Avoid This New Unschooler/Homeschooler Mistake!
This could have easily been titled...
Step Away from the Curriculum!
I'd like to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes we see when people start unschooling. And over at YouTube, I have a video with 8 common mistakes that new unschoolers (or homeschoolers make) but I want to talk about just one of them with you today. Partly because it’s the time of year we see homeschooling circles getting all a buzz about finding that just right curriculum for next year.
And if you’re brand new, and you’ve joined these groups, you will find yourself in the thick of it.
And if you’re not that new, but you haven’t done a lot to conquer your fears, you can get swept up in it too - maybe your kid doesn’t spell that well, or maybe their handwriting isn’t great, or they don’t can’t rattle off math facts or country capitols. And there you are, in the middle of conversations with these other parents who have “found the solution!”
It can get pretty wild!
We all have a lot of preconceived ideas about learning and education mainly because most of us went to school. But the school’s approach is not the only way. You know that or you wouldn't be here.
But here's the deal … when we get nervous or feel a little overwhelmed with the prospect of homeschooling or unschooling we tend to revert to the familiar. When we get that sideways look from relatives or friends or even the grocery store clerk we begin to doubt some of our newer choices. They’re not really locked in yet. We all have to work to build a stronger foundation in order to be successful at this. I know I certainly had to.
I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning.
I just knew that school wasn't a good fit for my kids.
So let me share a couple of things that I've learned over the past years that might help you avoid some problems down the road.
Nice to Meet You!
But first, if we haven’t met… I'm Sue Patterson and this is the Unschooling Mom2Mom Podcast. I’m coming in each week to give you a quick peptalk.
10 minutes or less - that’s the goal.
And if you want more help from me, I’ll have a variety of ways we can work together:
Today we're going to talk about mistakes that new unschoolers make.
Really even if you're not unschooling, homeschoolers do these things too when they first start out.
I'm going to share some ideas so you don't have to repeat any of these missteps.
Avoid Mistake #1
Rush out to Buy Curriculum.
Many of us have this urge to go out and get the stuff. And curriculum companies see you as easy prey. They capitalize on your fears and your desire to do a good job for your kids! So they want you to throw down your money with the promise that they’ll take care of it for you.
On one hand, that sounds like a relief.
On the other hand, isn’t that what you’re trying to get away from?
SOmeone else deciding what YOUR kid needs? Still, they offer guarantees to solve your issues and take away all your fears. But it isn’t true. Well, it may be true temporarily. Until it arrives and you’re a week or so into it - and you AND the kids are hating their wonderful lessons.
The important thing to recognize is that you’re uncomfortable.
Unschooling - or even homeschooling - is a new thing - a pretty unconventional thing too.
And our way of tossing money at our problems is likely to WASTE a lot of money unless we slow this train down a little.
Don’t buy curriculum until you’ve really tuned into your kids.
What would they like to do more of?
What could ya’ll do together?
If you’re dying to spend some money on this, how about museum memberships, or season passes to… something fun. Switch up the emphasis from
“I’ve got to make sure these kids learn what they need to learn,” to
“I have plenty of time.”
There are no Educational Emergencies.
I don’t know who coined that phrase, but I love it.
Shift Your Focus
Let’s spend time together and create a strong parent/child connection.
As you build this trust, this partnership, you’ll be able to create the TRULY individualized approach to learning that you’re looking for.
And I know that’s hard to believe at the start of it all.
All those doubts yelling at you in your head - all that conditioning to go buy something to fix this.
Hmmm… those curriculum companies have done some good marketing, right?
I do want to mention one more thing about this idea of buying curriculum and how it can go off the rails.
We’re all trying to be careful about our spending.. And when we’ve plopped a good chunk of change down for lesson plans - based on your kid’s age or what you see as maybe a deficit - it’s going to be hard to admit the mistake if it doesn’t work.
Time and time again, I’ve seen parents keep at it. Staying with the lessons a little longer - even though all the feedback they’re getting from the kids (and themselves) is THIS ISN’T WORKING.
Sometimes parents start thinking THEY aren’t presenting the material correctly or in an engaging way.
Or they think their kid isn’t trying or is simply being difficult.
It’s interesting because our first inclination is not
“This material is boring as heck.”
or “Who thought this would be FUN?”
Maybe it IS fun compared to the monotonous school day you remember from your own past.
But not fun when you compare it to the Real World your kids get to enjoy now that they’re out of school.
But… because we’ve paid money, we want to be SURE it’s a flop before we let it go.
And that may mean more days of frustration.
More days of thinking badly about your child or yourself.
Guilt. Shame. Ugh.
So, in fact, these are ADDITIONAL costs that you’d be adding onto that financial mistake. Maybe you’re doing this now! I’d say declare the money to be the Sunk Costs that you cannot retrieve. The sooner you walk away from it - the sooner you’ll stopping adding more emotional and connection costs onto it.
Haven't Bought Curriculum... yet?
OR… maybe you’re listening to this BEFORE you’ve spent a bunch of money on curriculum.
Remember there’s no rush.
Take the time to see what you need before you try to calm all the anxiety by buying a curriculum.
Even if you’re in some homeschooling circles and everyone is all in a frenzy about what everyone is going to buy - don’t get swept up in that.
- Step away from all that.
- Go camping.
- Go to the library.
- Play another round of Candyland.
I have a podcast from last year called Your Unschooling Curriculum. (it’s not a curriculum, at all) But it might help you fill that void you’re left with when you don’t bring curriculum and lesson plans into your world. It’s Podcast #16.
- More Play, Conversations.
- Focusing on Curiosity and adding Sparkle.
- Getting the unschooling education and support you need to make this work!
See? That’s a lot to do.
And it’s not about making the kids jump through hoops - just because you aren’t sure what the next steps are.
We do that, right? We have anxiety because this is all new to us, so we think of things OUR KIDS NEED TO DO so we can feel better. That’s a whole ‘nuther podcast though - that idea of what a "good mom" does, or a "good homeschooling parent" - don’t want to be perceived as failing or not measuring up. It’s all that conditioned schooly comparison and competition that runs through our heads - sometimes before we even realize what has a hold on us!
Don’t rush out and buy curriculum. Spend your money on ways that will help you connect more with the kids and fuel their interests and curiosities! Seriously. THink of it as an experiment. Try it for this year only and see all the learning that happens WITHOUT you orchestrating it all.
You can do it!
OK I’ll be back next week with another podcast like this. One topic at a time.
And on Fridays, I’ll do the Unschooling Q & A.
If you have a question you’d like me to tackle, send it over on this Q4Sue form.