New Beginnings, Homeschooling is a Journey of Continual New Beginnings
Karen M. Gibson
Your journey as a parent began when you first learned you were expecting a child. The journey itself, though, is a process, not an event. It is a series of small steps taken one at a time. Educating your child is just one of the many steps within the journey of parenthood.
If you are just beginning your homeschool journey, you are may be feeling overwhelmed with all the new ideas you have come across and the decisions that you have been making. These can include:
- Understanding the learning styles of your children and yourself.
- Learning about the many different home education methods and implementing one style or perhaps adapting many of them to suit your family’s needs.
- What resources you will use? Textbooks? Online courses? Videos?
- Will you assess grades? And, if so, what standards you will use?
- Will your children undergo standardized testing yearly or not at all?
Once you make all those decisions, though, you will find it necessary to revisit those questions and decisions again and again, and even find some new questions along the way. As your children mature, the dynamics of your family will change and your family’s educational plan will most assuredly change. Of course, the good news is that you can revisit those questions and decisions again and again. They were not carved in stone or enacted into statue when you first began your education journey.
There will be many reasons why you will find yourself revisiting the same questions and one way to think of it is as a new beginning within the journey. For example, undoubtedly you will discover at least one instance when a resource you chose for your child just does not work well. It might be visually too stimulating or maybe it needs to be more challenging. Whatever the reason, I would discourage you from continuing with the resource in order to get your money’s worth from it. You certainly will not get a good return on your investment if your child learns to dislike that particular subject and dreads the time spent on it just because of an inappropriate resource. Cut your losses and try something else! Buying too many resources too quickly is a common tendency for those new to home education. My recommendation is to begin with one resource at a time, one subject at a time. This allows you to insure that the new resource will be one that works well for you and your child, and also gives both of you the time to ease into a new routine.
Another reason for a new beginning may be a change in your family situation. Perhaps you need to care for an elderly relative, or are expecting a new baby, or even planning to move. As Gail Thomas relates in her article in this issue (See note below), she certainly never planned on contracting a debilitating disease. Coping with the unpredictable nature of her disease (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) meant her family had to undergo another beginning, even though they had been home educating successfully for several years. In Gail’s case it appears that each time her disease manifests itself, her family will undertake another “new” beginning. If Gail and her husband were not willing to accept that things would need to change, they probably would have never been able to continue home-schooling their children. And if they had continued without making changes, you can bet it would have been a very unhappy household.
Any number of situations can arise which will require changes in your education plan, whether just a short-term accommodation or a much more long-term re-evaluation. When education is viewed as a part of every day life, it becomes much more natural to expect and accept the need to change and adjust when these challenges pop up.
A common challenge that all families face is adjusting each time a child undergoes the natural changes that occur as the child grows. There may be times when it seems as though they have matured overnight and what worked previously, whether a particular schedule, a certain resource, or even a learning style, may no longer be appropriate. A change, a new beginning is needed. Our family has experienced this several times in our years of home educating.
One recurrent change in our lives is the difference in the amount of “schooling” we do together. When we first began to home educate, the children and I spent a lot of time reading together in many different subject areas. Then, perhaps two years later, the eldest child, Kat, was not as interested in listening to what her brothers wanted to read. So we made an adjustment, accommodating her need to do more of her work on her own. This past year we have found it necessary to make another adjustment. Charles, the youngest child, discovered audio books, which has satisfied his need for “reading” at a time when his reading ability has not kept pace with his interest. And so I find this year we do very little “schooling” together as a group. I will admit it has taken me longer to adjust to this particular new beginning than it has my children.
These “new beginnings” demonstrate the inherent adaptability of “home education” and why it is so successful. It becomes such a part of your life that it can be extremely difficult to separate when “education” ends and “life” begins. The separate journey of “education” with your children simply becomes a part of the over-all journey of parenthood.
Copyright December 2001
Note: Originally published in January/February 2002 issue of HELM (Home Education Learning Magazine) in the regular column entitled "Beginning Your Journey."