Some people homeschool for a temporary period of time to get their kids through a certain transition, maybe to a certain age. I think the more important question isn’t if it’s okay to homeschool temporarily, but how to effectively use your time homsechooling to prepare your students. Ask yourself, “Does it matter how I approach education?”
On one hand, homeschooling briefly is fine however you do it. Education is education. All you want to do is the right things, especially around the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
But I’d suggest figuring out specifically how to homeschool your children. Don’t view it as a filler until they get into school. Be intentional. Your strategy, firstly, depends on where you’re going to put them. What are you getting them ready for? So if you begin with the end in mind, and look at the school where you want to enroll them, figure out what they’ll need to know to enter it (especially with private schools). You’ll want to view homeschool as the method of getting them up to speed for the level that they’re entering. Figure out what they need by the time they enter that grade and then work backwards to craft your game plan.
Regardless of whether you change your strategy or not, your focus should be on constant improvement. You’re dealing with education as a system in your home. You’ll want to measure, “Are we doing better this week than we did last week? Are we doing better this month than we did last month? Is my student doing better in these subjects compared to past struggles?” Education is an ongoing game.
Hope that helps,
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
I’m going to tell you off the bat: you cannot cover everything with the proliferation of knowledge available right now. There’s no way to do it. If you try to compete with the school system, you’ll kill yourself because they have lots of teachers, facilities, resources, and governmental rules telling them to cover all these subjects. Schools have to find ways to fill up their students entire day with a litany of subjects, electives, etc. to create a perfect balance of information. Your child does not need to be balanced. They do not need to know everything. You know what your child needs. Your child needs skills. If you make education about skill development so that your students are able to teach themselves, then they can learn all the other stuff whenever they need it.
Reading, writing, and math are incredible skills.
Reading is the gateway to acquiring knowledge from the rest of the world through literature, history, philosophy, and so on.
Writing produces clear thinking and communication.
Math helps with problem-solving, understanding absolutes, understanding cause-and-effect, understanding logic.
These three skills are the foundation for understanding any subject. Every subject requires your ability to absorb data, comprehend its logic and principles, and then communicate what you’ve learned to other people. These skills are the classical model of education.
You really don’t have to cover everything. Don’t prioritize knowledge. Knowledge keeps piling up. There’s no end to things we could know. Instead, prioritize skills, and you’ll wind up on target with how much to teach in your homeschooling.
The first thing you want to do is get a new definition of balance. Our typical idea of “balance” has to do with dividing our life in terms of equal time and equal priority. But what I like to stress to people is that balance is not a matter of giving coequal time to each area of your life. Rather, balance is about giving the right amount of time to each area. For example, if you have soup and you don’t put salt in it, it’s not as tasty or flavorful. But you wouldn’t want to eat a bowl of soup that was 50% salt and 50% soup either—that’s not balanced. Balance is the right amount of the right ingredient. So when you look at your homeschool, your parenting, and your marriage, it’s not just about that right amount of time and attention; it’s really about the right hierarchy, sequence, or priorities. The leverage point to all these aspects of life is your marriage. If your marriage goes poorly, your parenting will surely go poorly, because you won’t be aligned. Your homeschooling will go poorly, because it will be a “me against them” problem. What you really want to do is have a hierarchy, and the most important thing in your life needs to be your marriage (if you’re married, of course).
After marriage, your parenting approach is the most important priority, because it sets a framework for how your family functions. The third most important priority is homeschool. Homeschooling is not going to make up for problems in your marriage; it’s not going to make up for issues in your parenting. So you can see how it’s important to get your priorities down, and then you can start figuring out how to improve each area. It’s strategic to think about constant improvement. How’s our marriage getting better than it was last month? How about our parenting approach? How’s our homeschooling improving?
What is at issue more than anything in all three of these areas is something as simple as resolving conflicts or problems. You cannot avoid conflicts in a relationship because if you’re both the same, then one of you isn’t necessary. As humans, we’re all different and we find ourselves at odds with one another at some point. We’re always going to have that issue, but we can resolve our disagreements.
