Now that I have two homeschool graduates and I am starting all over again with my youngest, I spend a lot of time looking back. I like to evaluate the lessons that I've learned, and how I will do things differently this time around. In this video, I talk about five things that I know I would do differently if I could start all over again.
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Here is the transcript:
Well hi there, it's Kelly Harbaugh with Working Homeschoolers. Today, I wanted to share with you five things that I would do differently if I could start my homeschool journey all over again. You see, for those of you who don't know me very well, I have two older kids who I've already graduated from homeschool, who I started somewhere in the middle of their homeschool journey. And I've also got a little one who's starting the journey over with me from the beginning. So I am taking from some of the lessons I learned the first time around, in the things that I do today.
So I thought I would share these with you because as I look back over my homeschool journey, I know there are mistakes that I made. Everybody does. You will, your friends will, anybody who wants schools is going to make certain mistakes and they are going to learn from them. But the more that you can learn from others, the less mistakes you have to make So here's some of the things I would do differently.
Number one, I would start homeschooling sooner. I know this is a big answer when you ask homeschool moms what they would do differently. I hear it all the time. And it - I am very much in agreement on that. My kids were fourth grade, fourth grade and eighth grade, I'm sorry, when we started homeschooling. And they had already had a lot of the school habits ingrained in them. It's funny because parents that I know in my personal life will often come up to me and say something like, "Oh, we want to homeschool, we know we want to do that. But we're going to do it like you did. We're going to start our kids in school and get that foundation, let them learn how to read, get some of the habits in place, and then we're going to start homeschooling later." Like I did that purposely.
And I always correct them at that point. Especially because I know these are parents who are normally wanting homeschool, and they just kind of have that part wrong. I'll normally correct them and say, Well, you know, the sooner you can start the better because school is a very different environment than homeschool. And school starts some habits about what education is and what learning is that some of those you don't want your kids to have. And the longer that they go in school, the harder it is to undo those habits. I know for my older kids -my kids who started homeschooling older - homeschooling helped tremendously and made tremendous changes in our family and in their education. But there were some things that they were just never able to unlearn. Because once you're in the system, 5,6,7,8 years, really even a couple years, that those habits start getting ingrained early. And if you if you have the choice, if you are at the point where you can start doing it from the beginning. I really encourage you to do that because you can start instilling the goodness in your kids from the very beginning and not have to undo while you're teaching.
So the second thing that I would do differently is I would have deschooled. I don't remember if I even had heard the word "deschooling" before I started. And one of the reasons, one of the things that influenced me in my first decision to homeschool was watching my kids on Saturday chore day, and how they reacted differently if instead of giving them a task one by one, we gave them a checklist; how much more diligently they worked when they knew they had the fullest of what they had to do, and when they got to the bottom, they were done for the day. And so I definitely knew that having a checklist was going to help them in their homeschool, but I didn't really, I didn't really take the time to think fully about the transition that they were going to have to make. So our first day of school, I handed my kids a stack of books and a checklist. And they were a little bit bewildered look on their face like, "Okay, how does this work?" We had, you know, we had an adjustment to go through, figuring out how the homeschool would go and it got better each day, each month, each year.
But here's, here's one thing that I want you to know. Right now, let's say right now you are that mom who is really thinking about homeschooling, and your kids are in school, and you are watching the videos and reading the blogs and you are reading homeschool books, and you are talking to your homeschool friends and you're taking in all of these ideas. Your kids most likely aren't getting that same steady flow of ideas and that state same understanding that you are right now. One thing we often forget is that this is as much of a transition for our kids is it as it is for us. And because we often don't involve them in those initial thoughts when we're not sure what we're going to do yet, they're a little behind the curve when it comes time to homeschool.
So, deschooling, which we will talk about more in detail on a later video, is the time that you take to disconnect from the whole mindset of school, and just connect as a family. And get rid of that school mindset for a while, while you learn about how your kids learn best. And it's just like a reset time. So you're not moving straight from homeschool into books at the kitchen table. And I can tell you that that time will really benefit you if you choose to do that. And whether it's a day or two or a couple weeks or you take a couple months to do that, everybody's situation is going to be different depending on how hurt your child was by anything that went on at school. I'm telling you that time is well worth it. And you don't need to be afraid about lost work time because your time will be more productive if you take the time to deschool.
So the third thing that I would do differently is I would have paid more attention to my kids than the homeschool books. Now, let me tell you, I am all for homeschool books and homeschool blogs and talking to your homeschool friends, all of the things that I just mentioned. You want to take in as much as you can, as many different ideas and methods as you can, so that you can start sorting through them and seeing, what works best for you. But a big mistake that we all make is sometimes we, sometimes we grab on to an idea because somebody else says this works for their for their kid. And it might be that you think it's going to work for you because their child's struggles seem so much like your child's struggles. And so you grasp onto a curriculum, or you grasp onto a homeschooling method. And you say, "Okay, this is going to work" and you start to follow it. And even if you see signs that it's not working in the same way for your child, you tend to think, okay, that's your child's fault, and you start to try to force them into that.
