- Why does homeschooling feel like a good idea? What needs are not being met well in other ways, and how might homeschooling help best meet those needs?
- What is my child expecting homeschooling to be like? What am I expecting homeschooling to be like? How do those two things line up?
- What areas of learning are easiest for my child? What areas are most challenging?
- What are my child’s passions and interests? How will they fit into our plan for homeschooling?
- What are my biggest worries about homeschooling? What are some strategies I could use to work through those things if they happen?
- What struggles do I predict we might have as we add homeschooling to our parent-child dynamic, and how can I anticipate and prevent them?
- How will I meet my own need for self-care so that I am able to give all that my child needs?
- What will I say to family, friends, neighbors, or strangers who are skeptical about our decision to homeschool? How will I prepare myself for such questions?
- Who are my homeschooling support buddies? Do I have friends, neighbors, or relatives who homeschool? If not, do I know where to find local and/ or distant homeschoolers to share experiences and ideas with?
For the Love of Birds!
Taking the time to watch the birds at a bird feeder can be such a relaxing and enjoyable activity. I’m in love with a blue jay that comes to my feeders at the same time every day. She arrives around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon and she announces her entrance with lots of noisy tweets of “Jay! Jay! Jay!” She hops from branch to branch on a nearby tree, tips her head to each side, looks at the sky and at the feeders. It takes her a few minutes to announce that she has arrived and she repeats the behavior several times. I’ve noticed she doesn’t like the hanging feeder as much as she likes going to the platform one. She enjoys an occasional orange slice and she really likes to eat peanuts. (If you want to know what the birds in your area like to eat, go to: http://feederwatch.org/learn/common-feeder-birds/) I know it’s her because I’ve been watching her for some time and I’ve learned to distinguish her features from the other jays that come to bathe and eat. I’ve grown accustomed to looking for her special colors, dark eye-line markings, and feather shades of blue. I can’t be sure she’s a female because I haven’t seen her nesting behaviors. I’ve read that is the way to tell the male and female apart from each other. I call her Pooli. I think that’s the Greek word for bird, but I’m not sure and I like it anyway. She’s like a member of the family and even my kids will ask if Pooli has been around lately.
If you need some bird guides or great bird books, the Audubon Society has put together this list. If you live in North America, you may also enjoy viewing the Audubon’s Guide to North American Birds online at: http://www.audubon.org/bird-guide
Join Project FeederWatch!
Each year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies of Canada join together for Project FeederWatch. I encourage you to participate! It is a lot of fun and you will get to know the birds in your neighborhood as though they are family members.
Learning to observe carefully and in specific details is the making of a good scientist! Why not learn this skill by falling in love with your birds?
Some of the hallmarks of school are blissfully absent for homeschoolers. Here are ten key examples.
1. The morning alarm clock: Homeschoolers can design their schedule to honor their body’s natural rhythms. Many wake each day only when their body is refreshed and ready.
2. Homework: When homeschool work is done, it’s done! There’s no additional pile of work to add on at the end of a long day.
3. School lunches: Whether you pack them or buy them in the cafeteria, school lunch options are limited, and health is all too often sacrificed for convenience. Homeschoolers can enjoy all of the natural, healthy options their parents make available in the fridge or pantry.
4. Permission slips: All of those endless slips of paper to sign and return magically disappear when you bring learning home instead!
5. Detention: Homeschool discipline is simply an extension of regular parenting. There’s no need to compel a student to “stay after school” to make a point.
6. Report cards: Homeschoolers don’t need report cards because their parents keep ongoing tabs on how their learning is going. Some homeschoolers even consider grades optional.
7. Parent-teacher conferences: There’s no need for a meeting because the home teacher is also the parent. As one bit of homeschool humor asserts, “I’m not talking to myself; I’m having a parent-teacher conference!”
8. Shortened recess: Recess can happen anytime and as often as it is needed!
9. The bell: The bell to signal the end of the class period or school day never interrupts your work or that wonderful book you’ve just delved into. And you never spend any time watching the seconds hand go round and round as it counts down the boring minutes to the end of class. You might wish there were more minutes in your day, though!
10. The end of summer vacation: When school vacation ends and school kids head back inside school to their lockers, desks, and workbooks, yours can keep playing outside as much as they want.
Are you homeschool-minded? Even if you do not homeschool, you may have some of the key traits that also characterize homeschoolers.
