First you have to go read Jen's wonderful blog and her post on the 5Rs for New Homeschoolers.
Now that you have read that, I thought I would write about how I implement this in my household.
1. Research: Now Jen was specifically talking about researching homeschooling itself, as a new homeschooler searches out what will work best for their family. Since I'm an "old" homeschooler (we won't say how old, LOL) I don't necessarily have to take time to research every school year about homeschooling in general. But I do do research. I'm constantly reading about different teaching strategies; useful websites for exploration; the latest and newest way to teach a subject. I believe in being well educated myself in order to make sure my kids become well educated. I also use the beginning of the year as a time to evaluate where each child is at, identify any weaknesses I may see, and strategize on how to overcome these in the new school year. For instance, last year's goal for Cassie was to get her reading more. Mission accomplished. She is currently devouring Trixie Belden books as fast as I can find them for her.
2. Relax: This is my mantra! And I think I pull it off pretty good. I often have people say to me "you are so relaxed when it comes to homeschooling. I never see you stress out." I wish I could say I never stress out, because I do have times when that happens. But I do put more emphasis on relaxing. When Eric was writing half the alphabet backwards at age 8, and couldn't spell the simplest words, I didn't freak out. I let him explore his creative spelling and letter writing. I didn't push him to practice and practice. I didn't want him to hate writing. I love writing. I want my kids to love writing. So I relaxed and let nature take it's course. Boys are often late bloomers when it comes to writing skills. When he was 10, suddenly it became very important for him to communicate through writing. He was creating comics and he needed people to get his jokes. So he took the time to really concentrate on his letter formation and his spelling and before I knew it all his little mistakes and issues corrected themselves. He's now a very good writer and has a wonderful sense of humor and poetry in his writings. Though he does prefer to do this all on computer now. Oh, and he taught himself to type too!
3. Remember that learning is everywhere.
As unschoolers this is our entire philosophy of education. Learning is all around us! From the moment my kids wake up in the morning there is something happening that sparks their brain cells and they begin to learn. I give my children plenty of free time to explore their own interests. Mastery tends to happen when given enough free reign in an area. That is why Adam is now an accomplished composer and song writer. You can find Adam's music here. Les and I take every opportunity to find teachable moments throughout the day and to involve our children in daily life. This past week they've learned about plumbing as we've fixed sinks, toilets and shower heads. Cassie is exploring with textures in art on her art table. Eric is learning coding for computer games. Stephanie is learning the difference between theater acting and movie acting as she does a small part for a short film.
4. Respect your kids' individuality.
My comments in number 3 pretty much mirror what I could write in number 4. We have artists, singers, actors, musicians, and writers in our family. Every one has different talents and different learning styles. All of our kids are sensitive to noise or touch in one way or another. A lot of the things we do with our kids reflect these unique personalities. I think this is one of the joys of homeschooling. We can fit learning around who the child is and create a program that is unique for each member of the family. And we can really get to know our kids!
5. Rest and Restore.
Over the years I have learned that this is the critical part of being a homeschool parent. You are with your children 24 hours a day for 7 days a week. There is no "break" when the kids go off to school. So it is vitally important that you figure this out and create rest and restore time for you or you WILL burn out. Exercise is important to me but it is hard. I finally found the perfect exercise for me, water aerobics, and I plan my days and weeks around the times it is offered. I need this "me" time to rest my mind and to restore my body. My husband and I also take the time to rest and restore together. For the past 6 or 7 years we have created an area in our home that is "our area". At our beach house it was a very nice outside garden area that we retired to every evening to sit and relax in and catch up with each other's day. In our current house we have a nice outside balcony garden area we can relax in and also a nice living room area of our bedroom that is a "kid free zone" when the bedroom door is closed. Making sure to have these quiet moments and private reflection places really helps keep our marriage strong and our physical bodies healthy.
I hope this encourages any new homeschoolers that homeschooling doesn't need to be daunting task full of schedules and lesson plans. Yes, those can be important for some families and if it works for you, by all means use them! But don't forget the other things that make homeschooling fun and enjoyable.