Trust your hunches
I shared with a collection of homeschool parents here in town. It felt good to be in a living room, with parents who have decided to spend all their time with their kids. We admitted that part of why we keep going in home education is that we, the parents, go through our own “educational renaissance” as we teach our young. Learning becomes a passionate obsession! For everyone!
The hardest part of being a home educator in the 21st century is that the proliferation of available materials and ideas is overwhelming. It’s as if the variety of choices undermines your ability to rest with the choices you’ve already made!
So my encouragement to you is this:
Trust your hunches.
When I talk to moms, I’m often amazed at how little they credit themselves with their special knowledge of their kids. I listen to detailed accounts of a child’s journey through handwriting, talking, reading, thinking, sharing—with the struggles highlighted, but also balanced by small bursts of growth or signs of progress that would absolutely be missed in a school setting.
This attentiveness is characteristic of dedicated parents at home with their kids all the time. That attentiveness makes you uniquely qualified to make judgments about what is working and what is not.
The only thing standing in your way is self-confidence!
So let me “back you up.” Yes, you’re right!
It makes perfect sense that you might want to test your child for a learning disability at 13 when he seems so stressed by handwriting. Why not find out if there are therapies or helps for him that he might find supportive and beneficial?
It also makes perfect sense that you are hesitant to test an 8 year old who is starting to notice reversed letters, even though she hasn’t completely figured it out yet. You see progress, you want to wait, you don’t want to assign labels: I’m with you. Keep going. See what happens in six months or a year or even two.
It makes sense to take a break from math and to trust that in a month, the brain may have grown and fractions will seem less daunting to all of you. You aren’t negligent. You are being careful, open, trusting, and hope-filled.
You’re right about your child’s original passionate story writing. You don’t need to edit it or revise it. It’s okay that it is fun for your child and you don’t treat it like a school project. That’s the right instinct. You can teach the skill called writing with less-emotionally charged material. That’s good sense.
You know when the days are long and tedious. It’s smart to change the setting or the routine. You can tell yourself that there is no “getting behind.” You do what you can and you do it as it makes sense and as it produces joy and life. You know what that is.
Your fantasy homeschool, the one that lives in your brain, is a worthy aspiration. Of course not every day will be the peaceful, focused, stress-free, joy-filled acquisition of skills and information. Some days will feel like a slog. But each day that you consult that fantasy in your mind is a day when you might work to bring an aspect of it to life.
You can create warmth and affection today.
You can stimulate new ideas with a new project or tool.
You can find a playful way to cover the same material that used to be known only through books.
It’s okay to use Charlotte Mason’s idea of “short lessons.” You can teach the concepts in brief, focused lessons, and then move on—trusting that over time, the accumulation of exposures will result in mastery and learning. You know what works for you and your kids. Then do it. No guilt allowed.
It’s okay to switch curricula you are using just because you are bored of it. You’re a part of your homeschool. If you aren’t excited, you can’t expect your children to be. Create the conditions that produce the enthusiasm you imagine in your head!
My point: You all are much better at understanding what you need in your home than you realize. You stop short sometimes because the ideas you have are unorthodox. Remember: You’re a home educator. You are already unorthodox!
I trust you. You prove to me over and over again that you are good at what you do. How do I know? I work with your kids. And 9 times out of 10, they amaze me. The Tenth? Blows me away.
Cross-posted on facebook.