The Various Stages of Homeschooling (for Newbies)

There were several distinct stages that I went through as we worked through our homeschooling journey, and you may recognize them in your own journey. This is the viewpoint that I had, as the Homeschooling Mom, the parent who was responsible for most of the teaching in our household. My husband and our kids probably saw things a little differently or had their own opinions about it, but this is how it felt to me. I have not applied definite time periods to these stages because some families may progress through one stage quite quickly, while taking much longer to move through another stage. Speed has nothing to do with the appropriateness for your family, as long as you are working at a pace that is suitable for your students’ abilities and for your family’s lifestyle. Some stages may fly by so quickly that you don’t even notice them passing, while others may stick around (rather like gum on your shoe) for a long, long, long time. Bear in mind that each family’s experience will be different, and what you zip through un-noticed may be what others get stuck in seemingly forever… and vice versa. Neither status indicates success or failure—that’s just how life goes.

1. Terrifying: You are considering homeschooling and trying to decide whether homeschooling will work for your family’s unique situation. You recognize that drastic changes must take place, but you don’t know yet exactly what those changes are, when they will take place, or how they will affect your lives. You are pretty sure that these changes will upset your domestic tranquility apple-cart and alter life-as-you-currently-know-it forever (or at least for the imaginable future), but you are also faced with the reality that these changes are inevitable.

2. Scary: By your first real day of homeschool lessons, the hardest decisions are usually behind you, and this process moves to being only scary instead of truly terrifying. This stage is somewhat like wading waist-deep into cold water—you’re there, you’re mostly wet, and although you’re not completely immersed yet, you feel fairly certain that the worst shock is already over.

3. Possible: Sometime in the not-so-distant future, you may begin to feel that this just might be possible. You’ve been at this for a while now, and you’ve found little bits of routine that worked fairly well and other bits that you definitely don’t ever want to repeat again. Ever. You also now are developing a mental list of other ideas you’d really like to try at some point. But it could be a really short list.

4. Finding Your Groove: After a longer while, you will probably have adopted a pattern of the things that are working best. That pattern may only apply to one small portion of your school day, such as lunch break, or you may have stumbled into a groove that works for most of the day. This can also be called the “So Far, So Good” stage.

5. Loving Every Minute: For most families, there comes a time when they are feeling more confident in their daily routine. You may notice that while still far from perfect, you have smoothed off a lot of rough edges from where you started. There have probably been a few days that you definitely don’t want to repeat, but they are now being over-shadowed by some truly wonderful days that are making this new process completely enjoyable.

6. Veteran: One day, after repeating the same cycles several times, you may find yourself thinking “I’ve been here before. I know what to do this time. I can handle this.” You will look back over all you’ve learned and marvel at how confident you now feel. You know exactly what to do today, this week, and this month, but you might still be unsure about next year. It’s okay to be a little shaky about the distant future, but remember that this is nothing compared to where you were at Stages 1 and 2, and you will get things figured out by the time that distant future becomes the present.

7. Roadblocks: This is an interim stage that really can occur at any time, including before or after any of the other stages. My daughter hit a roadblock in the midst of Algebra 2 and couldn’t make any progress until the next school year. She had had some health issues for a time and attributed her thinking-problem to that, but she just couldn’t grasp the concepts presented. Since that particular textbook was designed as a 2-year class anyway, she gave in and put the math book on hold even before the end of that school year drew near. Several months later, she was determined to try again and not let it beat her down, and by that time, her brain had processed long enough on the concepts that she had no trouble getting through it.

A different type of roadblock occurred when my son reached a point in early high school where he just couldn’t relate to the lessons in his textbooks. In my estimation, things had been working fine, and then… nothing was working any more. I scrambled to come up with alternative projects that would interest him enough to further his education without completely derailing his progress. The result was primarily that I was transformed into an unschooler without realizing it at the time, giving up the standard textbooks in favor of the more real-life learning opportunities that appealed to him.

Roadblocks are anything that hinders your progress, and they may last a few moments, a few hours, a few weeks… or much longer. The duration is insignificant—what you do about the roadblock is the important part. Back up and refresh or fill any gaps in the foundational skills, try something totally different for supplemental activities, or put the book on the shelf for a while, but don’t let the roadblock win. You can dig under it, climb over it, or map an alternate path around it, as long as you refuse to let it keep you stagnant. Some of our alternate paths included changing the order of classes to put the problem subject at a different time of day, changing the location for doing a particular class (a different room can make a big difference), continuing on with the rest of the routine but putting the difficult subject on hold while we looked for a new program or a new approach. We abandoned the programs that were most favored by our friends (to their shock and horror) but just didn’t work for us. We sampled other methods until we found something we liked, something that worked, something that didn’t leave us (student and teacher) in tears every day, all day long. More than once we used the information from one program and the order of lessons from another program, and combined them into a system we thought up ourselves, just because we wanted to try it that way… and it worked.

A few specific situations may contribute to requiring more time to work through a roadblock, such as a special needs student, students who have spent a long time in institutional school before switching to homeschooling, one or both parents who are (currently or previously) classroom teachers who insist on recreating school-at-home conditions, trying to keep up with the Homeschooling Joneses by doing too much or doing what doesn’t fit your family but was advised as vitally important by others because it worked for their family, and the dual-school family (also known as “Somer-Homeschool”: Some-R-Home, Some-R-Not). Regardless of the cause of the roadblock, keep digging, keep climbing, keep mapping, and keep refusing to be beaten. It’s not your fault, and it’s not your student’s fault; it’s the curriculum that just isn’t matching your needs. Review it, find a way around it, or wait it out, but remind yourself that whatever you choose to do is a plan: you are doing something about the roadblock, even if that something means taking some time off to let the stalled brain process on the concept until it is ready to try it again.

8. Mentoring: With a history of successful homeschooling comes the day when you may find yourself offering helpful information to other families who are seeking homeschooling advice. You may secretly giggle inside when they tell you how knowledgeable you are and how much they appreciate your input, because you still remember all too clearly just how terrified you were only a short time ago, when you were still occupying the spot they are in today. At the same time, you will be able to rattle off exactly which activities your family enjoyed the most, which materials were the least helpful to you, and how your family’s routine gradually developed into your own preferred style of homeschooling. Share how you adapted methods to fit your own family’s specific needs. Share willingly with all those who seek your advice—they are asking you because you are standing out from the crowd in a way that appeals to them!

