10 Homeschooling Tips: #1 - Follow Your Child

This is a part of a series on how to make homeschooling work. Click here to read more from the series.

It might sounds obvious, but it’s important to stress that homeschooling DOES NOT work like traditional schooling. It’s not because (or only because) you’re teaching at home or teaching your own children. It’s because traditional school is structured, in no small part, to support LOTS of kids at varying degrees of skill and readiness at the same time.

Managing a classroom of very different young learners and trying to get them all to a common goal is not for the faint of heart. It’s why teachers think so much about classroom management. Keeping order is essential. The best teachers know how to keep discipline through engaging learning.

A Partnership Like No Other

Nonetheless, what they’re trying to do with twenty-three 3rd graders is not the same as what you’re trying to do with just the one. If you model your homeschool experience after what the phenomenal 3rd grade teacher down the street does, you’ll flop. Your lessons will go on too long or not long enough. The child won’t be ready and will revolt. In a traditional classroom, you have strategies to handle these - remediation activities to fill gaps, extension activities to fill time.

But here’s the good news: You can’t be a teacher, but you shouldn’t be try to be one, either.

Instead, you must be the child’s partner. It can’t be said enough. Get the teacher thing out of your head. Yes, you should be actively engaged in pulling together resources. Yes, you should be seeking learning opportunities. Yes, you are ultimately responsible for your child's education. However, you don't have to (and should not) do these things in a vacuum.

Do them with your child. Look for resources together. Make a list of ideas of things you might want to do, craft, or learn about together. Give your child some empowering language about the learning process. 

Many classroom teachers would envy your ability to follow the child and provide the instruction he or she needs at the moment he or she is ready (professional educators call it differentiated instruction).

Find the Balance

Following the child doesn't mean letting go of all rules and standards (though there are some educational philosophies that go to that level). Rather, it means identifying the learning outcomes that are meaningful and developmentally appropriate and inviting the child into the process as a full partners.

And when it gets hard and your child is pushing back, keep this in your back pocket:

"I know that you don't want to do this, but the truth is that sometimes things that are hard just take a lot of practice before they become fun, and when you've learned how to do this, it's going to be amazing. I remember when I was learning how to do this, and this is how I learned. How can we help you learn it? What would work best for you?"