The short answer is that homeschooling is not effortless – it’s a lot of work and anyone who says that it isn’t may not be telling you the whole truth. Yet how many articles have we all read that tell us to just use this curriculum, or a turn-key program, or maybe even some expensive online subscription and you will have the perfect year. While all of these ‘solutions’ have their pros and cons, a parent is still left with learning a new system from scratch that may or may not be the right fit. The result of this leaves the parent frustrated, starting all over again with a different curriculum. The truth is that the work of homeschooling will always be a lot of preparation, planning, creativity, scheduling, research and record-keeping. However, this should not dissuade you because there are elements of homeschooling that actually makes this work far less tedious and even enjoyable.
If your child is just turning school age, chances are they have already learned a lot about the world around them – they have learned to talk, walk and to change their clothes. Some may have already learned how to read and do basic math, yet they have not stepped foot into a classroom. They do not have a single grade or report card to ‘prove’ they have learned these things. Did you use a curriculum to teach your child to talk and walk? Did it require a master’s degree to potty train your child? Did you have a chance to do a review with your child for the shirt-buttoning exam? No? I thought not. The point is that when a child learns a skill, they practice towards mastery and the parent spends less time teaching and more time in introducing new skills so that mastery begets self-reliance. What does this mean? It means that the educational goal is to instill agency and self-reliance so that at a certain level, a child is able to learn new skills (and subjects) on their own.
But what makes homeschooling easier and the tedious tasks enjoyable? I marvel at children who play video games. The skill and proficiency level at which the play is astonishing. Other parents see their kids playing video games and see a distraction. They say, “My son cannot focus! His grades are horrible! He just doesn’t have any motivation!” Of these three statements, only one is true – his grades are bad. However, has any of these parents tried to play in their world? Many of these games have complex rules, movements, material inventories and levels that would take the parent days of focus, attention and practice to master. Admit it or not, but this is self-learning and nobody was there to give your child homework or grades. I would even guess with high confidence that no parent had to, “constantly remind him to play video games.” Your child was able to focus on a complex set of rules and memorize hundreds of commands and all the while, motivated themselves to do it. There is no learning disability here, there is a teaching disability here.
What then is the connection between this natural inclination for learning and teaching the “boring stuff”? We all feel this pressure as we are products of the old system of compliance. We also feel anxiety thinking that our child is going to fall behind. This stress will be sensed by your child and will stress him out too. Relax. Your approach is wrong. What is your relationship to your child? Are you an authoritarian? Are you indecisive? Does your child know what is going on in your organization? Yes, your organization, your home is in a way a business. The business of raising the next generation. You are the manager and your children are the employees – not employees in a sense of labor, but like trainees needing to know how to survive in an adult environment and it is your job to train them. Now ask yourself how would you perform as an employee/trainee if your manager was an authoritarian or worse yet – a micromanager! Would you be motivated to do even the smallest of boring tasks? You would not feel trapped and misunderstood. You would feel a connection or a bond to the organization. This is the first step of making homeschooling effortless – having empathy and being understanding. Your relationship is paramount and empathy will create in your mind new approaches of teaching that will facilitate the bond with your child.
There are many more avenues of improving your family’s homeschooling experiences, but establishing an empathetic and low stress environment is a bedrock truth and must be in your toolbox.