Articles to Help You on Your Journey:
21 Things That Can Slow Homeschooling Progress
Do the Best Job You Can and Pray for God to Clean Up the Rest
Top 10 Benefits of Homeschooling with Grace
Family Planning (No, Not That Kind)
Top 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Began Homeschooling
Tests, Book Reports, and Other Un-necessities
Homeschooling Is Hard Work
10 Ways to Improve a Lesson

Articles to Help You Through the Detours on That Journey:
Homeschool Beginnings–A Child’s Point of View
Meatball Education: Filling in the Potholes of Public School
People Who Nearly Scared Me Away from Homeschooling
Redeeming a Disaster Day
Looking Back on the Bad Days
Reschedule, Refocus, Regroup
Bottom 10 Worst Parts of Homeschooling
Common Mistakes Made by New Homeschoolers
Homeschooling Failures I Have Known—and What Can Be Learned from Them

Top 20 Snappy Comebacks for the Socialization Question

NOTE: Extreme sarcasm is present in these comments that have been gleaned from other homeschoolers, actually used ourselves, and/or are being held in reserve, awaiting the right moment. Our sincere thanks and admiration goes out to those intrepid souls whose remarks we have shamelessly borrowed.

So what do you do for socialization???

20. “Nothing. We just sit on the couch all day, staring at the wall.”

19. “I don’t believe in socialization.”

18. “With our large family, I usually say, ‘If you come down to breakfast in this house, you’re socializing!’”

17. “I’ve seen the village, and I don’t want it socializing my children!”

16. “Socialization? That is why I homeschool.”

15. “Socialization is the easy part. I just corner the kids in the bathroom every few days and steal their lunch money.”

14. “Oh, right, because (obviously) spending years with no one but her own family really hurt Laura Ingalls Wilder.”

13. “New studies show that, contrary to popular mythology… the average home-schooled child has no problem ‘socializing’ with other children… as long as he remembers to use smaller words and shorter sentences.” (From the Mallard Fillmore comic strip, 6/14/2005)

12. “The last thing I need is what you call socialization.”

11. “What you consider to be socialization is what Karl Marx endorsed as Communism.”

10. “We want our kids civilized, not socialized.”

9. “I’m not relying on the state to socialize my kids.”

8. “I prefer to have my kids learn to deal mostly with adults. The bullying you learn in middle school is only beneficial for bullying other middle schoolers.”

7. “What swear word do you think my kids don’t already know?”

6. “Are you worried about the quality of the education my children will get at home? Perhaps you should be more concerned about the type of education your children are getting in public school.”

5. “Well, I guess I can teach my kids how to swear, and my wife can make them wait in line for the bathroom.”

4. “You don’t go to school—how do you socialize?”

3. “You mean because we live in a cave, never go to a store, a restaurant, or a doctor’s office, never go to church, never visit friends or family, and basically avoid all contact with other human beings? How is it then that I’m talking to you?”

2. “Do you mean good socialization or bad socialization? Because it works both ways.”

1. “Do you mean, ‘Do I think my children are missing out on something by not being in public school?’ Yes, they are definitely missing out on some very important things. They are missing the explicit, X-rated vocabulary from the playground, bathrooms, school bus, and every other unsupervised moment; the sexual harassment in the lunchroom on hotdog day; and the physical, mental, and emotional abuse from the little extortionist in the next desk who used to beat my child for the correct answers whenever the teacher’s back was turned. My children do miss out on those things by not being in public school, and that is exactly why we are homeschooling!”

These responses can all be summed up by a conversation my son had with his driver’s education teacher, a high school track coach who had worked with both public-schooled and homeschooled students. The coach was concerned that homeschooled students were ahead in some areas and behind in others. Curious, my homeschooled son asked in which areas the homeschoolers were behind. “Socialization,” came the confident reply. Pressing still further, my son prompted the coach to explain exactly what the homeschoolers lacked. “My other students have been here for a long time, and they all know each other. When a homeschool student comes in for the first time, they don’t know anyone here.” My son’s emphatic response was, “When have you ever gone somewhere for the very first time and known anyone there? And how is that a lack of socialization?” He’s going to be a great homeschool Dad some day.

For more insight on the issue of Socialization, see these articles:
Socialization and Why You Don’t Need It (a.k.a. The Socialization Myth, Part 1)
The Socialization Myth, Part 2
The Myth of Age-Mates
The Socialization Code
Bullying

Top 10 Questions on Leaving Public School

These questions appear over and over in emails from parents who are considering homeschooling, regardless of the reasons. Here are the most frequent questions and our honest answers, in no specific order.

1.  How soon can I pull my child(ren) out? Now—if that’s what your gut is telling you to do. Tell the office you have a “family emergency” and take your child(ren) home. Then check Home School Legal Defense Association’s website (hslda.org) for your state’s legal requirements and get that in order. If you prefer to wait a few days, weeks, or months before removing your student(s), that’s your decision—but please understand that you can remove them immediately. After all, if you have a reason that prompts you to consider homeschooling as an option, then you do have enough reason to remove them immediately, and they will benefit more from being at home than they would benefit from a few more days to finish out a week, a month, or a semester.

2.  What curricula do I need? Start with nothing.
a) Begin by bonding with your child through shopping, movie-day, hanging out at the library, baking cookies, anything.
b) Explore an interest of your child’s through doing online research together, building a model, whatever. Follow every interesting bunny trail that comes along, because those paths are filled with great learning opportunities! (Someone decides which topics go into every textbook and how much each topic should cover—who says that your child’s bunny-trail interests are any less important or any less interconnected than the topics in a textbook? Bonus: your student will learn more and retain more from his bunny trails than from a textbook.)
c) Start slowly by using Google, Pinterest, or the library for one or two subjects and build your class load from there.
d) Allow each of these steps to progress as slowly or as quickly as needed. Your instincts will tell you when your student is ready to move on.

3.  Can I remove just one of my children from public school? You could, but what’s the point?
a) Teaching more than one child is actually less work than shuttling several students back and forth all day to various activities in multiple locations.
b) Sibling bonding is just as valuable as parent-child bonding (see #2a-b above).
c) Do your other children deserve the same learning opportunities and freedoms as the one you want to bring home?

4.  How do I teach several children at the same time? Any who can already read—can read.
a) Let older kids start the day with their favorite subjects that require the least help from you, allowing you to get a younger one started.
b) Kids don’t all have to be doing schoolwork at the same time. One can play with the toddler while another does math, then switch. For a time, my daughter got up early and did all her schoolwork from 6-10 in the morning, then worked on other projects throughout the day.
c) Let them assist each other when necessary, because Mom is not the only one capable of answering questions.
d) Problem-solving skills are developed through solving problems! I told my kids that if they got stuck they should try to figure it out themselves first, then ask their sibling for help or come find me at whatever chore I was doing. They were always proud to tell me what they had figured out on their own, and I was happy to praise them for it! Other options include phoning Grandma or asking Google—there are many ways to solve a problem.

