Homeschool Challenges and Successes

I haven’t even attempted to write a blog post about homeschooling for some time now.  I just haven’t felt like we’ve done much worth sharing.  I’ve had a few disjointed thoughts but nothing that I felt like turning into a post. This winter has been rough on us with illnesses.  Nothing big but it seems like there has always been at least one of us with a runny nose which means that we haven’t been out and about much.  

The girls have continued with swimming lessons but Storyteller decided to stop the drama/pretend class that she was taking at a homeschooling center.  It sounded like a perfect class for her but I think some of the older boys scared her. Instead she wanted to try a hands-on science class this month.  The topic was weather and she seemed to enjoy it but a lot of it was over her head.  I love the idea of having our kids in multi-aged groups but I think it can be a bit scary or boring for the youngest in the group.  Even though it was a hands-on active type class she also experienced having to sit and listen to a teacher.  Sitting is not something she’s had to do much during any school or class setting which I think is a good thing.  On the other hand, I can see that it’s a valuable skill and not too much to ask of her at this age especially since this class was only one hour once a week.  She’d have far more experience with that if she were in a regular school but at this point it’s a pretty foreign concept to her.

So, for the last two months or so we’ve been keeping to ourselves a lot.  I definitely haven’t felt inspired in the area of homeschooling at least not enough to share our experiences.  Then about a week ago a friend of mine posted something on her blog that knocked the wind out of me.  If Comedian hadn’t been sleeping I probably would’ve been yelling, “NOOOOOOOO!” at my computer screen.   From the title I thought it was going to be about unschooling or at least taking time off of ‘officially’ doing Kindergarten.  Nope.  Check out her post at Homespun Sprout called We Are Homeschool Dropouts.  She lays out all of the ugly parts of homeschooling…the struggles with routines, motivation, expectations and lack of time.  So many homeschool blogs and books make it out to seem like homeschooling is mostly rainbows and unicorns…that it’s the answer to schooling problems but it’s definitely not. Some days just down right suck.

In the short time since I read her post, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions.  What have been our biggest challenges?  Our biggest successes?  What steps can I take to lessen the challenges and increase the successes?  What are our reasons for choosing to homeschool?  That last one deserves its own post but I thought I’d share my thoughts on the other questions.

Our Biggest Challenges
-Getting into the habit of doing school.  It’s been a challenge trying to teach Storyteller that school is something we do most days.  Learning happens all day through many play and regular life activities but we have a small amount of school type work I’d like to see done regularly.
-Finding a routine.  What works one week often fails miserably the next.  It’s ever changing.
-Knowing when to encourage Storyteller to complete a task and when it’s time to move on because it’s just not working in that moment.  I don’t want her to start thinking that it’s okay to give up if something is difficult but with homeschooling we can also make the choice to move on to something different and come back.  It’s an interesting balancing act.
-Finding ways to entertain a toddler and keep her distractions to a minimum. Just like finding a routine, what works here changes almost daily.
-Realizing that hands-on interactive curricula can still be boring.  Making it silly helps.

Our Biggest Successes
-Watching Storyteller start to read and knowing that we taught her.
-Watching a new concept finally click for her and being there to see her face light up.
-Watching the girls play school and Storyteller take on the role of teacher.  She teaches Comedian letters, letter sounds, shapes, counting and just recently was showing her how to sound out words.
-Field trips, field trips and more field trips!  In the last six months we’ve been to the Discovery Children’s Museum, The Springs Preserve, Mount Charleston, Valley of Fire, Bellagio Botanical Garden and the Bliss Family Homestead.  Some of them we even visited a few times.
-Christmas and back-to-school ice cream social parties.
-Storyteller making the connection (and getting excited) that building with Legos involves math.

Proactive Steps to Limit Our Challenges and Increase Our Successes
-Stay active in our local homeschooling support group.
-Find a veteran homeschooler who can answer questions and offer ideas.
-Seek out support and resources online.  The possibilities are endless!
-Think outside the box and the curricula.
-Learn more about the different homeschooling philosophies to see if something else might be a better fit.
-Identify our children’s learning styles and work with it.
-Make it silly, fun and hands on.
-Make a list of the reasons we’ve chosen to homeschool and our successes and look at them often to inspire us during those tough days.

We’ve only been doing this for six months so I’m sure I will have more to add to these lists as we move forward. Many thanks to my friend for igniting some in-depth thinking about our homeschooling journey.   Go check out her blog for a refreshingly honest look at some of the struggles of homeschooling.  It’s not for every family nor is it the right choice for every child.  Luckily, in our town we have a lot of great schooling options from which to choose.


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