Home schooling was one thing I never thought I’d do. It seemed kind of, well, weird, and everyone says that your kids will be social misfits if you homeschool, right? In fact if we’d been living in America, I might never have home schooled, but we ended up in the Middle East, and in our country education is all about memorization. This wasn’t what I wanted for my kids.
As I get ready to dive into my 12th year home schooling, I’m already thinking about a few things that help me to keep my head above water.
Take Your Kids’ Interests into Account
Learning can be like pulling teeth if kids feel stuck with material that doesn’t interest them. Of course math, science, and language arts are not optional, but wherever possible, I try to allow my kids to pursue their interests. My daughter is brilliant, creative, and very articulate. Writing short stories motivates her to improve her composition skills. My son, on the other hand, just doesn’t “do” creative writing. If I say, “write a short story,” I get a blank stare. But he loves a good thriller or “whodunit,” so last year he spent weeks happily writing a research paper on the historical evolution of the mystery genre.
Change What Isn’t Working
This goes for scheduling as well as materials. I start the year with a tentative plan, but I tweak and change our schedule as we go along. I avoid jumping from curriculum to curriculum, but I’m not afraid to let go of something that isn’t working. For example, at the end of my daughter’s 8th grade year last May, it became clear that Saxon math no longer works for her. Algebraic concepts that she couldn’t get were coming too fast and heavy, which was extremely demoralizing. Even stopping new lessons for extra tutoring didn’t help. After some investigation, I opted to try Math-U-See this year. I hope it will be a better fit.
Keep High Schoolers on a Schedule
I try not to be a drill sergeant, but I use a timer to keep myself and my kids on task. I allot 50 minutes for math, science and so on. Each subject gets two 25 minute work sessions with one break in between. Whatever isn’t finished is left as “homework.” Changing subjects and using a timer motivates my kids and allows them to finish school at 3:30. My son often works until 4:30 or 5 to finish math and writing projects. He catches up on reading at night.
Have a Definite Ending Time for Yourself
An important part of keeping my sanity and feeling like I have a life beyond home school is to have an ending time. For me that is 2:00 p.m. This means we start every day at 8:30 a.m., more or less, and I schedule everything that my kids will need me for before 2:00 p.m.. No matter what is left undone, I try to leave it for the next day and finish at 2:00. Then I can move on with my day and do other things.
These are things that work for me. Your style might be totally different. Has school started where you live?