5. How do I get the house cleaned and the laundry done?
a) Whose standards are you following? Sparkling clean houses with nothing out of place are owned by families who are never home.
b) Home Economics is a class we teach here. We used breaks between subjects as a way to get the wiggles out and get a few chores done. My kids were happy to carry their clean laundry upstairs and put it away because it meant a break from schoolwork. Unloading the dishwasher meant they could listen to the kitchen radio for the duration of that task. Taking out the trash could be followed by a few minutes on a swing. Breaks can be shortened or extended to fit the chore desired. Chores teach kids skills, responsibility, and independence—plus they break up the rest of the day while bringing real-world benefits.

6. Is it too soon/too late to pull my kids out? No.
a) Homeschooling has many more benefits than could possibly be gained from leaving them in longer. We began homeschooling when the school couldn’t cope with our child’s medical condition, but once she was home we found some serious academic deficiencies and other problems that we hadn’t realized existed. Don’t assume everything is fine at school, just because your child hasn’t complained.
b) A student at home can learn much more than a student in school, being free to move on at will instead of waiting for the entire class. A child who is motivated to learn can make incredible progress at home, making up for lost time and surging ahead in his chosen field of interest.

7. I’m thinking of homeschooling because [fill in the reason of your choice]. Is that a good enough reason? Yes, but you’ll also come up with several more good reasons as soon as you get started (see #6a above). My list of reasons for wanting to homeschool grew longer with every year that we homeschooled.

8. Can I teach my ADD/ADHD/ODD/ETC student without special training? Professional credentials don’t outweigh parental instincts. Moms and dads know their child and their child’s needs better than any professional ever will. A more accurate acronym-label for your child may actually be MIISE (More Interested In Something Else). Treat* your child for MIISE until that proves ineffective. Another syndrome common in the institutional classroom is TETL (Too Eager To Learn)—a phenomenon that classroom teachers find surprisingly difficult to manage while keeping to a schedule. Help your child follow his interests and coach him in learning to research the various aspects. Don’t be afraid to follow bunny trails and let topics run together in rapid succession. Genius flows easily across multiple ideas, and it’s the simpler mind that must limit itself to only one thought at a time. Forty-five minutes to an hour of following bunny trails will produce more significant learning than an entire day of planned lessons.

9. But what about friends? If they are a true friend, you won’t lose them. Homeschooling can be a great opportunity to ditch the troublesome relationships that needed to disappear anyway. In general, friends and acquaintances come from a variety of aspects in life: siblings, neighbors, cousins, church, clubs, sports, music lessons, friends of friends, etc. Today’s social media phenomenon provides an avenue for maintaining close contact with friends regardless of distance or schedules.

10. We can’t do sports, music, or other extra-curricular activities at home. Are those just out of the picture for homeschooling? No. There are numerous possibilities for private lessons and group participation that don’t involve public school:

  • You Tube, Netflix, Google, online instruction and/or tutorials
  • Homeschool curriculum for the desired skill
  • Private tutor or coach, who could range from an advanced student to a professional teacher for the desired skill
  • Homeschool co-op group offering team sports, band, etc.
  • Church-based or community-sponsored sports & recreational activities
  • Dual-enrollment with public or private school for specific activities

HSLDA has discouraged families from trying to “keep one foot in both worlds” through dual-enrolling for specific classes or activities. And I agree. When we left the government school system, we were ready to break all ties and not look back. Then a community-wide sports activity became available that was run through the schools but didn’t require dual-enrollment, and my kids were interested in participating. I inquired about whether this was strictly a school-sponsored group (no, it was funded by participants) and if homeschooled members of the community could be involved (they supposed so), and we went to their first session of the year and signed up. It seemed to be going well for the first few practices and even through the first public performance, but things quickly went downhill after that. We weren’t notified of subsequent exhibitions, and the group’s leader made it increasingly difficult for my kids to participate, to the point where we eventually felt it was in our best interests to withdraw from that group and focus our efforts in more homeschool-friendly areas.

Throughout our homeschooling career, we knew other homeschooling families whose students participated with private schools, public schools, community groups, church groups, or homeschool co-op groups for a variety of extra-curricular experiences. The opportunities can be found or created to suit the needs, but the bigger questions is why is it necessary? Discuss this as a family to determine your motivation, whether for music, sports, drama, foreign languages, artistic endeavors, or whatever. Are your students just looking for a place to hang out with friends, or are they genuinely interested in learning the skill? Are Mom and Dad trying to live their own lives over again through their children, or is this something the student truly desires for himself?

Yes, Harvard has been known to award scholarships to distinguished harpists, but is winning a 1-year scholarship to an Ivy League college the only reason for dedicating a minimum of ten years of one’s childhood to an instrument (especially if the child lacks the passion to maintain this as a life-long activity)? The price of the instrument(s), the cost of years of weekly lessons, and the time investment for enough daily practice to become such an accomplished player as to merit a prestigious scholarship could all have been applied toward another area that the student enjoyed and appreciated more than being able to say “But it got me into Harvard.” Were all those years of music lessons merely the foot-in-the-door for a college education leading to a non-music-related career goal? Was the motivation just to give Mom and Dad the bragging rights of “Our kid’s going to Harvard”? Could the time, energy, and resources have been better directed toward the student’s desired career path? Could the same amount of money have been invested in such a way as to return an amount equal to or greater than the scholarship itself?

The freedom and flexibility provided by homeschooling can be used to the student’s advantage in numerous, subtle ways, resulting in a focused interest, rather than a schedule filled with diverse activities that yield more social involvement than academic advancement. I would rather see a student pursue his interests as vocational preparation than devote his time to activities that merely serve to fill his calendar with a variety of time-consuming distractions.

For more info, check out these links:

Leaving Public School
*How to Adapt Lessons to Fit Your Student’s Interests and Make Learning Come Alive
Teach Your Students to Teach Themselves
Knowing How to Find the Answer Is the Same as Knowing the Answer
People LIVE in This House
Using Your Household Staff
Family Is Spelled T-E-A-M

Consider this one as the answer for the unofficial Question #11:
Homeschooling an Only Child

Encouragement Corner: Should My Child Go to Preschool?

Encouragement Corner posts are sort of a mini-seminar for the busy moms who can’t spare the time or expense to go to a major homeschooling conference, but who still need answers to their biggest questions. We’ll be grouping a few of the most-often-recommended articles around a central issue and making those articles easier to share on Pinterest by adding a photo or graphic as needed.

