394 | Seven Things I Wish I'd Known About Homeschooling (Janice Campbell)
Whether you're just getting started or have been schooling for a while, there are a few basic things to know that might make your life easier. When I started homeschooling, I was lucky enough to have done enough reading and non-traditional learning so I knew that the "school-at-home" model wasn't what we wanted. That helped. However, I started out expecting that I'd be able to make perfect plans and schedules and keep exactly on track every year. As you might guess, that was — well, let's just say that it was overly optimistic. Here are a few of the things I wish I'd known — I hope they help you!
Janice Campbell, a lifelong reader and writer, loves to introduce students to great books and beautiful writing. She holds an English degree from Mary Baldwin College, and is the graduated homeschool mom of four sons. You’ll find more about reading, writing, planning, and education from a Charlotte Mason/Classical perspective at her websites, EverydayEducation.com, Excellence-in-Literature.com, and DoingWhatMatters.com.
7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey
"One of the Family" by Frederick George Cotman
Thank you to our sponsors!
Medi-Share: an affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance
Tuttle Twins: children’s books to help you teach your kids how the world really works
Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? We hope to see you there!
Janice Campbell Hello and welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Janice Campbell and I'm one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Each week we bring you an encouraging conversation from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. While the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we don't pretend to have all the answers to all the homeschooling questions. It is our hope that this podcast will point you to Jesus Christ that you may seek his counsel as you train your children in the way they should go. Parents, here's a riddle for you: Homeschoolers love them, enemies of freedom hate them. What are they? It's the Tuttle Twin books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins series helps you teach your children about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the Golden Rule, and so much more. Get a discounted set of books with free workbooks today at TuttleTwins.com/homeschool. And now on today's show.
Janice Campbell Seven things I wished I'd known about homeschooling. Whether you're just getting started, or have been schooling for a while, there are a few basic things to know that might make your life easier. When I started homeschooling, I was lucky enough to have done enough reading and nontraditional learning so that I knew the school-at-home model was not what we wanted. That helped. However, I started out expecting that I'd be able to make perfect plans, neat schedules, and keep exactly on track every year. As you might guess, that was well. . . let's just say it was overly optimistic. Here are a few things I wish I'd known. I hope they help you.
Janice Campbell Number one, create a vision for your family and your homeschool before you start. Once you've gained momentum, it can be hard to change direction. So it's okay to start slowly doing what you can as you learn more and think about what you want your children to remember about your homeschooling, about your life, about their lessons, all of it. So think about what you want your family life to look like. In Stephen Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, he points out, that if you begin with the end in mind, it will put you on the right track. Plan your homeschooling path by envisioning where you want your family to be in five, ten, or 20 years. Then work backward to decide on the steps you need to take to reach that goal. Just as a map helps you reach a travel destination, a clear vision of the type of family life you desire can make time and money management choices much easier. I'm a pretty visual person, so in order to create my vision, or to put my vision into a visible form, I found a painting called One of the Family by the artist Frederick George Cotman, and you can see that painting on my homepage everydayeducation.com. It captured the loving, family-centered mood I wanted to create in our home. And we also made a short, one-sentence family mission statement that spoke of the goal of creating a loving, serene, creative environment that encourages personal and spiritual growth as part of a warm, nurturing family. Just having that much of a simple vision helped us to be thankful rather than unhappy when circumstances and finances combine to give us more time at home than we had anticipated. But your type of vision might be entirely different, but when you start with the end in mind, you'll be able to decide the things you need to do to start moving your family in that direction. And remember, it's day by day. It's not—you're not planning year by year. You're kind of going in smaller increments and smaller steps so that you're not feeling overwhelmed.
