Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Homeschooling--and NOT loving it?

There are days when we see more chaos than order in our home; days when things just don't go according to my vision...but in spite of days like that when I wonder what I'm doing, I love homeschooling.
And yet, I know there are many mothers out there homeschooling because it's right and not because they particularly love any aspect of it.  I have two suggestions that might be worth trying.  After all, what do you have to lose?

First, study something YOU are interested in.
Second, Simplify.
 
You've probably heard of unit studies.  A unit study is when you use a certain topic--could be the American Revolutionary War, or bugs, or Jane Austen, etc, etc, and you center your other studies around this central topic.  So for literature, your books are on this subject.  For writing, you write about this subject.  You do geography that is related, history that's related.  Get the picture?  Well, my suggestion is that you think of a topic you are fascinated by.  Maybe you already know a lot about it, or it may be something you've always wanted to know more about.  Now take a break from the textbooks and schedule that you've been using--those ones you just don't love--and center everything on this subject that you are interested it.  Yes, this will require a little creativity--perfect!  Just what you need.  Get into it.  Learn with the children and learn without them.  As your enthusiasm spreads half your work is done--the children become their own motivators.
So let's say your only real interest right now is scrapbooking, for example.  Well, start school scrapbooks.  Have your own personal "school" scrapbook, and add a page for everything you learn about.  Then have the children start theirs.  Or say you've always been interested in baking.  Get creative and get the kids involved.  Study the history of common breads, write about them, start a little neighborhood business (math!).  Learn about the different breads eaten in different parts of the world.  Just a few ideas, but hopefully you gett he picture.  You can often incorporate the subjects you feel are important to cover in your studies of one central topic.

And now for the second suggestion. We are trained to think that knowledge comes out of textbooks and is evidenced by worksheets, but that's not so.  Those are only tools teacher use--and not very effective ones.  If you're getting bogged down by all those piles of textbooks and three different sets of curriculum at three different grade levels, give it a break!
What's the reason you're homeschooling?  Now how can you accomplish those goals?  Would it be possible to simplify by basing everyone's history, science, geography, etc, off of one of the children's books, and studying it all together?  Would it be possible to use the textbooks only as a guide, and let the children explore the topics on their own from more interesting, "real",  library books?  Could you do away with some subjects completely?  (No matter how much information children learn, the fact is that they will forget most of the details within a few years, if not sooner.  The real purpose of schooling is not to stuff their minds with data, but to teach the skills students will need all their lives in order to continue learning.  So if you have to give up a certain subject for a while, don't worry!  Concentrate on developing learning skills!  The basics are the basics for a reason--they are the tools we all need to learn.)
For me, taking a step back-- not trying to run our little mother-taught-homeschool like a big public school, has made life so much simpler.  School time takes us about 3-4 hours a day--and some of that is time where I am sitting reading, waiting for someone to need my help (either with their school work, or in the case of my toddler, with cleaning up his most recent mess).  And yet, we cover many subjects, the children are getting a good grasp of basics, and they are interested in most of what they study.  Simple is so much better!