I remember the day we started homeschooling like it was yesterday.
Overly excited for this brand new chapter of our lives, I had collected every piece of educational material I could find – textbooks I borrowed from a friend, textbooks I borrowed from the school district, newspaper clippings, a shiny new whiteboard…even pamphlets from the electric company.
I was on a mission.
Unfortunately, the one thing I had not prepared myself for was the need for flexibility, which I paid for dearly a mere two years later.
You see, I ventured into this new lifestyle with the mentality that I was going to be “playing school” with my kids – except “for real.” One of the most important aspects of being a teacher are rules…or so I thought. For the first two years of our journey, I was controlled by those rules I thought were absolutely necessary:
- You must complete the curriculum.
- Everything must be checked off and completed every day.
- All missed work must be made up on top of the rest of the day’s assignments.
- You must raise your hand to ask a question or go to the bathroom.
Something I didn’t grasp was that one of the greatest things about homeschooling is the freedom that comes with it. Unfortunately, though, you’ll never fully realize that freedom unless you reach out and take hold of the flexibility that comes with it.
Here’s how to do that.
1. Forget Everything You Know About School
This can be one of the most difficult concepts for people to understand, but it can literally make or break a homeschool.
Since most homeschooling parents were educated in a traditional school setting, it’s only natural that they might imitate the methods they were most familiar with, but the truth is that school and homeschool are two completely different things.
Most of the techniques used in school were instituted because, among other things, they needed a form of classroom management. There’s no denying that it can be a tough undertaking to oversee as many as 30 kids at a time.
There’s no need for that in a homeschool. Homeschooling allows for every family to learn the way they choose to, whether it’s through living books, documentaries, hands-on learning, life learning, or – yes – even textbooks.
The one major difference is the ability to be flexible.
2. Ease Up On the Checklists
Believe me, as a type-A homeschool mom myself, I know how hard this can be, but when it happens, it is so freeing. Once you’ve made peace with the fact that school has nothing to do with home education, learning to ease up on checking off boxes happens so much quicker.
Real learning isn’t something that can ever be contained in boxes. It happens all the time, whether you’re “doing school” or not.
Am I saying to stop making lists completely? Of course not! If they help you to stay organized, then, by all means, list away. But always remember that these lists should be just for general ideas because I guarantee that life will get in the way from time to time. Don’t fret. Oftentimes those little interruptions will provide better learning experiences than you could have possibly planned.
3. Stop Fearing the Curriculum Police
I mean it. They don’t exist.
Stop thinking that you must complete every activity, every lesson, every book, and every experiment. Your curriculum is a tool, not a Bible. Like checklists, they are there for ideas and for guidance, but they are not the be-all and end-all of your homeschool.
Do what you can, and leave the rest.
4. Open Your Eyes to the Learning All Around
I honestly think it’s a shame that we as a society put so much emphasis on textbooks and worksheets when the world around us is a far greater “school” than we could ever produce.
- Science happens in creeks, on nature trails, and at the zoo.
- Social Studies happens in interactions with the neighbors, visits to community fairs, and trips to Grandma’s house.
- Math happens in board games, at the grocery store, and baking cupcakes.
- Language arts happens in reading books together, writing stories, and communicating with pen pals.
I often wonder why we homeschool moms spend so much time trying to make learning happen when it would be almost impossible for us to stop it from happening.
5. Learn to Go with the Flow
Once you’ve learned to differentiate between school and homeschool, discontinue swearing by those checklists, stop hiding from the curriculum police, and start seeing learning in everything, something amazing happens.
Flexibility takes hold, and you learn to go with the flow.
Interruptions are no longer interruptions and are simply “life.” Skipped activities are either scheduled for a more opportune time or are simply forgotten, and homeschooling becomes more than just an educational method.
It becomes a way of life. And you can’t get much better than that.