What I’ve discovered over the last 15 years…
As a veteran mom of homeschooling, I want to encourage you with the 6 most important goals for homeschooling. Each day we did homeschool, I felt a mix of uncertainty, fear and joy. When you choose to swim upstream, you don’t have the mass majority affirming your choices. This alone is hard to bear. So what do you need to focus on? How do you know you’re succeeding? These are the 6 most important goals for homeschooling I discovered over the last 15 years.
Let Go of This, Hang on to That
Homeschool isn’t about sitting in a chair all day. It isn’t even about being dressed. PJs are acceptable. (Let go of this, hang on to that.) The heart of homeschool is about developing a love for learning in your kids. You know you’re finding success when your kids are excited to learn more with each new day. So let go of needing a certain type of order. Don’t let go of structure, but take a deep breath if you struggle with control or micro-managing.
Pascaline, my daughter, had so much energy when she was little. She would literally bounce on one foot the whole time I was reading to her. But as long as she was retaining the information, I was okay with it. Blaze was my cozy morning boy. He often stayed in his pjs until lunch. But he was engaged, having fun learning, and that is what mattered most.
Storytelling is one of the most amazing skills to develop. We use so many thought processes when we create a story whether it’s critical thinking, creativity, order and structure of the story, sensory details, being able to effectively communicate something that another person can understand…the list goes on and on.
When Pascaline was two years old, I used to sit with her at the breakfast table and play “Story Circle”. I’d start making up a story, and then I’d stop part way through and ask her to continue it. At first she added two or three words: I applauded her contribution. A few years later she had all the neighborhood kids sitting around our dining table as she spun one of her tales of adventure and mystery! Both my kids have also had their own book projects because there are so many wonderful skills to teach them through the process of writing a book. To engage the writer in your kids, see my post 5 Ways to Help Kids with Writing.
You can also cultivate storytelling by reading out loud to them. I LOVE this series of history books called Story of the World. Our family read the whole series out loud twice. Whether it’s reading history, fiction, or making up your own stories, you are developing your child’s confidence, creativity, and structure all at the same time.
Move as Much as Possible
When the kids were learning their times tables, I had lavender scented bean bags to help. We would toss them back and forth, repeating their times tables. As they got better, I tossed the bean bags faster and faster. They’d laugh, fall on the floor, end up buried in bean bags…and all the while learn their times tables.
To memorize the continents, countries, states and cities, we made up songs and danced around the kitchen. When they got into high school and prepared speeches, I had them walk the neighborhood–practicing their talk again and again to the rhythm of their steps.
Any time your kids can move while learning, their muscle memory stores the information that much more.
Start Math in the Morning
Out of the 6 most important goals for homeschooling, this one is a favorite! Math uses a part of the brain that is unlike any other subject. Whenever we were traveling or at home, we always had the kids start the day with math. Brian and I noticed that if they didn’t work their brain hard with math first, the kids would be that much more fussy and demanding all day long. Even on vacation, we’d have them do their math in the morning because if they didn’t their energy was saying “Please Me” all day. But when they did math, it seemed like their brain had been challenged. They weren’t looking for stimulation or entertainment that can wear us down as parents.
Make the World Your Classroom
One of the beauties of homeschool is the world can be your classroom. Every trip you take whether it’s to the local zoo or Thailand’s jungle is a learning experience. As photographers, we had this wonderful opportunity to bring our kids with us when we traveled for work. We spent a month in Egypt and another month in Israel. For over ten years, we rented a house in Thailand’s jungle for six to eight weeks and photographed the wildlife, unplugged as a family, and did homeschool under the canopy of Gibbon Apes singing. We even filmed a family travel show called Adventure Family that takes you to Greece, Italy, the Middle East, the jungle and more. Discover our best family travel tips and videos here!
There is always give and take. With all the travel we did, the kids didn’t have as much opportunity to do team sports. We were often nomadic as a family. All our pennies went towards travel. But the experiences we’ve shared, the cultures and people they’ve met, have shaped them into the amazing teenagers they are today.
These 6 most important goals for homeschooling are key. But can I be brutally honest? Every. Single. Day. For. YEARS…I felt like Brian and I were failing at homeschool. We had curriculum we followed. For elementary and middle school, I loved Sonlight because they prioritize a love for reading (meaning; reading wonderful stories to your kids and independent reading) along with a focus on World History. With all our travel, we wanted the kids to have a good sense of history for other countries. For high school, they did an honors type curriculum called Omnibus through Veritas. But sometimes we would be days behind. When we were traveling we really wanted them to soak up all the sights, sounds, and local history. And we’d end up weeks behind.
I’m such a type A personality by nature, so the first goal of “Let Go of This, Hang on to That” was always a big one for me. We also run our own photography business, and I’d often feel like I was either failing at work and succeeding with homeschool. Or failing at homeschool and succeeding with work. Eventually, I let go of the need for balance and embraced the idea of finding rhythm. If you are a mom who needs encouragement, check out my column Advice for Moms.
The Most Important Goal…
The most powerful goal of the 6 most important goals for homeschooling is to develop confidence in your kids. Start with simple practices. For example, when they meet an adult have them stand, shake their hand, look the person in the eye and say “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Blaze.” The best part of this practice is that so few kids do this anymore that adults are always blown away. And their reaction encourages your kids to keep it up.
You can also develop their confidence by deciding when to challenge them and when not to. Blaze was a slow reader at first. If he was in a public school, he would have been put in the slower reading group. But since he was homeschooled, I didn’t say a word. I ordered more books for the following year that were at the same reading level as the year before. My heart knew that when he was ready, he would fall in love with reading. And sure enough, it happened. I still remember the day him telling me he had finished a 300+ page book and considered himself to be the biggest reader in our family. The best!
Our Worst Subject
Two years ago, we decided to enroll Pascaline into community college as a 16 year old. She loved it! It was a huge learning curve, but she has found her way. In the next year, she’ll be transferring to a state university to complete her degree in Aerospace Engineering. Funniest part to this is that our WORST subject, the one we ALWAYS felt like we were failing at was science! LOL! But since we’re working artists, Brian and I would always say to each other “Well, it’s not like the kids are going to become rocket scientists!” Of course she falls in love with Aerospace Engineering! Hahahahahaha!
Fast Forward to Today
Last year, Blaze told us he’d like to try the local high school for 10th grade. This morning he walked to the bus stop and headed into his first experience of being in a school. When I asked him why he wanted to try high school, he said he wanted to be an encouragement to other kids, be a light, and also have fun meeting new friends. Brian and I asked him this morning what he was most excited about, he said “My classes! They all sound really cool!” For one of his electives, he chose Government and Policies! What on earth? But he’s super interested in learning more about politics and policies. He has a love for learning.
I know this photo of Blaze is blurry. I took other photos of him on the front porch that weren’t. But this one captured the truest story. Feels like the last 15 years have gone by in a beautiful, rich blur. And he was beaming with joy as he left for the bus this morning. Plus, I got to post my first ever “Front Porch First Day of School” photo on my Instagram. LOL!
Moving from homeschool to college and high school has been a transition. Neither of the kids knew what a scantron was or a pep rally. But they are confident and the most fun and engaging teenagers you’ve ever met. They love and respect other cultures. They love storytelling as much as they love math. History is their jam! And no matter how much we failed at science, they love it even more! When you meet them, they’ll shake your hand and look you in the eye. Both of them know they have a voice. And the world is their oyster. Homeschool was a success (despite my daily fears of failing). We hit our 6 most important goals for homeschooling. Or actually, we found them along the way.
Was this post encouraging to you? If so, definitely share it with a friend who needs it.