Starting Down the Trail on the Homeschool Journey

February 12th, 2013 posted by Susan Warren

books on shelf

You did it. You hauled the kids out of school, collected their records and now, you are wagons ho! On your homeschool journey, much like the pioneers who traveled west on the Oregon Trail. And, the journey ahead may look just as terrifying as you stare out into the endless horizon and wonder “what’s out there.” It will be the greatest adventure of your life, for sure, as you rediscover the wonder and joy of childhood, the fascinating brains of your offspring and most likely, a few tidbits about yourself, like “wow, I can remember algebra!” From theory to practice is a pretty large hop; one of the toughest realities is that YOU actually have to do the schooling. If you are sick, the class has a day off, if you had a late night, the kids still need to take their algebra test the next morning. Congratulations on your new full-time job! Before you hope on your buckboard and push off, perhaps there are a few things a seasoned pioneer might suggest for a safe and enduring journey.

Know your style:

Since you will be doing the teaching, it is wise to think about the things you enjoy, and do well. These will be your teaching strengths. Are you a hands-on person? How about a reader? Do you like research and exploring? In pondering cirriculum, find one that you will enjoy implementing. I love to read, and found a cirriculum laden with scintillating read-alouds, and real books for history and science. Our “class” spends hours reading, dressing up, drawing, acting, reciting, coming up with new scenarios and most of all discussing the rich stories from history. I hate, on the other hand, science experiments. Our cirriculum has few, and those it does have I turned over to my husband who now spends Saturday mornings messing up the kitchen with the kids. The homeschooling world has a plethora of cirriculum available – find one that sparks your interest and most likely it with light a fire under your children as well. The Homeschool Journey

Don’t Overdo.

Home-schoolers may be the busiest children in the world. Not only do they study the three R’s, but we, the teachers, in order to make sure they are well-rounded, invariably add in at least one foreign language, piano lessons, sports, hobbies, art class and kids clubs, as well as all the elective cirriculum the public schools offer. Stress in children is increasing, and in part it has to do with us cramming their lives full of activities and studies. As a mom, you can’t possibly teach your children everything they do in public or private schools -nor should you. Does an eight year old really need to have a health cirriculum? Couldn’t he be taught to eat right, keep himself clean and watch out for strangers through the daily interaction with his parents? And don’t tell me my second grader needs a computer class—he practically programmed his own desktop at age seven! Examine your lives and throw out the fluff. My advice: pick one or at most two “extras” based on your child’s interests. These aren’t in cement-next year she can take the ballet lessons, but this year soccer ought to do. She will not, most likely, become a primadonna, or a Pele. But she will have fun, in conquerable amounts. If she is falling asleep at the piano, (and you beside her!) you know you’re overdoing.

Simplify your Classroom

– Organizing your child’s place of study can be as easy as getting a plastic dishpan and letting your child decorate it. Or, you can invest in a desk, a bulletin board and learning posters for your child’s room. We even tried to put the classroom in a separate room in our house, but soon realized that school always ended up around the kitchen table. We read on the sofa, then move to the table. Each person has their “tub” (including the teacher) in which all their supplies are kept, and when their lessons are complete it is stashed in their closet and school is over. The key is: the simpler it is to start school each day, the easier it will become.

Slow and Steady Record Keeping

: This is the nitty gritty, and the bumps that will either topple your wagon or teach you how to drive with a firm hand. Many a brave pioneer has given up rather than face the onslaught of record-keeping. It doesn’t have to derail you. Our record-keeping has evolved from elaborate teacher’s journals to a simple and cheap three ring binder. A call to your local school, or to your state’s homeschooling organization will tell you how detailed your records need to be. Go from there. We type up our cirriculum list and snap it into the binder. Then, we have a weekly “form” that I made on the computer. I fill it in daily and add that at the end of the week to the binder with any worksheets or extra papers. At the end of the year I label it and put it into storage. Done. My friend Debbie keeps a spiral notebook on each child and journals their daily activities per page. As the pioneers did, find the easiest place in the river, and ford it, one step at a time. The homeschooling journey is challenging, and at times rugged, but it doesn’t have to be tedious. Simplicity, an invigorating cirriculum and a workable schedule will help you plow forward on your unforgettable journey to a wondrous land of discovery–one that you and your children will never regret.

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about the author Susan Warren is a homeschooling mother of four children ages 3-8, a freelance writer and author of three (as yet) unpublished novels, and a career missionary serving with SEND International in Far East Russia.



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