Homeschool-minded parents are open to possibilities. They recognize multiple ways of learning, and they seek out ways to engage with their child in the way he or she learns best. They also recognize multiple solutions to the question of education. They see public school and homeschool as two potentially valid choices among many. If the status quo is not working for their child, they seek a different solution with an open mind.
Homeschool-minded parents don’t turn their child’s whole education over to others. They recognize the value of being regularly involved with their child’s learning. They search for materials to support, supplement, and enliven learning at home. They take an active interest in their child’s passions and go out of their way to support them. They recognize that school grades are never a complete assessment of a child’s well-being, character, or potential.
Homeschool-minded parents enjoy engaging with their children. They seek connection through shared pursuits and experiences. They find common ground by learning more about the things that interest their child so they can foster this connection. They consider themselves lifelong learners, always seeking to grow through new inquiries and experiences. They sometimes learn things from their children, and when this happens, they feel proud.
Are you homeschool-minded? Even if your child is not homeschooled, homeschooling might be a natural fit for you. How many of the following statements can you relate to?
1. You enjoy being with your child much of the time.
2. You take it upon yourself to find out ways to support your child’s learning when they are excited about something.
3. You believe there is more than one right way to learn.
4. You recognize that academic pursuits are only one part of a complete education and that learning happens outside of school walls as easily as within them.
5. Your child’s well-being matters much more to you than his or her grades.
6. Your family’s mealtime conversation includes things like word games, math challenges, and a discussion of what everyone is reading.
7. Your home is your favorite office.
8. When school vacations end, you fantasize about keeping your kids home with you instead of letting them go back to school.
9. You’ve been known to allow your children a day off from school “just because.”
10. When your child sits down to do a craft or project, you are tempted to join them – and you sometimes do.
11. You consider it your responsibility to personally teach your children the things that matter most to you, rather than leaving the job entirely to their teachers.
12. You find yourself often saying things to your child like, “How could we find out more about that?” and “Good question. What do you think?”
What does “homeschool-minded” mean to you, and how does it play out in your everyday life? Do you think you might ever make the switch to homeschooling – or have you tried it already? Why or why not?
Successful learning may happen organically, but it does not happen accidentally. One might be surrounded with rich educational resources, but without key capabilities, those learning opportunities will go untapped.
What makes a successful learner?
1. …are leaders in their own learning.
2. …engage with the world around them.
3. …question everything.
4. …think for themselves.
5. …are driven by their interests.
6. …push through challenges.
7. …are determined to succeed.
8. …have inner motivation and self discipline.
9. …exercise their minds and their bodies.
10. …cultivate good habits.
11. …know how and when to ask for help.
12. …are willing to take risks, fail, and learn from their mistakes.
What other characteristics can you add to this list? How did you encourage successful learning today?
Making the decision to switch gears and begin homeschooling—or to switch curriculum—partway through the school year takes courage and faith. Whatever you were doing before wasn’t working, and whatever you are beginning hasn’t had time to feel routine yet. Here are ten suggestions to ease the way.
1. Different philosophy; different approach. Students who have been in school have likely become accustomed to an institutional approach where work is prescribed to the class as a whole and the teacher’s attention is divided among many students. Shifting to a creative thinking approach can be challenging for a student who just spent last semester trying very hard to figure out how to succeed in an institutional setting. In contrast, Oak Meadow’s approach is flexible and creative, and homeschooling can often allow for one-on-one support between parent and child. Switching gears to this degree is quite an adjustment and might bring stress or frustration. Be understanding and acknowledge those differences as needed.
2. Commit to riding out the transition. There is a progression in learning as your child adjusts, but it may take a few weeks or more to be able to look back and clearly see the progression. Don’t expect to see results right away. Trust the process and really commit fully to seeing it through for six weeks or so before you assess whether it is working for your child. Learning really does take place, even if it might not feel that way in the moment, and a few weeks’ perspective can make all the difference in understanding.
3. Go easy on yourself and your child. You’ve just left behind an educational environment or other style of learning that wasn’t working for some reason, and now you’ve switched to an entirely different approach. During this adjustment phase, don’t get too caught up in whether every single item was done properly in each lesson. What’s the main concept or what are the key skills being addressed? What is most important for your child to grasp before moving on to the next lesson? Make that your focus, and give everyone points for effort as you navigate this new way of learning. Students beginning mid-year may need to go back to previous lessons if they aren’t understanding something in the current lesson.