I’m seeing a disturbing trend. More and more families are sending their babies off to preschool at younger and younger ages—sometimes as young as two years old. Now tell me what skills a preschool teacher could possibly impart to two- or three-year-olds that Mom couldn’t do better, faster, and cheaper? Spare me the argument that Mom has to work—that’s another topic for another day (besides, that simply means that the preschool is a more expensive version of day-care, yet another topic for yet another day). I’m really confused by why any parent would think a child of 2 or 3 needs preschool, or why that parent needs to shell out their hard-earned paycheck for someone else to teach their child of 2 or 3 to identify the red ball or the blue square or to count to 10 or sing Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

Yes, my children did both attend preschool, but not at age 2 or even 3, and if I could do it over again, I wouldn’t send them anywhere. My daughter was 4, my son was 5 (late birthday), and they each went for only one year before moving on to Kindergarten. (We also weren’t planning to homeschool at that time, and homeschooling hadn’t even become legal in our state yet.) I’m not sure that my kids gained anything from their preschool experiences—my daughter’s preschool teacher remarked that she often felt that she didn’t need to show up, since my child was a suitable substitute. My son’s preschool class included our friends’ brother-sister twins, who had just turned 3, and my son could be a teensy bit resentful at times that those little kids were in his school class. It was a small class with a wide age range, but there is a huge difference between what 3-year-olds can do and understand and what 5-year-olds can do and understand.

I had sent my kids to preschool as preparation for Kindergarten, for the group experiences of sitting in circles and learning to wait for their turn. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have wasted the money—they were already much better prepared than most of their classmates. The things we had done at home as normal childhood playing were excellent preparation for preschool, for Kindergarten, and for learning in general. I had been holding them in my lap for “story time” from the moment they could focus on a picture book, and it was our daily settling-down session before naptime. I talked about the pictures and pointed out colors and shapes and girls and boys and bears and mice and bowls and hats long before my babies knew what I was talking about, but they loved the lap time, and they learned vocabulary and language, as well as colors, shapes, animals, and objects. We had played games at home, and they had learned to take turns, even when Mom was their only playmate. We had played make-believe with toy dishes and toy tools and dress-up clothes. We had played on swings and walked on a balance beam (a board lying flat on the ground) and climbed on monkey bars and jumped on hopscotch squares on the sidewalk. We had kicked balls, thrown balls, batted balls, rolled balls, and caught balls. We had drawn and colored and painted and sculpted and glued and cut with scissors. Seriously, what else could they possibly have learned at preschool that they didn’t already know? That Mom was too busy to spend time with them? That Mom’s job was more important than they were? That children are supposed to be shuttled off away from home and locked in an institutional classroom for so many hours each day to be looked after by strangers?

Here are the most important things to know about teaching your children:

  • Children can not learn more at school, even preschool, than they can learn at home, and no advanced degree is necessary for teaching a child to sing the alphabet song.
  •  The theory that “Everyone sends their kids to school” is mob mentality that deserves to be questioned. Why does everyone else send their kids to school? It certainly isn’t for the superior outcome.
  • The theory that “If you don’t send your kids to school, you’re trying to hold onto them as babies, and you’re afraid to let them grow up” is also flawed. I happen to think that 2- to 3-year-olds (for preschool) or even 5- or 6-year-olds (for Kindergarten) are much too young to take on the world. Those children need to be at home with Mom, discovering who they are and learning how to react to the world at large under Mom’s protective care. Yes, I’m saying it blatantly: children need to be kept under Mom’s wing until they are ready to be on their own. It certainly didn’t hurt George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison (or countless others throughout history who didn’t go to institutional schools) to stay home with their mothers.
  • Those uncomfortable knots in your stomach do not mean that you will succumb to loneliness and despair during the 2 ½-3 hours while Little Darling is gone to Preschool each day. That anxiety is trying to tell you that sending your little one off to school is a bad idea in general. Preschool is essentially a “gateway drug” to get parents accustomed to the idea of giving up their children to the control of the institution—why else do you think it’s being pushed for younger and younger children?
  • Yet another theory says “That school has good teachers—their values are just like yours.” I had 30+ different teachers and administrators from Kindergarten through 12th grade, and very few of them portrayed the value system I have now. There may have been a small handful of them who were concerned about me personally for the brief period when I was under their authority, but the system in general defeated any efforts on their part to connect with me. My kids had more than 15 different teachers in only 6 years at church-sponsored preschools and public schools, and the values exhibited by most of those teachers were dramatically different from our family’s values.
  • Mommies are excellent teachers, primarily because they are the mommies of their students. Mommies can tell instinctively when their child is bored, tired, hungry, or jealous, and can tell which of those feelings is responsible for him acting out.
  • A child’s home usually has a ready supply of educational equipment, including building blocks, measuring cups, and empty bathroom tissue tubes.
  • Anything else you need to know can be found in the following articles.

Preschool Is Not Brain Surgery
Social Skills—What Should I Teach My Preschooler?
Preschoolers’ Educational School-Time Activities
Teaching with Preschoolers Around… and Under… and on Top… and Beside
The Importance of Play in Education
The Value of Supplemental Activities
“Stealth Learning” Through Free Play
Don’t overlook this one—even though it says Kindergarten, it is equally applicable to Preschool…
Time for Kindergarten Round-Up?
And finally…
The Myth of Age-Mates

Bullying

Everyone encounters bullies somewhere. Even homeschooled kids can be confronted by a bully in group activities or once they become old enough to enter the work force. “Forewarned is fore-armed,” so we are presenting several strategies for equipping your children to recognize bullying behavior and strengthening them to be able to deal with bullies effectively. The headlines are current proof that when allowed to continue unabated, bullying will escalate to extremely serious, even lethal consequences. Our aim is to help you stop it in its very early stages. Since not all of our readers are able to homeschool, this article also addresses bullying in school situations. Many of the scenarios presented here are also used by adults, whether deliberately or just out of habit. As parents and role-models, we must break the cycle of bullying among our own peers, as an example to our children. Some readers may object to the statements made in this article, and those who do are invited to take a long, hard look at their own behavior, beliefs, and values, because they may unintentionally be using bullying tactics themselves.

Why Bullies Bully

Bullying affects almost everyone in some way at one point or another. Some people willingly and eagerly push others around (whether physically or verbally) in an effort to make themselves feel more powerful or important. Some people become their unfortunate victims, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Simply put, bullying is a way to manipulate and control other people.

Help your children see that people who pick on others have been picked on by someone else.  Explain that the kids at the park who say mean things are probably being verbally abused by others—very likely by their own family members. When kids have someone in their lives who is routinely insulting to them, they feel the need to pile insults on someone else. They have learned through what has been done to them that it is right and acceptable for them to do this to others. Many families know nothing else: all forms of abuse become generational, simply because no one knows any other way to behave. For someone who comes from an environment where name-calling and ridicule and manipulation are rampant, bullying becomes their interpretation of “appropriate” behavior. Knowing nothing other than this pitiful behavior, they grow up to continue the hurtful legacy with their own children. Breaking the bullying cycle requires adults who are willing to reassess their own value systems and stand up against the patterns of needless hurt, but it can be done successfully.

I know a woman who accepts bullying from her friends because she is dependent on the company and approval of others for entertainment and self-worth. She bullies her friends in return, trying to manipulate them into doing what she wants to do. She’s a grown-up who never learned to cope with bullying in a grown-up manner and therefore dishes it out herself as part of an endless cycle.

