Shannen

10 Points of Homeschooling Advice from Veteran Homeschool Mom

Homeschooling advice from veteran homeschool mom

How often do we look back on something and think, “If wish I could have done that differently.”?

Not often are we given the gift of parenting, or homeschooling, with hindsight. But with almost an 11 year gap between my two oldest kids, alhamdulilah, I’m given at least a peek into how my homeschooling decisions have played out over time.

Homeschooling advice from veteran homeschool mom

Advice to noew homeschoolers from veteran homeschool mom

I hope my hindsight can be of use to you as well, as I reflect back over the last 8 years of homeschooling, now that my oldest is, mashaAllah, graduating high school.

Academic rigor is secondary

So often we spend hours upon hours trying to find the perfect book. It’ll have all the right information, with all the best activities, and thorough tests and quizzes to make sure they don’t miss a thing.

But what about the atmosphere in our home? What about nurturing that love of learning that comes naturally to children? How long do we spend thinking about that?

I wish I would have given my daughter more time to be a kid. More time to explore and learn at her leisure, and not during some scheduled hour-long exploratory time. You can’t schedule curiosity.

Don’t let others dictate your homeschool

If you’re just starting with homeschooling and you don’t have much support around you, it’s tempting to fill up your curriculum list with impressive books and resources to try to sway them that you’re not ruining your child.

Let me tell you something – a book list is not going to change many people’s minds.

Pick the resources you feel are best, for your child. How many school teachers do you think are making curriculum decisions based on what their parents or neighbors think? They choose books they think will be the most effective. Period.

Get acquainted with various homeschooling methods

Most of us have gone through the public school system. It’s all we know. Then when we start homeschooling, we dream of bulletin boards, and an in box for assignments.

Sometimes we have to jump into homeschooling because traditional school isn’t working, so we might not have a lot of time to read up on the various methodologies. Even if that’s the case, start reading the core book on each topic and see what speaks to you.

Think of yourself as an educator or mentor, not only an administrator

An administrator simply makes education more accessible. They order books, organize lesson plans, and grade work. An educator or mentor understands how students learn, how their environment affects their learning, and has some basic understanding of psychology.

Be the educator. Treat homeschooling as your career, not a task. That means reading and studying about your chosen career.

Homeschooling advice from veteran homeschool mom

Less semester-long classes

The semester long classes were great, and I love that she made some friends in those arenas, but I think we did too many, which made it hard to take part in anything else. We barely went on field trips that related to her lessons because our schedule was so jam packed with classes.

As I’m faced with the temptation of signing up for all the interesting classes again with my younger kids, I remind myself that childhood is not the only time to learn. We can, and should, learn as adults as well. If they miss out on a class about sewing, or woodworking, or reptiles, there will be opportunities for them to learn about that as an adult as well, if they so choose.

Ask help from the community

In the six years we were exclusively homeschooling my oldest (she spent the last two years at a local college finishing her high school diploma), I had three more children and we moved twice. To say I was a bit distracted would be an understatement.

Alhamdulilah, we made do, but it would have been easier if I reached out to community members to organize study groups while she was reading classic books since I did not have the time to read them along with her. If you find someone who is passionate about a subject, they are usually happy to help the young generation to explore that passion.

Grades and deadlines

We are pretty relaxed in the early years of homeschooling, but I do suggest to start grading and giving deadlines one year before you’ll be keeping specific records. In the US (though each state is different), you don’t have to keep records until the student is in high school.

It is a disservice to your child to first experience real deadlines and grades when it will be on their permanent record.

Less is more

Okay, we don’t want to take this to an extreme and ignore educating our kids, but hear me out, especially in regards to graded assignments.

The fewer number of graded assignments you give, the more weight each one has, which means they learn to give their best time and attention to each assignment. They can’t just slop something together and know that something that was easier for them, and therefore they got a good grade on, will even out the poor assignment they just turned in.

Less formal assignments, more time to sit and think about them independently.

Never, ever stop learning

Show your child what it means to be a lifelong learner. Sign up for classes, read books, watch documentaries. Even if they scoff at your boring choices for how you use your time, they will be noticing that you didn’t stop learning when you graduated. And neither should they.

Veteran homeschool mom advice to new homeschoolers

Make du’a

Last, but not least, don’t forget that striving to provide opportunities for a great education is in your hands, but the end result ultimately is not. Allah has a plan for all of us, and sometimes it may look like it’s not going your way. That’s okay, too. Patience is what we do have control over. In sha Allah be patient.

Shannen is an American Muslim convert, homeschooling mother to 4 daughters and mediocre housewife. She enjoys blogging, knitting, quilting, and avoiding housework. Read more on her blog about their Islamic homeschool, green(ish) living, and the ups and downs of parenting. You can connect with Shannen on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Getting Started with Charlotte Mason for Young Children

Getting started with Charlotte Mason for Young children

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The following post is from Shannen at Middle Way Mom

It just me, or do very few homeschooling methods refer to little ones being in the mix of a typical homeschooling day?

One of the things that has drawn me to the Charlotte Mason method, especially in the season of life with three kids 6 and under at home, is how welcoming it is for young children.

