I'm been homeschooling for seven years now. That makes me a guru, right? Ha..not! But it does at least qualify me to give you some totally free, unsolicited (hopefully at least somewhat useful) advice.
So, I may not be a guru, but I have learned a thing or two or seven that I thought I would share with you.
1. Forget about preschool. Look...unless your kid is asking and begging to learn, you can pretty much forget about anything academic before age 5. Really...you can. Three and four year olds don't need to know their letter sounds or how to count or write their name. They don't need phonics drills. They don't need to learn Spanish or the names of the planets or the states and capitals. They need to play...preferably in dirt. To be more precise, here is what a four year old needs to know.
2. If something is too hard...back off. Not to say that you should never challenge your children, but I'm firmly convinced that certain academic skills (like reading) are just as developmentally varied as learning how to crawl or walk or talk. In my experience, all the phonics drills in the world aren't going to teach a child who isn't yet developmentally ready to read, how to do so. And, when a child is developmentally ready....reading just takes off and it's easy. Some kids are ready at age 4 and some aren't ready until age 7 or even older. And, that's okay, because as long as you have a lot of books in your house and you are reading a lot TO your child..they WILL learn. Not to mention, that in the elementary years, just about everything comes back around. If your kid doesn't get what a noun is in second grade, rest assured, he will have another chance in third grade and fourth grade.
3. Relationship is more important than school. Some days will be a struggle, but if you find yourself yelling and screaming and pulling your hair out through every lesson, something has to change. If schoolwork becomes a battle of wills or a constant fight and struggle, something has to change. It's not worth it to gain your child's mind if you lose their heart. I don't know about you, but a big part of the reason why I homeschool is to help keep my relationship with my children strong. Yelling and screaming and making threats and doling out excessive punishments does nothing but hurt your relationship. That doesn't mean that you don't expect hard work...but it does mean that you don't let the work get in the way of your relationship. And, if there is too much of a clash.....change something.
4. Get organized. I'm not naturally an organized person...but homeschooling has forced me to be (somewhat) that way. We need a schedule. My kids need to know what to expect. Things go much better if they know what time we are doing school, what subjects we are doing and even in what order we are doing them. And, feel free to have an atypical schedule. There is no rule that says you have to school M-F, Sept-June, 8-3. We school-year round, typically only doing 2-3 days of school at home/week. For us, that works so much better. Some families really need that summer break, but I prefer to take shorter breaks throughout the year, rather than cram everything in during the school year and then take two months off completely.
You also need to get organized with your space. I invested in one of those organizational carts...and we keep all our books organized by subject. This has been a life-saver. All the religion books are in one drawer, all the history books in another, handwriting books in another. It has saved us countless hours searching for missing books.
5 Listen to your kids...and keep searching until you find what they need. If your kids are asking for a change....give it to them. My 6th grader has been asking and asking and asking to do more "online school" or "computer" school. At first, I dismissed her...saying that most of the programs are too expensive, would tie us down too much (there is no way I want to sign my child up for a class that required we are home every M and W at 9:30 AM. I need to have freedom to go on field trips, join coops, etc.). But, I knew I needed to do something. She will be in 7th grade next year, enjoys working independently and really needed something *more* than just me teaching using books or a curriculum. So, I kept looking and looking and finally, found something that I think will be awesome for her. Anyone have any experience with the recorded classes from Homeschool Connections? It's affordable, they have really awesome selection of classes and everything I've read so far is really positive. Any of you guys have any experience with them?
6. Join a coop. Okay....you don't have to do this if you aren't the coop type. But, we have benefited *so much* from being part of coops. Since I've started homeschooling, we've been part of 5 different coops (several years, we've done 2 at a time) and they've all been awesome. Honestly, in my mind, it doesn't even matter what classes my kids take....the point is they aren't taking them *from me*. They are getting the experience of being in a classroom, having another teacher (sometimes even having homework). We all get a break from each other and it's just overall been a great experience. Yes, it's tiring having to teach or assist in a class, but I try to make a point of not teaching or assisting in any classes in which I have a child (with the exception of nursery or toddler classes). That break is just so helpful.
7. Make yourself comfy and enjoy. It sounds simple, but it really does help. When I teach my kids, I sit in my favorite, comfortable recliner chair, sip a nice relaxing cup of hot tea and take turns working with them on math or reading or spelling or whatever we are doing. The chair is big enough for a kid to sit on it as well and we can read together or go over math or discuss religion...whatever we need to do. The toddler can even fit up there too. Being comfortable helps me to be relaxed and being relaxed helps me to be more patient and being more patient makes everyone happier. Plus, it gets me away from the computer so I don't have *that* distraction. And, I try to enjoy homeschooling. I read aloud books that *I* like. I try to find curriculum that we *all* find interesting. And, I try, really, really, really hard not to get too stressed over math.
(Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary for 7QTF)