Subtler  Methods Used by Bullies

It’s easy to identify the playground bully who shoves other children out of his way and stomps on their toys. The adult bully who loudly curses at the Little League umpire or uses his vehicle as a road-rage weapon is also easy to spot. Recent headlines have provided horrifying examples of bullying taken to such extreme ends that it resulted in murders or suicides. However, most bullying begins with much simpler, less conspicuous methods. Beyond the obvious punching, hitting, and name-calling, there are many more subtle forms of bullying:

  • Putting down others just to make oneself feel good
  • Telling someone they are “useless,” “good at nothing,” “a baby,” “a loser,” or other demeaning labels
  • Making rude comments that only the bully considers to be funny, but everyone else recognizes as just rudeness
  • Not allowing others to voice their opinions (especially dissenting opinions), whether objecting face-to-face, behind the back, or through social media
  • Needing to have the last word
  • Touching someone who doesn’t want to be touched, no matter how lightly
  • Tickling!
  • Reprimanding a student for asking too many questions in class or for answering questions too frequently in class
  • Labeling a child as ADHD or other “disability” where none exists, just as a method of controlling the child’s thoughts and behavior. [I’ve seen teachers label eager-to-learn students as ADHD to make them be quiet, because they (consciously or subconsciously) didn’t like the student’s teach-me-more attitude.]
  • Exhibiting overly dramatic behavior or adding drama to nondramatic situations to gain attention, create or break alliances, and fuel their own desire for power or control
  • Bribing others to be nice (doing whatever it takes to maintain control)—not to be confused with rewarding good behavior [see Is This “Acceptable Behavior”?, linked below]
  • Insisting on being bribed to be civil
  • Being irresponsible as a means of controlling a situation, such as not doing a task that others are depending on
  • Making excuses and/or blaming others for their own irresponsibility, mistakes, and shortcomings; the need to assign blame for whatever goes against their wishes; not accepting the premise that they can be at fault
  • Keeping others waiting, as a means of control
  • Arriving unprepared and making excuses, rather than admitting it; forging ahead anyway, assuming his (or her) “talent” will make up for it
  • Whining, as a means of control
  • Treating every facet of life as a popularity contest
  • Assuming everyone adores and admires him (or her) and getting angry and vengeful when someone doesn’t
  • Not allowing others to learn to lead; won’t delegate or train a replacement; believes no one else could possibly do what he (or she) does as well as he does it
  • As a leader, serving his (or her) own purposes first, before the group’s

The most frequent bullying I had to endure in my own school years was from my teachers: drawing the other students into laughing at one who had fallen asleep or given a wrong answer, rolling his or her eyes at a student who asked a question that the teacher felt had an obvious answer, asking pointed questions of a poorly achieving student to emphasize his lack of preparedness. One of my teachers in high school dubbed one of my classmates “Flycatcher” because she yawned once without covering her mouth, and he called her that for the remainder of the year. I even had an elementary teacher who got angry with a little boy who kept putting his hands in the pockets of his jeans. She stood him at the front of the room, pinned his pockets closed with huge safety pins, and then forced him to stand there while she led the rest of the class in pointing fingers at him and singing a little ditty about putting his hands in his pockets, and not just once—she made us all repeat the song several times and encouraged us to repeat the song any time we noticed him with his hands in his pockets. I found it horribly humiliating, and I wasn’t even the boy being singled out for embarrassment by the teacher. Should I mention the set of monstrous rubber ears she made another student wear who was caught not paying attention? I doubt that any of her students went home to tell their parents about what a bully that woman was, just because she held that much power over them. Even if the parents had learned of her abhorrent methods, they were just as afraid of her as their children were, and no one would dare to cross her. That teacher had no respect for the children she taught, and she proved it through her bullying tactics.

In institutional school situations, teachers, staff members, and bus drivers are now being encouraged to stop bullying when they see it. Schools and communities are enrolling in popular anti-bullying campaigns today. However, those same authorities aren’t likely to judge a few quick remarks or intimidating glances from one student to another as bullying, but instead consider it just as “kids being kids.” After all, if they recognized those methods as bullying, they would have to stop using those methods themselves! A closer look at some of the anti-bullying propaganda reveals that they are attempting to bully the bullies into submission. Is that really supposed to be an improvement?

As a homeschool parent, I witnessed bullying from adults in church situations—and I must admit that much too often in our experience, those adult bullies were closely connected to the public schools as teachers or support staff. They viewed their own behavior as being “instructional” or “disciplinary,” but it is just flat-out bullying when an adult ridicules another person (of any age) for any reason, especially when they encourage others in the room to ridicule and laugh at their victim, too—or they don’t stop those who are bullying through ridicule, name-calling, finger-pointing, or other unacceptable behavior.

Parents are not immune from bullying either, and often exhibit it toward other parents. Consider the moms who put hours and hours into organizing some mom-and-kids events, only to have other families arrive late or not show up at all (despite their promise to attend) or complain about the details of the events. They are showing disrespect for someone else’s work by making sure it doesn’t happen as planned. It’s subtle sabotage, and it’s bullying to maintain control. Yes, there are times when unavoidable delays happen, kids get sick on the way out the door, or numerous other problems might prevent a family from fulfilling their plans. However, one quick phone call can let the others know what has happened, and even if the apology comes a day after the missed event, respect and appreciation are still shown to the organizers. The person who undermines the plans and hard work of others is a bully who wants to control events to keep all the attention focused on himself. Ignoring the effort, commitment, and time expended by others on your behalf is a form of bullying. If you join a group, whether an organized club or an informal play group, you must be willing to set aside time on your calendar to participate. If your time, money, and energy are too important to be wasted on the group, do the other members a huge favor by dropping out and letting them get on with their plans.

This also applies to that one family whose single veto can shut down an event that all the other families in a group want to do. No matter if the group is made up of public school parents, homeschooling families, church members, sports teams, or dance moms, allowing a single voice to overrule the majority for his (or her) own selfish reasons, is openly granting bully privileges to the troublemaker. If one family doesn’t approve of a specific event, they don’t have to come. If they are not available during the scheduled time frame, the group shouldn’t be required to change the entire schedule to suit the bullies. On the other hand, if all members of the group are in agreement and are making a courteous effort to accommodate each other, that’s completely different from one member disrupting everyone else’s plans, just for his personal convenience. Mutual respect compromises; bullies command and control.

Some people are able to break the pattern of bullying and stop the abuse; others carry it on, and the bullies from high school become the bullies in the workplace. Bullying is nothing more than showing disrespect. Most bullies don’t even know they are bullies—they just know that they are only happy when they get everything they want. They don’t have enough consideration for anyone besides themselves to even know they are being disrespectful. Narcissism and bullying go hand in hand.

