August 13, 2015

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop: Day 4~ Four Important Lessons I've Learned from Four Years of Homeschooling

Crazy enough, we are going to be starting our FIFTH year of homeschooling this fall. FIVE! I can't believe we are already five years into this crazy adventure! It seems like just yesterday I was excitedly buying our first ever homeschool curriculum. Finding that "perfect" match. Getting the box in the mail and gleefully looking through all that pristine material. Just ready to go. Flash Forward to 2015 with my Organized Chaos I call Picking My Curriculum and it's easy to see how far I've come! So the real question is...what have I learned? I have picked four things I have learned about homeschooling--one for each year we have under our belt. These four things have shaped the direction I go with homeschooling today--and I'm sure in the future!
4 Important Lessons I've Learned From 4 Years of Homeschooling

Over the last four years, I have learned a lot. I could probably write a hundred day series on things I've learned. But I want to really narrow it down to the one greatest lesson I learned with each year of our homeschooling. Lessons that I took into the next year, and carry with me now as we head into our fifth year of teaching. I think they are vital to my success...to OUR success as a homeschooling family and I hope that you will benefit from them as well.

1. Kindergarten: Foster a Love of Learning

Oh my. How we enjoyed our Kindergarten year. I really did "score" with our curriculum when I decided to go with the My Father's World: God's Creation from A to Z. We fell in love with unit studies and being able to explore a subject over the course of a week. We enjoyed the books, the arts n crafts, the simple science experiments, and all that we created. 

I learned the value of "rabbit trails" as we put everything aside to learn more about something that had caught Little Britches attention. Learning was FUN. It was exciting. It was rewarding. We enjoyed working on our projects because there were no limits to what we could do. We even worked in a few Five in a Row units as they matched what we were doing. It was all about exploration and just showing how school lets you learn about anything you want to learn about, as much as you want to learn about.
Important Lesson #1
Lesson #1

The year was all about learning to love...learning! And I think we succeeded and it set a great foundation for our homeschool adventure.

2. First Grade: Learning Style is Not One-Size Fits All

First Grade had its challenges as the curriculum shifted to be more "grown up". It had more reading, and yes more writing. I was eager to "stuff" as much into first grade as I could--to get Little Britches soaring ahead in all areas. That didn't work as well as I had planned. I discovered that reading didn't come "naturally" to Little Britches and he only wanted to do as little as possible. Book work--well book work was like a bad word. 

I discovered in this year that his learning style was NOT all about reading and writing like my own style was. No, his learning style was hands-on and "audial" minded. So I had to change my perspective. I could not teach him the way I would teach myself. This was mind blowing to me and changed everything I did from here on out. I had to let some of my "expectations" for First Grade go because, well, they were unrealistic. They were set for someone like me. Who learned like someone like me. And I had given birth to someone who DIDN'T learn like me.
Important Lesson #2
Lesson #2
The year was all about learning about LEARNING. The lessons that I took from this year shaped the way our next years were set up. It changed everything from how I "structured" our day, to what curriculum we chose, to how much of it we do. Figuring out his learning style was my lesson for the year.

3. Second Grade: Sometimes You Just Have to Let It Go

Second Grade arrived and once again I had a great curriculum planned. I was SURE I had learned my lessons from the previous year and we were going to take new strides in our learning. It was going to be the year that we really conquered challenges and blazed through our lessons. We were older. We had two years already under our belts. We could do this. Annnnnnnddddd, I discovered that didn't work out so well. 

It seems I actually DIDN'T remember what I had learned from the previous years, and in that moment, a new lesson had to be learned...that sometimes, you just have to let things go. This was true of our math and science. We also discovered we had outgrown the "box". We were still using a boxed curriculum as our core--My Father's World~Adventures in US History, but we were struggling to keep up with it. You see this year I began my adventure as a reviewer with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, and we were getting all sorts of things to work into our school year and this was actually working well for us. But I was trying to cram it all in to my "concrete" schedule of what HAD to be done. School was becomming dreaded. Attitudes were flaring. We just could NOT do it all. So I learned the power of letting things go. 
Important Lesson #3
Lesson #3
I actually DIDN'T finish the curriculum that year. It was so hard for me to stop, but I knew it was for the best. I was forgetting the two previous lessons I had learned--that I needed to foster a love of learning and that learning styles are NOT one-size-fits-all. We were getting off track again. 

