Thinking about homeschooling? Want to avoid the homeschooling mistakes most people make? Below you’ll find what we’ve discovered from homeschooling our 5 children from birth to college.
In 1987 homeschooling was just as newborn as our first child. We looked at homeschooling for a number of reasons which were mostly related to our academic goals. And yet, our first child’s Cerebral Palsy tipped the scales. The simple nature of having a young and impressionable soul around active and undiscerning ‘friends’ made it clear that we should homeschool.. We really didn’t want our son settling into confusion about what he was capable of doing. So, we decided to give it a try until he was old enough to physically function well around others who were his age, but weren’t his friends. We thought it would be through third grade—it lasted until he went to the University of Texas in Austin.
Now, these 23 plus years later, we know seven things that we make sure all of our homeschool coaching students start to understand–inside and out. If you want a successful homeschool embrace these seven (or violate any of these at your own risk)!
- Define Homeschool Success for Yourself
- Use a Curriculum that Matches Your Definition
- Don’t Compete with Public or Private Schools
- Find a Support Group(s) or Network
- Learn to Use Systems for Success
- Make Discipline a Nice Word
- Find a Coach
Here’s a quick summary to get you started:
Define Homeschool Success for Yourself
Definitions determine everything. If your definition of “learning math” is to ‘get through the book’—then things will turn out very different from the family whose definition is to “learn how to do math.” The definition for homeschooling success that we use is our basic understanding of education. Education is learning how to learn. We want our students to develop skills for learning so they are prepared for anything. How sad when people think knowing information means education…especially when information changes and your are obsolete because you didn’t keep learning.
Use a Curriculum that Matches Your Definition
There are as many curricula as there are people (so it seems). Every curriculum is build on some set of assumptions or educational philosophy. Some writing curricula believe (falsely) that we learn to write by studying grammar, while others show the students the power of learning to write by actively writing (for example see http://www.advanced-writing-resources.com). Whatever the curriculum for whatever subject-make sure it matches your own definition so you aren’t caught wanting one result while using a process that takes you in the opposite direction.
Don’t Compete with Public or Private Schools
One of the great mistakes is to compete with schools. A homeschool does not have large buildings, massive funding, and a variety of specialized teachers. So, trying to produce the results they aim for will simply exhaust you. Homeschool can actually produce greater skill and knowledge, but trying to match all the subjects a school offers is chasing the wind. By the way, the students aren’t always leaving a school system as educated as you think!
Find a Support Group(s) or Network
It is the height of arrogance and the height of inefficiency to go it alone. Why not benefit from the wisdom and knowledge of others? Why not let others benefit from the insights you’ve gained along the way? There are groups online, groups in your part of the world, or groups just waiting to be started by you and a few like-minded families. You’ll never be like the people you don’t hang around…so get busy and connect for your own good.
Learn to Use Systems for Success
One of the great insights in life is how things operate by cause-and-effect. Good cooks can reproduce the same quality meal over-and-over because they follow some type of system (recipe). The practical results you see in life are largely the result of the systems we use. Homeschooling itself is a ‘different system’ of education which is aimed at a bit different result (included the character, sense of family, etc., it often affords). If you don’t have an overall sequence of steps you are moving toward following, then you can rest assured your results will be as shoddy as your system.
Make Discipline a Nice Word
One of my favorite mentors, Robert Fritz, offers a helpful definition of discipline: “Discipline is when you itch, but don’t scratch.” The truth is that some amount of discipline is necessary for learning. Very few children naturally gravitate to wanting to learn in all the areas important to education. It turns out then, that we must help them do what they don’t “feel” like doing, so they can ultimately benefit. External discipline tends to lead to life-long internal discipline. We all need help doing what needs to be done. Homeschool (or any school) simply won’t work without making discipline a nice word which is practiced often.
Find a Coach / Mentor
In many ways it is the ultimate hypocrisy to ‘tutor’ our own children without having a ‘tutor’ for ourselves. There is something powerful when we discuss, interact with, and learn from someone who is ahead of us in any field. Sports training knows the value of coaches because the competition and economics involved are so great. Without a coach you can’t compete. If you find a voice or two you trust, a person or two whose results you want to see in your life— find them, pay them, beg them to coach you. Nothing will save you more time and heartache than to learn from someone with wisdom.