Whenever I mention that I homeschool my second grader, I get compassionate looks. Interestingly enough, people were not sorry for me when my son was part of the classic schooling system and we all suffered badly. What I can say is that we moved from desperate to happy. Here is our journey and 7 proven homeschooling tips that will save your nerves.
The whole journey started when my son was assessed as mature enough to start his first grade. For the wrong reasons (our local school had spare capacity that year). When he really wasn’t.
Then you know the rest of the story. It’s called How to lose interest of your avid learner in five days. Make him sit for 45 minutes, force him to listen quietly, restrict his freedom even in the area of his basic needs (save them for the break). Give him plenty of homework.
We quickly found out that what takes 20 minutes for other kids, takes us spend three hours. Tears, frustration, and feelings of failure.
I was heartbroken when I saw my little one hit his head against the wall screaming: “I am so stupid! I am so stupid!”.
In the second grade, we’d just had enough. I took him to a psychologist who diagnosed attention deficit disorder on the spot. She explained that he was on the way to developing dysorthographia and dyslexia, but she also explained that it doesn’t have to be that way. That is if we take the pressure off and allow for his neurological system to mature. The last drop, she suspected he was bullied. Next day, my son became a homeschooler.
Was it easy? Not always, but we agreed we would be partners on this journey. My son was involved in almost all decisions. By trial and error, we designed a system that works.
Rule #1: First things first.
You know the concept of Maslow’s pyramid. Basic needs — biological needs, shelter, safety, love, and self-esteem — need to be met before you move to a higher level. My son can eat whenever he is hungry, go to the bathroom whenever he feels like it, he has a glass of water always readily available, and I make sure he knows he is loved no matter what.
Rule #2: Be fair.
Although Rule #1 quickly became my son’s favorite procrastination trick, it is not a big issue. I just call my suspicion out and either I am wrong and apologize or I am right, he apologizes and moves back to work.
Rule #3: Follow their natural biorhythm.
His brain power is the highest in the mornings, so we focus on the stuff he finds the most difficult at the beginning of the day.
Rule #4: Follow a daily minimum routine.
Write three sentences, read one short article; Weekdays, weekend days, no exception. The routine makes it non-negotiable and quickly also not negotiated.
Rule #5: Vent.
My little Asperger was so afraid of mistakes! Of course, learning entails making some in the process. He was so scared though that sometimes he couldn’t start something now, other times he got stuck and couldn’t move on. When it happened, we made sure we laughed, ran, danced, sang.
Rule #6: Fuel inner motivation.
Kids are designed for learning, they absorb everything they see. But what if you are not ready for a full unschooling and want to deliver a structured education? There are four elements that fuel inner motivation for learning.
If you can’t explain how the stuff you are teaching is useful in the near future, don’t teach it at all. Beware — it must make sense from the perspective of the kid, not the adult!
Rather than assigning tasks, get involved, do them together with your kid. Even better, especially for monotonous and less entertaining stuff, find him a homeschooled buddy from your social circles.
3. Freedom of choice.
Allow them to decide what to do, how, where, when, or with whom as much as you can. Involve your kid in the planning of the day.
Provide timely/real-time information whenever you ask your kid to work on something. Knowing he is on the right track as well as what is the quality if his output is fundamental for him to want to continue.
Rule #7: Have fun.
Ideally, your kid wouldn’t even know he was learning. We played board games, visited galleries, friends in their day jobs. We talked about what we saw. His curiosity was endless.
When we started our homeschooling journey less than a year ago, I was on a mission to get my happy kid back. A kid that jibber jabbers, shares his thoughts and feelings, a kid that is curious, fearless. I have such a kid at home now, I don’t regret I decided to teach my son at home. Compassionate looks are not required.