March 19, 2014

Homeschool Structure (or lack thereof)

(All families and children are different, but I wanted to share a bit about what homeschool looks like in our family.)

I have been homeschooling now for 6 years and I think I have done things a bit differently every year depending on the age and needs of the kids.  One mistake most new homeschoolers make is trying to set up your day just like a regular school classroom. I would say this does not work in most situations and ends with frustration for both the children and parent. Homeschooling is going to look different in every home. The flexibility homeschooling allows is part of the greatness of the practice.

When I first began homeschooling Maren officially, I had a 7 month old baby at home. Our schooltime revolved around his needs. We would grab 15 minutes here and there to do a reading lesson together or work in a math workbook. I'd give her handwriting exercises to do on her own. Total, I'd say she did an hour tops of "school" during the day. You do not need to worry about your child getting behind academically if you are not doing 7 hours of dedicated school work a day.

When kids are this young, it's really hard to plan out a year of lessons in advance because they move at their own pace. Try to have general goals in mind, such as getting through a math workbook, or reading a certain number of books together. Having a goal such as "my child will be reading at this level by the end of the year" will not work. You can't make a child read who is not ready. What you can do is show by example how fun reading can be and read lots and lots of books together.

When my second child began Kindergarten, I was due to have another baby. Again, our homeschool days were very unstructured. We learned through a lot of videos that fall. Check your library for educational videos such as the Magic School Bus. They come in handy.

As my family grew, I was able to throw in more structure. I found my second child especially was more agreeable if he knew exactly what he needed to do to be done with school time. I began making a list of things to be completed on our whiteboard and he would cross them off as he was done. This helped him stay focused and work on his own.

This past year I decided to get even more organized, since my youngest was 3 and I had a bit more time. I went to and printed out some of her organization worksheets. This helped me plan for my older kids.

I guess the main point I want to make is to take it easy. It seems overwhelming when you first think about homeschooling, I know, but it is so easy in the younger years. Take it a step at a time, starting with the basics of reading and math, and add on a little by little. You do not need to do the same things the schools are doing. You do not need to do themed units and craft projects and science experiments. You of course can throw those things in. I'm just saying don't decide not to homeschool because you are so busy with little ones that you feel you can't do all those extras. Those extras are not necessary and not even remembered by your kindergarteners. What they will remember is the extra snuggle time with mommy and playtime with siblings. They will remember learning to read on your lap and being a big helper at home.

My daughter was homeschooled in a very relaxed, unstructured environment and when she went to public school in 4th grade she was still ahead of her peers.  I hope you understand that homeschooling is not something out of reach that you could never do. It is a choice, and there are sacrifices involved for the parent who stays home, but there are so many benefits as well.

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