But from personal experience, and chatting to many other moms and dad who have embarked on this adventure, the most important thing you can do for your child when you start homeschooling, is to change YOUR perception.
When I started, I still had “traditional” schooling in mind:
Do I have certain hours to work in?
Does my child sit behind a desk and work?
Do we “do” school at home?
Do we write exams at the end of each term/year?
No, no, no, no…there’s your short answer. Your longer answer follows…
Let me give you a tip I wish I had when I first started homeschooling.
I wish someone had told me to relax and adjust. I wish I had known that it’s OK to adjust to having your child at home. I wish I had known that my child would take time to adjust too, and often that adjustment would come through in outbursts and defiance. I wish someone told me to take some time off before delving in. It’s OK.
And no, brave parent, homeschooling your child doesn’t mean you do school at home.
So, how does this work?
Well, let’s begin with time. Normal school hours range between 8am to, let’s say, 2pm (I know, it varies). So do I need to spend six hours teaching my child at home?
Time varies from day to day, but on average, with the foundation phase (Grade R – 3), it’s good to tackle school for 1 – 1.5 hours. With upper primary (Grade 4-7), you can increase that to about 2 – 2.5 hours. High school, mmm… maybe a bit longer. Remember, that when it comes to homeschooling, you are giving your child one-on-one tuition, which has several advantages:
It takes less time;
You can pick up on the gaps, things they’re battling with. Things they are having trouble with with, say a maths concept, you can spend some more time on, and try different ways to get the idea through;
You can spend time going at your child’s pace. This is important. My daughter’s English is at High School level. That’s her thing! Her maths, not so much. That’s not her thing! So we take a little more time with maths concepts, because the way I look at it, I’d rather she understand the concept than rush to keep up;
You don’t have to school behind a desk. My children often do their reading outside on the trampoline, or lying on their beds, or on the floor. Once, after being tired of being “house bound” my daughter and I took our schoolwork to Spur, and school was done over a milkshake; and
You can teach the way your child learns. How does your child learn? This quiz will give you some good ideas.
That said, some days just don’t work. Maybe you find yourself fighting with your child more than helping. Maybe you are sick or they are sick. Maybe you just feel like getting out a bit to an outing. Maybe it’s such a lovely and perfect day, you want to spend it outside. Let it go.
My daughter, for example, loves going away for her birthday, which is in the middle of a school term. So every year for the last few, we put our school books aside for a week or a long weekend, and venture somewhere.
Look, my children work hard. Have no doubt about that. As parents we have a good idea of their capabilities, and how much we can push them. And push them we do! But homeschooling also allows the flexibility to take a day off sometimes, go away in off-peak times and, at least once a month, go on an educational outing to a museum, or nature park, or the beach…
Homeschooling isn’t school at home.
That’s possibly the most important thing to understand starting out. Homeschooling allows so much flexibility, not only in terms of time, but also the level your child is on with a particular subject. Or, if they are battling with a concept, you can spend more time on that one thing.
So you see, beginning homeschooling is a perception change, mainly for you as a mom or dad or grandparent. Yes their education is important. But so is your relationship with your child, and letting your child be a child!