Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Successful Homeschooling Made Easy {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

There are some homeschoolers who are blessed with a strong support network in real life -- family or friends who homeschool, a co-op group, etc. When we set off on this crazy homeschool path eleven years ago, I don't think I knew anyone locally who was homeschooling. In hindsight, I probably could have used a friend to not only support me but also to challenge me to be more purposeful about our days.

Recently I've been using an online homeschool encouragement course from Successful Homeschooling Made Easy. At first I worried that the material was primarily geared towards new homeschoolers. As I worked through the materials, though, I realized that the materials are valuable for homeschoolers at any point in their journey -- even a homeschooler with more than a decade of experience.

Normally this online course sends students a single lesson per week for twenty-six weeks. For the Crew review, Stephanie Walmsley sent us the first few lessons all at once so that we could see more of how the program works. Because of this head start, I've worked through the first nine lessons of her materials, with lesson ten arriving in my inbox earlier this morning.

Each lesson in the twenty-six lesson series comes as a pdf file that ranges from twelve to twenty pages long. Initially I read the lessons online, either in a web browser or on my Kindle. Eventually, I realized that I need a print copy of the material so that I wouldn't be tempted to skip past all the question and response sections. Thankfully, the pdfs printed nicely doublesided and in grayscale so I didn't use very much paper or ink.

The first lessons walk homeschool moms through the very basics of setting up a daily homeschool routine. It's a perfect way for a new homeschooler to ease into school at home and also a great way for experienced homeschool families to ease back into a routine after vacation, the birth of a baby, or anything else that disrupts the old normal. For the first week, the routine simply consists of a literacy hour for writing and reading. The second week adds a numeracy, or math, hour. Later you add something fun, then music and art. I am seriously considering following this plan when we start back to school after our move this summer. I can't do it for all three of my students (two will be stressing about finishing all of their high school classes in a year), but I can make Lauren's transition back to school more gentle. I'm known for setting lofty goals and developing complex plans to reach them. I'm also known for burning out quickly when I try to accomplish all the I've written down in the schedule that I've arranged as carefully as I would Tetris blocks.

As we talk about developing a schedule or routine for our homeschool days, Stephanie Walmsley also challenges homeschool parents to think through a vision for their homeschool family. Our fourth lesson in this series asked difficult questions like, "What do you want to achieve in your life?" or "Why do you want to home educate your children?" She recommends going back to basics and setting a vision before jumping into homeschool specifics such as methods, curriculum, and educational goals. After developing a vision, more questions helped me focus on what things are important for me and my children, where I'd like to be in my relationship with my child in ten years, and how homeschooling will help me achieve that goal.

I will readily admit that I got a bit bogged down in the two lessons about visions and goals. My husband sometimes says I'm a "fire, ready, aim" sort of person. I tend to work on getting things done without ever thinking about why I'm doing them. I know it will be good for me to spend the time needed to work through the questions posed in the lessons. It's these answers that have the ability to sustain me when the homeschooling path gets rocky and steep.

One goal of this course is to help "fireproof" homeschool parents. In other words, to make sure that I don't get burned out. Working out reasonable schedules and setting a vision are just the first two parts of the fireproof process. Stephanie Walmsley may have stepped on my toes a few times in the chapter that challenged moms to take care of themselves and to consider devoting some time to achieving my own dreams. She also challenged me to look at our schedule in terms of finding a balance between outside commitments and unscheduled time just being at home.

Each lesson in the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy course presented information and planning tasks in easy bite-sized pieces. In the past few weeks, I've made some slow, but steady progress in terms of developing a vision for our homeschool and goals for my children (and myself). Since it is late in our school year, I haven't implemented a homeschool routine or schedule for our days. I look forward to following the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy plan next fall and slowly developing an effective, but reasonable plan for our homeschool days.

I recommend Successful Homeschooling Made Easy for both rookie and veteran homeschool moms. For me, it's been a perfect way to slow down and intentionally plan for both the next homeschool day and the next homeschool year.

The Successful Homeschool Made Easy online course costs $48 (or $10 per month if you'd like to pay in installments) and includes 26 lessons delivered weekly by email.

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