Did you or someone you know just start homeschooling “after the holidays” – right in the middle of the school year? It can feel daunting, and there can be a particular pressure to “keep up” when you know that the students in your kids’ former school are still there, churning through their curriculum.
Each year in January, experienced homeschoolers hear the scramble of brand new homeschooling parents as they ask their Number Two question on social media and in homeschool group meetings.
It's not about curriculum
The Number One question is, “Can I do this?”
But the Number Two question is definitely, “What curriculum should I use?” Even among experienced homeschoolers, January ruminations run toward assessing the curriculum and whether it is working.
I know you don’t want to hear this – but your homeschool priority should be connection, not curriculum.
It’s hard to get your mind around, because homeschooling is a replacement for school, right? So curriculum obviously covers all that school part.
But emphasizing curriculum selection over helping your child make connections is missing the point. Connection is what ultimately provides the atmosphere for growth, learning, and life satisfaction.
You can apply all the curriculum you want, and if your child does not have or feel connection, his or her learning will not be maximized.
What kind of connection am I talking about?
- Connection to family and close friends
- Connection to interests
- Connection to the larger community
- Connection to the natural and physical world
- Connection to spiritual or philosophical underpinnings
- Connection to self
Let’s face it. If you took your child out of school in the middle of the year, something was missing. Your child was not connecting with the material, the teachers, the testing, the learning environment, the approach to learning, the other students, or something else about the school experience.
Your child might be one who flourishes with more outdoor time, more creative time, more hands-on time, more exploration and discovery, or more autonomy than school can allow. There was a disconnect of some kind that built up to the point of your making this decision.
The disconnect might have shown up as bad grades, unacceptable behavior, bullying or being bullied, reluctance or refusal to attend school, tears over homework or classwork, lack of comprehension of the context for memorized facts, diminished curiosity, loss of spark for learning, loss of self-confidence, anxiety or depression, changes in enthusiasm for learning (such as “loved reading” but now “hates reading”), attention problems, or not working up to potential.
The disconnect may have even reached into your family, with you and your child having become adversaries over school issues.
These kinds of problems are not addressed or healed with curriculum. They are healed with connection. The way we help our children who have been in school but who are now going to homeschool is by going through a process called deschooling, which allows a child to increase or recover a sense of connection. I have written articles you need to read on Deschooling for Parents here at TheHomeSchoolMom.com.
Your priority is not curriculum, it is connection.
Pre-planned and pre-packaged curriculum and resources obviously end up being important and valuable ingredients for many homeschoolers. Other parents make up their own learning programs or piece various resources and curricula together according to a certain homeschooling style or approach to homeschooling, something new homeschoolers should read more about. Some homeschoolers don’t even think about or use curriculum at all, and their kids also go on to do fine in vocations and college.
I know. If curriculum were the single most important aspect of homeschooling, homeschooling would not be working in all these different ways.
How to make connections
So what are the curriculum strategies that work well for new mid-year homeschoolers?
- Pick a curriculum, but consider it a placeholder. This means don’t make a long-term or large investment in curriculum now. Make observations about how your child learns, so you can use that information to explore homeschooling styles that might work for you, as well as to make decisions about future curriculum purchases. Even if you pick a curriculum, focus on deschooling and helping your child find connection
- Continue with the types of assignments that were working well for your child in school. You may even be able to buy the same or similar materials on line. Do not continue with anything that was causing stress or boredom or that was not helping your child learn. Now is the time to realize that just because school did it, doesn’t mean you have to do it during homeschooling. Even if you continue with these school-type assignments, focus on deschooling and helping your child find connection.
- Don’t pick a curriculum at all. If you feel too adrift, there are lots of suggestions at TheHomeSchoolMom.com website for things you can do during the deschooling period that are active learning opportunities that will expand your child’s content knowledge and academic skill. The important thing is to focus on deschooling and helping your child find connection.
Are you sensing a theme here?
What about getting behind?
Your child won’t get “behind” if you follow one of these strategies. You’ve gotten off that treadmill.
We have a saying in homeschooling – there are no educational emergencies. You now have the flexibility to set a pace that will work for your child. There may be a few special cases, such as if you know you will only be homeschooling for a few months, and your child will return to school in the fall. In general, though, if you are making a commitment to homeschool, you are better off taking a longer view.
Working on connection
Of course, helping your child with connection is more difficult than purchasing a curriculum and directing him or her through it without creating an atmosphere of connection. But this connection to people and self and the natural world and the spiritual/philosophical world and one's own interests and ways of learning is the thing that families can create that one-size-fits-all institutions find nearly impossible to emulate.
When you or your child (or both!) are flailing, look for ways to increase connection for your child as your priority.
- A special outing to the coffee shop?
- A field trip to indulge a kid's quirky interest in remote control airplanes?
- A visit with a beloved grandparent or cousin?
- A cozy read aloud of just the right book?
Any combination of these types of things can increase connection and de-escalate bad homeschooling feelings.
The need to create connection as a part of homeschooling might be unexpected to you, and it might be more difficult than just "applying" curriculum as if it were topical medicine used to treat a symptom on the outside of your body. Connection works deep inside, creating receptivity and curiosity and respect and healing.
Working on connection—and it may never be perfect—enhances the feeling of safety and acceptance a child has, so she or he can venture forth in learning and life.
Taking the time to help your child reinforce or create connection will make homeschooling work more effectively in the future. It’s the foundation that sets the stage for your selection of curriculum. Read about deschooling and help your child feel more connection.
Connection. Not curriculum. It’s the heart of homeschooling.