Permission to Fail

Homeschooling families generally fall into two camps (well, there’s really way more than that, but we’ll deal with that later). The first are those that always wanted to homeschool. They felt some kind of call or the alternative lifestyle simply appealed to them and homeschooling felt like the most natural thing in the world. The second are those that are circumstantial homeschoolers. These folks, for various reasons such as poor school performance, bullying or a lack of flourishing, find themselves homeschooling their children when they never thought they would. Frequently-though not always-military families fall into the second category. Multiple moves to locations with varying degrees of educational success in the public schools lead to lots of educational problems with these families.

While there are few in both camps that seem to exude confidence, most of us struggle, at least from time to time, with the question as to whether we are doing the right thing and if we are doing it well. We wonder if we are teaching all the right subjects. We wonder if our kids are reading at the right level or writing or doing math at the right level. We are convinced that we are messing up our kids. Really, being solely responsible for somebody’s education is daunting and if you don’t find it so, you may be deluded. But, daunting does not mean impossible. It doesn’t even mean improbable. It simply means that it’s a big job, but one that is entirely doable.

I’ve been doing the homeschooling thing for a long time now. I fall into both camps. I pulled a child from public school due to a lack of flourishing and I’ve homeschooled another from day one. During my years of homeschooling I learned a few things. The number one thing I have learned is this: giving yourself permission to fail is the key to your success. I make you this promise here and now; you won’t do everything right. You will make mistakes. You will have hard days. You will question your sanity (so will others, by the way). But I also promise you this; your failures will guide you to your successes. Let go of what doesn’t work for your student or your family. That is the single greatest benefit of homeschooling. (besides reading great books in your pj’s-but maybe that just me).You do not have to do a certain thing because it is conventional. Chances are you are where you are because conventional wasn’t working anyway.

Now that you have decided to launch into homeschooling and you have given yourself permission to fail, you need to know that you don’t have to plan twelve years of education before you start. You just have to start somewhere. There are tons and tons of resources and websites out there and it can feel extremely overwhelming to figure out what to do. But in all honesty everything out there boils down to a pretty short list of educational approaches. Find a synopsis of each one and talk about them with your spouse. Follow your gut on which seems the best fit for your family. Then focus on learning more about that approach. Here is a basic list of educational approaches:

  • School-at-home
  • Eclectic Schooling
  • Unit Studies
  • Unschooling
  • Classical Education
  • The Charlotte Mason Method
  • The Waldorf Method
  • Montessori
  • Multiple Intelligences
  • Video Schooling
  • Internet Schooling*

I would describe my homeschooling experience as the “Eclectic School-at-Home Classical Charlotte Mason Multiple Intelligences Internet” approach. It has developed over the course of 12 years. One size does not fit all when it comes to educating children. They learn at different paces and have different styles and needs. Once you implement your chosen approach you will know fairly soon if it’s working for your family or not. Don’t be afraid to discard what doesn’t work. Also, you may find that different approaches work for different kids in one family. I know a family with seven children. Strictly online school works for one of their students while a more eclectic approach works better for others. The classroom may be fantastic for some kids. But it isn’t for all kids. Don’t be afraid. If this is something you either want to do or fully believe you ought to do, you can do it. Don’t allow the naysayers, either from within your head, or outside of yourself, to tell you otherwise.

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