Homeschooling poses its own unique set of challenges. What curriculum do you choose? How do you approach teaching? Where do you do your schooling? How do you manage to teach everyone everything they need to know when you are only one person? Not to mention how do you still get everything else done? Oh yeah, and will you actually have time to sleep in there somewhere?
Let’s face it, homeschooling can be incredibly daunting, can’t it? My Friend, I agree! If you allow yourself to get lost in the ‘what ifs,’ in the ‘I have to be everything for everyone’ trap, then homeschooling can be a crushing, overwhelming task that you feel like quitting even before you begin.
Do you want to know how I know? I’ve been there!
Do you want to hear some good news? Even though at times, this overwhelming feeling tries to take over, you don’t have to give in to it! You can overcome it!
One of the biggest challenges that I have faced through the years, particularly as more children have been added to our family, is how to get everything done with everyone. It’s that Supermom complex where you think that you have to be everything to everyone and no one can do anything without your direct oversight.
Can I let you in on a little secret? Children thrive when you give them the freedom to learn at their own pace. It’s true!
Dispelling the Myth that You Have to Do It All
Allow me to tell you a little story. When we first started homeschooling, our oldest was preschool age and our youngest was a baby. It was so easy! I could put the baby in the swing or on the play mat on the floor, then sit down on the floor nearby and work through the preschool curriculum with my oldest. So nice and simple. Nothing to worry about.
As the years passed and my children grew, my oldest needed more and more of my time as her school work grew from a preschool level to an elementary level. On top of that, we continued to add younger siblings to the mix who were each starting to be homeschooled as they reached preschool age. I was trying to balance working with each child individually through their entire school day while still caring for little ones.
All of a sudden, I realized that I was teaching school on multiple grade levels every day. I found that my children became more and more capable of doing certain tasks on their own, but they still needed a lot of hands-on guidance and teaching from me – particularly the younger ones. Yet, even though they were becoming more independent, I felt like I still needed to be right there walking them through their school day.
This sparked some questions in my mind, the biggest one being: How do I help every child through their school day, teach them what they need to learn, give them the individual attention they need, and do it while I’m only one person?
One of my answers came through what I would consider an unlikely source: The Laura Ingalls Wilder series. You see, years ago, children from Kindergarten to 8th grade level would go to school in the same building, all taught by the same teacher. It was known as a one-room schoolhouse. The more I thought about this concept, the more I thought: I can do that! (You can read more about how I implement this in my One-Room Schoolhouse Approach post here.)
But that still left the question: How do I make this work for us? How do I differentiate between the things I need to teach with a hands-on style and the things my children can start to learn independently?
The Benefits of Working Together
It’s no secret that learning how to work together as a part of a team is a major asset. When you begin teaching your children how to work well with others this promotes cooperation, teamwork, and learning the give-and-take that comes when you work with other people. Essentially, there are a lot of benefits from learning how to work well with others!
When you place this concept into the context of homeschooling, there are incredible benefits for your child – cooperation is cultivated, there are opportunities to help each other understand concepts that might be difficult to grasp. There’s this teamwork mentality that comes when children realize they all have to work together so an end goal can be accomplished – even if that end goal is just completing the lesson for a particular subject!
From a teaching or leading school perspective, the benefits of having everyone work together are endless! Think about it: Is it easier to prepare one lesson in a subject such as science or is it easier to prepare multiple different science lessons? The choice seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Preparing 1 lesson is going to take less time than preparing 2 or 4 or 5 lessons.
On top of that, when you’re teaching one science lesson to multiple children, you’re able to maximize your time. Don’t forget, you’re only one person! You’re only given 24 hours in a day, just the same as everyone else. Instead of trying to find 15-20 minutes with each child to walk through a science lesson, you can work with all of your children at the same time, giving them all your attention as a group and giving yourself more time to focus on the individual attention that you give them later on.
The Benefits of Working Individually
Sometimes it can feel almost like cheating or backing off on your responsibilities to allow your child to work on their own, doesn’t it? But what’s your motivation behind it? Is your motivation to give them an assignment and then sneak off and watch a movie while they work? Or is your motivation to allow them to learn, to try and sometimes fail, to receive loving correction and instruction, and try again?
It seems almost counterintuitive, but you need to allow your child to work on their own. There are so many benefits that come from giving your child time – and school lessons – to work individually.
Your child needs to learn how to manage their own time. If you (or someone else) is always overseeing your child’s time, how are they going to learn how to prioritize what’s important? How are they going to learn how accomplish those priorities they have set? Yes, I realize that we’re only talking about schoolwork here, but go with me on this one. If you give your child the freedom to be able to set their own priorities and manage their own time within the parameters of getting their schoolwork done by a certain time, you’re starting to teach them life lessons of time management. Lessons taught in a space where they can try and fail, learn from their mistakes, and try again while still being under your loving guidance. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Working individually also allows your child to take responsibility for their work. When a child has responsibility over an area of their life, whether it be their schoolwork, their room, their pet, or something else, they take better care of it. There’s a heightened sense of responsibility when they realize that this thing, whatever it may be, is dependent on them.
