Monday, June 09, 2014
What I have learned in 15 years of homeschooling
We have now successfully completed 15 years of homeschooling.
Here are a few things I have learned about education along the way that apply to homeschooling as well as any other educational option.
1) Children have their own time table for learning. When parents/teachers superimpose an arbitrarily determined schedule, it doesn’t work very well. Both the child and the parents/teachers get frustrated. Learning and the relationship suffer. [Yes, we had to learn this one the hard way].
2) Children with parents who are involved and invest the time get a better education. Homeschooling parents have the advantage here because we have more power than the PTA president or a classroom volunteer. However, parents who are on the ball make a big difference. No program or policy can replace a good parent.
3) Successful educational programs address the needs of the whole child. A curriculum/program that produces high SAT scores and a child with an anxiety disorder and/or a weight problem is NOT a successful program.
4) Moral and character development are equal, if not more important, than academic learning. If a child leaves their k-12 education lacking a work ethic and integrity, than nothing else really matters.
5) Testing, if used properly, is a tool. We use standardize testing to find strengths and weakness in our efforts and to help plan future curriculum choices for that child. Because each child is an individual, what works well for one child may not work for another and testing tells us that. We don’t teach to the test. Teaching to the test defeats the purpose of the test.
6) Flexibility is king. Rigid curriculum/styles/programs don’t work well. If a child knows the material, don’t waste time on that lesson. Move on. If the child needs or wants more time to delve more deeply into the material, stop and take the time. This is one area where traditional classroom style education often falls short. Unless you are teaching a room full of clones, some child is going to lose out. There are some very talented teachers who do have the skill to meet most of the needs of a diverse classroom, but that is the exception not the rule. This is also why sorting children by age and not ability and interest falls short.
7) Free time matters. Children need free time to grow and learn how to govern themselves.
8) Children need adult supervision and interaction. As a parent, I am NOT raising children; I am raising an adult. I want my children to have successful adults meaningfully involved in their lives to act as role models. Your teenage needs just as much adult interaction as your toddler.
9) Technology can be your best friend and your worst enemy. There are so many wonderful educational materials available on line. The ease of access of information is amazing and worthwhile. There are also many more terrible, awful, destructive, time wasters your children can find with click of a button. You have to be the guard at the gate. [Video games, Nintendo, WOW are not in my home for a reason.]
10. Educational goals should be unique to the child. Not every child is meant to be a software engineer or in an academic career. Do not ignore the value of practical skills or non-academic professions. College is not the only track to a successful life.