If there is one thing I know to be true about home education, it is this:
Your homeschool must grow with your children.
This is both the beauty and the pain of homeschooling. Just when we think we have everything sorted, the perfect curriculum, the perfect routine, our children up and grow on us. And suddenly, those things that were cherished and looked forward to are no longer meeting them where they are.
Time to change it up.
As our children mature they become capable of more and more. If we don’t keep up with their increasing capabilities, they become bored. Stagnant. When children feel this way they are likely to act out. Suddenly those lessons that were looked forward to a month ago are now met with eye rolls. That page of maths problems we know they can solve in 10 minutes now takes a good hour of mama nagging and cajoling.
Along with a change in capabilities comes a change in interests. I don’t need to tell you that a 6 year old isn’t always going to be interested in the same things as her 10 year old brother or his 4 year old sister. Yes, there are certain things we want our children to learn regardless of whether they are interested or not, but if all of the lessons are focused on topics your child finds uninteresting, regardless of how important compound interest or the Greek roots of our modern democracy may be, you are going to wind up butting heads.
Just because paper crafts were fun last year doesn’t mean we need to continue with them this year.
There is no requirement for wet-on-wet watercolour lessons in every grade.
If you have noticed that your child is no longer looking forward to lesson time, is becoming easily bored or distracted, is taking forever to complete their basic work, it is probably time to change things up.
It can be easy to miss the signs. We mistake their reluctance for their having difficulty with the work. So we go slower. And we make it worse.
Or we see their acting out as a personal attack on ourselves as parent-educators. With our feelings hurt, we fight back. We say things we don’t mean and feel guilty for it.
We decide our children are just being rude or poorly behaved so we go on a crusade to increase the level of discipline in the home. They may respond by doing the work with fewer complaints, but we haven’t addressed the problem and it’s just as likely they aren’t learning any more than they were before the crackdown. Worse still, we may be inadvertently be putting up further barriers between us and them, between them and a love of learning.
Change isn’t always easy, for child or for parent.
Change isn’t always easy.
So how do we cope with it?
The first step is to notice when it’s time for a change.
The second step is to make a plan for change and act on it.
As parents, there are things we can do to make this easier on our children and easier on ourselves. I’ll talk about helping our children cope with change a little further on, but first things first. Let’s take care of mama.
It’s important to recognise that our children’s desire and/or need for change is not a reflection on us. It’s not because they don’t need us any longer. They just need us in a different way.
It’s not because they don’t want us. They just want something different from us.
It’s not because what we have been doing up until now in our home and homeschool has been some kind of boring torture to them. They probably truly loved last term’s lesson plans. They’ve just outgrown them.
If you’re feeling unneeded, try making a list of the things our children still need from us, or even a list of things they will need from us in the future. Think on all of the things they needed from us before and then remind yourself that the reason they no longer need you to help them read, or figure a sum, is because you have given them the time, love and attention they needed to learn those lessons.
You’ve done a great job, mama!
One way to address children’s growing capability and need for independence is to give them more work they can complete solo.
We began the move towards independent work earlier in the year by assigning reading a few times a week. I would assign a chapter or set of pages and then have Nikolai narrate his reading back to me either later in the day or the following morning, depending on what else was happening that day. Handy bonus- this freed up a lot of time for me that was previously spent reading aloud. From my son’s point of view, he enjoyed the freedom of being able to complete the work alone and in his own time.
As the year progressed, I began to assign maths revision work as independent work as well. I still present new concepts in a main or middle lesson, but then I let Nikolai tackle the practice on his own. This is easy for us because we use maths workbooks for our daily maths practice. I know not all Waldorf-inspired homeschool parents are comfortable assigning worksheets, but please let me assure you that it does happen in schools too. You also have the option of writing a series of problems on your blackboard for your child to work through.
Another way to assign independent work is to assign online or video classes for some subjects. We have used ArtVenture for art instruction this year which again has allowed Nikolai to work without me. Unless there is a specific lesson I want to tie in to a main lesson, I let Nikolai choose his lesson and the time he wants to do it. Children appreciate being able to make small decisions for themselves and it’s great practice for the bigger decisions that come later in life.
When making the move to independent work, start slow. The idea is for our children to take a little control over their time and their learning so don’t give them work to do that they aren’t capable of doing on their own. This isn’t the time for new subjects and topics, it’s the time for practice.
Start with just a small amount of independent work and increase it over time. Remember to schedule in time for your child to go over their independent work with you, whether this is a narration or simply showing their work to you.
Another way to address the need for change and growth is with a simple tweaking of your daily and weekly routines. Sometimes things just get a little stale. Maybe schedule in a few new outings or you could tackle subjects in a different order.
Sometimes schedule changes need to be a little bigger.
A common change to make in the mid-primary years, usually sometime between 3rd and 5th grade, is dropping morning circle. I’ve talked before on how to make morning circle work in a homeschool setting, but there comes a point in time when kids just don’t want to do circle time any more. ‘It’s for babies’, they tell us. It’s not unusual for mamas to hold on to this particular activity longer than needed, so don’t feel guilty if this is you.
To be honest, this is me! And we will be changing things up over the next term (details on what our new day looks like will be coming soon so make sure you are subscribed!).
Now might be the time to add in subjects that your child wasn’t old enough before. Hello Latin and grammar!
If you’re not ready to add in a new subject area, deepen the areas you are working on now. Perhaps a move from basic nature studies to a more full course of natural history? Maybe it’s time to make the move from mythology to history? Or from a go-with-the-flow art approach to a carefully considered program on drawing?
When adding in new subjects, it’s oftentimes best to make one addition at a time to avoid overwhelm for you and your child/ren. For more tips on how to do this, read this post!
If change is hard on us mamas, it can be even harder on our kids.
Just like when they suddenly shoot up a few inches overnight, changes in the homeshool can elicit growing pains too.
Take the time to talk to them about what they like and dislike about the current system. Is there something they are dying to learn about that you could help facilitate in their own time? Do they want a maths workbook without the cutesy pictures? Are they itching to be allowed to write with a fountain pen instead of those same pencils they got in second grade? Accommodate them where you can.
Use the layering in technique to add in new subjects so that your children aren’t overwhelmed.
Be very clear on what your expectations are in regards to the level of work, particularly in independent work. It is incredibly frustrating for children to be told they haven’t done what is required when they legitimately think they have. Communication is key here.
Schedule in together time. Growing up doesn’t mean growing apart. Even if they are ready to drop circle time, they aren’t ready yet to drop time with you.
And remember, if things changed too fast for them, it’s always ok to step back a bit and go slower. When you homeschool, you get to do it your way. There is no such thing as being behind.
How is your homeschool growing with your children?