So how do we take an area in our marriage and solve it so that it never comes up again? How do we solve an issue in our parenting to where we’re so united in what we’re doing that it never comes up again? Even an issue as simple as bedtime. How do we decide our approach to homeschooling so that it’s settled, so it’s not anything we conflict about? So that we really know what we’re doing? Jody and I had to battle through every one of these areas, and we still work on them, so be encouraged. But realize that the key is to have the right hierarchy and the right proportions to each area of life.
You may have wrestled with how to know if your homeschooling is actually successful.
To figure this out, I’d say there are three simple things you want to consider.
The first is measurement. You want to make sure that you’re measuring what’s going on with your kids. How many pages they’re reading, what kind of books they’re reading, where they are in math, what their grades are in math, etc. That constant measurement helps reinforce what you’re trying to do. It shows your child’s work to you and others, because you have a record of exactly what you did. Our kids wrote a lot and we saved their writing in binders, so that we could see how they were doing when they were 10, how they were doing when they were 12, and 14, and so on. You can’t appreciate the power of measurement enough.
Number 2 is comparison. Now comparison is a little tricky because it can potentially be depressing and frustrating. But if your kid is at grade level or ahead, you’re going to realize, “We’re doing fine.” If your child is several years behind, you’re probably not yet succeeding. You may have reasons for it. Maybe disabilities or special needs or something else is going on. That’s fine, that’s a different measurement, but realize that you don’t want to isolate yourself in such a way that you suddenly have your child show up in high school or college, and you realize they’re way behind. You just want to make sure you’re on target (or as is common with homeschoolers, ahead of target).
The final way to evaluate success is to ask yourself, “What’s my satisfaction? Am I satisfied?” Do you feel good about what’s going on with your kids in terms of field trips, academics, their ability to communicate, their ability to write, their ability to do math, etc, etc? If you’re satisfied, that’s a sign of success. It’s not the only way to measure, but it is an important piece. There needs to be a certain level where you feel good about what you’re trying to accomplish. If you don’t, you have to figure out what you need to do to feel satisfied.
What a great question. If you’re just starting homeschool, especially if you’re leaving a public/private school situation, you have that question. Do you keep your student in the grade they were already in? Do you advance them? Do you possible move them back a grade?
I think there are two things to consider.
Test your student. You can do this in a variety of ways. Google it, look online, talk to homeschooling families in the area. There are nationalized tests that are consistent, but you really just want to test their grade level. Chances are your community provides this sort of help, but you do want to test them in some capacity. I would recommend that you so start low. Maybe your student tests a certain grade level, but I wouldn’t be afraid of backing them up.
The reason for that relates to my second suggestion: I think you should consider schooling all year-round. It’s what we did with our students. We took breaks too, and maybe slowed down a little bit in the summertime. But schooling year-round is useful because if you start your new homeschooler back a grade, you can get those fundamental basics of schooling down first, and then they’ll advance at their own pace. Just about all of our kids finished school way ahead of “senior year.”
In summary, start your kid where you test them, but maybe back up a little bit. Consider going longer or further in your school year, rather than just mimicking the public school system.
Should I Join a Homeschool Co-Op?
My wife Jody and I have debated this. I argue that co-ops are technically not homeschooling, because they include other teachers, other kids in a class, etc. Jody says, “Yeah, but you’re doing all the schoolwork at home.” Well, that’s fair. And yet, I think that’s what school was thirty, forty, fifty years ago; you go to school, you get taught something, you go home and do homework. That’s not really in the purview of common education these days. Students basically get all the work done at school so they can do extracurricular activities or what-have-you.
When I look at this question, I think there are three elements that you really want to consider to help decide if it’s worth being in a co-op. So I’m going to go pro co-op for a moment, and if you don’t do these things, you need to integrate them into your homeschool anyway.
