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Maintaining Confidence as a Home Educating Parent
© Beverley Paine
In my early days of homeschooling I suffered from a bad bout of lack of confidence. It is hard enough going against the flow, being different from everyone else in the neighbourhood, without the approval of those I hold most dear to myself.
I remember live in fear of being "caught out" as a bad mother by my own mother and mother-in-law who both disapproved of home education in the beginning and still voice some reservations, despite fourteen years of our homeschooling practice. This was compounded by my early departure of regular school methods and immersion in a natural learning style of education.
Those early days were peppered with 'back to school' activities to keep my sanity from tipping the scales. I desperately needed some reassurance that my children were learning as well as their schooled students. If only to provide ammunition for the barrage of questions I faced whenever I stepped outside the home, or when the relatives came to visit.
I believe that whatever keeps you sane and secure, keeping insecurity and lack of confidence at bay, is a good thing. Often we tend to put ourselves down, criticise ourselves unfairly, because we aren't using a particular approach, educational materials or engaging in certain activities, or pushing our children as hard as we can... it doesn't matter what we do, some days we just seem certain to fail - fail ourselves and our children and our homeschooling practice!
John Holt was pretty clear about what resources and methods to use - anything that works for you and your family! That makes sense. He didn't mean rigidly adhere to any one approach or material either. Pick up what works now, and discard it when it no longer seems to work. Even 'natural learners' learn from text books from time to time, or teacher led classes. I have always turned to John Holt's books for a few words of wisdom when things begin to look bleak and homeschooling life starts heading downhill.
In our home we always resorted to school type activities when my confidence and security in our chosen and preferred approach was low. A school based education is what Robin and I grew up with; it is what we know best, and have seen working well - so we are comforted. When we feel confident about the children's growth and development and educational progress we relax and let more experimental approaches dominate. This way we grow and develop, in a very natural way ourselves!
I haven't learned to do this in a vacuum. I keep researching information on education - in magazines, books, the library and more recently on the internet. I swap anecdotes and information with homeschooling friends, attend workshops and conferences, even ones for school teachers when I can. I try and learn as much as I can about the learning process, mostly by observing my own children, but also other children, and from the words of researchers and other parents. I am continuously learning about homeschooling and education. This helps my confidence levels enormously. I can't overstate how much this has helped.
I've made it my business to read up on many different styles of educational curriculum, keeping up with current trends. Being able to converse with teachers and education bureaucrats has helped boost self confidence. I regard myself as a teacher, on par with other teachers. My training isn't a four year course - it is ongoing. I can't afford to fail my students so I have to stay on the ball. In the early years I happily used checklists and activity guides, even though we didn't set the same kind of activities they did in schools or learn in the same way. All of this helped formulate the vast amount of knowledge I now have and share with others.
Keeping records has been my greatest ally in overcoming lack of confidence, and in persuading others of the effectiveness of our learning style. I'd recommend it to anyone. The only proviso is to do the record keeping for yourself, as an evaluation tool for your homeschooling program and practice - not as assessment on your children, or to get 'approval' to continue to homeschool. That corrupts the process and doesn't offer the best confidence boost available. With respect to relatives, in-laws and close family members, my most effective tool in convincing them we are okay and know what we are doing, is time. Time helps as it lets them see for themselves our children's educational progress. Not report cards or certificates, although writing up a few in the first year is an interesting exercise and helps everyone to feel more 'normal'. It is the children themselves, in the way they present themselves, with their natural curiosity, interest and conversational skills, who with ease convert others to the cause.
So take a deep breath, pour yourself a cuppa and sit back, knowing that time is going to help out. The first rule in homeschooling is relax, second is relax some more!
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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Welcome to the World of Home Education
We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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