Your Homeschool: Time for a Breath of Fresh Air?

I am not much for pithy motivational statements.  I’m more partial to the wickedly fun posters that you can find at Despair.com called “Demotivators.”

However, sometimes a wise adage can be useful and today I am offering two that can help you immensely when making decisions about your homeschool.  They are:

  1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; and
  2. If it isn’t working, by all means, change it!

If you and/or your child are struggling with a curriculum choice or have just hit a wall in general, it makes no sense to just keep banging your head against that wall.  Sometimes you need to stop, take a breather, and chart a different path.

This is the subject of today’s guest post by Sarah O’Reilly of Sopris Learning.  Sopris Learning is a developer of learning resources for children and schools.  They offer many tools & resources such as a literacy curriculum that includes a reading curriculum.

When I was preparing to publish this post I checked out Sopris and found some of their materials to be quite interesting.  Particularly their “Algebra Ready” workbooks.  These workbooks may be just the thing if you feel your child needs some extra preparation for algebra.  In fact, I’m considering buying “Algebra Ready” myself, not because I think my 10-year old won’t be ready for algebra, but because he really enjoys math and might find it an enjoyable addition to our usual curriculum.

I hope you will read and consider sharing the post below.  We all need a little encouragement from time to time and this post may be just what you (or a friend) needs today!

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Even the most ardent supporter of home education will, from time to time, ask themselves whether their home school is “working.”  Indeed, in parenting we are constantly questioning if we are doing a good enough job of bringing up our kids.  Educating them, as part of bringing them up, is no different and therefore these thoughts will surface now and again.  It’s probably a positive thing – complacency leads to missing problems, or opportunities to improve what we are doing.   There is no need to frighten ourselves though – if things aren’t going too well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that home education is failing.  Perhaps a sensible starting point if you find yourself in a position of doubt is to carry out a “Home Learning Health Check.”

One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child, so said Maria Montessori.  Indeed if the child isn’t happy with the system you are using, perhaps this is a good sign that something needs to change.  Does your child seem bored or uninspired during particular lessons?  We don’t all like the same things, and children very quickly develop a preference for certain subjects.  What we need to do is to target those subjects where their enthusiasm is failing, and try a new approach with them.  Perhaps adopting a more dynamic approach, or taking that lesson completely out of the classroom, could kick-start a fresh eagerness for the subject.  Do remember that ‘a change is as good as a rest.’  Most lessons can be taken outside and, weather permitting, the fresh air, sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors can be inspiring, refreshing, and mentally stimulating.  Even if all you are doing is lifting the workbooks onto a picnic blanket in the park, the change of scene could be all you need to get the lesson cooking with gas once again.

Taking it one step further can be a great tool too.  Put away the books and take a trip into town for some free-range learning.  Adopt a really eclectic approach to fit in some ‘hidden’ learning on their least favourite subject.  Use anything you can see to incorporate some kind of learning along the way – calculate the time it will take to reach town, travelling at a constant speed or chat about the history of the place you are visiting.  Discuss geological features along the way, or the weather systems.  Tell a story on the way, and follow it up with a chat about the author, or key concepts in the book.  Let your initiative really take over – abandon your lesson plan and just see where the day takes you.

If none of your ideas work to reignite your child’s interest, then it still doesn’t mean that home education isn’t working for you – make use of what is possibly the biggest bonus of home educating – take the day off, or a couple of days off.  Perhaps it’s just a bit of learning fatigue, and everyone needs a holiday now and again.  Have a break and try again tomorrow!

Editor’s Note: I’m not generally concerned with whether my child is “happy” with either my decision to homeschool them, or the particular methods I choose.  If mere happiness in life were the goal, then most of us would be doing something much more “fun” than homeschooling – like becoming professional shoe-shoppers! 🙂

However, I do believe that “changing things up” can be good not only for our kids, but for us.  Supplementing our curriculum with a computer program or a DVD series can give our children a different perspective on a subject, while at the same time freeing us up to do something else that needs our attention – like the laundry!

I also agree with Sarah that sometimes we just need to take a break.  Particularly if there are circumstances in your life that are clamoring for time and attention, such as a new baby in the house or an illness in the family.  Keep the long-term perspective in mind…taking a little time off now will not affect your child’s college GPA!