Ways to Deal with Bullies

Be extra-nice to take the power out of their “punch.”   Proverbs 25:21-22 “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” (NIV) Thinking back to the two main bullies I had in school, Mom pointed out Proverbs 25:21-22 and Matthew 5:44 to me and told me to be super-duper nice to them when they were being mean.  If they said something mean, then I said something complimentary to them. If that didn’t work, then I asked them if they wanted to hear about Jesus or pray with me, and they just started avoiding me. ~Jen

Pray: God can change what we can’t.  Matthew 5:44-45 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (NIV) God loves the bullies just as much as He loves anyone else, so pray for Him to bless them and make their lives better, taking away their need to hurt others.

Empathize. Consider why the bully acts the way he does, perhaps he is being bullied by a family member or other authority, such as a teacher, coach, or boss. Understanding that, we can be sympathetic to him, although we probably can’t fix his problems. Parents can also help their kids to see that they don’t have that abuse happening elsewhere in their own lives (like the bully does), which is a good thing. It can confirm to the child that the name-calling is only the bully’s opinion and no one else’s.

Expend energy. Whether you’re crocheting an awesome princess costume for your friend’s cat, kicking a soccer ball around the yard as hard as you can, running a few miles, hammering nails into a block of wood, or cleaning out the shed just because it’s fun to break up all the junk and slam-dunk it into the trash can, finding a way to use up all your pent-up aggression will help you to decompress from the stress of the situation. While working at a consignment shop, my daughter would occasionally notice an employee being harassed by a rude customer and assign that co-worker the task of hauling discarded glassware out back to the dumpster. A session of practicing 3-point-shots with cracked plates and chipped vases never failed to redeem that person’s entire day!

Respect yourself. Finding your self-worth from what peers think of you makes you more susceptible to bullying and peer pressure.  If you have learned to find pleasure in your own company through hobbies and personal interests, you won’t be dependent on others to provide you with entertainment, and bullies won’t be able to control you by taking away your sources of pleasure and recreation.  Someone with hobbies, interests, and proficient talents is also less likely to believe another’s put-downs and more likely to have friends who will defend their worth. If your child is being bullied, build up his self-image by reminding him of the things he is good at and the things you as a family value in him. Give him a list of positives in his life, and let him know that you see worth and value and importance in his life. Can he make awesome origami animals? Does she have the recipe memorized for chocolate chip cookies? Has he never yet been stumped by a math problem? Has she picked up complex lesson concepts more quickly than you anticipated? Does he have flawless rhythm or a beautiful singing voice? Can he impress Grandma with his card tricks? Has he studied his hobby extensively and can rattle off dozens of facts about it? Think about all of the skills your child has that you consider ordinary just because you see them every day, and let that child know that not every kid can do these things. These are the skills that make him special and unique and important. Being able to entertain oneself through those hobbies and interests means that even when no one else is available, you can still be in the delightful company of yourself, where every activity is enjoyable.

Respect others. Respect and bullying are polar opposites. Teach your children that everyone has value, everyone is good at something, and everyone is knowledgeable in some area. A person who respects others can learn something from every person and every situation. Teach your children that unkind words are not acceptable. We had a favorite children’s book called Never Tease a Weasel that we quoted often, as a reminder that teasing was a form of bullying and unacceptable behavior: “Never tease a weasel, not even once or twice. The weasel will not like it, and teasing isn’t nice.” The excuse of “I was just teasing” is a definite sign of bullying.

Surround yourself with positive influences. If someone has enough supportive friends and family around them, a bully isn’t going to take them on—they’re too well protected.  In extreme cases, that may require walking away from an unsupportive, negative situation. If that means leaving public school and beginning homeschooling, or finding a better homeschool group, church youth group, club, or whatever—do it. After all, you joined these groups for their positive influences, so if they only offer negativity, then they aren’t the right groups for you. Removing yourself from a bad situation, leaving a group, not replying to a rude comment, or any other method of “walking away” is not defeat—it is actively taking back control over your own life by breaking the cycle the bully needs to continue to maintain his power and control.

Involve yourself in your child’s situation.  My husband used to join our daughter for lunch occasionally at her public school.  She felt protected and encouraged by his presence, and whenever a bully came up she could introduce her dad, and suddenly the bully wouldn’t want to bug her any more. (He also may have promised to hire a big 5th grader to beat the kid up if he didn’t stop behaving badly, but that’s mostly an unsubstantiated rumor.) Years later, when bullied in her workplace, Jen used her established friendships with her managers to let the bully know that she had influence in high places.  She could casually ask her managers “Do you know what’s wrong with Mary? She seems angry anytime I talk to her.” Then they would ask Mary why she was upset, sending the subtle message that they were looking out for Jen, too. By surrounding herself with metaphorical parents and siblings, she let the bully know she had a powerhouse of support.

Be weird. Weirdness scares bullies, who are counting on predictable reactions.  If you are a loose cannon, you are intimidating. Example 1: My daughter works in a retail store where she wears elf costumes to work during the Christmas season. Her curious attire and jovial spirit are welcoming to the innocent shopper and threatening to the co-worker bully who just doesn’t understand how anyone can be that happy all the time. Example 2: My son enjoyed his buddies and loved them like brothers, but one day things had gotten to the point of him always being the victim of their shenanigans. He restored balance quickly by seizing opportunity and turning his face to sneeze directly into the face of the oldest and largest boy, who didn’t mess with him after that. Incidentally, bullies usually don’t have a true sense of humor, since that requires showing appreciation for another’s creativity. A rubber chicken produced at an opportune moment can be a delightfully effective, yet harmless weapon against a bully. Hone your inner Robin Williams; yodel along with your iPod; disclose a secret wacky talent; scream like a velociraptor; or reply to a bully, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak English,” spoken in perfect English.  Catch a bully off-guard with something bizarre, and he won’t have a prepared response, and that takes away his power and control.

These coping strategies may not completely convert a bully back into a human being, but they can enable someone to tactfully deal with him and remove his phony authority from the situation at hand. Family-as-a-team provides the wonderful advantage of familial support, giving children more reassurance of their worth and status, the things that help them recognize the lies that bullies spew. A child who knows his own value will not be intimidated by a bully—he will be more apt to scoff sarcastically, “Yeah, right, good one,” and walk away.

Teacher-bullies are an example of a bully that can’t usually be overcome by being nice or funny. They have all the control in their own territory, and as the supreme authority, they are power hungry. This is where parents can step in for their child and try to settle matters, but a true bully teacher still won’t be intimidated. They will hurl all the typical arguments (excuses) of how they know what’s best since they are the “professional,” they have taught this way for years, it’s your wimpy kid who’s the real problem, and so on, ad nauseum. The administration will stand behind their teacher, unless you can produce copious amounts of evidence and witnesses to the contrary. The only way out of that circumstance is to change classrooms, change schools, or homeschool—my preference.

