Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Key to Successfully Homeschooling

Trusting Your Child's Development 

We are officially 9 weeks into our homeschooling year.  We would be 10 weeks in if sickness hadn’t struck at week 4, but that’s how life works and thankfully as a homeschooling family we can allow ourselves to bend and flow with life.  Our first week of homeschooling was little more than some review, moving forward in Math, as we did lessons all through the summer, and an introduction to our new structure of homeschooling.  The second week the ‘real’ schooling began.  

As you may recall, we explored the world of unschooling for several months.  I guess the easiest way to sum that experiment up is to say that *I* learned a lot and Punky hated it.  Sigh.  Another approach to schooling that failed for us.  But as I said, I learned a lot.  I learned about letting go and going with the flow.  That has already proven to be a very valuable lesson for our current school year.  Punky *asked* for structure, routine, curriculum, and as she put it, “schooling that will make me feel like I actually learned something.”  Tough order to fill is all I could think at first.  We had already tried so, so many curriculums and approaches that I didn’t know where to turn, what to do, or how to proceed.  Then, I had a thought….you know, the kind that come to you late at night just as you’re drifting off to dreamland.  What if I gave her everything she asked for, everything she said she wanted, and the only difference between how we’d do that now opposed to how we did it in the beginning would be me.   

My fears of schooling her myself are now just occasional doubts that are merely annoying compared to what they were 4 years ago…or even 4 months ago.  I knew better now.  No, wait…that’s not it.  I have faith now where once there was none.  I now believe that through growth alone, maturation, Punky will learn and understand all that she needs to become the most authentic Punky she is meant to be.  She’ll just learn it in her own time frame and way, just as her body grows and develops in its own time frame and way. 

Armed with this new faith, I set a course of study for 6th grade.  I explained to Punky that Middle school is where she would need to start preparing for her High School studies.  So, I prepared a course of study for 6th grade with emphasis on Reading, Writing (to include grammar, vocabulary, and spelling), and Math.  Science, Social Studies/History, and Art are tools used in the reading and writing portion of our curriculum.  Punky attends music/voice class and dance classes during the week.  She is also a member of the Homeschool Writing group at the local library, the Homeschool Harry Potter Club, the Homeschool History/Civics Club, and the Homeschool Book Club.  Between all those activities and her audition/show schedule for the year we will continue to stay plenty busy!

I constructed a schedule that I thought would offer flexibility as well as accountability while promoting independence.  Sounds great, right?!?   I’m happy to say that it has been great!  Punky has accomplished more in the last 9 weeks than she did in the last semester of last year.  That means that my process is the right one, this time, right?  It means that I finally found the materials, structure, and approach that is right for Punky, right?  Well……sorta.  We still hit the wall here and there.  The difference between before and now comes down to a few new ‘abilities’ I finally developed: 

  • Chill out and go with the flow of life.
  • Be my child's partner in homeschooling.
  • Boredom with a topic could be a sign of non-readiness.  Dump it, for now.
  • Not everything has to be studied in depth.  Surface knowledge is enough at times.
  • Give my child her independence when she wants it, but hold her hand when she needs it.

Which leads me to my BIG revelation and the most awesome advantage of homeschooling!

Over the course of time something amazing happens.  If our children are treated with respect and given the chance to succeed and fail they mature and become capable to take on more, understand more, learn more, and become independent.  It happens.  It really does.  Just as they learned to walk without us teaching them, they mature.  How well they could walk while they were learning had nothing to do with us and everything to do with their DNA.  However, how they FELT about learning to walk had SO much to do with us.  Were we encouraging and supportive?  Did we back off when they clearly wanted to try on their own?  Did we offer assistance, a hand to hold, when they needed it?  Did we keep our cool, never being hard on them to do more or go faster?  Did we let them do it in their own time and their own way?  I know that hubby and I did.  Punky couldn’t wait to walk and she was on her own by 7 ½ months.  I didn’t want that; a 7 ½ month old toddler.  It was in her genes though and it was her destiny to walk early.  We were encouraging and supportive, backing off when she wanted us to, holding her hand when she needed it.  We didn’t push her or discourage her.  We let her do it in her own time and her own way.

I have noticed a change in Punky this year.  Some of that change is a result of the semi-icky side effects of being a ‘tween’.   Some of it though, is a result of her maturing into the next level of maturity.  She’s able to understand so much more, do so much more, think more clearly, process things that she couldn’t less than a year ago.  Academic struggles from last year have started to fade in some areas and disappear altogether in other areas.  Of course she has new struggles now; personal ones and academic ones.  The only difference between the old struggles and the new ones is my attitude.  Now I tell her with complete conviction, “It’s ok.  It’s going to be ok.  You’ll get through this.  You’ll learn this.  You’ll understand this.  You will succeed and look back on when you struggled and wonder why you thought it was so hard.”  I tell her this because I now know, that deep in my gut knowing, she will learn, she will master, she will succeed.  She’ll just do it in her time frame and her own way.

It’s almost like magic, children learning to walk and talk.  It happens despite what we do.  The only affect we have on the process is whether or not our child is provided opportunities, encouragement, support, and when they want it - independence to become who they are meant to be.  Homeschooling your child should be the same thing.  We offer support, ideas, a road map, and our help when it’s needed.  We stand in the background when they tell us “I do myself.”  They learn equally from when we participate and when we back off.  This, I think, is what it means to give them roots to grow and wings to fly.

Homeschooling your child means they can go at their own pace.  They aren’t institutionalized or standardized by teachers, tests, and tyrants.  The maturation process is safe for your child when you homeschool; safe from being rushed, abused, mocked, trivialized, or stymied by the system, its executors, or other children who are just as unsure of themselves as they can possibly be.   

Trust your child and the magical process of their maturation because as long as they have encouragement, positive reinforcement, guidance, and support they will bloom in all the areas they are meant to when and how they are meant to.  Take a deep breath and trust your child, trust that it will all be ok.  Trust that you are a good parent doing the very best you can for your children.  Trust that your child will succeed through your love, care, encouragement, and support.  Trust that your child will bloom in all the ways she is meant to and relish the fact that because you homeschool she can take whatever time is needed to become her most authentic self.

Happy Homeschooling!

~Mari B.