Written guarantees to successful homeschooling are not issued by anyone, but you can create a home atmosphere that will maximize the homeschooling family’s potential to succeed over the long-haul. Parents, however, must remain the day-to-day on-going learners of their children, and thus hold several of the critical keys to success.
John Holt, an early forerunner to the modern homeschooling movement and author of Teach Your Own and How Children Learn commented that THE mandatory ingredient to successful homeschooling is: the parent must like the child and communicate an enjoyment of being around him. Without this, even the most dynamic homeschool program or curriculum will fail.
When parents send their children off to school for the better part of each weekday, their children’s personalities often change. This is due to the wall of self-protection many erect to survive the institutional atmosphere. They become someone other than who they were before stepping into the mass production/ assembly line approach to education called school. Inundated with peer values and culture and the institutional system where adults are often perceived as the “enemy,” and falling into the “us and them” mentality, these children often become unlikable.
Once removed from the traditional system, parents typically find the delightful side of the children’s soul resurfaces within the safety and freedom that only a loving family can provide. Students leaving traditional schooling may need up to one month per year of institutionalism to become “themselves” again.
If the student has never been in school, this “de-tox” from the school/peer culture can be avoided. This is not to say all homeschooled children are utterly and completely likable. Parents must still build upon experiences in their children’s lives for nurturing integrity and positive character qualities within their children, as well as provide training for spiritual growth.
Homeschooling certainly allows more opportunity to accomplish these critical needs. Even without schools and peers, Adam and Eve’s children were hardly perfect. To be a good parent, whether homeschooling or not, is no easy task and requires much prayer, wisdom, and humility.
Here are seven key qualities a teaching parent needs for successful homeschooling:
- Refuse to let the clock, schedule, or text dictate or “trump” the student’s learning needs.
This does not mean that time-management and focus become unimportant, but failure is certain if the student does not grasp the concepts or master the skills in the current lesson or chapter, particularly in a skill-sequenced subject like math. I was actually glad when my student didn’t finish the math book before summer because it gave me a good excuse to keep it going over the summer so we didn’t have to spend September reviewing what they forgot.
- Understand what the learner already knows.
To bore the children with “stuff” already learned, or to discourage the children with material beyond the current level of understanding will recreate the traditional schooling experience for many students. Just because it’s in the text, you don’t have to do every page. Assess the child’s skills so you know where to begin and/or where the “learning gaps” are. Some who provide annual testing and assessment services can help here (and meet your legal requirement as well).
- Show and do (rather than merely tell) while allowing ample time for self-directed learning.
Hands-on experiences allow students to use visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic sense to receive information into their minds. The more senses used, the greater the understanding. Dr. Thomas Armstrong, Cynthia Tobias, and many other learning style specialists have great books on this topic. Science is best learned in the real world, not a textbook, especially for the younger grades. Let students explore their passions and interests and build the writing, reading, and spelling around those topics.
- Minimize screen time.
Current research is showing an alarming rate of “digital dementia” due to the careless, passive way children are occupying their time. Screen time relates to anything not in the real 3-D world or books. Studies show students comprehend better with printed books over digital ones. Online learning hasn’t proven itself either. NCAA Eligibility Center has determined that most high school online courses have not proven to help the students master the subject matter effectively enough to prepare them for college. Learning occurs best in the context of relationship. Minimizing screen time applies to parents as well.
- Let the student write their own quizzes/tests.
When students must construct the questions for a quiz or test (and determine the correct answers for the answer key), they learn the material in a new way, making decisions about what is important and finding connections, relationships, and categories often previously not noted. This is especially useful in reading assignments including those in social studies and science. Then let the student test you! Or put the test or quiz away for a day, and then have the student take it.
- De-busy your family schedule.
Each family will have to make its own determination as to what this means. Some say only one sport per child per year. Some say only one night a week away from home. Some say 24-hour notice for any activity away from home. Some will only do one day away from home for even homeschool activities. Family meal times are critical to keeping the family communication integrated, sleep optimized, and the 21st century frenzy contained. This is often best done by practicing your “No” muscle.
- Rethink your family home to parallel a working farm.
When we were a rural, farm-based culture, children were an appreciated, integral part of the workings of that farm from a very young age. They were valued as an economic asset and built their frontal lobe (the executor of the brain) in ways lost in our current culture. Dr. Raymond Moore, another early homeschool expert, said that it is critical for the child know he/she is a significant cog in the family. In our current culture, children are not an economic asset. But more than that, parents do too much for their children instead of letting them learn to contribute in meaningful ways. Every child should have chores, laundry, meal prep responsibilities, etc. Make a list of everything that needs to be done to make your family function well each day and week and divide out the responsibilities appropriately. Provide needed verbal affirmation and correction, much like a good coach does to build a team.
In closing, don’t feel as if you must do everything on this list at once. Decide what is a critical need for your family and implement it over time. And don’t forget to find a little time for yourself! Blessings you on your homeschooling and parenting.
Candice Childs is a homeschool alum (and now has homeschool grandkids) and a former junior high and high school teacher (“BH” – before homeschooling) . She has worked with families for over 30 years through Family Academy/Academy NW, co-authored Homeschooling the High Schooler, and developed “Able to Teach,” a course for parents.
Candice will be presenting a WHO-Sponsored Workshop in Room #1 at the 2015 WHO Convention on Friday, June 12th at the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup. Her one-hour session will start at 9:30 AM. Don’t miss “The Real PreK-Kindergarten Essentials” with Candice Childs.