My husband and I decided to homeschool our daughters at the end of their Grade 3 and Grade 5 year.
We had no idea what to expect.
All four of us had only experienced education through traditional schools in Alberta and Saskatchewan. We had millions of questions, no support from family or friends –we don’t even know anyone who homeschools –yet it all came down to one thing: No matter what this year looks like, we’re committed to giving our daughters fun, freedom, and flexibility in their learning.
We experienced three HUGE learnings since we started.I hope that sharing this will spark ideas for your homeschool journey or encourage you to start your own.
1.Don’t be afraid to change your mind on the curriculum you choose.
In Alberta, parents have the option to be 100% responsible for the selection and teaching of curriculum. This is what we chose.We spent the summer looking over the Alberta curriculum for our girl’s respective grades and decided that for the most part, we liked WHAT they were being taught, we just wanted more customization of HOW it is delivered.
I researched all summer, read reviews, sought input on social media from experienced homeschool parents, asked questions of my facilitator and felt confident we nailed it. But we didn’t. We learned that our girls could move quickly through many assignments with content they already knew. Some projects were too complicated, or they were completely disinterested, and I wasn’t going to fight. (Our first novel study book selections completely bombed!)
We also rapidly identified skill gaps that needed support before we could move ahead. That meant new materials to source and acquire.My well-thought-out ‘September to June’ schedule went out the window by the beginning of October. As much as it felt like my planning was just a waste of time, I surrendered to it. Considering our girls learning needs as they appeared was valuable information to make new selections to light up their learning spark!
There is an abundance of curriculum options, so don’t be afraid to start with only what you need for the first few months instead of purchasing (like I did) a year’s worth of materials in August. Flexibility and customization is a beautiful gift of homeschooling. Don’t forget to sell your unused materials on social media homeschool buy/sell pages ASAP to recoup your costs.
2.There’s a difference between structure and routine.
Our first week of homeschooling, we sat down and built schedules. The girls had a template to fill in, following my instruction to include all four core subjects every day. This is the structure I felt we needed to accomplish our learning goals and prove we are excellent first-time homeschoolers!
But life has other plans.Structure goes out the window when the weather is too nice to sit inside and practice multiplication. Structure doesn’t serve when feelings need to be felt as we dealt with the upheaval of withdrawing from all our extra-curricular activities because of changing provincial guidelines. Structure most certainly does not serve the spontaneity of turning a morning hike into an all-day adventure with hands-on experiences, animals and sketching in our journals.When we let go of structure, we made way for routine.
Our daily routine is now very simple: we each take the time we need in the morning to be ready to learn by 9am with a smile on our face. We select subjects based on our mood or the weather. We’ve adopted a routine of taking whatever time is needed to feel good about what we’re working on. Sometimes that means stepping away from a complicated math problem to make cookies or spending all morning fully immersed in writing a story. We don’t serve a schedule, yet we have a daily learning routine. This has been the greatest blessing in our house to create ease and flow in our day, and open minds and hearts.
3.A little preparation makes your first home school facilitator visit a breeze.
My heart skipped a few beats when our facilitator said she was coming early November! I felt it was too early, we hadn’t done enough yet, and the girls didn’t have anything “significant” to share. I remember reading on a homeschool blog about how important it was to make daily learning notes for each kid and Type-A me started that habit on day one; documenting their emotions of the transition, questions relevant to their learning, and everything they completed. Turns out these little notes were gems to facilitate a relevant and meaningful conversation with our facilitator. A facilitator’s goal is to support each homeschool family on their own journey. Sharing these little notes sparked great ideas, suggestions and answered many questions I didn’t even know I had! They also served as evidence for me to provide a score for each core subject area, specific goals and areas of improvements for each girl, as required by Alberta Education documentation. Being prepared also meant that the girls felt my confidence, which gave them the confidence to share their work.
If I can sum up our first three months of homeschooling it would be this:
•Don’t be afraid to change your plans as you go –learning is never in a straight line, and that goes for parents, too
•Allow each day to offer its own magic for learning and living
•Make a little effort to capture each day in words and pictures
The moment we unburdened ourselves with what we thought homeschooling should look like and allowed space to create what homeschooling in OUR family looks like, everything fell into place. Now, some days are certainly more effortless than others. However, I sincerely hope that our three lessons learned give you the confidence to know that you too can create the homeschooling environment that feels right for your family.Shawna Robinson is a rookie homeschool mom and an award-winning children’s author who starts each day knowing that there will always be a plot twist and room for magic to unfold. The best part of her homeschooling day is every moment she gets to spend with her family exploring the limits of their imaginations and not stressing out about unfolded laundry. You can find her collection of read-aloud stories at www.EverydayIcing.com