I did a little bit of this. You know, I bought some things that I thought were going to be miracle curriculum to, you know, fill in the gaps or solve some areas where one of my children were behind, and there's, there's no miracle curriculum. You may have to work around things a little bit before you find out what works best for you. But you always want to pay attention to your child above all that other noise. You always want to pay attention to your child first, and pay attention to what is working in what you're doing and what isn't, and talk to them and get feedback from them. Because what you're going to find is very few people are very strict, "I homeschooled this method, this curriculum, this way, and don't adapt it to my lifestyle at all." Most people take all of the ideas they hear, they take the best of what they hear that works for them, they try it out and they adapt things to their kids and their family. So if I had to do it over again, I certainly would have decided sooner to start paying attention as we were trying things out, paying a little more attention to my kids what was working and what was not working and why and talking to them about it.
So that brings us to number four, I would have worried less about being caught up. And being caught up can mean two things and it meant both things for us. It can mean you have a child that is behind in a certain subject and you want them to catch up. And so you're so worried about that, that you just lay on the work in the subject that they're behind in, which is just big, big mistake. Or it can be that you are so worried about staying on schedule with the curriculum that you don't...You're so worried about staying on schedule with the curriculum that you don't stop and take the time to follow their interests or answer their questions or do things that would be beneficial to your kids for their school, because you want to stay on schedule with your textbook or, you know, whatever your homeschool curriculum is and you need to finish every single lesson and finished by the end of the year. That's not necessary.
I can think of times I can think of one of our first, when we first started homeschooling - I had a history curriculum that work with both of my kids together, and I remember that I was teaching them about, we had,we had a unit on explorers. But as I started talking about explorers, and we were talking about Ponce de Leon and Florida, my son started having questions about climate and the equator. And you know why it was always hot in Florida and you know, why it was cold and other areas and how that worked. And I kept rushing through that and trying to get them back on task to the Explorer lesson. Whereas now I realized that that was a perfect opportunity to just fully go down that road and explore those things. Put the history lesson aside and pick it back up tomorrow. So don't be so worried about being caught up. Don't be so worried about your kid being caught up if they are behind in a subject? Small bits, small chunks, let them learn 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there, as long as you're moving forward, you're okay. But you certainly don't want to drown them in the thing that they hate, encourage their strengths. Okay, that's that's probably a longer topic for another day.
Let me get to the last thing number five, I would avoid the panic swing. And this has a little bit to do with some of the other things that we talked about. Here's what the homeschool or panic swing looks like. And I did a lot of this. You find a curriculum, a method, something you think is going to work and you try it for a while. And maybe it's working okay, maybe it's not, but then you listen to another video and it tells you all the reasons why you might want to be doing it differently. And so you swing all the way over here and try this and you don't really give it a lot of time. If it's not working perfectly right away, then you swing all the way back over to this way. And you you keep trying different methods without parking on something long enough to really see if it works and what part of it works for your family.
You know, a good example of this would be, you know, using a very structured curriculum versus unschooling, or, you know, giving a vocabulary list, or having your kids just choose the words they don't know, out of a, out of the literature they're reading, those are just two examples. And, you know, all of those things that I just mentioned, those are all good methods that work for people. But where it starts not working, is if you this week, give your kids very structured curriculum, and then you feel like, oh, there's some things that aren't working right here and you listen to a very inspirational talk on unschooling, and so next week, you take away all the curriculum, and just go completely to the opposite end where Ask them what they want to learn, you sit down and have a meeting and you plan out some stuff. And you know what, you pick something that your child, you know, they're not actually interested in after all, and after a week of to of trying the unschooling, and instead of saying, Okay, well, maybe we should, you know, try different interest or, or tweak something a little bit here, you panic and you go all the way back to the textbooks. And you don't choose anything long enough to see if it's working for you.
It's okay to try different things. But don't end up on that pendulum. I did that vocabulary is something I did that with a lot. It's - there's so many different philosophies out there. And let me tell you, they all work for some people. You just got to spend a little time and park on something for a while. And don't be afraid to try something out and try it for a while and then take what you learn from that and adapt it and tweak it but you don't have to swing all the way to something else and say oh my goodness, this was mistake it wasn't working. Does that make sense?
So let me just recap these things. I hope they are helpful to you, I hope maybe if you're doing one of these things that this will help you to stop and think and you won't take as long as I did to learn them. But here are the five things that I would do differently. I would start homeschooling sooner, I would have deschooled, taken time to disconnect before getting into the heavy work. I would have paid more attention to my kids, what was working, than all of the homeschool books, I would have worried less about being caught up, either with my child's own skills or with our curriculum, and I would have avoided the panic swing between methods. I hope that advice was good for you. And I hope you have a great weekend. Bye for now.