If you’re a veteran homeschooler, the list for this year probably looks something like this: new pencils, the next Math book in the series, more bookshelves, bins for each child’s work, glue sticks…the list could go on and on.
If you’re someone considering homeschooling, the list might be full of things you think you need: curriculum that contains materials for every subject, desks for each child, a bell signaling the end of each period…
OK, maybe not that, exactly. But the truth is, whether an old-timer or newbie homeschooler, August and September often bring with them a host of homeschool supplies each parent perceives are necessary for home education to be successful. There is plenty of pressure to acquire Everything Important (surely that is a capital-worthy, official concept, right?) to ensure the year’s academic success – if you get this or do this or try this, your homeschool will go well!
Sure, there are basic necessities for getting the job done. But many of the perceived “needs” for an effective homeschool really aren’t. That’s right. You can educate your children at home with much less than most people think. Let’s look at a new back-to-school list: the list of what homeschoolers don’t need!
1) Lots of money
Contrary to popular belief, homeschoolers are not all families of well-to-do professionals who make $100,000 a year. In fact, a good majority cannot make it on solely one income.
Homeschoolers learn to be creative, and to find ways to cut costs and make money for their families that enable them to educate their children without both parents simultaneously working away from the home full-time.
Cleaning houses as a family one day a week, doing away with television and cable, holding photography sessions in the evenings for clients, downsizing homes, and teaching piano lessons are all examples of things homeschoolers do to “make it work”.
When the emphasis becomes family education over the “American dream”, homeschooling options previously unconsidered become possibilities. From couponing to online work to home-based businesses, homeschoolers have learned that ingenuity and commitment far supersede money when it comes to the ability to educate children.
We may not live on the “nice” side of town, and our kids might be in bunk beds rather than have their own rooms, but they are getting an individualized education from the people who love them most.
2) Lots of nice clothes
You know the arduous back-to-school clothes shopping process? Yeah, homeschoolers don’t have that.
Why? Because we get to do school in our pajamas. Every day. That’s right…no school uniforms, no hundreds of dollars spent on school-worthy outfits or the coolest new trend. PJs are our friend, and although we’ve got to have a few decent outfits for outings and church, really we spend most of our lives in our skivvies or our play clothes.
Relaxed, unpretentious, cheap, and comfy. It’s marvelous, and a homeschooling perk not to be overlooked. If you doubt me, just go ask some of your working-outside-the-home and sending-off-to-school friends around 6 a.m. when they’re getting themselves, and their kids, dressed for the day.
3) Lots of education
You do not need a college degree to be an effective homeschooler! The truth is that no matter how well-educated a person is, she has gaps in her learning. I was valedictorian of my (public school) high school, have completed a master’s degree, and didn’t find out until this year, when teaching my daughter her multiplication tables, that in the 9’s times table, the digits of the answer add up to make 9. I have survived into adulthood without this knowledge.
Even worse – the large majority of the world history that I know I learned by teaching it to my children.
What is most important to be an effective homeschooler is not a high level of knowledge, but a high level of commitment. The amazing thing about homeschooling is that you get to learn as you teach! If you are committed to doing the best for your children, you will be able to find the means to help them learn effectively, even if it is in an area that is not your strength.
It is easy to find resources that spell out exactly what you need to teach so that even if you do not understand a concept well, you can still help your child understand (and learn, yourself, as you do so). In addition, there are plenty of other options for subjects in which you are weak, such as co-ops, tutors, community college courses, and online classes.
You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to have lots of degrees. You just have to be dedicated to doing the best you possibly can for your children.
4) Lots of time
Homeschooling doesn’t take all day, every day. Remember, we’re skipping the sitting in the lunch room wait for the buses to all arrive, and we’re missing out on the hallway walks between classes, and we’re bypassing the dead time for students who have finished the assignment but have to wait until everyone is done before the teacher can continue on to something else.
Homeschooling can be really, really efficient.