The first is the social element. That’s one of the nice things about a co-op. It does create a social context for your students, your kids, to interact with other kids. I like that, I think you’re going to need that some way or another, and co-ops instantly do that for you.
The second thing is that in co-ops, there are certain children who thrive academically. They perform a little better in a competitive environment, I know that it’s not politically correct to do anything intensively, but even so, the nature of human beings is that some people step up to the plate and do better when they have other people to interact and keep up with.
The third thing is accountability. One of the nice things about a cooperative context is that there’s some accountability going on where you need to have assignments completed by the next meeting. Or other people might point some things out to your student or you, blind spots where you’ve fallen behind.
If you want to not socialize, not have any competition, and want no accountability, co-ops are a bad idea. I’m a fan of learning, so if these things resonate with you and would help you out—I’d say, “Go for it.”
What curriculum should I use for homeschooling?
Well, there are zillions of options out there. I would say the right question is probably not, “What curriculum should I get?” Homeschooling ranges from having no curriculum at all, to bare-bones curriculums, to very thorough, planned-out curriculums. But the question I suggest asking yourself is, “What am I trying to accomplish in homeschooling?”
The nature of what you want to do is going to dictate something about your curriculum. What I recommend, as you look at curriculums, is that you go in the direction that we did. We found a curriculum where we could trade in things that we cared about. Some homeschooling curriculums are all videos and all laid out. The pens are in the boxes, everything’s done for you. and it’s just a mechanical thing. You’re essentially having a school come into your home and teach your child their way. If you’re insecure, or you really believe in that type of planned-out curriculum, or if it’s your denominational orientation, then go for it. That type is schooling will be okay. But what we used with our kids was a system called the Robinson Curriculum.
What we liked about the Robinson Curriculum is that it had an overall scope and sequence that organized around the most essential skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. But inside of that we could adapt what we did with math, which books we read, and how we approached writing. For example, we would integrate Saxon math into the math section or our Writing Course into the writing section for our children’s daily schooling. That kind of flexibility allowed us to adjust things as we learned what worked with the kids and what didn’t.
When you’re thinking about curriculum you really want to think about what you’re trying to accomplish—and then go out there and look around and find what seems to be a match for you. My personal conviction is that you want a curriculum that leaves enough flexibility where you can adapt things a little bit to your unique situation, instead of potentially becoming enslaved to a learning factory in a box.
What are the drawbacks to homeschooling? Well, there are three that come to mind. The first is isolation. Now when I say isolation is a drawback, I don’t mean homeschoolers will isolate, rather I mean there’s a temptation in the structure of the game; it is easy for a family to get enmeshed and isolated with a “compound mentality.” Isolation is not healthy, but it is a common drawback that you want to consider and avoid.
The second drawback is related to the first; friendships. In time, it’s also unhelath if there’s not an opportunity outside of the family to connect with others, especially kids of similar ages and interests. Over and over again, we encouraged friendships through scouting, extracurricular classes, and sports. There are a lot of ways to do it, like group situations and even church. You want to be careful to understand that your kids need the opportunity to engage with other people to develop friendships, so be wise and look around for good families.
The third drawback to homeschooling is conflict. Not so much conflict but learning how to handle conflicts and resolve them. Families often are too similar to provide this kind of learning. It’s not about battles with other people, but more differences around an idea or a thought that comes with debate and interaction. So if your kids get to interact with other ideas and other people, that allows them to refine their understanding, their logic, their worldview clearer and cleaner. In this way they grow ready to better encounter people in life.
So there are three essential drawbacks in homeschooling; isolation, friendships, and handling conflicts well. In my opinion, I don’t think academics is a drawback. I don’t think socialization is one either. I don’t think any of the things that are commonly thrown out there are all that much of an issue; even with college, homeschoolers do really pretty phenomenally well.
Fred Ray Lybrand
A video of these thoughts is available at https://youtu.be/DEd0k4WKZ9E
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