Over the last little while I’ve started to see posts written by long time homeschoolers along the lines of “My 10 worst mistakes” or “What I learnt from my mistakes”. One day my daughter, Jessica, said to me, “What did you do right Mum?” I must admit, I’m more inclined to think along those positive lines as well. It isn’t that mistakes weren’t made, in fact most of the things we did well, were birthed out of something not working for us. So these are ten things (hopefully not the only things), that I think we did well with homeschooling when our kids were young.
- We studied 4 days a week: We have always had a 4 day a week study schedule. The 5th day was for trips to the library, the pool, visit with friends, projects, housework and lesson prep for the next week. This gave us time for other things in our life.
- I kept learning together until independent skills were established. Though the children learnt Math, Reading and Writing at their own level, we learnt our Bible lessons and general knowledge together. I would stretch the assignments to each child’s level but the content was the same for all. We did it together until each child was ready to study independently; it was at this time that their studies became more individual.
- My kids learnt to do chores: We are a team, a family who lives together in this house, and we are a family who have a variety of goals – such as having time to study and learn new things, to create and have fun together, to visit and encourage other people. There is an understanding that we all pitch in and get the chores done, and then we are free to pursue other things – this meant the kids learnt to do their share of the chores early on and they continue to carry their load.
- My kids learnt to use art supplies and to pack up: One of the first skills I wanted to teach Joshua and Jessica (at 4.5 and 3yo) was how to use rubber stamps, paints and glue – and how to clean up. As they grew older they learnt to use and pack up more art and craft supplies. Having them use supplies with self control meant they had more freedom to use them – which they thought was fun. The rule was that you weren’t done till it was packed away.
- My kids learnt to play by themselves for 1 hour a day: When they were toddlers they had a nap after lunch, I kept this practice for as long as I could, then they transitioned into rest/reading time, and then into play time. The objective was always for them to be able to occupy themselves with a limited amount of toys (mess) for 1 hour in the day. During this time I often sewed, crafted, scrapbooked, rested, chatted on the phone – generally I took the time to refresh myself. I also found this helpful if someone called on me and needed some time to talk without kids around – it enabled me to be available to other people in need as I knew they could occupy themselves for an hour.
- My kids learnt to read a book during study time if I wasn’t available to help them: Interruptions are very annoying but some are unavoidable. So I taught my kids that if they finished or were stuck with their work, they were to either go onto to the next activity/task, or read a book. They were not to get up from the table and go and play because that took time for me to then get them back when my interruption was over. Reading a book meant they were still ready and available when I was ready and available.
- I encouraged my kids to be productive in their free time – I believe it is important for kids to have lots of free time – but to use it to develop their interests, skills and relationships. A good portion of their afternoons was for “Productive Free Time” where they could choose what they did, but it had to be purposeful.
- Integrated language lessons into other subjects – We initially learnt to read and write, and then we used those skills as we learnt other things such as Bible, history, science, geography etc. I taught grammar and spelling as we recorded our learning in lapbooks or notebooking instead of having separate lessons for those subjects.
- I taught my kids to see heart stuff – beliefs, character, Godly principles in the stories we read. This happened as we talked about what we had read or seen. This continues to be a major part of our learning today.
- I gave praise for their character based choices: It takes diligence to excel, patience to keep on practicing, boldness to try something new, thoroughness to check their work, creativity to express an idea in paint. I tried to see their character in the things that they did well in, or where they were trying and praise them for that. This elevated the idea that they have a choice to make whatever they are doing, and regardless of your natural born abilities you can still choose a life of character.
I think it is a healthy thing to look back and say, yes, those things worked well. Can I encourage you to do that – think back and look for something, even if it is just one thing, that you would do that way again. Something that worked well for you. I’d love to hear from you.
What fun, looking back over old photos – here are just a few I smiled over!