I’ve explained why parents need to deschool as they begin homeschooling their children, and I’ve given you reading homework and asked you to network with other homeschoolers as part of the transition process.
Another aspect of deschooling involves things to do as you make the transition to homeschooling. Here is your “to do” list:
- Learn something new. That’s right: you, the parent, should learn something new. There is nothing like trying to learn something to remind you of how learning really works. Try a new sport, take music lessons, practice a foreign language, begin knitting, take a MOOC, do some woodworking, take your dog to obedience class, or start painting. Pay careful attention to the techniques that move your learning ahead and those that don’t make a difference. Keep in mind that your newly homeschooling kids are also watching how you learn and that you are willing to learn new things.
- Attend a homeschooling convention or workshop. These events have experienced homeschoolers leading thought-provoking sessions about how to homeschool and how homeschooling works. Keep in mind that conferences and conventions have different “flavors.” Certain events focus on lifestyle issues that some people find tangential to homeschooling — such as a particular religious world view or organic foods or environmental consciousness or living frugally. Others focus on academics and homeschooling. You should be able to tell by reading the registration materials if a particular event will be a good fit for you. Once you are there, use discernment regarding what you hear and see.
- Focus on your family rhythm. If your kids have previously been in school or you have previously been working outside the home and now will be home more yourself, you will be developing a whole new routine. Trying to schedule your new time together too tightly can result in burnout and frustration. No schedule at all may leave you at loose ends, with kids not getting enough stimulation and the parent feeling without direction. I often advise people to think in terms of a rhythm: give you and your kids indoor time alternated with outdoor time. Alternate “close work” with something fun that uses large motor skills. If you have a big day out with a field trip, stick closer to home the next day. You’ll also figure out new routines around preparing and cleaning up after meals, housekeeping, screen time, and play time with the neighbors. Even bed times may change with the advent of homeschooling. Cut yourself and your kids some slack as you figure out what works best for your family. Furthermore, if you’re bringing more than one kid home from school, keep in mind that they may have to re-negotiate their relationships now that they’ll be spending more time together. It sometimes takes a while to work out, but it’s part of the great “socialization question” that everyone is always worrying about with homeschoolers, so yes, it’s good experience.
- Question the status quo. Challenge yourself by thinking about why you are making the choices you are making for or with your children. Is there a good reason, or just a school reason? For example, does your child need to sit up at a desk to read and study (there might be a school reason for this), or could it be just as effective for her to read on the hammock on the porch? Must your child avoid listening to music while reading or doing math, or is that a school norm? Maybe you will find that he actually is better at math with music occupying part of his brain — something that science tells us is true for some learners, but which we don’t often hear from schools, where it would be chaotic if each child had his own play list. School reasons and good reasons don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but often we parents get stuck with the default — “that’s the way it’s done at school; that’s the way we’ll do it at home.” Think and think again about whether something has to be done a school way. Is it effective? Is your child learning? Is it creating engagement? Or is it something that is a holdover from your assumptions about what education looks like in a school setting?
- Go places and do stuff with your kids. Take a look at the tips I gave for helping kids deschool — most of those tips work best if a parent is actively involved. Here is where deschooling the kid and deschooling the parent intersect! Take those field trips, read together, watch documentaries, build stuff, get out in nature, create art together, go to the library. What’s good for the child is good for the parent! and vice versa. As you do these things together, you’ll make observations about what makes your child tick, which activities you are able to enjoy yourself, and which things fit into your schedule and your life. You’ll begin thinking of books and resources that could expand the experiences, and your child will show preferences and interests you can capitalize on. In my next (and last) installment in this series on parental deschooling, I’ll ask you to take a look at your parenting style. Combined with the other suggestions for transitioning to homeschooling, parenting style can have a powerful impact on how you and your child make the adjustment.