Another benefit is that your child can work at their own pace. Each child is different. Each child within each family is different. Allowing your child to work at their own pace gives them the freedom to be themselves. Some children may thrive in starting their day with reading and then moving on to subjects like math and spelling. For others, it may be the opposite. The point is they have the freedom to choose their pace and the order of tasks within the parameters of accomplishing what you’ve given them to do.
When your child works individually, it also has great benefits for you as both a mom and a teacher. Not only are you starting to transfer some of the responsibility for your child’s education to your child (which is a good thing), but you’re able to give your time where it’s most effective. You’re able to give assignments, let’s say in math, and allow your child to work on them individually. You as the teacher no longer have to sit with each child as they work through their math worksheet. Instead, they work on their own, then bring the worksheet to you to check it for accuracy. If they do it correctly, it’s a very good indication that they understand the lesson. If they have many things wrong, it shows you that they need a little more one-on-one time to really understand the concept being taught. Yet, you now have the time to be able to sit down with that child and focus on their math because you’re not trying to do for everyone what they can do for themselves.
Determining What Subject is Best Where
So now that we’ve talked about the great benefits to working together and taking a very hands-on approach as well as the great benefits to allowing your children to work individually, how do you figure out what subjects to do together and which ones to take the individual approach on?
Let me first say this: When your child is on a preschool level, you pretty much need to be right there with them, walking them through their entire school day. You might be able to get a head start on making those PB&J sandwiches for lunch while they sit at the table and color a picture, but for the most part, you need to be right there with them walking them through each task and each worksheet.
As your child grows, this constant hands-on approach will gradually start to shift. The key is to watch for that shift starting to happen and be ready to work with it and adjust when it comes.
Each subject is going to be different and this approach is going to look different for each family. To make things more complicated, it might look different from year to year within your family! But before we get caught up in all the ways this could look very different, let’s see if we can apply some guidelines to this concept:
Start by looking at your curriculum not as a whole, but on a subject-by-subject level. Are there subject that your children can all work on the same material? Oh, some of the activities for that material might be at different grade levels, but could they all work off of the same lesson? Are there subjects that your children are all on different level? Is it possible to combine these levels into one lesson or is it more beneficial to keep them separate?
For example, math is next to impossible to have everyone do together in our family. My children are on 5 different levels of math – simply because I have 5 children that are 5 different ages and 5 different grades in school! My 5th grader is much further along in her math journey than my preschooler! Trying to do one math lesson for all my children is completely impractical, so math goes solidly in the ‘individual work’ category for us.
Now science on the other hand, is a subject we can all do together. Oh sure, a lot of the information goes way over my little ones’ heads, but everyone can sit together as we read through the lesson material. The little ones start to pick up on the big concepts like the earth spins and the earth goes around the sun. My older ones are kept intrigued by the deeper information that is presented. I keep what I expect from the little ones very simple (color a picture and listen while I read), while I expect more from my older ones (completing activities, giving feedback on the lesson through worksheets), yet everyone is still working off of the same exact subject material.
It All Comes Down to Harmony
You’ve heard me say this before and you’ll hear me say it again: So much of this comes down to harmony. Finding the harmony that is right for you and your family. Some subjects that work well as individual subjects for your children in your family might be an utter failure for others. Some subjects that work well as a group lesson in your family might be an utter failure for others. Depending on the age and grade level of your children, some subjects might have a bit of both working individually and working together built in.
When it comes down to it, this is the biggest key to remember: Your family is unique. Your homeschooling journey is not going to look exactly like anyone else’s homeschooling journey – and that’s the beauty of it!
Remember, you do not have to do everything for everyone. You do not have to be Supermom who does everything for your child. Your job is to lead and give your children the tools to succeed, not spoon-feed them information for their entire life.
You can do this!
You can homeschool your kids!
You can figure out what methods and what patterns work best for you!
Oh, my Friend, don’t give up! Keep at it! Keep going even if you haven’t found that harmony yet. Keep searching for it. You’ll get there. I know you will. And don’t forget, you’ve got this!
If you’re looking for more information on how to set up your homeschooling day and the patterns to create, check out the links below. You’ll find not only more information, but printable guides to walk you through the process as you find the harmony in your homeschooling days.
- The One-Room Schoolhouse Approach
- What To Do When You Crave Balance As You Homeschool
- How to Create a Yearly Homeschooling Calendar
- How to Create Your Yearly Curriculum Plan
- Set Your Homeschool Day Up for Greater Success: Using the Power of Daily Lists
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.