Coffee Cup

Crock-Pot Homeschool: A Dozen Ingredients For Healthy Nourishment
Paula Harper-Christensen

Why does it seem that our homeschool rolls along semi-smoothly for several months and then suddenly, without warning, we hit bumps in the road where we find ourselves out of steam, out of good ideas, and fresh out of children who are enthusiastic for the plans we have made? Many of us are feeling at a loss by the unmet expectations for our children and ourselves, which consequently, results in a need to hurry to catch-up. Our goals get misplaced, deflated, forgotten and buried when real life messes with our program. Society also sabotages us with nonstop messages about quick and easy means to provide instant gratification. Commercials that promise delicious meals can be created "pantry to plate" in just 60 seconds will only condition the family to race faster and expect more.

At times in my homeschooling career when I have been exhausted and frustrated, I realized I had to fall in love with homeschooling all over again so I would enjoy every minute of the process. My family needed to know that I love homeschooling and that I love them. I had to remember my love for homeschooling was so my children could have the opportunity to learn at their own pace and rate of development centered around their own interests. If homeschooling were the quick, mess-free microwave method where we push a button and the children were educated instantly, we would have missed out on the step-by-step joy of savoring those precious moments that simply happen along the way.

It's been much more gratifying to view our homeschooling as the crock-pot method where individual needs of the family are considered as we select the ingredients. Think of a crock-pot meal where you may take a day planning and shopping for the right ingredients while considering likes and dislikes, organic verses non-organic, food allergies and food additives, and nutritional balance. Early the next day members of the family may help assemble the ingredients into the pot by first washing, soaking, peeling, and chopping. The process of cooking takes many hours as the slow heat gently mingles the spices and flavors while tenderizing and retaining the vitamins that the high temperatures of a microwave can destroy. Home-education is like the crock-pot; it takes time in phases and stages, and if we hurry it, there will be more losses than gains.

Here are some suggestions to jump-start your homeschool if it needs a creative boost. This precious occasion called childhood is truly the best of times, even if we are unable to see the vision through the mess, contrary children, low finances, and our own fatigue. Changing the approach and recommitting to homeschooling can cause us to love homeschooling once again.

  1. Remind yourself of the reasons your family chose to homeschool in the first place. In most cases it is to have more time together.
  2. When homeschooling isn't working, hold family meetings to find out where the problems lie and how to fix them. The solutions to these problems are within the family not within a neighborhood school.
  3. Establish family traditions so that your children can count on them as a regular event in their lives. Practice daily reading aloud as the most important component of your family traditions; it's the best method for teaching any subject.
  4. Celebrate unusual holidays and incorporate the history into your homeschool. For example: February 7th is Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday; March 15th is National Buzzard Day; and April 23rd is the birthday and day of death for William Shakespeare. Weaving events and celebrations into your study will bring interest and creativity.
  5. Always ask your children what they want to study. So often the conflict in homeschooling is created by children being coerced into assignments they have no interest in doing. Trust yourself to help them find the way and trust your children to learn through their own passions.
  6. Give yourself permission to free the children of a curriculum or program if it isn't working. A plan that has everyone stressed out, crying, and fighting is not a good plan at all.
  7. Accept chaos as normal! If you wait to homeschool until life is neat and tidy, it will never happen. The most teachable moments are usually in the middle of bedlam.
  8. Determine your child's learning style so that you are sure you are teaching the weakest subjects using their strongest style of learning.
  9. Comparing our children to those who are schooled traditionally only creates defeat and poor self-esteem in your child and in you. Homeschoolers learn differently; our freedom to learn in our own way is our key to success.
  10. Have faith in your family and faith in your conviction to homeschool. Stay in touch with your support group for enrichment and good ideas.
  11. Take a break! If homeschooling isn't working, drop what you are doing and go to the park and play. Breathing in fresh air can lend itself to a fresh perspective on everyone's attitude.
  12. Parents must fill up their pitchers before they can fill up their children's cups. Do something for yourself. Go to the library alone for a change. Try having dinner with your best friend, go see a play, or take a dance class just for you. If we are running on empty, we have nothing to give our families.

There is no doubt we have chosen to take the road less traveled, but let us remember to travel that road in the slow lane so we can enjoy the view.

Copyright 2005 Paula Harper-Christensen
Reprint with permission only.
Paula is a mother of 4 children who have all been schooled at home. By profession, she is a child development specialist holding a B.S. degree in Child Development and a M.S. degree in Early Childhood Education. She has spent decades reading to children and never tires of the rich lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Cyrus The Unsinkable Sea Serpent, or Hank The Cowdog. Reading has allowed her family to travel the world without ever leaving the comfort of their old couch and their old dog. Paula is Director and Instructor of Options for Parents, a qualifying course for WA homeschoolers.

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