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Overwhelmed Homeschool MomsLet your survival and recovery be a group victory. Be quick to give God the glory for His sustaining grace, and don't forget to give your posse their due.
Homeschooling the Difficult Child
What a gift homeschooling is. Over my years as a educational consultant, I have had the privilege of seeing many students who struggle. I have also had the privilege of seeing many homeschool parents who are grateful for the opportunity to homeschool and willing to do what it takes to help their children. Gifted children, challenged children, perfectionists, and those who are disabled—all can find success with homeschooling.
The heart of their parents has been inspirational. They will read, learn, listen, discuss, and pray for wisdom. Often the world's counsel has been discouraging, so they often come with a hope, but not much in the way of tangible encouragement. My pleasure is to help them customize their homeschooling program to meet their child's particular needs. That is one of the wonders of homeschooling. There is no limit to the innovation and adaptation that can take place, fitting curricula to needs, teachers to students, schedules to stamina, interests to motivation.
While all children need a program that fits them particularly, there are those children who desperately need this chance for success. Ruth Beechick has often reminded us not to be afraid to blaze your own trail and make the most of what works. Don't worry about what your homeschooling friends do or use. Remember, you are God's perfect provision for your child. Don't be apologetic, be proactive. Don't hold back, go forward in confidence. Your calling to homeschool your precious children will carry you.
Using Entertainment in Your Homeschool
Seen any good movies lately?
Our family enjoys movies. We chose new releases that we wanted to see together, looking forward to the experience. The exchange of opinions and understandings after the film gave everyone a chance to share and hear the reactions of others. Since my children grew up listening to a daily read-aloud, there was a natural transition to movies from the group sharing of an ongoing story. My husband's dramatic reading of The Chronicles of Narnia was always a favorite of our children, plus it built an active approach to listening. You never knew when Daddy might change the story to see who was paying attention! Watching the movie later also gave them a real appreciation for the richness of literature and the impossibility of truly conveying the depths of a great story in a couple of hours.
Not only were movies a source of enjoyment, they were also a great part of school. We read the wonderful classic Swiss Family Robinson aloud, then had Swiss Family Robinson Night where we watched the movie and ate an island dinner of finger food on the floor in the living room. Our meal was complete with candles and coconut! This experience remained a favorite of our family for many years. Connecting literature to this multi-sensory experience made it memorable—and fun!
We continued to incorporate movies into our literary instruction as our children got older. During high school there was not enough time to read all the great books so often we would watch a film to get a taste of a book we didn't have time to read. As with all tools, make movies your servant. Teach your children to select and watch with discernment, following your example. If your family chooses to watch movies, make use of this rich source of ideas for discussion and evaluation, building comprehension as you go. When you do, you may shed a tear, give a shout of victory, become inspired, or travel the world, all from the comfort of your living room. Sounds like homeschooling, doesn't it?
Homeschooling Through High School
My children's high school years of homeschooling were truly a delight. I was grateful to be such an involved part of their lives, and honored to be considered such good friend material! We charted a path, with Ruth Beechick's help, that allowed us to stay the course of using the unit study approach that had always been so successful for us. We integrated language arts into everything, decreasing the time spent working on isolated subjects, and became skilled observers and recorders of all that we did.While many around us felt they had no recourse but to use textbooks, or prepared courses, we took steps that were truly bold for us. We used the course outlines from our state's educational website, which we kept in a notebook. I would mark off objectives as they were covered, writing the date next to the goal. I kept a folder for each course we claimed credit for, which included lists of materials used, reports, projects, and perhaps photos of field trips or related activities and a summary of what was completed.
Once the course objectives were broken down like this, we were free to use the library or other resources we already had, and to deal with the topics from our family's viewpoint. People became valuable resources as we learned from those who had expertise or experience in the topic area, equipping the children with the ability to come up with a plan to learn just about anything. It also allowed us to customize to fit their particular bends.
When young people become confident learners, where they learn won't matter. They will be successful. Don't be too quick to send your children to learn from others, even in the high school years. There will be plenty of time for that. Cherish the relationships and blessings that come from your time together.
Choosing Homeschool Curriculum
Let your curriculum choices flow from your own relationship with your children and with God. There is a wealth of information on the Internet or at your local curriculum fair that helps you figure out what’s available. Here are some practical ideas that we hope will help.
Use your own sense of what is best and don’t rely too much on the advice of others. I know moms who relied on others and later regretted it. I have done this too. For guidance on general expectations, you can use information in Dr. Ruth Beechick’s books for a “spine,” as some people like to call it. But do not follow this, or any spine, slavishly. Choose what you think is best, and make changes when they seem needed. God will guide you.
Good curriculum offers flexibility, so you can use it the way that best fits your children. Keep it as your servant, not your master. If the curriculum demands total adherence for success, you can ignore that demand. Or even choose another curriculum if that seems easier.
A curriculum may come to you highly recommended¸ but you must have God’s peace in using it. If you feel stressed when you use a curriculum, it is easy to transfer the stress to your children. God has a perfect plan for your family. Seek that plan rather than just follow the path of those around you. When you strive too hard to keep up with schoolwork, or constantly pressure children to finish their work, you may want to rethink your choices.
You want both good fruit and peace when using curriculum. So begin by choosing the best you can, but remember that you can make changes at any time.
Are you organized?
This is one of those questions that can bring an otherwise confident homeschool parent to their knees. I must start this article with a confession. I have never been as organized as I wanted to be. (You can read it aloud and consider it your confession as well!) I have also never been as organized as the people who write or speak about organization. Some of their ideas have helped me, but it was difficult to put into practice those helpful nuggets if I was busy trying to revamp my life and the personality that God gave me into someone more organized! Then there was also trying to bypass the guilt that inevitably followed a conversation with an organized person...
Here's the good news. My children grew up anyway. They finished high school, received scholarships, and got jobs. My lack of organization did not permanently impair them, largely due, I believe, to the mercy of God, which I must gratefully point out is new every morning. So, from that lengthy disclaimer, let me tell you what I think is my best organizational tip—do whatever works for you!
Here's one thing that helped us. The children each had a crate where they kept all their school stuff. About once a month, or every other month if life was crazy, we would clean out the crates, putting finished papers we wanted to keep in an accordian file with a slot for each month. This helped us when we ended our school year, and provided a dandy review of learning. I knew enough about myself to know that I needed their help to do this organizing, so we included these days as part of our schoolwork, rather than it being a mom-only activity.
Find what works for you. Don't come under the idea that you have to become someone else to organize successfully. Find ways for the children to help you. Tell them what you need and then ask them how they would do it. Take school time to accomplish this task, letting your children know that everyone can help do what is needed. You may be pleasantly surprised. There just may be a budding engineer or event coordinator in the house, who can't wait to help you organize! That may just be part of His mercy to you as well.