By Shanxi, MPE online content manager
In some ways, you might expect me to be the last person to attend a homeschool workshop.
I was homeschooled growing up, so MPE’s “how to homeschool workshop” on Aug. 9 wasn’t exactly new territory to me.
However, I’m so glad I went.
There were so many “aha!” moments when I realized, “So that’s what my mother was doing!” or “Yes, I see that now in my own life!” I laughed and learned with all the other attendees as the speakers shared stories, answered questions and gave us hope that yes, we could do this too (and if we were already doing this, we could get even better!).
It gave me a new appreciation and respect for my homeschool experience, which I wouldn’t trade for a million other school experiences.
And I would gladly go again next year, just to catch up on all the things I missed!
The “How to Homeschool” workshop came in three parts: 1) “Beginning the Journey” by Rose Gerringer, which dealt with big-picture steps and guidelines for homeschooling; 2) “Organizing My Family, Home, Time, and School Records” by Kathy Roggow, which dealt with practical applications for homeschool organization; and 3) “Teaching Multiple Grades” by Dawn Pittman, which focused on a family-learning approach where all children, at all levels, learn together.
“Beginning the Journey”
Most of us think of homeschooling as an experimental type of schooling that started in the 1980s, Rose said. However, a quick overview of U.S. history before the mid-1800s shows that most learning happened at home with parents (or private tutors) teaching the children.
In this way, Rose explained, homeschooling is simply a step back to what has worked for generations.
“No human cares more about your children than you do,” she said.
Beyond covering the basics of starting a homeschool, Rose also stressed the importance of setting goals. This can benefit you in a number of ways:
- It gives you a way to focus on what’s important for your family – especially saying “No” to the good things that can also be distractions.
- It helps you explain yourselves to everyone who asks why you’re doing this. This includes parents, neighbors, pediatricians and even entire strangers!
- It can encourage you on the rough days that come with any job, including this one.
And how to navigate the jungle of homeschool curriculum choices? Rose fully sympathized with newbies to this scene, as she was once a newbie trying to figure out “who Bob Jones was, and where A Beka lived.”
So she provided this helpful tip: Find out your philosophy or approach to teaching, then choose the type of curriculum that best fits it.
Here’s a quick rundown:
- Traditional: Courses for a specific grade that follow a scope or sequence (e.g. A Beka, Bob Jones).
- Video: Traditional classes taught via video or DVD.
- Computer-based: Lessons on CDs or online with printed text and multimedia elements (e.g. Switched-On Schoolhouse, Easy Peasy).
- Classical: A rigorous course of study based on the stages of child development (e.g. Classical Conversations).
- Charlotte Mason: Learning from life experiences and studying literature, art, nature and music.
- Unit Study: Studying one theme or topic through many subjects (e.g. Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace).
- Virtual Schools: Classes taken at home as part of another school with its own curriculum, testing and oversight. Warning: HSLDA does not support this approach as it means your homeschool would be a satellite of that organization.
- Co-ops: Subjects taught outside the home in a classroom setting (e.g. Brighton Academy).
- Community College: Dual enrollment classes that allow high-school homeschoolers to earn high school and college credit at the same time.
- Child-directed Learning (also called Unschooling): Education where the child chooses educational subjects that interest them.
There’s so much more in my notes that Rose explained, such as studying your child’s unique learning style, lesson plans, daily schedules for grades K-12, and much more. But perhaps the best takeaway was Rose’s honesty and humor from her own homeschool life. Some of her best quotes:
- “It’s a mistake to think my homeschool needs to look like [my friend’s] homeschool.” For example, her friend’s husband would wake up at 5:30 every morning to lead family devotionals. Rose’s husband was not a big fan of this idea!
- “Our house is lived in, and it looks like it. … It’s clean enough to be healthy, but dirty enough to be happy.” Amen, sister! 🙂
- “You got to have some margin in your life. … Don’t let your homeschooling totally consume you.” It’s so easy to overcommit, and here your goals will come in handy. Learn to know what you need, including both social needs and times to be alone and recharge. And don’t neglect your marriage, the most important relationship in your family.
- “Homeschooling inspires each of us to a lifestyle of learning.”
Rose also encouraged us to limit sibling rivalry and competition between children. Rather, have them compete against themselves such as setting records for finishing work early, reaching a higher self-accuracy on math problems, etc.
It’s also a marathon, not a sprint. Your self-confidence will grow as you see results over the months and years.
“Records, Scheduling and More”
Kathy covered four main areas of organization:
- Organizing our family
- Organizing our home
- Organizing our time
- Organizing our school records
Of all these, she said, the first one was the hardest! “It is easier to teach a difficult subject to an ‘easy’ child than it is to teach an easy subject to a difficult child,” she said.
She delved into the topic of respect, so crucial to the success of any homeschool. “Your homeschool will not work if your children won’t listen to you,” she said.
She also had a list of recommended books about the subject (which I need to check out from the library sometime!).
Home organization was a fun topic for me, especially Kathy’s comment about “active” vs. “inactive” messes. Active messes are the ones that come with the territory of creative work, such as a sewing lesson where little bits of threads and such get left behind.
However, Kathy said, once the pile of threads from that dressmaking project becomes a heap of clutter on the floor for days on end, you have an inactive mess that needs to be addressed!
A great idea covered in the time section was to have a makeup day, reserved each week. For her homeschool, it was Friday afternoon where her kids could either make up for lost time, go on field trips, or dabble in “delight-directed” studies.
And oh, organizing the school records! I loved her example of fitting school textbooks to suit her homeschool, rather than fitting her homeschool around the textbook. For example, she moved several chapters around so that all her children studied plants in the spring when she was planting her garden.
“I could never figure out why public schools studied plants in January!” she said. Why not spring?
She discovered it was so that the school could let the children keep pots in their windowsill, then bring the pots home after the project was over.
“I didn’t want pots in my windowsill; I wanted plants in my garden!”
This, to me, underscores one of the best benefits of homeschooling.
“Teaching Multiple Grades”
Unfortunately, I missed this course because of other time commitments. Which is why I need to go back next year! 😛
Before I went to the workshop, I thought it was mainly for those considering homeschooling. I came away thinking it was so much more than that!
It’s not just for people who haven’t homeschooled before. It’s for newbie homeschoolers, homeschool alumni (like me) who are starting or thinking about starting their own homeschools, and those with a year or two of homeschooling already under their belt but still feeling their way through this whole journey.
And if you’re a veteran homeschooler, well then – you need to attend so the rest of us can learn from you!
Did you miss this workshop? You can always access recordings of the “How to Homeschool” workshops from past MPE conferences at the MPE library (available to MPE members only).
If you have a homeschool-related question for Rose Gerringer, Kathy Roggow or Dawn Pittman, leave a comment and we’ll let them know.