One-on-one, without the distractions of 25 other students, and with the individualized attention of the teacher, kids are able to get more done in less time. Plus, they don’t have to be bogged down with going at the pace set by others – they go as quickly as their own abilities allow them. No busywork to keep pupils occupied. No homework on a concept that has already been grasped. No extra problems when the subject has been mastered.
All of this means that the academic work of homeschooling doesn’t have to be (and usually isn’t) a 7 a.m.-4 p.m. proposition. Flexibility, individualization, and personal attention mean that home education can be done in whatever time you have, and that you can get more done in less time.
Whether it is done in a couple of intense hours of academics, or relaxed periods of academics sprinkled throughout the day and week – the important factor is not as much how much time you have, as it is using the time you have well.
5) Lots of space
Yes, there are homeschoolers who have dedicated “homeschool rooms”. Having lots of space for homeschooling, with abundant book shelves and cabinets and bins for paraphernalia and projects and separate work spaces for each child – it is the stuff about which I dream. But it’s not my, or many homeschoolers’, reality.
You don't need a homeschool room to homeschool.
But that’s ok, because lots of space is not a requirement for homeschooling. I’ve got homeschool curricula in a decorative cabinet in the dining room that is supposed to hold china. The kitchen table makes a perfect desk for everybody. Mom and Dad’s bed serves as our reading nook, and books from the library go…well, pretty much anywhere they will fit. Oh, and did I say that we also do a lot of our work on the couch and coffee table?
The truth is that any space you have will work. Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to figure out how to organize your homeschool in small spaces, but homeschooling is about educating within the flow of life. If you have plenty of room for homeschooling, count yourself blessed. If you don’t, use what you have. It’s not where you are that matters, but what you’re doing while you’re there.
6) Lots of creativity
Yes, there are plenty of uber-creative homeschool moms out there, who come up with their own curricula and invent cool science projects and make art studios in their basements so that their kids can get the full art experience. I am not one of those moms. And neither are plenty of other homeschool parents.
The truth is, you don’t have to have an ounce of creativity to homeschool.
There are so many incredible resources out there that will do the creative work for you. You just buy the curriculum, follow what it says to do, and your kids will think you are a creative teaching superstar. Plus, homeschool co-ops, group teaching, and online classes all offer ways to expose kids to different teaching styles that can inject creativity into areas where you as a teacher are lacking.
Homeschooling allows you to capitalize on your own strengths as a teacher to your kids, and to supplement those areas which are not your strengths. If ingenuity is not your gift, then just find some structured resources that do the creative thinking for you.
The one-on-one, personal individualized teaching from a parent who loves them more than anyone else in the world is a whole heck of a lot more important for kids’ success than the teacher’s creativity.
7) Lots of resources
Although it is true that homeschoolers tend to become resource hounds, you don’t have to have a lot of resources to homeschool. Sure, those cool robotics science kits are amazing, those manipulatives can make Math fun, and those Create-Your-Own-Pyramid kits add pizzazz into History, but they are not necessary to get the job done.
I know many homeschooled children (including my own) who have been taught effectively how to read with just one major book: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. No DVDs. No puzzles. No sing-alongs. No hands-on activities. Just Mom and 100 Easy Lessons, a little at a time.
The basic resources needed for educating children are fairly few. Home educators are successful using all sorts of simple options: all-in-one curricula, where everything for each subject comes together in one package, books from the library (such as the Charlotte Mason living books approach), and free educational sites on the internet, just to name a few.
Many homeschoolers, sucked in by the lure of all the amazing curricula options available at homeschool conventions or used curriculum sales, stock up on resources that they think they can’t live without – only to get home and realize they don’t have the time and energy to use them, anyway.
You don’t have to, and can’t, use it all.
More important than the number of resources are their quality, and their appropriateness for the learning style of each child. Invest your energy in understanding your particular child’s needs and interests, and then choose a proven resource that will best address those needs and interests.
One teaching tool, when it is the right tool, can be immeasurably more effective than a whole schoolroom full of great resources that don’t work best for your individual child.