Janice Campbell The second thing is children don't remember what you do, they remember how you make them feel. So let your actions and words convey to your children daily and hourly that they're loved. One major way to convey love is to speak lovingly. In tones that convey love with a voice that is modulated and careful as much as possible. That means you try not to yell. Never say hurtful things if you can help it. That can be a challenge at times, I'm aware of that. Children can have those frustrating moments. However, it's when you're tired and overwhelmed and feeling stretched too thin that unkind things can be said. So it helps to take care of yourself as part of taking care of your family. And taking care of yourself means, at the very minimum, drinking plenty of water, trying to get as much sleep as you can, as much as you need, and giving yourself and your family extra grace when there's not been time for adequate sleep. Because we all know what happens when you have a new baby, or somebody sick, or all of those things. And try to eat regular healthy meals with protein. Because one of the things that I faced during the years that my boys were young was perpetual iron shortage, anemia, that kind of thing, and discovered that if I ate red meat regularly, I did not have that problem. So find out what dietary things help you to gain—keep strength and feel healthy. And that helps a lot. If you're an introvert, try to plan a few minutes alone each week. And if you're an extrovert, try to touch base with a good friend each week. My moments alone—I am an introvert, definitely, my moments alone were in the evening. On Thursday evening, when my husband got home from work, I went to the grocery store and I would remember just pushing my cart silently along the aisles and basking in the absolute silence of no one saying, "mama" or "he's looking at me," or any of those fun things that they love to entertain you with when you're trying to do your grocery shopping. My grocery shopping trips weren't always short. And sometimes, as the boys grew older, we switched to me doing the grocery shopping during the day on Friday because my husband was off. He did—worked four ten-hour days, and so had Friday off. That got to be dad time. And I got my alone time on Friday and did all the errands that needed to be done.
Janice Campbell I remember, during those early years, being so tired that it took me a long time to realize I was forgetting those very basic things. Such as drinking water, small protein-focused meals, and going grocery shopping alone. Once I remembered to do those things, I felt so much better and I was able to be a better mom too. So learn yourself. Take care of yourself, and remember that it's for the sake of your family, not just for you.
Janice Campbell So number three, understand that this season of life will be over before you know it. Don't put off doing the fun things. When I began homeschooling, my first son was five. My fourth son hadn't yet been born. Looking forward, it seemed as if I'd be homeschooling for the rest of my life, but it really hasn't been that way at all. Because all of our boys have gotten a jumpstart on college. They graduated from high school early too. Looking back, it felt as if I became a retired homeschool mom just as I was starting to get the hang of things. I think if I had known how short the time would be, I would have made more time for special projects and field trips, as those are the things that seem to stick with them. As it was, I so often felt pushed to get in all the basics, that the fun stuff fell by the wayside. In retrospect, I think they would have learned as much, or more, from more memorable activities than they did from another page in math. Knowing how brief the homeschooling years are, you might want to make provision for when you're retired from daily school work. Consider your gifts, the things that you do well, the things that you enjoy doing, and consider how you can use them for others, perhaps as a home business. Or volunteering through your church, or community, whatever. But you're going to have a surprising amount of time available as your students grow up and start moving out into their own homes, into their own lives. And if you've thought about it during the years you're homeschooling, and learn things for you too. And cultivated your talents and your gifts, and the things you enjoy you will have. . .you won't be at loose ends wondering what to do. You'll have things you already enjoy. So I do hope that you'll be able to find time for doing things like that because those homeschooling years really aren't very long at all.
Janice Campbell Number four, use habits and routines to help make your life simpler and more streamlined. Charlotte Mason was wise. She said, that a habit is ten natures and she advocated training children and orderly habits of mind and body. She wrote, "consider how laborious life would be were its wheels not greased by habits of cleanliness, neatness, order, and courtesy?" She's absolutely right. When I was able to follow that, when I remembered it, sometimes things got so hectic I wasn't good at keeping up the habits, but when they got into good habits, it made our life so, so much easier. Because during the years that I was child training and homeschooling, I was also caregiving. And so, the habits and routines that we did have helped us keep life moving. Helped us keep food on the table. Helped us keep all of those things happening. Maybe not exactly as I had—my ideal self would have liked, but things did happen. The whole idea of training and habit, Charlotte Mason is a philosophy of education. It's, I believe, the sixth book in her six-book series, it tells you how to change habits, bad habits. Gently, carefully, and effectively and it also helps you establish good new habits. We found that simple routines, such as our chore chart, we didn't do a chore chart in the traditional way, simply because I found it to be a pain in the neck to have to check. We did—when the boys were young, we did a thing called, servant of the day. And servant of the day was a simple routine. On Monday, our first son was the servant of the day. Tuesday, the second son, and so forth. Through all four boys. And that son, whoever it was, would be the one to unload the dishwasher, fold the laundry, and fetch diapers for the baby, or whatever little things needed to be done. But there were certain habitual things that got done each day, and it made it super easy to keep track of.
