While I am on a year-long walkabout with my husband and two children, we are homeschooling. As fun as it sounds, the perpetually close quarters can be stressful sometimes. After surviving the first few weeks of homeschool (or road school!), I have learned some important lessons about myself, my children, parenting, and teaching.
1. Parents are harder on their kids than their teachers would be. No one is as invested in your child's academic success as their parents. I have high expectations for my children. I want them to shine and succeed in life. I also don't have thirty other kids demanding my attention. All my focus is on my kids and I can tailor our homeschool curriculum to meet their needs. We are essentially completing a math curriculum one grade above their level for the year. I push them because I think highly of my kids. I push them because I love them.
2. Kids get stressed when their parent/teacher not prepared. On the first day of homeschooling, Kara's Pre-Algebra exercise was on number sets. After reading the introduction, I was lost. I could not explain the material clearly to her, but I still wanted her to complete it. We also had trouble downloading the videos from Khan Academy that discussed sets because our Wi-Fi in Bolivia is so slow. Eventually, Kara and I worked through the problems together and finally understood the lesson, but by then she was in tears. She was not crying because the material was too difficult, she cried out of frustration because her teacher (me!!) was not prepared. I learned an important lesson that day: Homeschooling requires a lot of work beforehand. I handed off Kara's pre-algebra education to Chris so that I could focus on Tristan's Signapore Math and he could focus on pre-algebra. OK, I also did it because my daughter and I are too much alike. This seemed like a good way to avoid matricide. Chris works through the pre-algebra lesson the night before Kara does it & uses the Kahn Academy application which seems to download the videos more easily. I also look over Tristan's math, spelling, and reading comprehension exercises before he does them. Preparation is key to successful homeschooling.
3. Children don't want their parents to see them struggle. Tristan has a natural affinity for math, but reading is not easy for him. He struggled with agony during a reading comprehension activity on timelines and that ended with tears too (his, not mine). He was so used to being praised for math that struggling through a reading lesson in front of me was unnerving for him. I gave him lots of hugs and told him that I was prouder of him for working hard through the reading than for getting a 100% on his math. Struggling through a problem makes kids smarter, even though it is uncomfortable.
4. Homeschooling is a privilege. When my kids were in private school, I knew very little about what they were learning. It wasn't that I did not care, but I was bogged down with working full-time and trying to feed them that I did not take the time to find out. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be the parent and teacher this year because I am aware of their knowledge strengths and gaps. We can talk about what they are learning and reinforce attitudes, knowledge, and skills during day to day activities. I realize there are parents who homeschool for the wrong reasons or do it haphazardly. Honestly, we sometimes fall into those categories, but I will always cherish this year. I am learning more from my children than they are learning from me. That is a privilige!
5. Teachable moments are found everywhere. While traveling through the Uturuncu and Licancabur volcanic areas in Uyuni, Tristan asked why volcanoes form. Chris and I launched into what we could remember from our fourth grade geology lessons. Luckily, our knowledgeable guide was also able to join in teaching the lesson in the context of the local geothermal history. While in Cusco, Peru, which is the birthplace of the Inca nation, we read about the history of the nine Inca kings. You do not need a classroom or a dry erase board to teach your children new things. We have been able to teach them while riding on a bus, visiting a museum, or simply walking through a park. That is the best type of learning there is.
If you are homeschooling, what lessons have you learned in the process? If you have any recommendations, resources, or suggestions to make this a positive learning experience, let me know!
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