Most public school teachers arrive at their job knowing that they’ve got a preselected list of lessons and books to work with, and a district-developed set of tests and curricula that they will be using throughout the year to teach their students. When you’re a homeschooling parent, it’s often a little harder to find the right tools to teach your children. That’s why websites like Cristina Grau’s AHomeschoolMom.com are so useful for first-time and long-time homeschoolers – she’s living the process and has valuable tips to share with other parents.
UV: It seems like with four children to homeschool, you’ve got more than enough to keep you busy, and yet you decided to set up this website a few years ago. How do you find time to do everything?
CG: Before taking on anything new, I think a great deal of prayer is necessary. I want to make sure that any new adventure I wish to embark on is not of my own doing, but that my family is behind my endeavors and God is a part of the plan. Once those requirements are in the clear, the next is to organize my time. Blogging is last on my list of priorities, honestly. My family, our homeschooling, and other ministries come first. So, if I plan to add blogging to my list of activities, I need to schedule time into my routine. This is simply done by figuring how much time it takes to handle our learning, then by adding in our chore time, and finding what remaining time is left between the end of lessons and dinner time. I generally schedule a post for the following day so as to remove any stress of having to rush to a computer and get today’s post up and running for people to see. I will often post for several days as well; this helps me manage those extra busy days when blogging would otherwise be impossible. If I had to boil it down to one simple formula, I would have to say a lot of organization and planning ahead.
UV: One section of the website is devoted to books and resources, and we’re grateful that you’ve added our Ultimate Typing software to your list! How do you decide which books and resources to feature in this category?
CG: Any items on the HM Bookshelf are tried and true. If we don’t use them on a regular basis or if they didn’t meet our needs, I do not feel comfortable sharing with other families. I want to pass on information which is reliable and honest. If they worked for us, they just might work for you.
UV: In a post you wrote back in February, you mentioned that you encourage your children to look up words and look for ways to use them in conversation. What other ways can parents help their children improve vocabulary skills?
CG: There are various ways by which we can help our children increase their vocabulary. Reading is the easiest and most beneficial way to make this happen. Don’t be afraid to get outside the picture book section of your library and start adding more challenging reads. While they might struggle at first, they will catch on quickly and be proud of their accomplishments. Besides reading, there are lovely games like Boggle, Scrabble, and more which can increase their vocabulary. Play along with your children and purposefully use words which they are unfamiliar with. This will, hopefully, prompt questions about your words and encourage their use in the future. Balderdash is another exciting way to increase vocabulary. Grab your handy dictionary, pick a word, and let your children help you decide what the “real” meaning of the word is. Through creativity, learning vocabulary will not only be a breeze, but loads of fun!
UV: The “Homeschooling 101” series is a great introduction for people who are new to the process and need an overview of what they can expect over the next ten to twelve years. What advice do you have for people who have been homeschooling for several years already, and might be losing some of their early energy and enthusiasm for the task?
CG: I think all of us have moments of “burn out”. I think the key is in remembering these are moments. Being tired today, does not mean we need to give up entirely; it means we need a moment to breathe. The best advice I could give is to take those moments! We are not living on someone else’s schedule or routine, we are not machines which need to function at a certain capacity. If you need a break, take one. I have read that some homeschool nine weeks on, one week off; this seems to alleviate stress and keeps everyone focused on the coming break. Others simply take a day off whenever they find it necessary; there is more than enough time in the year to finish learning, one day off won’t hurt. Find a routine that works for you and implement it.
If you are finding the work itself is becoming bothersome, switch things up! Do not become a slave to curriculum. Books are there to work for you, not to be filled by unwilling slaves. Pick a different method or resource to learn by; try something completely different from your normal routine. Change things up! Sometimes we just need to step outside the box and learn by new means in order to reinvigorate our love of learning and keep the flame alive.
UV: You talk about co-op sessions with other homeschooling parents, where several families get together for classes and activities. What are the advantages of working in larger groups like this, rather than always staying at home with your own children and your own specific course of study?
CG: I love being at home with my kids. I get to work out my own routine, take breaks when I wish, and spend one-on-one time with my kiddos. Every once in a while though, we feel the need to step outside our walls and see what the outside world has to offer. Being a part of a larger homeschooling community allows us the security of meeting with like minded people who will encourage our love of learning, come alongside our goals, and infuse us with new ideas. Co-op, and other such venues, allow our children exposure to areas of learning I might not have considered; broadening our scope and planting seeds of thought for future areas of study. Our children are able to socialize with people of all different ages, not just their own, helping them become well-rounded individuals. Parents are able to use this time to observe their children’s interests, their ability to work with others, their character, and share ideas regarding issues which might be of concern or value. No matter how it is accomplished, either through a formal registry or just visiting with friends, being a part of a larger community has something to offer everyone. If nothing else, we need no longer feel alone.
Cross-posted at the Ultimate Typing blog.