Thousands of books and internet articles have been written about how to succeed at homeschooling. But I'm going to offer you something a bit different.
If you've ever wondered how to fail at homeschooling, you've come to the right place. Here are four easy steps to help you fail as at homeschooling. This vital information has been gleaned from five years of intense experimentation with my own children, and it's sure to work every time.
1. Plan too much.
When you sit down to make your lesson plans, make sure you schedule every minute of your 6-8 hour school day. Be sure to plan the exact page numbers to be covered every day, and include several non-core classes each day, at least an hour of daily read-aloud time, field trips at least once a week, and hands-on projects every other day.
If a homeschool publisher says that a particular curriculum should take 36 weeks to complete, you can double up on the lessons and finish it in half the time. Oh, and when doctor visits interrupt your homeschooling day, be sure to make up the lost school time to get back on your schedule by having your children work late into the night or on the weekend. Your children might have to forego spending time with friends, but remember, finishing your curriculum is of the upmost importance, so sometimes sacrifices have to be made. The most important thing to remember is that under no circumstances should your lesson plans ever be more than a half-day off track.
2. Plan too little.
If you know you want to cover science three times a week, English four times a week, and mathematics five times a week, simply make one weekly schedule that will be good for each week of the school year. There's no need to write down the exact pages or units to be covered each day since you'll just cover the next lesson in each subject on the assigned day. When doctor visits interrupt your homeschooling day, don't worry, you can just leave the school work until the next day. Afterall, you won't technically be 'behind' since you don't have specific assignments worked out. Oh, and for those extra curricular activities like teaching your children art or how to cook? Don't worry about planning out exactly what you want to cover; inspiration for art and cooking lessons always come best at the last minute.
3. Plan too frequently.
Make out your lesson plans only a week — or even better — only a day ahead of time. That way you'll be able to adjust your plans to your ever-changing family schedule. Don't worry that you won't know if you're on track to finish the curriculum by the end of the school year, or that you might finish it too quickly so that the last couple months of the school year are a little lean on the curriculum-side. Oh, and when sickness, unforeseen family commitments, or a simple lack of motivation strikes and you're not feeling up to planning? Never fear, your husband will step in, and through his amazing ability to read your mind, he will plan the next day's lessons for you — exactly as you would have done it. No worries!
4. Plan too infrequently.
If planning on a weekly or daily basis sounds like too much trouble, instead take a few days at the end of the summer and plan out the entire school year. Make sure that you allow sufficient time to finish up each curriculum; so if the curriculum says it'll take 36 weeks to finish, go ahead and take it up to the last day of the school year. After all, you don't want to have finished up all your curriculum two months before school is officially supposed to end for the year. Oh, and when you realize that a particular curriculum isn't working for your child a few months into the school year, you'll just have to deal with it. If your child changes curriculum mid-year, it'll mess up your perfectly-planned schedule and the new curriculum won't be finished by the end of the school year. Don't worry though, you can work the new curriculum into your plans for the next school year.
So how do you actually succeed at homeschooling?
Obviously I've written this article with my tongue firmly in my cheek. But really, each of these four points I have undertaken with gusto at one time or another — and I've failed miserably each time.
What I've come to realize is that to succeed in homeschooling your children, you have to find a balance in your scheduling — somewhere in between each of these points above — where you and your children can operate the best. (For me, that balance is doing a general year-long curriculum plan at the beginning of the year — making sure the curriculum is assigned frequently enough to finish in a year — and then planning specifically only six weeks at at time.)
It's okay to fail.
In fact, I didn't plan well enough for our December term (that'd be my point #2 above) and we ended up not doing any school work for most of the month because I didn't plan specifically enough. But the important thing is to get back up and try again — just with a different method.
Eventually you'll find the balance you need, and believe it or not, your children will likely not be worse for wear. In fact, seeing that adults don't always get things right the first time might actually be a great life lesson for them, especially if they also see how those same adults react to their failure.
So what about you? What learn-through-failure experiences have you had in homeschooling?