Things I would do again (and often wish I could)-
- Read about home schooling, home schoolers, and education theory in general. Talk to people who have been successful. Get involved. Learn enough to have a wide overview of my options- and then choose wisely.
- Laugh. A lot. Find the humor in the hard days, the struggle, and the joy.
- Find families that have great teens and ask how they got there. I am so grateful to those willing to share with me. (Great teenagers do not just fall from the sky that way.)
- Have absolutes. No double standards. Your children will spot hypocrisy a mile away. It is confusing and frustrating for them. Help them learn what you value before the world has a chance to rewrite their value system. Live what you preach.
- Apologize to your children when you are wrong. We all make mistakes. Create learning experiences out of them so that your family can be comfortable knowing that it is okay to mess up. The problem is being unwilling to work it out.
- Limit screen time. For years, our television lived in the closet. It came out for special occasions, surgical convalescence, and holidays. The computer was for academics. It is easier to focus when the distractions are limited.
- Put a stop sign on the front door. Ignore the phone during academic hours. Take the time you have with your children seriously and those around you will learn to as well.
- Limit the junk. Life is full of time-wasters, distractions, and wasteful options. There are not enough hours in the day to waste them on things that do not build, feed, encourage, or edify. Mere entertainment in not enough.
- Remember – you are the model your children will follow. You are the adult with whom they have the most contact. You must choose to handle stress, the unexpected, the wonderful, the negative, and the shocking, with grace and control. If you don’t, how will they learn to do so? (I learned this a number of years into our family life by watching my children be “me”. Not pretty!)
- Identify the learning styles and personality types of your children. We used the information we learned to not only “school” more effectively, but to help communication within our family. Not everyone sees the world in the same way; recognizing the way others see it is a tremendous tool. We learned to relate to each other better and be more patient with each other.
- Have a schedule. Success is much more likely if you are flexible within a framework than if you have no guidelines or expectations. People are inherently lazy- adults and children alike. Self-mastery comes from meeting expectations, having discipline, and consistency. That applies to the parents as much as the children.
- Have annual goals: Academic goals, spiritual goals, service-oriented goals, life and skill-related goals for each member of the family.
- Begin the day with group time. In our pjs. With hot chocolate. (Okay, get dressed if you must.) But seriously, starting the academic part of the day together with an opening devotional, reading literature and history together, doing drill and memorization work as a group was such a great experience. Sometimes it lasted for an hour; sometimes much more than that. Having time with my children every day to discuss things, hear their thoughts and ideas, and just enjoy each other was brilliant.
- Find a phone buddy. Having a calm, supportive, and friendly adult to talk to on hard days helped me laugh at myself, see the humor in the struggle, and be a better mom to my kids.
- Have my teenager’s friends in my home. Do units in the summer with public school and home school kids. (We did a few of these and they were SO fun.) Bake cookies. Host group date activities. Feed them. Even more fun, teach them to cook.
- Take time for your marriage. When the children leave home, and they eventually will, it is important to know how to spend time together as adults and communicate. Nurture each other.
Things I would Not do again-
- Get caught up in worrying so much. You are the parent. Be one. Take the best from each idea or method you come across. Leave the rest. It’s your decision.
- Spend so much on “stuff”. I am a home school junkie. I admit it. If I had only found companies like Timberdoodle and books like The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer (great resource lists) I could have saved a bundle!
- Begin without any organization. I overspent and duplicated too much by not knowing what I already owned. You don’t need things to be perfect, just have a framework, a few ideas, and somewhere to put things!
- Avoid things I disliked in school. As I stopped feeling intimidated or disinterested in things, I found I love history, and really enjoyed art. I can think scientifically. And my children were more willing to try as they watched me learn with them. Home schooling has given me a second-chance at my own education.
- Tell another parent they should be home schooling. I love to teach people how to do what we have been able to do, but I have learned to wait until asked. Home schooling takes commitment, time, money, and patience. It is not for everyone! As we support others and the choices they make, our children will learn to appreciate and celebrate the differences in people. What a great lesson to learn!