It can be difficult to maintain your children’s education, especially if you live in a more rural environment. Parents who educate their children themselves are often rightfully worried about how to keep up with grade school requirements and ensure their children will be able to get into college or a good trade school. One of the primary benefits of homeschool, however, is the way it allows parents to break with traditional schooling formulas.
In many ways, the modern school system is a relic of the past, created to impose order and ready children for factory work. To tell the truth, classrooms, homework, and even teachers in many cases are not what is necessary for true education.
Unfortunately, many aspects of modern life are locked away behind gateways of education, test scores, college degrees, and certifications. While it’s important to instill in children a lifelong love of learning, it’s also important to prepare them for the sometimes-unnecessary scholastic traditions of tests and classes. This is particularly true where college admissions are involved
But how can you embrace a more natural, child-focused homeschool style while also preparing your children for what public schools term as the “real world” (as if your home is not part of the real world)? Read on to find out.
While assignments are useful as an easy way for teachers to monitor the general scholastic achievement of large classes, they aren’t actually necessary to promote understanding of educational topics. One benefit of homeschool is that you are able to work with your child and better know where they stand as far as engagement on school topics is concerned. Homeschool also often doesn’t need to follow a classroom-based learning style, which means that you don’t need to create meaningful distinctions between in- and out-of-class work.
Even public school educators are beginning to say that homework is largely obsolete, even for public school! Primary age children are often assigned 10 times more than the recommended amount of homework, which adds to parental stress and decreases a parent’s ability to help their children.
Take It Outside
Homeschooling and homesteading together provide ample opportunities to teach students about the natural world by letting them directly interact with it. Allow your children to learn by doing: you can tell them about the water cycle while gardening, about biology and reproduction while gathering eggs, and even about astronomy and physics as the stars come out. The most important thing you can do for your children is to teach them to constantly be learning. By divorcing the concept of education from ‘studying’ and ‘classes,’ you will encourage your children to learn throughout their life.
Take Time To read
No, this isn’t about your children reading—this is about you. Often, parents get so focused on their children’s development that they forget the importance of engaging their own minds and imaginations. Reading helps you to practice your skills at comprehending abstractions and communicating ideas, which helps you teach your children. In addition, if your children see you reading, they will be more willing to follow your actions.
It doesn’t even matter what you read—as long as you are regularly letting your brain get its exercise, it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or gardening tips. Everything helps!
Use Community Resources
Whether you live in a town or a remote rural area, remember that you still may have access to helpful resources like parks, museums, and libraries. Even if your family lives out in the country, you can take your kids into town for the day and let them explore museums, planetariums, or natural parks. A change in environment can spark a child’s imagination and passion, and the flexibility of homeschooling means that any day can be a field trip day.
In addition, you should take the time to get access to some standardized test samples so your children can prepare for tests. If you have access to local or online test prep classes, take advantage of them. As tests are still important for access to upper education and high school certification, you should still teach your children good test-taking and essay-writing skills.
Let Them Teach
If you feel tired of teaching and wish you could just take a break, you’re in luck! Let your child be the teacher for the day. Nothing helps children internalize what they’ve learned like teaching someone else, whether it’s you or their siblings. If you have daily short lessons, let your children take the lead and talk about a favorite topic. Let them be creative, and don’t constrain them by traditional ideas of what topics are ‘educational.’
If you prefer a less structured curriculum, then make a habit of asking your children questions about what they’re learning and thinking. Ask them questions about what they read and let them take the lead in your conversations. Let them feel smart by showing real interest.
Follow Their Lead
Children may not be able to articulate their needs as much as adults, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t understand their own learning style. Some children may be sluggish in the morning, while others are early risers. Some children may learn best in hands-on, messy experiments, while others may need absolute quiet and a comfortable room to focus in. Expecting your children to follow strict daily regimens and schedules is not always best for their lifestyle and learning. Let your children show you what they need and give them a chance to direct their own schedules, within your guidelines.
Volunteering and serving your community are great ways to help children feel connected to their surroundings and understand their place in the world. There are many volunteer organizations that allow children to get involved, from animal shelters to clothing drives to nursing homes. Not only will your children learn social skills and gain real-world experience, they will also learn to put others first.
Where homeschooling is concerned, you must always be flexible. Things that work one year may need changing the next year. Some years you may focus on mathematics and reading, while other years you may focus on science, gardening, and nature. Embrace the natural flexibility and loose boundaries that homeschool provides and be willing to adjust accordingly.
You may feel that you aren’t qualified enough to teach your children. Perhaps you feel you’ve already made a lot of mistakes, but don’t give up hope. You don’t actually need to be a perfect teacher in order to homeschool your child. If you are concerned about properly meeting your children’s needs, then take the time to write up a list of concrete goals to work towards. But always remember that the most important thing any parent or educator can do for a child is to get them to love learning.
After all, if they love learning, then nothing can stop them from getting educated.
by Deborah Goldberg