The hurtful things that rude people say to us are like bags of garbage they throw onto our doorstep. We can’t stop them from dumping their garbage there, but we don’t have to drag the garbage into the house, dump it all out, and spread it around on the furniture. Let a bully’s hurtful words remain outside your door—they don’t belong to you. To counteract bullying, you have to break the cycle and disrupt the bully’s plans.  A bully cannot be a bully without a victim. Refuse to cooperate with him, walk away, or do anything necessary to leave him victimless.

See also:

The Socialization Code

Respect Must Be Earned

Becoming a Successful and Proud Quitter

Dropping the Drama

Family Is Spelled T-E-A-M

Siblings as Best Friends

Is This “Acceptable Behavior”?

If You Can Present Your Case with Facts and Logic and Without Whining, I Will Listen with an Open Mind

Teach Your Children the Art of Amusing Themselves

Never Tease a Weasel (children’s book)

Top 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Began Homeschooling

Whether you are beginning homeschooling after removing your children from an institutional school or are starting by simply not sending your little ones to preschool or Kindergarten, I can offer you some valuable been-there-done-that advice. File this under “If we’d only known…”

10.       The “classroom model” is counter-productive to learning.
Seating students in tidy rows of individual desks is only beneficial if the teacher needs to maintain control over a crowd of students by herself. Ditto for periodic testing. Double ditto for asking permission to speak or to use the bathroom. Let them do science in the backyard; let them draw while lying on the floor; let them read in the treehouse; let them compare prices and quantities as math while grocery shopping. Demanding attention, waiting for silence in the room, waiting for all eyes forward, waiting in line—all are dehumanizing tactics meant for crowd control or to break the spirit of the individuals. These methods are used with new recruits in the military—and in prison. Exploration is the birthplace of genius, but when was the last time anyone turned loose a classroom full of students to randomly discover their hidden genius?

9.         Schedules are made for faculties, not families.
Who in their right mind would put constraints on learning? What parent would tell their child “No, I’m sorry, Sweetie, but I can’t let you learn any more today”? Schools insist that learning must take place between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday, September through May—and then they are disappointed that the students’ skills diminish over summer break. Homeschooling parents can sneak in “stealth” lessons on trees or flowers or bugs during a family picnic. Homeschoolers can browse an antique store during a weekend outing and turn it into an impromptu history lesson. Homeschooling students can help Dad change the oil or re-grout the bathtub or trim an elderly neighbor’s bushes… and get credit for learning valuable lessons at the same time. Learning opportunities abound every moment and every day. Never stop learning, and never stop looking for the “teachable moments.”

8.         Reading and lecturing alone are insufficient teaching methods.
Textbook directions and diagrams only went so far in helping my kids learn. I soon found myself drawing different diagrams (if only bigger or more colorful), explaining concepts in multiple ways, or using borrowed game pieces as manipulatives to illustrate concepts. We did lessons outdoors; we did lessons on the floor; we used board games as lessons; we used videos as lessons. We acted things out; we made up rhymes; we used sign language to help us remember things. We added bright colors; we built models; we made flashcards; we invented games to help in practicing new skills. I had my kids teach difficult concepts back to me to be sure they understood them correctly. We used every possible method we could think of for illustrating and demonstrating lessons—and it worked. It worked very well.

7.         Every homeschool is different. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Each family will need to use the methods and materials that fit their own children’s needs. It’s supposed to work that way; it has to work that way; that is why we are homeschooling in the first place. It is beneficial to share with others what has or has not worked and why, but each family needs to run that input through their own filter. Trying to mimic what others have done is a trap destined for failure. Borrow their idea, if you really like it, but adapt it to your own family’s tastes. If it works well, continue to adapt it and keep changing it as your needs change. If it doesn’t work well, either make enough changes that it will work or toss it back and try something else. You have your own preferences, you have your own values—build your homeschool around those, and ignore the Homeschooling Joneses. Two (or more) families can use identical materials, but still use enough variations in supplemental activities that their lessons will look nothing alike.

6.         Students need academic success to build their self-confidence.
I didn’t realize that my (former public school) kids would need to see that they were capable of learning on their own… without the collective input of two dozen other kids backing them up. They needed to learn that they could move on to the next concept as soon as they had mastered this one. They also needed to learn that I would not push them to move on until they had mastered each concept, whereas classrooms move on with as little as one correct answer and, at most, one-third of the room understanding. Most of our first year of homeschooling was spent in learning how to learn and learning that they could learn. Once they had acquired confidence in their own abilities, things progressed much more quickly and much more smoothly.

5.         The price of the materials has nothing to do with the amount of knowledge your students will gain.
We found used materials at book swaps and garage sales. We used hand-me-down materials from relatives and found great learning games and toys at thrift stores and flea markets. We made our own cheap versions of fancy educational gadgets from cereal boxes and tape and glue. I even made up my own lessons when I couldn’t find suitable materials to purchase. Purchases of popular, highly recommended, expensive materials often turned out not to be a good fit for us. We often learned more from the inexpensive items than we did from the pricey ones. Shiny boxes and high price tags do not automatically equal success.

4.         Fit the materials to your students’ preferences and expectations.
My daughter’s former school did not have enough books, and they treated workbooks like textbooks, requiring every student to copy lessons into personal notebooks. One thing my daughter reallyreallyreally wanted from homeschooling was to have her very own personal workbooks that she could write in and decorate with gold star stickers. Done: I ordered a workbook. One thing my daughter reallyreallyreally didn’t ever want to see again was a red pencil mark on her papers. Done: I used bright orange and lime green and sky blue colored pencils to correct her work. Problems solved. Focus on the learning.

Find out what your kids expect homeschooling to be like. Find out what they do want and what they don’t want. Ditto for yourself and your spouse. Homeschooling should not be about one parent’s dream to play school with desks in a row and maps on the walls (although desks and maps are wonderful learning tools, they should not be the primary focus); homeschooling should be a learning adventure for the whole family. It’s okay to keep some parts of the school model, if what your family really wants and needs is that consistency. It’s okay to scrap all preconceived ideas and start over from scratch, if what your family really wants and needs is an Opposite Day educational experience. It’s also okay to use this method for this student and that method for that student, if that is what they really want and need.

3.         Finding gaps in foundational skills is proof of academic success. (just fix ’em before moving on)
I was under the mistaken assumption that I could just begin teaching where the school had left off. I was also naive enough to think that the public school teachers had made sure my kids had understood everything… correctly. I was wrong on both counts. We had been homeschooling for only a few weeks when we hit our first educational pothole. The math book expected my child to work with fractions, and my child was horribly confused about fractions and what to do with them. I ordered some workbooks that focused solely on fraction math and put the regular math lessons on hold until my child was confident in handling fraction problems. These workbooks made fractions very simple to understand, but my child became incredibly angry and frustrated—but not at learning fractions—she understood those concepts very quickly, once they were explained adequately. Her anger and frustration came from seeing how simple fractions were to understand and remembering how difficult and complicated her teachers had told her fractions were.

