Chandler Smith and her husband didn’t have to get over the nostalgia of putting their children on a bus and sending them off to school. They both were homeschooled themselves from Kindergarten through 12th grade and found it to be a great experience. When their first child turned 5 years old, they decided to try homeschooling for a year and see what happened.
“Four years later and now we’re home schooling our three oldest kids (8, 6 and 4 years old),” she said, explaining how they wanted their kids to develop a deep love of learning and curiosity of the world around them. “We felt like that was one of the primary gifts we had been given growing up homeschooled.”
Smith said one of the biggest gifts of being two generations removed from the traditional classroom is that she doesn’t have the desire to recreate it.
“The courage and conviction it takes to do something so against the grain is incredible and, honestly, I wonder if I would have it if I hadn’t experienced the beauty of personalized learning myself. … I know what the flow of a day learning at home feels like, and that is a hard thing to get used to if you spent your childhood learning in a classroom,” she said.
Homeschooling, though, isn’t without its challenges. That’s why we wanted to cover some of the most common ones and offer some solutions.
Challenge #1: Gaining control of your household
The comment Donna Baer—parenting coach and author of “Strong Happy Family: Unexpected Advice from an Ivy League Mother of Ten”—hears most frequently is “I could never homeschool because my kids don’t listen to me.”
“My response is, when do you plan on addressing that?” she said. “That’s very important in being a parent, having kids listen to you, having kids who obey you.”
Baer said this is crucial for their education and their safety. She said parents need to establish their authority within their home, and that’s not just a homeschooling issue.
Challenge #2: Finding a good curriculum
Baer said one has to weed through the home-school curriculum out there to find the appropriate quality to meet your educational goals and your child’s learning style. There are hundreds of homeschool curriculums out there. A couple of years ago, Homeschool.com polled its community and compiled a list of the top 100 homeschool curriculums.
Challenge #3: Teaching with a variety of ages in the household
First, Baer pointed out that kindergarten through grade three doesn’t take more than 2–3 hours per day. Thus, when she had younger children in the household, she would school the older ones while the younger napped or while they were occupied playing. When students were middle- or high-school level, Baer said they knew what their assignments were and worked independently in the morning while she helped the elementary-age children. Then, in the afternoon, she would be more available for the high-school students. She said staggering the school day worked for her.
The key is for everyone to know what their assignments are and what their chores in the house are, she said.
Chandler Smith said this is the biggest challenge she is facing right now: what to do with her curious, energetic 3-year-old while her older kids are focused on school.
“My current techniques: Duplos in the living room, stories on Spotify, play time in his bedroom, or assigning one of the older kids to play with him for a few minutes at a time,” she said.
Challenge #4: Getting housework done
The solution to this, in Baer’s mind, is having well-defined chores for everyone in the house to help out with.
Challenge #5: Sibling bickering
Whether homeschooling or not, kids will bicker.
“The solution to that is lots of work,” Baer said. She quipped that her kids knew if they were bickering, someone would soon be cleaning a bathroom.
Challenge #6: Creating competition…for those who need it
There are some children who thrive on a little competition. In a homeschooling environment, Baer, said there isn’t your typical competition for grades. She said the hope is that your kids will develop a love of learning that drives them, but, she acknowledged, some kids at younger ages really thrive on outside competition.
Challenge #7: Gaps in education
Every homeschooling parent will worry about gaps in their child’s education, Baer said.
“I used to worry about that a lot, and then I realized everybody has gaps,” she explained.
She noted that when she spoke with traditional school teachers, they too said they almost never got to the end of the text book, that there were always elements in the curriculum that they couldn’t finish.
“I just did the best I could but acknowledged there would be gaps when my kids would get to college and they would need to fill in gaps on their own,” she said.
This article continues a short series of articles on homeschooling based on interviews with Donna Baer, a 28-year veteran of home schooling and mom of 10, and her eldest daughter Chandler (Baer) Smith, who is now homeschooling three of her five children. The first article was “Five myths about homeschooling and being homeschooled.”