Are you looking for a formula for success as you homeschool your struggling learners? This is the closest thing you will find to a formula for a more peaceful, purposeful homeschool.
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When our family first started homeschooling in 1996, our primary motivation was to be able to spend more time with our kids and to travel. After all, we reasoned, how hard could homeschooling really be? Now there are some famous last words!!
The first year went fine. I bought a handful of workbooks at the drug store, we worked for about 20 minutes a day, and then carried on with our normal routine – reading books, playing, and going to the park.
Then that summer I heard about a homeschool conference in town. I bet you know what’s coming! The curriculum hall, right?
Because I enjoyed school and am a natural born box-checker, I fell in love with a color coded, grade-leveled, 5-subject homeschool curriculum.
It had a series of textbooks with matching workbooks and extra seat work for those super achiever kids, which mine, I reasoned was surely going to be! I lugged that 100-pound curriculum home and sat my 6-year old son down in front of it.
It didn’t take long for all of us to realize that something wasn’t right. Oh sure, he could understand what was in the books. But reading it, writing his answers, and remembering all those details of spelling, grammar, and sight words was extremely difficult.
My son was frustrated, I was frustrated, and his 4-year old sister who was waiting for us to finish ‘school’ everyday was frustrated.
And you know the first thing that I believed? I believed that I was doing something wrong, that I wasn’t cut out for homeschooling.
I mean clearly this curriculum worked for other families. The curriculum company’s booth had spread through half the length of the curriculum hall. That was clear proof that it was working for other families.
That was a rough season for our family and our homeschool. (It wasn’t until the following year that we got our dyslexia diagnosis and began to unravel what that actually meant.)
The attitudes and beliefs about learning and education that I started homeschooling with were keeping me locked in a mindset where I believed there was one way to do this homeschool thing.
And now that it wasn’t working…I was stumped.
How many of you have done that? Something isn’t producing the results you expect in your homeschool and you immediately compare yourself to the homeschooler next door. You doubt yourself, you doubt your kids – maybe even say things to your kids like, “How can you not get this!” “Pay attention!” “We just learned this yesterday!”
It’s okay. I did too. My kids have forgiven me and moved on in life and yours will too!
The Homeschool Success Formula
The truth is I had a choice to make. Either I was going to put my kids back in school and let the so-called ‘experts’ teach them or I was going to have to figure out another way to homeschool them.
I had to step outside the box in my expectations of the way that I taught my kids and accept that things were going to look different than my own school experience – and quite possibly a lot different.
My homeschool success formula came from many years of homeschooling and then watching as the first four of my kids with dyslexia graduated. As I look back, I can see where I was getting stuck in the details of teaching. I was constantly striving to be at grade level and worried when I felt behind. My worry and unrealistic expectations were making me (and my kids) crazy.
I want to share the 3 things that I see as the most valuable things that I did do well with my kids in the early days of our homeschool when I knew relatively little about dyslexia.
These things may surprise you. They may even disappoint you.
Isn’t there more?
Shouldn’t it be more complicated?
Keep an open mind as you read the 3 things that I did in our home that helped my kids feel successful, that gave a sense of purpose and peace to our days, and that resulted in our kids growing up and living happy, productive lives.
Teach them at their level.
Actually, I should say ‘happily teach them at their level’. The point here is that we don’t want to recreate the frantic focus on getting kids up to grade level that traditional schools place on kids.
Kids need to be taught at their level of ability, not their grade level. If a child can’t read well or handwriting is difficult, it’s okay to delay writing paragraphs and essays. If a child is eager to write or you have the time to offer extensive support, fine – teach them to write (and use assistive technology) but it is also okay to wait.
If your child is in high school but not ready for Algebra, it’s better to teach them at their level until they are ready for Algebra.
I used to worry about not keeping up with what was happening at the public school down the road, but much like how no one asks at what age your child learned to walk once they are older, no one asks what year your child took Algebra or learned to write a 5-paragraph essay.
As my kids graduate and move into adulthood, this oftentimes delayed education has not harmed them at all.
We need to systematically teach kids at their level with methods that work until that foundation is built and then add to it.
Give them time to pursue their interests.
I have to confess that I stumbled upon this idea out of sheer necessity! With 8 kids, there was NO WAY to engage all of them all day and so my kids had lots of downtime. Time to play outside, building forts, playing make believe, digging holes (a vital part of childhood!), playing Legos, drawing, looking at books, raising pets, planting seeds…you get the idea. Kids are naturally curious and will be drawn to fill that downtime with things that are interesting to them.
This is where homeschooling takes a radical departure from traditional school. There is a great deal learned from this kind of interest-led learning. One of the most profound benefits from having free time throughout their days is for kids to learn what they like, what they don’t, what they’re good at, and what they’re not so good at.
Here’s the bottom line. Kids who have this basic understanding of themselves take that information into every learning situation and eventually, into their adult lives. All of my adult kids (6 as of this writing) knew what they wanted to pursue after high school and went out and did it. Many of their peers had no idea what they were good at and lacked direction in this area. Self-awareness is also one of the 6 Success Attributes.
Often, where our kids interests and abilities intersect is where their future career or education path lies.
Relationship, relationship, relationship.
Why did I say that 3 times? Because focusing on your relationship with your kids – being relatable – is going to give them that confidence and support that they need as they navigate their education and their lives after school.
Successful dyslexics cited the presence of at least one caring adult as the thing that gave them the confidence and support they needed to achieve that success. We learn about how our kids learn and then we teach them to understand how they learn. We advocate for them until they can advocate for themselves.
Why this success formula works
We’ve talked about the effects of worry on kids’ learning. But worry also affects our confidence as parents. When we are constantly feeling behind and hyper-focus on academic achievement, we end up frustrated and disappointed – and totally miss out on the amazing freedom and flexibility we have as we homeschool our outside the box learners.
I may have mislead you a little with the title of this post.
There is no one curriculum or one program that will work perfectly with any child – dyslexic or not.
My success formula has more to do with how we approach teaching and learning.
By following these 3 principles:
- teaching them at their level with methods that work
- allowing time for them to pursue interests
- maintaining our relationship with our kids through acceptance and good communication
We can have peace, confidence, and enjoyment as we teach our unique learners. We are now free to appreciate their differences instead of trying to ignore them and push them into the mold of a traditional learner.
What do you think? Is my success formula enough? Can you see how this new way of approaching our homeschools can give us freedom and peace?
This post is part of the 5-days to a More Confident Homeschool Series. Read the whole thing from the beginning here.