We found materials to fill in each gap of missing knowledge, and then we moved on. Regular lessons in any given subject were suspended until that particular pothole was filled (the time varied from minutes to days to weeks), but once we could resume the lessons, the progress always came faster. We found numerous potholes during that first year, but by the end of that year, my children were learning with confidence and gaining ground rapidly. Every pothole proved to us that we were learning—if we hadn’t been making progress, we would never have discovered the potholes.

2.         Play is learning, and learning should be fun.
Children work diligently at playing, whether they are building sand castles, playing dress-up, or roller-blading on the driveway. Kids wear themselves out having fun, and they learn important lessons from their playtime. They learn that moist sand packs best; they learn that long skirts and high heels don’t combine well with stairs; they learn that balance is very important in skating as well as in life.

Do you remember being eager to get your driver’s license? Do you ever hate waiting for a new movie to come out after you’ve seen the trailer for it? Have you ever called a friend to tell them all about your latest accomplishment? That is the excitement of learning!

What you do in your leisure time is your version of fun, whether that means reading a book or watching TV or painting your toenails or fishing for The Big One. If it wasn’t fun, you would do something else with your leisure time. Now look at what your children do during their leisure time—and find a way to incorporate those methods into their lessons for some really motivated learners.

1.         Mom = Teacher = Mom (or Dad)
The first time Mom answers her student’s question, a miraculous transformation takes place: the student realizes that Mom knows stuff. Each answered question builds that reputation, and answering “I don’t know, but let’s try to find out together” increases the thirst for knowledge.

Parents have a unique advantage over traditional classroom teachers, in that parents can admit they don’t know all the answers. Homeschooling parents can use a bunny-trail question as the next teachable moment without disrupting an entire room full of students or getting hopelessly off a pre-set schedule.

Parents have a dynamic relationship with their children that allows snuggling during particularly difficult lessons. Learning to read is a magical milestone that should be celebrated with hugs and kisses and shouting and dancing, not relegated to the far corner of the room and conducted in hushed voices. Parents know instinctively when their child can be encouraged to try one more time and when that same child will benefit most from taking a break. Parents see their children day and night, weekday and weekend, season after season, year after year, on good days and bad days, in sickness and in health. Parents know what their children want and what their children need—and they will move heaven and earth to provide for them

Teachers are motivated by a paycheck and a sense of duty; parents are motivated by love. When a random child acts out in a classroom, the teacher seeks to make the disruption stop, even to the point of removing that child; when a parent’s own child acts out at home, the parent seeks to determine the cause of the problem and remove the problem, not remove the child. No one can know any given child to a greater degree than that child’s parent, no one will love a child more than that child’s parent, and no one can be a better teacher for a child than that child’s parent.

 

As homeschoolers, the most important thing to focus on is learning. If something is getting in the way of the learning, it becomes a stumbling block and is probably not all that important. Do things in a different order, try another method, or set that material aside for a time and see what happens. Homeschooling should be about learning, not about following in someone else’s precisely spaced footsteps. We made the most significant progress when we focused on what we were learning and stopped worrying about how we were learning it. Focus on the learning, and watch it happen!

Outdated Excuses for Why You Could Never Homeschool

The following article was written by Jennifer Morrison Leonhard, a light-hearted homeschool graduate who believes life is what you make it. What she usually makes it is funny!

“I’m not smart enough to homeschool my kids.” A typical answer from me is that you do not need to have the encyclopedia memorized, and you do not have to be a former valedictorian — you can simply learn right along with your kids. You start with colors and shapes and letters and from there you grow one day at a time. Lessons are usually fully explained in their textbooks, so you can read along and learn it all just ten seconds before your student does! It is now 2011, and I could argue that yo’ momma and her smartphone could homeschool your kids. (Bet you weren’t expecting a good momma joke, were you?) You do not have to buy a single book or even own a library card anymore. Like the popular commercial says “There’s an app for that” — whatever it is that you want to know or do. Science? My phone can take my pulse through the camera! Or try Google Sky Map to learn the stars. Music? I have a drum kit on my touch phone, and I’ve never had so much fun with an instrument! Not to mention that Pandora allows me to experience a wide variety of music styles. Learning directions is no longer something you have to do with a laminated “placemat” map and crayon (yep, that’s how I learned when I was still in public school) — now you can use Google Maps on your phone. For teaching math there are applications to teach formulas, offer practice math problems, flash cards, and math games. You can get an application for reading ebooks, search random questions with your browser, and document your findings with a “notepad” application and your camera feature. My mom always told us that as long as we knew how and where to find information, there are very few situations in life that require you have everything memorized.

“I do not have the time to homeschool my kids.”
Yeah, you’re probably too busy telling them to stop texting, get off that computer, and put away that video game. Again, in an electronic age, if your biggest hurdle is getting them away from electronics, you can probably find ways to substitute actual learning into those same gadgets — gadgets that frequently fit into a pocket and go everywhere anyway. It really doesn’t require a lot of time to homeschool. Once you cut out standing in line for this and that, waiting for the other students to catch up, or waiting for everyone to be quiet, you can see that only a few hours of real learning time are necessary. Unschooling is currently popular, so if electronics aren’t something your family indulges in, you can simply learn from Life. You can’t exactly avoid Life, and there are plenty of lessons to be learned each day, with or without 21st century electronic assistance.

“I could not stand to spend that much time with my kids.” Fine, send them to their rooms, and then Facebook friend-request them, and message their lessons to them. No face to face contact needed. They can chat with you when they need individual help, and message back or post photos and videos of their work. You, in turn, can post back their grades using the “Comment” feature, or for pass/fail there is a “Like” button included. The “Like” button would also give you feedback from their peers and other parents if you felt that you needed an outside opinion on a subject in which you are not an expert. Your children can also use the privacy features offered on Facebook to prevent certain friends and family from seeing their schooling, if that option is preferred. The Facebook photo albums are also a handy way to maintain homeschooling records if your state requires a portfolio for legal reasons. There it is: photographic documentation, all neatly packaged, and no fear of fire, flood, or other natural disaster wiping it all out, such as you would have had in the age of paper records only. And it all stores much more neatly, too. For added security, you can back up your files on flash-drives or with Carbonite.

“Socialization.” Did I mention electronic devices? Smartphones? Facebook? I think I did. Oh, and if you prefer actual human contact, go outside. There are still a few people left out there who aren’t busy on Facebook or their smartphones. There may also be some out there that are probably still on their smartphones and Facebook, so please drive defensively.