(Apologies to Gabriel García Márquez)
Dear Library Friends,
We live in interesting times. Curse or not, it’s our new reality, at least for the foreseeable future, and we’re each trying to make the best of it, in our own ways. We’re learning how to be with each other (and without each other). We’re learning how to occupy ourselves and our children in new ways. We’re taking on new and different work responsibilities, or else we’re learning to live with being un- or under-employed. And many of us are also learning how to take charge of our children’s education – at a time when our children are also struggling to adjust to this same new reality.
Home education isn’t easy, but it can be simple. I know because I’ve been there. In addition to homeschooling my now-22-year-old son from kindergarten through his senior year, I also published a magazine on home education.
That’s how I can say that, without a scrap of doubt, you can do this. It will take some getting used to, sure, but I know you can do it. And I’m here to help in any way I can.
First, you should know that, in the home education community, it’s well understood that, when a child leaves school to begin homeschooling, there’s a period of time when very little that resembles learning takes place. It’s a period known as “deschooling” or “decompressing.” For some children, this might take a few weeks; for others, a few months. Don’t worry. It will pass. Be gentle and provide guidance and learning opportunities, but try to abstain from forcing too much. Remember, our children are experiencing the same upheaval to their lives that we are, and stress simply isn’t conducive to learning. Be patient.
Second, don’t feel like you have to be an expert at everything. You don’t. Instead of always teaching, sometimes homeschooling is learning along with your children. Learning with kids shows them that learning never ends. We’re always learning new things – from the moment we’re born until the moment we die. It also allows children to see learning in action. We can model how to learn – perhaps the most critical skill of all.
Third, make learning fun. Endless worksheets and quizzes may fill time but may also make your job harder down the road. Children thrive on novel experiences. (We all do, really.) If things get too samey, children are likely to push back and eventually refuse. Instead, find fun ways to learn – together. Consider allowing a child’s interest to fuel their learning (there’s math in knitting and baking and playing piano, there’s history in Greek/Egyptian/Norse mythology, there’s English in writing a letter to a pen pal, there’s science in growing a garden…). If this sounds like something you’d like to try, and you’re wondering how to work with a particular interest, please let me know. That’s what a librarian is for, after all.
Fourth, talk. A lot. It’s amazing how everyday conversation, seen in a different light, is actually learning. Talk all day long. About everything.
And finally, don’t worry that it’s all on you, that, if you fail at this homeschooling thing, you’ll scar your child for life. It’s a common fear, but an unnecessary one. I’ll leave you with something I wrote years ago for the magazine:
“So, you’re not his teacher, then….”
Well, yes I am. He learns many, many things from me. He asks me questions, he discusses things with me, he debates me. We talk. A lot. I bring him things I think will interest him. I keep an eye out for books, movies, websites, articles, games, magazines, exhibits, and people to feed his passions. He assumes I will do these things for him. He knows I will use the power I have as an adult to make the world more accessible to him. Yes, I am his teacher.
But, so is every person he meets, the neighborhood pool, our community, the pets we own, the Internet, the books he reads, the artwork he sees, every insect that catches his interest, the music that surrounds him, trees, television, dirt, stores, every place he visits, everything he notices.
Teachers are everywhere. In fact, my son, himself, is a teacher – an amazing, inspiring teacher.
Remember, you can do this. And if you have any questions, any nagging worries, any anything, really, I’m here. And so are all the other parents treading these unfamiliar waters. You are not alone. It takes a community to raise a child, and the community of Sharon, though mostly virtual at the moment, is brimming with people ready and happy to help.
Stay safe, stay kind, and stay well,