Not only is there a focus on letting children have lots of time for free play, exploration, and short lessons, but she even addresses the youngest of children in her book Home Education.

Charlotte Mason for Young children

Using Charlotte Mason as a guide, our homeschool is just in the very beginning stages of formal learning. No formal lessons are to start before age 6, but let’s not confuse this though with the idea that we do not teach a child anything.

Instead, a child learns from their environment. How?

Getting outside

Ms. Mason spent a good deal of time in Home Education explaining what an ideal day looks like, and how one should spend hours out of doors each day, even up to 6 hours a day.

What do you do during that time? She gives a lot of guidance, and adds that we shouldn’t bring a story book to read. Instead, the child should be fully engaged in playing and exploring. It’s not like there isn’t enough for them to do!

Also, the mother should not be giving lots of instructions or information while they are outside, but rather a small nugget of information, or pointing out something interesting in nature from time to time.

Overall, her advice is to let the child’s mind have time to think and process what is around them.

A game she suggests to hone the habit of attention from an early age is this: While the children at a park or nature reserve, ask them to go and look at something, maybe a house or farm, and remember all that they can. The child should come back and retell it to you in the most detail they are able. It’s fun for children if mom takes part in this game from time to time as well!

Honestly, when I first read the advice to get out for 6 hours a day, I thought, “Yeah, maybe if I was the nanny! I have to cook dinner and manage the house!”

6 hours is a lot, and unless I get a meal in the crockpot before I go, that’s not something we can always do. Of course, 3 hours is better than 2 and 2 hours is better than 1.

Do what you can. Especially if you have a small child that needs to nap, don’t beat yourself up over not spending 6 hours a day outside.

Charlotte Mason for Young Children

Habits

“The formation of habits is education, and education is the formation of habits.” – Home Education, pg. 97

Ms Mason makes no question about it: habits are the foundation to a strong education and personal life. Without them, we flounder without direction.

I wish I would have been turned on to this idea far sooner in my life, and as such, I have to believe that helping my young children build habits might be one of the best gifts I give them.

Even as young as an infant, she mentions the value of habits. We know that a toddler who is in the habit of using the potty from an early age, whether they successfully use it or not, is more likely to be fully potty trained earlier than a child who is introduced to the potty haphazardly.

For young children in the modern age, it’s not hard to get them started with simple things like emptying a dishwasher, putting their clothes away, and picking up their toys before they go to bed. When it becomes part of the natural rhythm of their days, they don’t fight it as much as a random command when Mom just can’t take the mess anymore.

I could go on an on about habits and young children. If you are wanting to jump right in with working on building strong habits, a good book to start would be one where Deborah Taylor-Hough compiled all that Charlotte Mason said about habits throughout her six volume series into one book: Habits: The Mother’s Secret to Success: Volume 1

Reading and number sense

When my oldest daughter was young, in the early 00’s, there was no pressure on parents for kids to learn to read before Kindergarten. It was generally expected that in Kindergarten kids would learn their letters and numbers formally for the first time.

Now, just 10 years later, the conversation is completely different. Now kids are expected to have a foundation of reading before they reach Kindergarten. So often I read moms in groups sharing their worry and stress about their 3 year old not knowing their letters.

Either the tide is turning again, or it’s just the circles that I’m surrounded in, but the philosophy Charlotte Mason has of waiting until the child is 6 before teaching them to read is catching on.

Waiting to teach children formally does not mean that we don’t teach them anything at all. Naturally, numbers and letters come out in day to day life and there’s nothing wrong with pointing out things like what a road sign says or letters in their name.

What is encouraged though, is to leave the worksheets and easy readers until the child can be successful with them right away. Let learning be a joy for them instead of building the idea that learning is a struggle.

With my own 4 year old, she knows some letters and most of her numbers. While my 6 year old is working on her own lessons, I may give my younger kids wipe clean books and white board markers. The wipe clean books have letters and words in them, and we’ll point out sounds that letters make, but she’s never tested on it later. The information is presented, and if it is worthwhile to her, she’ll try to remember it.

As for numbers, my Kindergartener knew her numbers, but didn’t have much number sense before we started Right Start Math. Since my preschooler usually sits with us for math lessons, she has picked up on things a little earlier, but again, she’s not tested on any of this at any time.

Your purpose

First and foremost, building strong habits and morals are the core purpose with young children. Ms. Mason did not direct attention to anything more than she did to habits throughout her book Home Education (which focuses on children under 9 years old).

Your purpose as a parent and educator is not to fill their minds with information, but rather to build character traits as best you can in them so they can be effective students when it is time for them to study in a more serious manner.

In regards to education, the purpose of the young years with the children is not about memorizing letter sounds or math facts. The entire purpose of creating an environment where children are exploring (ideally mostly out of doors) is for children to build a love of learning.

Formal lessons should be enjoyable to them when they get to that stage, and something they look forward to when they are young.

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Shannen is an American Muslim convert, homeschooling mother to 4 daughters and mediocre housewife. She enjoys blogging, knitting, quilting, and avoiding housework. Read more on her blog about their Islamic homeschool, green(ish) living, and the ups and downs of parenting. You can connect with Shannen on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.