So the lesson for that year was that it is OKAY if you have to walk away from curriculum. Even if you LOVED it. Even if you spent a lot of money on it. Sometimes, you just have to let it go for the sake of maintaining that love of learning and moving forward.

4. Third Grade/Preschool: Don't Measure Success by Comparing Your Child to Another

Third Grade. What a year that was. Our first year where we pieced our curriculum together instead of using an All-In-One. What a challenge that was to put together, but how liberating it felt to do! We let go of some things that we did the previous year, and embraced some new ideas and a new routine. We now had a preschooler to throw into the mix, as Baby Britches was eager to join in. 

We discovered that Little Britches FINALLY got that love of reading and excelled with flying colors. He ate up books and discovered he loved junior biographies. His love of history boomed. His love of science exploded. He diagrammed sentences with ease. But we struggled in math and writing. We had to make changes. So we did. I found a new writing curriculum (I actually let go what I had planned! Woot!) and he started doing well to the end of the year. He is hoping to continue with it for the new year (and we will). 

But math. Math is our struggle. Or rather it's MY struggle. Because I kept comparing his math skills to that of other kids his age. Oh how hard it was to hear about public school kids who were kindergartners, learning how to do algebra. And first graders knocking out complicated multiplication problems. Little Britches hates multiplication. He hates division. So I compared him and found him lacking. Then I remembered (AGAIN!)--learning is not a one-size-fits-all thing. Yes, he struggled in some aspects of math--but you know he rocked through others (whiz at graphing, measurement, story problems, geometry, decimals). And yes he might struggle with math more than some, but he has a brain for history like you wouldn't believe. And his grasp of science--fabulous.

I had to learn to stop measuring his success by comparing him to other children. No, his success was to be measured by what he HIMSELF had achieved. What he WAS achieving at that moment. HIS accomplishments. HIS growth. THAT'S the success that mattered. 

One of the reasons we chose to homeschool, was to remove the standardized testing from his school years. So he didn't have to be compared to everyone else and found lesser (or yes, even better). And I had forgotten this in my effort for validation of my OWN success as a homeschool teacher. 

Important Lesson #4
Lesson #4
His success as a student, is not based on what someone else has achieved. He was succeeding in what we were giving him and attempting great things. He worked hard and was a great student. And I had forgotten that in my effort to make sure he's "up to speed" with what society says he should be able to be doing. Comparing him to other public school children, other private school children, other homeschooled children. 

This applies to myself as well. My success as a homeschool teacher, shouldn't be determined by whether or not my children are up to par with public school children of the same age. That's not the criteria our family chooses to have. I must also stop comparing myself to what other homeschool moms are doing and how their children are achieving. And I forget that. ALL. THE. TIME.

I hope that YOU will not compare yourself to me and what I do.
      Unless you are going to tell me that you totally understand the comparing thing and do it too. 
             Then it's okay to compare yourself to me. LOL

As we enter our fifth year, I wonder what lesson I will learn. I know it will be something important--the last four years have shown me that. I am actually in the process of creating myself a little printable to put in my teacher binder that have these four lessons on it. I need to see it every day. To remind myself that if I can remember these four simple things this year--we will probably have the best year yet!

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Well that's day 4! I hope you will continue check in tomorrow for the final post in this series--it's going to be another one of my collaborative posts--I think you will enjoy it! Now I encourage you to visit some of the other homeschool bloggers participating this week! You can find the full list on my anchor post...or you can try some of these lovely ladies:

Steph @ Indy Homeschool

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Do any of the lessons I shared resonate with you? Have you learned any major lesson this past year?
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