concept to consider is that children are people too.
This might seem basic, but the implications are profound. What this concept means to me is to treat my children the way I would want to be treated. Yes, I am the parent and I need to set structures and guidelines for my children, but I don’t need to DOMINATE or control them. I don’t need to underestimate them or dumb things down for them.
I respect that they are a person with preferences and I can challenge them to try new things, but I don’t need to force it. If I am modeling the behavior I want to see in them and I am explaining to them WHY this is a good thing, I can trust that over time they will be open to it. I always want to treat them as I would want to be treated. I wouldn’t want someone to force me to do something I am not comfortable with. I would want someone to be patient with me to warm up to something new over time. So this is the attitude I adopt with my children.
Some of the activities that I have included in my guides will be new for you and your child. They might whine or say they don’t want to do it. They might complain and you might feel frustrated to even TRY these activities if all they are going to do is moan and cry. I have BEEN THERE and it can make you want to shut it down and go back to the comfort zone. BUT, as I said at the beginning, sometimes all we need to do in those moments is slow down, PRESS IN, ask questions, listen to our children. I love knowing WHY they don’t want to do something. Maybe their fears are unfounded and I can talk them through what the activity will involve. Maybe they are just tired or hungry and we can grab a snack before heading out to our activity. I also explain to them WHY we are going on a nature walk, or filling out a gratitude journal each night, I try to give them a vision for the purpose behind this activity. I treat them as a person. I respect their individuality. I speak to them as intelligent beings capable of understanding and reasoning with me.
Parenting does not always come naturally. Parenting is one of the hardest (if not THE hardest) thing I have ever done. It takes a lot of dealing with MY insecurities, my weaknesses and my own shortcomings. To connect with my child requires humility and a willingness to sacrifice. I do think that these basic concepts will serve you as you move into some of the other guides and resources that I am planning to create.
You CAN teach and connect with your child.
Teaching moments are EVERYWHERE.
Learn together and start with what sparks YOUR creativity.
Children are people and the more we respect them the deeper our relationship will go.
To me…this is the heart of a homeschooler.