I have the good fortune of having a “bonus” room in my house, which I currently use for our homeschooling “schoolroom.” (Though you need to lose any idea that we pledge the flag at the back of the room and line up to use the water fountain.) This time of year, I am getting my new curriculum for the upcoming year and organizing it and cleaning up the schoolroom. In my fantasy, it looks pretty much like this:
It does look like that today, but I bloody well know how reality goes. Want to see what it looked like before I started cleaning and organizing it for this fall?
I’d like to say I staged some of the messy room photos, but I didn’t; it really was just like that when I took the pictures. The reality of homeschooling is that rooms don’t stay terribly neat when there are kids using them several hours a day. (Several hours a day is another point I’m going to get to in a minute.)
For practical advice, I’ll tell you a little bit about what makes the difference in these pictures. What did I do to make the messy room turn into the fantasy room?
1. I gave away or sold some of the books and materials that were sitting unused and cluttering up the place.
2. I set up new binders for the coming year. I placed any summer work they’ve done in the binders.
3. I put all the new curriculum for this year into their desk drawers or on the bookcases.
4. I put away anything that was sitting out in the middle of nowhere, like the vacuum cleaner and a dress in a bag. I folded up the craft table and put away all the crafters stuff. I threw away some old projects, like a large poster board display of Ancient Rome. I had my husband chuck the broken drawer that goes to the crappy toy cabinet. (I would not be sad to burn the whole cabinet, but I’m settling for throwing away the one broken drawer for the time being.)
5. I took down all the piles of stuff sitting on top of the bookcases and cabinets. I now only have NOEO science boxes on top of one cabinet.
6. I vacuumed and dusted. In a perfect world, I would buy and hang curtains that would go on the door at the far end. Currently there is a white sheet hanging on them, by thumbtacks. Redneck design ideas for the do-it-yourselfer. I hung the sheet because there are two hamster cages sitting there and I did not want them to fry from the afternoon sun. So I rigged it up. I recognize this is not going to make it into Better Homes and Garden magazine.
Okay. So – the room you homeschool in can look better, but it’s probably not going to look spotless all the time. If you require that, homeschooling is not your friend. While I’m on a roll, let me just dispatch a few more homeschooling rumors you might have heard. Newbie homeschoolers almost always think these are true. I did.
1. Homeschooling is so fast and easy, you’ll be done in two hours a day.
This is a complete myth, except for perhaps Kindergarten and First Grade with one child. Or perhaps if you have one teenaged homeschooler who works well independently. Or if your main aspirations are that your girls learn to sew and make a good meal, which I hope is not the case, but I’ve heard of it, so I’m allowing for the possibility.
If you have high standards on what you want your kids to learn and you plan to do it through active teaching (i.e., not unschooling), expect to spend several hours a day working directly with your kids. Part of this will depend how well your children work independently, but even if they do, you can’t just hand them a DVD and consider your part done.
2. The children will be geniuses, simply because they are homeschooled. (AKA: All homeschooled kids are better off than any schooled kid, by virtue of merely being homeschooled.)
This is not true, either, and it partly goes with the “work two hours” myth. There are plenty of homeschooled children who are stone cold average and *gasp* some who are below average. Sometimes, there are organic reasons why the children struggle. Sometimes, the reason is the parents have not taught them. Some parents don’t teach them on purpose, feeling it is better for the children to learn “naturally.” Whatev. I don’t concur. High standards are one reason I homeschool in the first place. If I can’t be bothered, they are better off in school.
I do think that higher-IQ parents are more likely to homeschool than lower-IQ parents and they are more likely to have bright children genetically. So, that is one factor that explains the brainy homeschooler image. Also, someone who is sacrificing a lot to teach the kids at home usually values academic excellence. This also explains the preponderance of bright homeschooled children. BUT – they are not going to be super-bright simply because they are learning at home instead of school. Sorry. You don’t get something from nothing.
3. Homeschooled children are always good friends with their siblings.
Okay, this is not a total myth. I do think being home together, rather than separated in different school classes all day gives kids more opportunity to be close to their siblings. BUT – just like the bright kids thing, this is not an automatically guaranteed outcome. Some children just clash with their siblings. Some parents don’t manage the children well and it surfaces in sibling tension. The bottom line is, it will be work just like any other positive outcome you hope to have.
So there you go. Three fantasies many new homeschoolers think are true that veteran homeschoolers think are laughable. Four, if you count the fantasy schoolroom. Don’t get me wrong – I love homeschooling and I think it’s a great way of life. But go in with your eyes open. Sooner or later, reality comes to roost.