Do You Have What It Takes To Homeschool?
Anyone with the desire to homeschool can, but some moms (and dads) do it better than others. When I reflect upon my homeschooling career, there are some things I would have done differently.
I assembled a list of five qualities, based on my experience and what I witnessed in other homeschooling families that, when present, add up to make one accomplished homeschooling parent.
This list is not meant to deter anyone from homeschooling, but to give you an idea of where you are and what areas you could improve on to become the best teacher for your kids.
If you don't have all five qualities, don't panic–I didn't either. Just knowing what they are will help you correct yourself along the way. Make sure you have the #1 quality, though, as this is where the crux of the matter lies.
Love of Learning
The number one quality you will need is a passion for learning. A love of learning may not be as necessary with the unschooling model—where you're not formally teaching—but for homeschoolers who do believe children should learn particular subjects, a love of learning yourself is a prerequisite.
A great teacher loves his/her subject and transmits that love to his/her students. I can't emphasize too much the importance of this.
Maybe you do have a passion for learning, but you don't like teaching one or two subjects (this was me and math). Therefore, you can get around this by hiring a tutor or partnering up with another homeschooler.
Possibly, you don't feel qualified to teach a particular subject. Did you know you can teach yourself as you go along? You just have to know how to stay one step ahead of your kids.
My favorite days were sitting at our dining table with my two kids and stacks of books piled high while studying geography ensemble. It was years before my kids caught on that, at least part of the time, I was studying beside them.
Perhaps you had the love of learning squished out of you when you were younger? If so, don't let this deter you. You may rediscover it while homeschooling. I've had parents tell me they rediscovered the joy of learning when teaching their kids.
I've also seen moms who don't find it again, however, and if you lack this quality, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you won't be able to pass on the love of learning to your children. You can't give something you don't have. If this is you, here are three alternatives: you can barter with other homeschooling parents, enroll your kids in classes for homeschooled kids, or hire tutors.
The next quality is patience. A homeschooling mom (or dad) needs to be patient because things won't always go as planned. There will be days when the kids are tired and aren't performing well, days when they may fail to grasp a concept you've explained every which way you can. There will be days when you're tired, a child gets sick, or your car breaks down.
You will need to be able to go with the flow when you're homeschooling to accommodate the unexpected especially when it diverts you from your planned course.
You don't want to put a damper on your kid's homeschooling experience or self-confidence because you're irritated. You may not be able to hide your frustration now and then, and that's okay, you're an imperfect parent, and so am I, but if it happens more often than you'd like, you may want to seek advice about strategies to maintain your calm.
You need a plan in place. Disorganization is a handicap, and you won't accomplish as much as you'd like unless you plan well. Failing to better organize my days were my weakness (I was sometimes an unschooler by default), and I've since learned the importance of a well-thought plan.
The more organized you are the less chance you have of looking back with regret because you failed to teach something you wanted your children to know. Until you determine what subjects are at the top of your list, you'll be more likely to make this mistake. You have to understand your academic priorities for your kids.
In short, determine what these are, define your end goal, and, as much as you can, eliminate everything in your day that will take you off course.
Homeschooling is a job, and it comes with all the perks and disadvantages of working from home. You can get coffee whenever you want (I have a cup in front of me as I write, a Hemingway cup of coffee).
You can chat on the phone with a friend you haven't spoken to in a long time, you can stay in your pajamas till noon, and some days you may be tempted to do just this but DON'T.
Apart from getting less done, you're setting a bad example for your children. You're their role model—be the best you can be. Have the discipline to get up at the same time, make beds, get dressed, have breakfast; start your homeschooling day at the same time and guard it against outside interruptions.
You can't instill discipline in your children if you aren't able to control your desires. Neither you nor your children will be able to accomplish anything extraordinary without the ability to work hard or practice a skill when you don't feel like it.
Now and then, indulge yourself by taking a day off from the schedule you've set, but make sure it's the exception and not the norm.
Sense of Adventure
We don't have to be like the women in the picture to be a good homeschooler, but homeschooling doesn't mean we stay indoors and study at desks all day long. No! Homeschoolers go outdoors as often as they can where the kids learn in the real world and for parents, sometimes this means being adventurous.
You'll be obliged to study certain subjects at home like language arts and math because the kids need to be able to write out their assignments, but history and science can be taught either inside or outside the home depending on what's available in your area.
If you live in a historical area and you have museums within a reasonable distance, you can cover a lot of history on the road and leave your home for doing extra reading, writing assignments, and history projects. You can do the same with science just about anywhere because everyone has access to nature.
Homeschoolers are usually out of the classroom far more than their schooled peers, especially as they get older and become involved in volunteer or mentor programs.
Naturally, you will have to make an effort to be social when you're homeschooling because your children do not instantaneously have 400 people to choose their friends from like schooled kids. You've got to take time to meet new people, join homeschooling groups, and partake in weekly or biweekly activities.
My father, who was a great educator in his day, always advised me to make learning fun for my kids. I'll pass his advice on to you.
Let homeschooling be an adventure, let your time with your kids be enjoyable, let learning be full of wonder, and let the fun begin.
Elizabeth Y. Hanson teaches parents the secrets and skills to raising brighter children with a focus on getting the early years right. She is the founder of Smart Homeschooler™, an admirer of all things classic and has been a consultant and researcher in children's education since 2001.