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Too Much, Too Fast, and for Too Long

Avoiding Sudden Onset Homeschooling Syndrome

It’s the time of year when families are suffering from Sudden Onset Homeschooling Syndrome.

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The first days of school are upon us in the U.S. as I write this on Labor Day weekend. Many homeschoolers who plan to follow the public school academic calendar have embarked on their first homeschool days in recent weeks.

Too much, too fast, and for too long homeschooling

On social media, I’m seeing a lot of questions from new and newer homeschooling parents who are unhappy to find themselves with resistant children.

“Please tell me how to make him sit down and do his work,” a mom requests.

Others want to know how to make a toddler cooperate who “does not want to behave” for the time it takes for Mom to complete lessons with an older child.

In answer to my follow-up questions, a mom reports that yes, she excitedly “jumped right into homeschooling full force” with a full day of kindergarten and third grade.

“Should it take seven hours?” she asks.

No, it definitely should not take seven hours.

What’s wrong with this picture? It’s too much, too fast, and for too long. It’s Sudden Onset Homeschooling.

Your child’s resistance and your deflated feelings are not so surprising to those of us who have been doing this for a while.

What can a parent do about Sudden Onset Homeschooling Syndrome?

Rethink the “jump in full force” approach and ease into homeschooling.

Many experienced homeschoolers begin each year with one subject and add in additional subjects over a period of weeks. This gives homeschooled kids and their little brothers and sisters a chance to transition to homeschooling. Parents, too, then have more reasonable expectations. They can see if they are going to need more tricks in the bag for entertaining a toddler or caring for a baby while helping older children learn. Parents also have the opportunity to get supplies or adjust to homeschooling during nap time or on a schedule they did not anticipate during the optimistic planning phase of homeschooling.

Many other experienced homeschoolers begin with a few days of homeschooling per week, or they limit themselves to very short homeschooling sessions each day. Experienced homeschoolers might start a kindergarten child with fifteen or twenty minutes. That’s each day, folks.

And yes, they’ll be facilitating many other valuable activities with a kindergarten child, such as encouraging lots of play, taking him or her to the grocery store, and counting socks and rocks together.

In fact, many parents incorporate learning into normal home activities, spreading it out in ways that their children don’t even notice because there is no formal “seat time.” They cuddle on the couch for reading aloud, and they talk about colors and numbers and nature in a relaxed way. Some people even purposely don’t have any lessons ever, using an unschooling approach that can sound strange to newcomers.

If you’ve had trouble with resistance in your children, I suggest you ease into homeschooling. You could:

  • Do fewer subjects per day or per week in the first days of homeschooling
  • Decide not to homeschool longer than a specific (short!) time each day and gradually increase
  • Change your expectations of your children’s behavior while they learn how to manage and adjust
  • Learn from other people who homeschool with babies and toddlers
  • Make the learning more natural or better suited for your children’s personalities and your circumstances
  • Devote some time to learning about deschooling, which will help you figure out just why “jumping in full force” may be the cause of the suffering associated with Sudden Onset Homeschooling.
  • Reset your homeschooling with the Let’s Effect.

Keep in mind that what you “get done” on Day Two of Homeschooling is far less important than the fact that you will want your children learning in a supportive atmosphere rather than an adversarial one. You want to be your child’s learning partner, not someone who expects them to instantly “get” what is in your mind as the perfect homeschooling day. Remember, children who aren’t “cooperating” in the way you envisioned for homeschooling do not have the maturity you have, nor can they access your vision of how things should go.

Give your children love and time to adjust. Help them gradually understand. See through their eyes, and recognize that variation from your original expectations may occur because they are new to this too.

And stay tuned, because not long after the problems of Sudden Onset Homeschooling Syndrome, we’ll be celebrating Curriculum’s Not Working Day. That annual holiday comes up October 1.

I know. Homeschooling isn’t like I thought it would be either.

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer has homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a recent news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Jeanne teaches writing and literature for her youngest son’s homeschool co-op, and she is a student of how learning works – at home, in the music room, in small groups, in the college classroom, on the soccer field, and in the car to and from practice. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne conducts portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress. To read more of Jeanne’s writing, inquire about a homeschool evaluation, or ask her to speak to your group, see her blog, Engaged Homeschooling.

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Comments

  1. Paula Cavanaugh

    That’s all well and good for those whose state doesn’t have stringent requirements for homeschooling. For the moment I’m good. But after looking at my state education site recently, I may not be much longer. There’s a push to regulate, and now the website states that though homeschoolers are not required to report in, it is understood that homeschoolers should be schooled a minimum of 180 days at least 6 hours per day.

  2. LOVED this article. Parents do tend to plan too much because we are so used to the hustle and bustle of busy lives! Slowing down is great, especially for younger children who don’t have as much required learning in the year.

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