I was talking to another homeschooling mom this week and realized that the beauty of homeschooling is that we can educate our children how we see fit and what benefits our children. I opt for a stress-free homeschooling experience. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case with our family.
Earlier this week I had a conversation with another homeschooling mom, she was explaining how strict she is with her children. They have a set school schedule, with a time for breaks, lunch, and PE. Outside of these times they are to be doing their school work. She has two gifted and talented children – one of which was reading college chemistry textbooks at the age of 10. In describing her homeschool I started getting a little panicky. They can make no less than a 98 on any assignment and they should be getting 100’s. She figures if her kids can’t teach her, then they haven’t learned it. She requires that they read the assignment, take Cornell notes (I had to look up what those even are), and then come ask any questions, which they’ll look up together. They test every day and if they make less than 98 they have to go back and re-take it. She mentioned that if her daughter gets a B she cries because she doesn’t want to re-do it. She did mention that one child wants to attend Harvard and the other MIT.
I’m not saying these things to call her out…not by any means. She knows her children best and that’s what I want to point out. Her children have ambition to attend ivy league schools that are extremely competitive. She wants them to succeed and is giving them the tools to do so.
James and Lauren were with me and heard the conversation. When we walked away, we were each remarking that they’re thankful we don’t homeschool that way. I must admit, my own anxiety level was rising as she was talking. I’m not that homeschool mom. When we first started our homeschool journey, I was very strict. Our schedule was very tight and we tried to get it all done by noon (which we still do), but it was tense. Our school wasn’t fun and the kids were stressed. I was stressed. It was miserable. We cried many times during the day. Definitely not my best moments. But, as we progressed and grew comfortable with our own homeschool, we started a new format. The material didn’t change, but HOW we homeschooled changed. We were much more relaxed, laughed more, turned tense moments into funny moments, and continue to do that now.
For example, I don’t understand Pre-Calculus … can’t even pretend to, but I do know that I can turn to Math-U-See for help (and they’ve helped us tremendously when we don’t understand a lesson). If we were studying Pre-Cal 10 years ago it would have been a nightmare. But, we’ve learned to laugh and have fun, even when we don’t understand or are trying to learn a new concept. This is me learning Pre-Cal with James:
I’ve also realized over the years that my kids are unique – as are yours. They learn differently from each other and process information differently. I have to adjust based on that. James does better if he hears it and sees it. Lauren can sit down with a book and read through it, understanding the material, test, and move on. Nothing is right or wrong with either method – it’s just how they learn.
If you have a stressed out homeschool, take a break and re-evaluate. School doesn’t have to be tense and it shouldn’t involve tears. You can learn and have fun at the same time. No, not every topic is fun. Pre-Cal is DEFINITELY not fun, but it doesn’t have to involve anger, tension, or harshness.
Here are a few tips for you that we’ve learned during our stress-free homeschooling journey:
- Pray. It’s my favorite go-to for school (well, for life in general). I pray all the time for everything. Yes, God cares. I’m a child of God and so are my kids. He cares. It may seem trivial, but I pray for our homeschool to be fruitful and fun and that the kids see Him through me. Of course, that doesn’t always happen when Mom freaks out, but I’m trying. And, I know that God’s made the way for us to do this and we’ll see it through to the end of our homeschooling journey. But, if God’s got my back, that’s what really matters.
- If you’re frustrated, step away – from the books, the material, all subjects in general. Just take a 10-minute breather – both you and the child. Once frustration builds it only gets worse from there.
- If your child’s not “getting it”, then let it go for the time-being. We learned that if James or Lauren had a day or so to think on a concept the next time we sat down to work through the problem, they would get it. It’s almost as if their brains needed to catch up and process the material before it made sense. Sometimes we would take a week off math or science and when we went back to that subject, it would make more sense.
- Get up and move. If you have antsy children, let them move. Take a break between subjects and let them get their wiggles out. This really helps to keep stress levels down. In fact, go for a quick walk, do a chore or two, fold laundry, or better yet – go outside and play for 10-15 minutes. The fresh air will do everyone some good.
- Don’t expect too much too fast. All children learn at different rates and in different ways. Learn how your child learns best and change the format of school to fit that child’s need. For Lauren, I can give her a book and she’s fine to read and study it on her own. For James, he does better when we go over the material orally and talk it through. If you have a child that’s hands-on, find curriculum or study aids that help learn (like Math-U-See has blocks that students can manipulate so students can physically see how math concepts work).
- Be fluid. For me, that one is key. I tend to be very driven and goal-oriented (finishing all course material before summer break, being at the halfway point in all curriculum by Christmas break). If we’re not meeting my deadlines then I tend to get cranky. So, I keep in mind that if we don’t finish the last two lessons of the book, it’s no big deal. It’s more important that they understand the material than it is that we finish the book by the end of May.
- Keep it light-hearted. Make jokes, have fun. If your child is frustrated, she may be picking up some of that from you, the teacher. When Lauren has a break down in math, I’ll do something goofy so that she laughs – make a funny face, poke her in the ribs, tell her it’s not the end of the world, etc. Whatever works for your child to lighten the mood, DO IT.