Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting your "Homeschool Train" back on track

from Catholic Heritage Curriculum ~

The homeschooling journey shares some interesting parallels with a vacation by train; in fact, derailing of the ‘Homeschooling Express’ has occurred more than once in almost every family who is making the trip.

If your ‘homeschool train’ is wobbling on the rails, the following tips might be just the ‘ticket’ to put your train safely back on track.

1. Start with the Core
Particularly if this is your first year, stick to the basics. By so doing, your students will cover all the key subjects as you learn the ropes and they settle into your homeschool routine.

2. Use Lesson Plans.....at least for the first year or two. Lesson plans save preparation time and eliminate the uncertainty of that pit-in-the-stomach question: Am I covering all that needs to be covered? CHC lesson plans highlight core subjects for those who wish to begin with the ‘easiest route’ to the same destination, but also include all subjects as your family gradually ‘picks up speed’ toward implementing a complete curriculum, along with enrichment materials and attention-grabbing activities.

3. Don’t Add or Substitute
If you are stressed and confused by decisions about what and how much to teach, stick with the lesson plans. Additions and substitutions add to the expense, preparation time, and workload. The lesson plans are complete and thorough without confusing additions.

4. Don’t Compare Your Children.....to one another, or to children outside the family. This creates a fear of ‘being ahead’ or ‘being behind.’ Remember that God creates each of us as individuals, with differing abilities. Children in public school are rarely exactly at grade level in each and every subject; it is not uncommon for children to be a few grades ahead in one or more subjects, a few grades behind in one or more subjects, and right on target in the rest. Homeschooled children are no different in this regard. However, the significant difference between the two settings is that homeschooled children can move ahead at their own pace, and receive immediate, personally tailored instruction for those areas in which they lag.

5. Avoid Burnout……by adding too much and expecting too much, too soon. Enjoy each mile of the train trip, without expecting to arrive just after the train has left the station. Just as it is only at the end of the journey, when your family has returned from vacation, when you can truly assess the success of the trip, so also with homeschooling does a retrospective reveal the territory covered. Certainly, keep track of strides in learning, but don’t make a final assessment of progress from last year to this, until year’s end.

6. Without Discipline…...children may make a break for the door and take a flying leap from the train. If your children don’t listen or mind outside of homeschool, they won’t listen or mind during homeschool. It is impossible to succeed at homeschooling without discipline. [If you are having discipline issues, put all academics on hold and work on this pivotal parenting skill first. Click here for helpful resources.]

7. Combine Grades Where Possible
Do you have children who are close in age? Grades are somewhat arbitrary divisions that don’t necessarily reflect a student’s readiness to learn. [It is not out of the ordinary for parents to notice that, while Mom is teaching a kindergartener, the preschooler is catching on just as quickly.] There is absolutely nothing ‘wrong’ with having two children in the same grade, or using the same materials for two children. [One helpful resource is the Multi-Level Science Guide.]

8. Praise
Praise at least twice as much as you correct. Point out and applaud your children for the good points and improvement in their work before you suggest corrections or further improvements.

9. Pray
Begin each school day with a simple prayer for wisdom, guidance, and the desire to use skills learned to help others to the glory of God. Use the free Wednesday that is built into CHC lesson plans and make a mini-holiday/holy day of it. Assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and take the kids to the park for a picnic, or go out to lunch.

10. Relax
Just as you would on that train-travel vacation, take photos and create a brief written record of those ‘ooh and ahh’ moments. Keep a portfolio of the year’s activities [and collection of best papers] so you can look back on all the happy times, surrounded by evidence of your children’s progress, and warmed by soul-satisfying memories.