What Is Home Schooling

home_school_mainI apologize for rushing into the advantages of homeschooling and expected everyone to know what I am talking about. I should have outlined the basics before bragging about my kids. That way you could decide for yourself whether it is the right thing to do for your situation.

Obviously your home is your school, but you don’t have to be the teacher. It is perfectly fine to hire a tutor if you can afford it. You may be able to create a mix of being a teacher and hiring a tutor for specific subjects that you don’t excel in. Most people hate math, but for me it is as natural as a baby’s smile! I think it is genetic, as Peter is a math major. But I also play the guitar and have a knack for charcoal drawings, so my children get both hard skills and soft skills from me. English and history? Please send the tutor!

Another part of homeschooling is how the children learn. The Internet makes teaching and learning so much easier, as there are web sites for just about every school subject and homeschoolers from around the country have banded together to create web sites that are both informational and provide practical help. As long as you know (or are willing to learn) how to use a computer or tablet and navigate the Internet, you don’t have to worry about establishing a curriculum or lacking resources for teaching.

Personally, I use a computer and my children are “techier” with tablet computers, and it is hard for me to make any kind of evaluation on how easy homeschooling would be without them. But I am sure there are parents who manage to be successful at it with the more traditional teaching tools. Regardless of what method you use to homeschool, you will be in control of what your children learn and how they develop emotionally and morally – without the pervasive negative influences that exist in public or private schools.

One question that I am asked often is whether it is cheaper than sending your children to public school. I don’t really see it as an issue of money as much as an investment of time. Peter, my oldest, is more of an academic so the local library and the Internet were very low cost resources in educating him. James is getting more expensive because his interests require certain tools, and replacing things he claims he has fixed – then stopped working altogether. So it depends. I guess one important advantage of homeschooling that I overlooked is that your children do not end up being latchkey kids.

Earlier I mentioned the issue of social isolation, but I think it depends on where you live. It becomes a much bigger issue if you live in a rural area or small town. The social isolation issue is a common misconception, but a I said, I think it is more about the individual child than homeschooling itself.

After evaluating all the pros and cons of homeschooling, the real dilemma is whether it is right for you and your children. Full time working moms can shelve the idea, while moms whose children are very active should look at how homeschooling will affect their attitude towards learning in a homeschool environment. On the other hand, if your child proves to be exceptionally intelligent or motivated to learn, homeschooling may be exactly what is needed to maximize their potential. Evaluate each child and their specific needs, then make a final commitment. Because that is what homeschooling is, a commitment you make for the next decade – or longer.

If you’re looking for more resources and information on homeschooling your children, I’d recommend visiting www.home-school.com.

How To Not Burn Your Children Out

activity_6Pushing your children too hard and having unreasonable expectations of their progress will burn them out. That is counterproductive and serves no useful purpose. It might lead to the last thing you want to happen – your children ask if they can attend public school.

I always feel bad when I see highly talented children treated like sacrificial lambs at the behest of their parents. Making Jack and Jill always carry that pail of water will eventually discourage them if that is what they do all they long. Even if they like water. As with your child’s curriculum, there needs to be a balance that makes the best use of the available time while letting them still be children. You want them to succeed and they want to succeed. Use that as the starting point for negotiations on how much time is spent working and how much playing.

We all want our children to do better and be better than ourselves. Every parent has that natural tendency but the problem is how we prepare them to explore that path of excellence. In the earlier years, children are willing to listen more and rebel less. As they enter the teenage years and begin to see the world differently – as a place they can individually succeed without the assist from their parents – keeping them focused on what can be rather than where they are at now is challenging. They may already feel they have learned all they need to know and now want to cash in on their personal investment of time and effort.

The truth seems to be that after a certain point it really is their decision. If they are at the edge of burning out, the flashpoint may come more quickly. So here are a few signs that they are stressed and overchallenged: they are tired all the time, their interest in sports and recreational activities is almost zero, an inability to pay attention, and the easiest one to spot – signs of physical illness.

I always think it’s odd when parents work hard all week, whether at work or at home, they believe they are entitled to a break to prevent from burning out. Or maybe they are already burned out. The point is, they know the feeling and should be able to empathize with their children, who may not be going through burn out in the same way but nevertheless need a serious time out.

I want to close this blog entry discussing freedom. People like believing, even if it isn’t true, that the decisions they have made, particularly the ones with positive outcomes, were made because they were a choice. Any choice has the possibility of failure, but exercising the freedom to be wrong makes the times when the choices are right feel much better.

Now apply this to your children’s interests. If they believe that their personal interests and excellence were the result of choices they had the freedom to make, is it likely they would rarely, if ever, burn out? The necessary motivator to continue pursuing excellence and developing your natural talents is having the child realize it is their effort that makes the difference. And that choosing to make that effort is a freedom you have given them. They have earned it.

How To Help Your Children Reach Their Full Potential

tutoringOne of the primary reasons for homeschooling is to help your children reach their full potential. One word of caution on this matter is that you need them to reach their full potential, not vicariously living your failed dreams through them. In a public school setting this is not very likely to happen (unless of course you have seen video of fathers fighting with coaches and other fathers during hockey or football games). But I am a mom and write this blog mostly for other moms. Dads, please don’t take offense!

If you have come to the conclusion that you have a talented child, whether it is in music or math or mechanical engineering, homeschooling may be the ideal situation for them. You can devote as much personal time as you want motivating them and directing their talents to achieve greatness.

One of the most difficult tasks in homeschooling a talented or gifted child is being able to create an environment where they are challenged to reach the next level. You must learn to strike a balance between what you see they are capable of, what they want to do, and what they have to do in order to reach their maximum potential. The biggest obstacle you will face is realizing that they will likely be around you 24/7. And if familiarity breeds contempt, contempt will unravel all your efforts.

On the other side of the equation is smart children who remain unchallenged will get bored and begin to act out their frustrations. This is a problem parents face when sending their children to public schools with their “all children are equal in our eyes” approach. As far as I am concerned, let other parents’ children be equal. I want mine to shine above the rest! But criticizing the system while not being able to find a solution with your own children seems more than a bit hypocritical to me.

You should know some of the signs of unchallenged children acting out: they are slow or resistant to get out of bed in the morning, their social skills regress leading to isolating behavior, apathy, a loss of interest or desire to learn. There are others but these are the most obvious signs. Personally, apathy is the real concern because if a child stops caring about what he likes to do, then where do you go from there?

So how do you keep your children sharp and motivated? One of the best ways is to let them apply what they have learned. The Internet is a great resource for discovering web sites that have interactive media that will challenge and test your child’s mettle.

Another tip – keep pushing their interest level by making them aware of what they don’t know. A little humility is always good. But notice I did not say push them. That is a common mistake that leads to children who are perfectionists, yet never believe that their level of achievement will ever satisfy their parents. Pushing their interest level means it is likely you will have some homework of your own to do.