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Monday January 22nd 2018

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But We’re Not Done for the Year!

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But We’re Not Done for the Year!

homeschoolingVeteran homeschooling mom Valerie Bonham Moon has long served the homeschooling community with her work at The Military Homeschooler, Happy as Kings, contributions to Home Education Magazine, and much more. Please join me in welcoming Valerie to Parent at the Helm with this very timely and wise advice for homeschooling parents with the year-end jitters!

By Valerie Bonham Moon

At the end of the last century, I was an active participant in discussions about how thoroughly and comprehensively to teach. I find myself today, a decade or so into the new millennium, seeing the same discussion among younger homeschooling parents. Some topics, such as keeping up with the leftover school expectations that many of us carry with us, never go out of fashion. “I can’t keep house and homeschool!” “We didn’t finish the textbook!” “My kids will be behind!”

Where Did Homeschooling Parents Go to School?

Given that a rough estimate of the annual numbers of children who are homeschooled still runs in the single digit percentages, it is a good bet that most homeschooling parents attended public or private schools. Those schools organized the teaching of subjects because keeping twenty to thirty small bodies headed in roughly the same direction is best done with guidelines and a plan. For schools, the guidelines are state curricula, and the plans are, well, teachers’ lesson plan books.

Does Homeschooling Mean You Have to Complete the Textbook?

As former students of these teachers, the lesson that stuck with us from school isn’t what was in the lesson plan books: the events of 1776, πr2, or the grammatical function of a gerund. The lesson that stuck is that learning is codified, sequential and doled out in time-stamped packets called “Grades.” Kindergartners learn the days of the week, First Graders learn about short-a and long-a, Second Graders learn about the food chain, Third Graders are introduced to fractions, and so on up to Twelfth Graders who study Shakespeare, calculus, physics and American foreign policies. We know this. It’s the way the system works – everyone does it. If we don’t manage to do it with our children at home, we feel stressed. We feel especially stressed at the end of the “year” if we haven’t finished our textbooks. What we forgot from that time, possibly because the chant of “School’s out, sauerkraut, teacher let the monkeys out” distracted us, is that we students often didn’t finish those textbooks.

Raise your hand if, in any of your 13 years of formal schooling, your teacher let you play all day for the last three weeks of school because you finished all your textbooks. Two weeks? One week? One day?

Raise your hand if, in a modern history class, you made it past World War II. Maybe modern grads made it to Vietnam?

If you Google the search terms, “didn’t finish textbook at school” and get the results I did, the second link leads to, “Have you ever used a full textbook in 1 semester/school year …”

Homeschooling and Keeping Up with School Classes

Of course, some teachers are fast movers and their classes will have completed textbooks and extra credit reports. The law of averages played out over a bell curve guarantees that some classes will have finished the book – they’re at the top end of the curve. Still, the bulge of the bell curve, meaning the greatest number of classes, will be in the middle. This isn’t to impugn the system, but only to illustrate that a homeschooling family has not failed if, 180 days after cracking open the textbook, that book has not been read cover to cover, they’re merely keeping up with many classrooms.

See also Educational Resources Homeschooling Families Love for 3 to 8-Year-Olds

Goals are good, but they aren’t laws. Objectives give you focus, but they aren’t necessities. Game plans frame your intentions, but sometimes you’re thrown a curve ball. All this is especially true when you’re living with children. Colds happen. Adventures crop up. Undertakings end in mishaps. We have to adjust. Take heart if you didn’t manage to get in all the I-dotting and T-crossing that you laid out when you made your plan. Neither do the schools.

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