In my years, I have found this to be The Number One Homeschool Mistake
Of all the possible ways to err in homeschooling, the number one homeschool mistake stands out head and shoulders over all the rest. Many people don’t realize how deep-set this one major hinderance to effective and liberating homeschooling is in their minds and lives. It’s the shadow that they live under, comparing everything to it, getting frustrated perhaps at the damaging effect it has on their children, evidenced by a smothering of an inquiring mind rather than an expanding of it. But they don’t know how to do it any differently.
So, what is this mystery mistake, and what am I getting at? Before I tell you, think back to your own education, especially your primary place of learning. Where was it?
What about where your parents got their initial education? Was it in the same sort of place? Depending on where you live, you may have to go back 3 or more generations to find something different.
For most of us, our primary education took place in a school of some sort. It is this both figurative and literal shadow that we look to for guidance on how to homeschool our children. We think they should sit down at a desk for 6-8 hours a day, chugging out worksheets, maybe reading a book, but leaving them exhausted and numb at the end of the seated time. This naturally leads to frustrations on both children and parents.
Let’s take a look at what school does.
A group of children, all the same age or within a year of each other, are gathered together in one room, with one person teaching them. That teaching is usually in the form of an often well-meaning person trying to force information into the students’ brains so they can pass a test at the end of the year and make it look good on paper. The students are numbers. Due to the number of students, they can’t deviate far from a set curriculum to follow rabbit trails and things the children are actually interested in. So you land up with this interchange at the end of the day. “Hey, Johnny. What did you learn in school today?” “Nothing much.”
One other practicality here is that a traditional modern school is the only place in life where the only people you are around are your own age. When you finish with that schooling, you are required to interact with people of all ages. One of the first questions people often ask when they find out about homeschooling relates to socialization. Even if I sent my children to school, you can be sure it would NOT be to socialize. It would be to learn. But homeschooling allows for learning to socialize with people of the widest variety you will encounter in life, from the plumber to the doctor to the store owner, cashier or adults in general.
Now let’s see what the nature of children is like. Young boys are adventurous by nature, wanting to run and be outside, observant of the world around them. Young girls might tend to a mix of outdoor observation and the ability to sit down for longer periods and role play, read books or color. Both are inquisitive, interested, wanting to know about life and the world they live in.
If you take children’s natural curiosity and guide it, you’re able to teach them so very many subjects. Math, literature, art, geography, science, you name it. If you can guide them in that, you’re venturing into uncharted territory. Therein lies the problem. We tend to not want to venture too far into the unknown, and it can be overwhelming choosing to do so in the shadow of our own personal experience. The super thing about this territory is that it can be anywhere, from home to a park or museum to a gas station. Just this morning my daughter found a dead monarch butterfly and yesterday my son found a dragonfly and held it as long as he could, both at an ordinary gas station.
As my husband says, and he was a very good student (in the classical sense), he never met a class he liked at school, but he loves learning. To me that wonder of learning and exploring new things, the wonder of discovery, is the principal advantage of homeschooling. Don’t hear me wrong. The fundamentals, also known as the 3 Rs (or for me the 4 Rs), are extremely important, and there is a certain amount of slog associated with learning that must be borne. But, when they have a purpose and real-world applications that you can show the children through the things that they love, it makes that easier.