One of my longest-running “jobs” is that of homeschool mom. The start of 2016 marked the beginning of our tenth year of homeschooling, a concept which still floors me. How have I been doing this for so long?
When considering longevity in homeschooling, just like in anything we stick to for a long period of time, there are always several components. But, the core of what I do always comes back to two things: obedience and personalized learning.
The obedience aspect is pretty cut and dried. When we pray about the education of our children (which we do regularly), homeschooling is the direction we receive. How exactly do we receive that direction? Through an ongoing relationship with Christ. Period. It’s not a fail-proof, step-by-step plan that I can share. It’s just pure and open relationship with our Creator. When we maintain that relationship, His Spirit guides us clearly. When we don’t, we grow rather hard of hearing – in all aspects of life.
Secondly, there is the personalized learning aspect – a tremendously important aspect of education. What does this mean? Well, it’s the idea that we each learn uniquely, and it is important for us to learn according to our strengths while also learning how to convert less favorable learning experiences to fit our uniqueness.
Consider this, for example: One child learns best by being active while learning, but being around other people is distracting. So, ideally, this child needs an exercise ball or trampoline set up in a location where she can move to her heart’s content, but still be in a mostly quiet environment.
In reality, though, even a homeschooled child will encounter struggles in church, co-op, extracurricular activities, etc., because not all learning experiences will cater to her need for active peace.
So, what’s the solution?
The best learning experiences come when preferred and necessary learning techniques are combined. Combining multiple learning techniques is not easy. So, how can it be accomplished? Here’s what I’ve learned.
Like with the obedience aspect, it all must start with prayer and an active relationship with Christ. Period. He created our children! He created us as well! He knows how they learn, how we learn, how we teach, what learning experiences we will encounter, and how those various methods and needs all flow together. And the combination will be different in each situation. So, pray. And listen.
There are also some practical steps to take. There are a variety of learning style evaluations and tests in books and on the Internet. (I love Carol Barnier’s approach in books like The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles and How to Get Your Child off the Refrigerator and onto Learning because she’s practical in her approach.) So, I like to begin by educating myself on learning styles.
But, the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years is that freedom to experiment is the key. We’re all unique. Our children are unique. Explore that! Let them explore it, too! Be open to learning in ways no one else learns.
I used to lie on my stomach on the floor with a book held out in front of my while my son turned somersaults over and around me – reading the whole time. If I ever made him stop, he struggled. But, if he was moving, he usually read flawlessly!
One of my daughters would rather teach herself, even if it means that I have to go back and correct something she has learned incorrectly. So, instead of teaching her content, my energy has gone into teaching her how to be taught. How to be willing to learn from others when the need arises.
My other daughter grasps information so differently than I do! I’ve had to learn over the years to let her take the lead in how she learns. Let her figure it out her way, even if her way seems counterproductive to me.
One of these days, I will no longer be a homeschooler. But, I have no doubt in my mind that what I’ve learned about obedience and personalized learning will remain a large portion of whatever I do next. And that excites me! But, for now, I’m off to get a day of school started with my children.
Because, for now, that’s what I do!