Peaceful Homeschooling

By guest contributor, Sara Smith. Mom to six. Resides with her family in SouthWest Missouri.

I’m not sure at what point I decided I would homeschool my children. It seems homeschooling was always my plan. I guess my desire to homeschool may have been born out of my desire to be homeschooled myself. I never struggled much in school, always got decent grades, and spent many days faking being sick to miss school so I would be challenged to catch up upon my return!  I have always loved learning.  I love the challenge of learning new things.  Even in college, I enjoyed learning new things, despite the difficulty. College was the only reason my oldest daughter attended public school. It wasn’t what I wanted for her but was necessary to get her education started while I was still in school myself. When I finished college, I knew we would homeschool, and the experience has been so amazing! 

When I first started homeschooling, I felt like I needed to copy the traditional public-school plan. I taught each subject separately, on a strict schedule, with each child at their own grade level. But by doing so, I got overwhelmed and overworked and burnt out very quickly! Teaching multiple grades that way was not going to work.  I discovered that I needed to figure out my own personal groove. It took a few years to get to a place where I understood how I best taught, and how my children best learned. Now our home school is filled with peace and it’s easy to get through the day and get all our work done!

STABILITY AND FLEXIBILITY

My two must-have subjects every day are math and language arts, which include both reading and writing. Some days it’s just not peaceful to force my children to do that extra page of science or history because it’s taking so much out of both of us that it won’t be worth it. I know if we finish Math and language arts each day, we have made good progress.  I’ve discovered that when my kids are in the state of drama that they have a difficult time learning and a much more difficult time remembering the material that we’ve gone over. So, my goal is to homeschool in peace. Now, that doesn’t mean letting my kids do whatever they want and not ever finishing what they started. It means sometimes taking a step back and saying, this is going to be too hard today, so let’s finish tomorrow. I have learned that it’s OK to set something aside for the day and come back to it the next day, especially if one of my children is having a difficult time. No one learns when they are frustrated or overwhelmed. Even a short break and returning to it can bring more success than trying to power through. But it also takes coming back to it the next day and knowing that they were struggling and approaching it with more patience or more time or a new strategy in teaching the material. 

A well-known teacher, Andrew Pudewa, from the Institute for Excellence in Writing is often quoted for his saying, “Easy, plus one.” This has been a big part of my learning to homeschool in peace!  I try not to overwhelm my kids with too much information or tasks all at once. Mastering each task before moving to the next one makes learning so much simpler. 

START WITH THE HARD

For us, starting with the hardest thing and moving toward the most fun thing is what we need to make our day work! This trick was a helpful suggestion I heard years ago on how to get things done. Start with the hardest thing first, and then the other things become easier afterward.  This currently means we start with Language arts for my youngest two, who need my full-on attention. Then I set them up with math to do independently, after explaining the new material. I am then able to work with my oldest two who often have skipped a problem here or there and need a little assistance finishing up their language arts or math work. This past year, we transitioned to online learning for a couple of key subjects for my eldest two. This has streamlined our days, as I am pulled in fewer directions and can give more to the things we do as a family. 

This brings me to another thing I also do to keep the peace in our homeschool day. I use science, history/social studies, art, and music as a group or family study. These are subjects that I want all my children to learn, but they will learn at their own pace in their own ability. I usually choose my eldest’s curriculum and then I incorporate my younger children into those lessons. This also creates more peace in our home because I’m not bopping around trying to teach three different types of science, history, or art.

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic….these are still all a child needs to get a good education. With these basics, they can learn anything!  Science or history can be learned through reading. Science experimentation and music are derivatives of math. It’s amazing how complicated one can make education! With these three basics, we can give our kids all they need to truly excel in life. I’m not saying science or history does not need to be taught, but without reading how can one learn? Without math, how can one compare? These three subjects are the basics of all we need to know. Sometimes thinking about a long list of subjects to teach can be overwhelming. I use these three as the base for teaching and build from there. This makes my planning our homeschool lessons much more peaceful and easier to digest.

