Homeschooling in Practice: What Homeschooling Means for the Parent
an excerpt from the introduction to Getting Started with Homeschooling: Practical Considerations for Parents of School Aged Children
Part 2 - see Part 1 for the introduction to this article
Consistency is an important element in home education, and is achieved by thoroughly understanding your perception of how learning happens and what you hope to achieve.
Here are some general considerations to think about at this time:
- Are you prepared to spend a lot of time with the children, perhaps all day? Do you enjoy their company, doing what they want to, listening to their ideas? Do you respect and understand them and their needs? This looks easy on paper and you may be casually nodding your head - but it is harder than you think. Parents need their 'space' too. Children are very willing to give parents this space, provided their own needs for attention are met. Understanding that everyone has a need to be able to pursue their own interests and needs in their own way and time, is a good thing to encourage in families. Co-operation follows understanding.
- Which role do you see yourself best at - educational facilitator, mentor, resource person, co-learner and participant, adviser, friend, parent, teacher? Are you comfortable with the other roles? Can you develop them more? Do you know where, and are you prepared, to get help and advice? In schools, teachers have access to a wide variety of resources, professional development and support services. You will need to create your own.
- Are you prepared to take up and make the most of learning opportunities when presented, at any time of day? In the home learning environment you can continuously evaluate and plan the learning process for each child, based on their interests, knowledge and abilities. Continual access to the child allows for increased opportunity to 'catch' and extend the learning moment. Life at home as you know it, may change incredibly as the focus shifts from prescribed to spontaneous learning.
- Can you learn to be intuitive to your children's learning needs, to 'back off' when necessary, and to put your 'teaching' needs on hold? This involves recognising and understanding not only your child's learning needs, but your own perceptions about learning, and how these two may occasionally conflict. You will need to be very patient with yourself. This skill often takes years to develop. Don't expect miracles overnight - even teachers learn this only from many years of experience in the classroom.
- What is your own attitude to learning - do you find it easy, challenging, exciting, enjoyable, interesting, an adventure? Children learn first by example. Sometimes parents have had unhappy school experiences in their own childhood, and seek to rectify this with their own children. This may mean a shaky start to home schooling for the family, but time and experience smooth out the bumps, and parents can regain confidence in their own, as well as their children's, learning abilities. Whatever your level of education you will be able to embark on home schooling if you accept the knowledge that your have always been your children's first and most important educator. After all, it was you that helped them learn the difficult skills of walking and talking!
- Are you prepared to be flexible, willing to try different approaches, constantly evaluate the educational process, not only of the children, but your own too? Are you open to seeking out advice and help? There is no need to home school in a vacuum. The amount of information you can access and use is staggering.
- Do you have confidence in yourself and the children? Can you let them go at their own pace, gently prodding them with positive strokes? You need to develop strategies for building and maintaining confidence and support, both for them and yourself. Rigid timetables, deadlines and grading systems seldom work well with the ebb and flow of a busy family life, and are generally tailored not to the needs of individuals, but to external demands. Do you need them?
- Can you give yourself some time to be yourself, not parent, teacher, or slave to the house-hold chores? Will you be able to satisfy your own interests and needs? Are you aware of the real risk of 'burn-out' and how to avoid it? Parents who continually sacrifice themselves to their children's needs offer a poor example of adult life.
- Are you prepared to spend a long time home educating, perhaps even ten years or more - or as long as you need to? What about careers, finances, babies, etc? You may reach a point where you don't want to anymore, but your children do!
- Can you cope with being different; with opposition from your family, community; or from the authorities? We all need the approval of our peers, and unless you are able to secure a supportive network of friends who applaud your efforts, life may be an uphill battle of wavering confidence in your decision to home educate.
- Most importantly - do you have a sense of humour? Educating your children at home is a wonderful adventure, a time to treasure, but, like parenting, you need a sense of humour to survive it!
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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