Janice Campbell And they were really comfortable with the idea of the servant of the day because of—we read older books in which servants were part of them, but also because at church there was a little song about the verse if you want to be great in God's kingdom, learn to be the servant of all. And so they were really comfortable with that concept. You can call it whatever you want, but it was the easiest way of having things happening and knowing if something wasn't getting done, who wasn't doing it. The boys got to a certain age, probably my oldest son was maybe 12 or 13, and we started shifting away from that servant of the day thing for him because he came to me one day and said, Mom, they are messing up my kitchen. They are keeping—they don't make it as neat as I do when they do it. Can I just do the kitchen all the time? And of course, that was awesome. He took over the kitchen. We gave the laundry folding to another one, and so forth. So each person got a zone that sort of fit what they preferred to do. And they knew how to do things by then. And so that tended to work pretty well too. But those habits and routines, they will help make your life simpler, and more streamlined. Because homeschooling takes time, and so does the rest of life. And the mechanics of life don't need to be the thing that takes up the most time because you want to have time left to read, to do hobbies, to play outside, all of those things.
Is there anything worse than spending a lot of money on something you're unhappy with and feeling like you're stuck with it? Or spending hundreds of dollars every month on health insurance only to find out that it doesn't cover what you thought it did? Well, I do have good news for you. You've probably heard me talking about the sponsor for our podcast, Medi-Share. Members of Medi-Share save up to 50% or more per month on their health care costs. They say the typical family saves up to $500 per month. And here's the best part, you can become a member at any time, so that means it isn't too late to switch to a more affordable health care option that will save you money and help you sleep better at night. If this is the first time you are hearing about Medi-Share, it's the best alternative to health insurance. It allows Christians to share one another's medical bills, offers access to over 900,000 health care providers and has a proven almost 30 year track record. Plus, in addition to saving hundreds per month, telehealth and telebehavioral counseling are included with membership. It literally takes 2 minutes to see how much you can save. To investigate this for you and your family, visit The Great Homeschool Conventions website at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medishare.=-\
Janice Campbell So number five, it's not only okay to be different, sometimes it's best. Learn to evaluate learning materials, curriculum, activities, and other things, by asking whether they'll move you closer to or farther from your family's goals. Because that'll help you make wise choices. What happened in our homeschooling community, a lot of times when I was homeschooling, was that there would be a new curriculum, or a new method, or something that was a major fad, and everybody was doing it. A lot of times it just wasn't the type of thing that would fit my particular family. We're all individuals. We all have different needs and wants and desires, and it might not be perfect for your family. Even if everyone else is choosing unit studies or a textbook-based curriculum don't you do it if it's not the right choice for your family. It's your job to choose the curriculum, the methods, and all of that that fits your student's learning style, your family's needs, your scheduling, whatever. And it doesn't matter at all what others do. They're responsible for their family. You're responsible for yours. You do the research that it takes to make the choices that fit, and you'll all be better for it.
Janice Campbell And if you are, by nature, a worrier, we'll get to number seven pretty soon, but one of the things that I found I did make a lot of choices that were different from the people around me. There were a lot of people around us doing textbook-based or video-type curriculum, and it was not a choice that we could do, or wanted to do for our family. It didn't fit us at all. I always, when people ask me what we did, I approach it positively, just like I approached the question of, where do your kids go to school, or whatever from strangers? I would always be very positive. And I'd say we homeschool, we love it. Or we use a Charlotte Mason classical combination type of eclectic schooling, depending on the question, of course. But always approach it absolutely with confidence and positivity. And don't let yourself be rattled at all if somebody has a frowny face and doesn't seem to approve of what you're doing, that's okay. You know what your kids need, and you know what you can do. And be comfortable with your choices, and it's all good.