4. Consider downshifting or deschooling. Your child might need to ease into the new model slowly, and some children, particularly those who experienced trauma in their previous school experience, will benefit from a period of “deschooling.” This can be like an extended vacation from school, with plenty of nourishing rest, time to daydream, healthy activities of the child’s choosing, and supported emotional processing. It can be very helpful for some students to have a buffer like this between leaving their old school and beginning homeschooling. Often they will let you know when they are ready to jump back in again.
5. Keep good boundaries with those in your life who resist the idea of homeschooling. Even well-meaning loved ones can undermine confidence by demanding evidence or reassurance that your new educational plan is “working.” It is fine to say things are going well without elaborating. Let your child know that you will be keeping his or her educational details private. This allows your child to relax and focus on learning without worrying about what the relatives or neighbors might be thinking.
6. Structure and support are key. Set up a solid daily and weekly routine as a starting point. You may need to adjust it many times, but begin with a strong plan. It is easy to get sidetracked, so do your best to stick to the plan. Set aside focused time each day for academic work. Find a good place to work with your child where you can both be comfortable. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider consulting with one of Oak Meadow’s experienced teachers, enrolling in our distance-learning program, using a tutor, or asking an experienced friend for help.
7. Be resourceful and independent. Reach out to others. Make friends with your local librarian; it’s a great way to find out what resources are available and connect with other homeschooling families or groups in the area. Explore online resources. Oak Meadow’s social media offerings are a good place to start. Our Pinterest boards offer many inspiring hands-on ideas, and Facebook is a great place to connect with other homeschooling parents and find validation for this journey. There are many online groups for homeschooling parents. Seek support from like-minded people wherever you find it.
8. Go outside! Oak Meadow’s organic approach to learning encourages families to learn out in the world. This means spending plenty of time outside in nature and interacting with others in your local neighborhood or community. Fresh air and the soothing sights and sounds of nature are a good antidote for stress of any kind, including the positive stress of the important transition from school to homeschool. Schools tend to be very social places, and you will want to be mindful of how your child’s needs for social interaction are met while homeschooling. You might find this benefits you as well as your child.
9. Be patient. It takes time to settle in. It will be a little while before you get your bearings and find a good rhythm for your homeschooling days and weeks. Don’t panic! It’s okay if things aren’t perfect. There is a lot to be learned from trial and error. Have fun with the process!
10. Trust yourself. Remember that you are the expert on your own child. The decision to begin homeschooling was made in response to something your child or family needed enough to warrant such a significant change. Why did you choose homeschooling? Remind yourself of these reasons often. Continue to nurture your connection with your child, especially during this vulnerable time when he or she is weathering such a big transition. And remember to take good care of yourself as you adapt to your role as home teacher.
1. Children can follow their interests and passions deeply, encouraging sustained engagement in learning.
2. Listening to their bodies regarding when to sleep, eat, play, etc. helps children remain connected to and responsible for their physical needs in a healthy way.
3. Spending significant time together builds a strong parent-child relationship.
4. Time and energy are free to be invested in the family instead of in the needs of the school system.
5. With no dress code, it’s perfectly possible to spend the day in the comfort of pajamas!
6. There is freedom to make nonconforming choices about appearance without the risk of peer pressure.
7. Homeschooled students who are on either end of the academic bell curve have no reason to be self-conscious about how different they might be from their peers.
8. Learning can happen at its own pace, which means quick learners can accelerate and slow learners can take all the time they need.
9. Flexible scheduling throughout the year makes it easy to take a “leave of absence” from formal learning for traveling, attending a special event, managing a health issue, or healing from trauma.
10. Complete oversight of your child’s learning means the parent’s educational priorities are always front and center.
11. Individual attention means an infinitely flexible, personal approach to learning for each child.
12. You can rest easier knowing that you are doing what your child needs.
Want to read even more? Check out these previous blog articles: 12 Advantages of Homeschooling and 12 More Advantages of Homeschooling. Then comment and let us know if you can think of any advantages that we left out!
1. Discipline is handled lovingly by parents, instead of teachers and administrators, who must follow standard protocols.
2. Cooperative learning can take precedence over competition.
3. Time spent together fosters a strong bond between siblings.
4. Teaching and learning reflects the family’s values, not those of the teacher, school, or government.
5. Learning can be individually adapted to include more or less work in a given subject.
6. Parents can take a proactive, hands-on approach in guiding peer interactions.
7. If there is something great happening late at night, you can say yes and sleep in the next day!
8. Public school mandates, such as Common Core and standardized testing, are optional.
9. More healthy physical touch is allowed at home with siblings and parents than would be allowed in school with peers and teachers.