CHANGE THINGS UP AS NEEDED

I find sometimes I must change things up, what worked for the last year and a half, suddenly no longer works for a child. That’s where I must evaluate moving forward in the same manner or trying something new. This is also how I keep peace in my homeschool because I do not want to continually do something when my child is no longer learning easily through that method. Changing things up allows us to learn in a different way, look at things from a new point of view, and gain skills we might not have gained otherwise.

Another way I create peace is to make sure we take healthy breaks.  I personally don’t like taking an entire two or three months off during the summer. I find that my kids lose skills, and we end up re-teaching subjects or concepts that waste our time at the beginning of the next year. I prefer to continue working through the summer but at a slower rate. I will continue to do math and reading. If we are doing some writing, it’s more of the unit study in history or science and their writing goes along with that. We also take “unorthodox” breaks from time to time which adds to the peacefulness of homeschooling. With each child’s birth, we took time off. When life got chaotic, we took time off. When we needed to open our home to guests during hurricane season, we took time off. I feel that’s the true beauty of homeschool. Life is ever-changing and our homeschool days can change with it!

LET KIDS LEARN INDIVIDUALLY

One of the things I’ve really learned is that not all our children are going to learn at the same pace. My oldest child flew right through kindergarten at four. She’s pretty much stayed on track all these years and she often wants to do more and more. My second child is a self-learner.  She will organically choose something to read or watch to learn. But my third child tends to be harder to get started and takes longer to learn. That is one of the beautiful things of homeschooling and of keeping the peace in homeschooling, understanding that your child may not quite be ready to take that jump into learning. With my son, I take it a little bit slower and I’m OK that he’s not ahead of the pack. I know that kids who are ahead in kindergarten are most likely to not be ahead by third grade in public school.  This takes the pressure off me to get my kids to be ahead. I know it does not make a huge difference in the whole scheme of life, so why try to force something that is not happening anyway?  This helps keep my mind and heart at peace. 

Allowing our kids to learn individually is so important and life-changing. The best way to really do this is to get to know your kids. Get to know what they were created for.  What is the purpose of their life? What are they organically good at?  What are their goals?  What are their dreams?  What are they going to do when they’re grown? For my son, that’s probably not going to be something where he needs a college degree, so the basics are what he’s going to need. For my oldest, college is very likely, and we have plans to dual enroll so she is earning college credits while still in high school. Understanding your child’s learning style and love language will take you so much further in everything, whether you homeschool or not! I think this is a must for any parent, not just homeschoolers!

CHOOSE YOUR STYLE

I encourage every parent who decides to homeschool to find what creates peace in their home. Every parent has their own style of teaching. Every child has their own style of learning. And figuring out how to match these two, as well as how to mesh multiple learning styles if you have multiple children, is the key to success. No two homeschools will look alike. Even if you use the same curriculum, each homeschool is individualistic in and of itself! This is another way I create peace; I do not compare myself with others! The way one person teaches their children is not necessarily the best way for my family. We get to choose our path! There is so much peace in knowing this.

I think one of the best things about homeschooling is that I can direct my children down the path they were created for without outside influences. I saw early on in our homeschool journey, how my eldest child had less anxiety, more confidence, and less attitude than when attending public school, and she was only six! It gives me so much peace, and my children too, to not have the influences that come with schooling outside of our home. We do not fuss over what to wear or wearing uniforms. We do not have to keep a certain schedule, which means we can stay up late to see a lunar eclipse and sleep in the next day. We are not rushing around to get ready or finish homework. We get to choose what our children learn and how our children are taught. 

From finding our groove, figuring out learning styles, creating a curriculum that works with our family, to starting with the hardest thing, there are so many aspects to creating a peaceful homeschool. I have found so many benefits with homeschooling that allow us so much peace in our minds, hearts, and lifestyle! Through trial and error, we are now operating in a peaceful path of learning each day. I am very grateful every day that I get the opportunity to homeschool my children. Out of a desire to be homeschooled, I choose to homeschool my own children and I’m so glad I did!

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