Janice Campbell So number six of the things I wish I had known, is to learn to say no to things that will be a distraction from your family's mission and goal. Even when they're good things. I actually got really good at this one because I am an introvert and I do love being at home. But, as homeschoolers, there's so many opportunities for fun. For valuable learning experiences, and we can do co-ops and forage and sports and community activities and church activities, and so much more. There's so much to do, so many busy people running around doing it all that you can start feeling guilty for saying no to most of it. Because these are usually very good things and they would be fun, but I said no to most things because I had to. We were caring for my grandmother for most of the years we homeschooled and I often felt guilty when I was with friends whose children did so much more martial arts and music classes and sports, and all sorts of things. I was nearly almost through homeschooling when I realized that even though I was saying no to a lot of activities because I had to, I had ended up saying no because no was the key to creating the life we wanted for our family. Because part of our family's mission statement, if you recall that from the beginning that I started talking about this, it included the goal of creating a loving, serene, creative, environment that encourages personal and spiritual growth as part of a warm, nurturing family. It's really difficult to do that. To communicate kindly and patiently and sweetly with one another when everyone's exhausted from too much running around, too much busyness, too many late nights, and all of that. So many activities can be like busy work. They take up time, they look as if you're accomplishing something, but they actually just distract you from the truly important things in life. When you understand this, you can say no without feeling guilty. And if there are people in your life who try to make you feel guilty for choosing the right things for your family, you may have to limit time spent with them, or just teach yourself to respond with the same thing, kindly and lovingly. This happens to fit our goals for this season of life, thank you so much for your concern, or whatever polite response that you have. Because it's stressful enough sometimes to be doing things that are slightly out of the mainstream, or a lot out of the mainstream, as we were usually doing, and be criticized for it. But it won't hurt you, really, and you grow quite the backbone after a while, it seems like.
Janice Campbell So number seven, the final thing is to know that in a loving, wholesome, book-filled home, learning happens. Even when crises interfere with a planned teaching schedule. And sometime during those homeschooling years, they probably will. There probably will be some sort of crazy crisis. During the early years of homeschooling, I created really nice lesson plans and schedules that worked really well, until we took in my grandparents and my grandfather had Alzheimer's disease. Life became a series of crises as he would wander off, often onto a nearby freeway, or he would become unexpectedly hostile and I'd pack all four boys into the car, no matter what we were doing at that moment, when my grandmother would call and say, gampy's gone, we've got to—you've got to find him. And it didn't matter if we were doing school, or the baby was sleeping, or whatever. We just drive around looking for him. And sometimes a neighbor would have seen him driving—riding around on his bicycle and stopped in and talked to him until we found him, basically.
Janice Campbell But it was a terribly, terribly stressful time and really exhausting, too. Through the final years of his life, I found it nearly impossible to keep up with lesson plans. I relied heavily on audio resources, including classic literature, classical music, and composer biographies. Geography and the science songs from lyrical life sciences, audio, audiobooks of history and historical fiction, and so much more. Each year, as the boys took the state-required standardized test, I'd be anxious until their scores arrived. And then I'd be relieved to find them in the 90-plus percentile or above. Just as they had been before my carefully laid plans met with the reality of caregiving, and the rest of life. I would have been less stressed if I had realized then, that teaching is not a synonym for learning. Learning can happen any time, any place. It does not require lesson plans. It does not require worksheets because those often hinder true learning. Charlotte Mason, who wrote, education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life, also advised that children are the ones who must perform the act of knowing. We cannot learn for our children, but we certainly can create conditions that help them learn. So a rich, learning lifestyle makes growth, mental, spiritual, and physical almost inevitable. So fill your home with good books and beautiful music. Take trips to art museums and botanical gardens, if you have the chance, spend a lot of time outdoors. Learn to make things with your hands. Have long talks around the dinner table, and live well. And your children will learn, live well and your family will grow. I wish you joy in the journey.
Thank you for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast and while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of The Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you there. Finally you can connect with me, Janice Campbell, at EverydayEducation.com where you'll find my Excellence in Literature curriculum, transcripts made easy and more, as well as at my blog DoingWhatMatters.com and my literature resource site Excellence-In-Literature.com. I wish you peace and joy in your homeschooling.