10. Homeschooled children can experience autonomy and develop full responsibility for their learning in a way that is not typically fostered in schools.
11. Areas that need more attention get more time, and less time is wasted where it isn’t needed.
12. Homework isn’t an issue, because it’s all “home” work!
1. Witnessing your children’s excitement about learning is a privilege and a joy.
2. Learning new things together as a family benefits everyone and sets a good example for children.
3. A flexible schedule makes it possible to pursue activities and passions easily.
4. Individual needs and priorities get top focus.
5. Changing a child’s education plan is as simple as switching gears; there are no institutional hoops to jump through.
6. Sensitive children can be nurtured in a way that honors their need for attachment.
7. Home affords abundant opportunities for unstructured learning and learning through play.
8. There is no limit on personal enrichment (fine arts, physical activity, personal growth…)
9. Home learning is holistically integrated with all aspects of life.
10. Being available to visit prime attractions during the off season makes adventuring easier.
11. Sleep can be based on the body’s natural rhythms, instead of the school bus schedule.
12. Socializing regularly with people of all ages, instead of just same-aged peers, helps homeschoolers become socially confident, articulate, and well-rounded.
1. The brain engages differently when we write something by hand as opposed to typing it on a keyboard or by touching a screen. Studies show that writing improves memory; students retain learning better when working with new ideas through handwriting instead of typing.
2. Engaging the body in writing by hand helps make writing a more holistic activity. There is something uniquely physical and multidimensional about putting pen to paper to form words and sentences.
3. Learning the alphabet by interacting with each letter in many different physical ways helps students imprint and retain the letters and the letter sounds for easier recall when learning to read. Learning letters on a screen engages at most two physical channels: the eyes and the fingertips. It is not possible to tell one letter from another by the shape of the keys. Learning letters through writing them involves numerous tactile experiences, engaging the fine-motor muscles of the fingers and hand, and larger muscles of the arm and body, as well as the eyes.
4. Many writers attest to the value of a handwritten first draft and the subsequent process of reading through and interacting with their writing by annotating, correcting, editing, and reshaping it as a whole. Typing on a screen tempts us instead to edit as we go, fragmenting and dissecting, and potentially interfering with the organic flow of ideas.
5. Even in this digital age, many accomplished people consider it critical to their success to keep a small notebook and pen handy so that they can jot down ideas in the moment and refer back to them later.
6. Many historical documents were written by hand and are now indecipherable to any who are unable to read cursive. The ability to read handwriting is gained through learning to write in one’s own handwriting. Being able to decipher both cursive and print is an important part of language literacy.
7. Handwriting can help us slow down and fully engage with our thoughts. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I type as fast as I think”? This is certainly an asset when transcribing the spoken word, but thoughts need to breathe (as do writers), and writing by hand conveniently holds such a space for thoughts to fully form before being set down in sentences.
8. With a pen in hand, there are instantly accessible creative and artistic opportunities that are not possible to weave into the experience of typing on a keyboard.
9. Handwriting is unique to each individual writer, unlike typeface. One’s handwriting style, and especially one’s signature, is a public and permanent statement. Learning to write well can help make that statement strong, beautiful, and – perhaps most importantly – legible.
10. Handwritten notes to friends and loved ones are intimate and personal in a way that email and typewritten text cannot fully convey. Nothing but handwriting can fully represent the mood and personality of the writer. A handwritten love note is a creative gift to cherish!
11. Proficient writing has a soothing flow and rhythm. While technology and culture is goading us to work faster and more intensely, tasks such as writing can help us find healthy balance in our work, our learning, and our play.
12. Being able to write effortlessly enables the mind to focus more fully on a topic. Struggling with handwriting takes valuable brain energy away from any writing task, but when that skill is mastered, it makes all the difference. Skilled, fluid handwriting is an asset to learning!
Sources and resources
What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades, by Maria Konnikova (New York Times, June 2, 2014).
The Importance of Teaching Handwriting, by Louise Spear-Swerling.
Why is Handwriting Still Important in the Digital Age? (Pen Heaven).
Behind Every Successful Person is a Notebook Full of Ideas (Pen Heaven).
How Handwriting Trains the Brain: Forming Letters Is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas by Gwendolyn Bounds. (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 5, 2010).
The Importance of Handwriting Instruction: Handwriting instruction is crucial for a child’s education, by J. Richard Gentry Ph.D. (Psychology Today, January 09, 2014.)
Master penman Jake Weidmann