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Strategy Vs. Tactics

When it comes to homeschooling there are waaaaaay too many choices and ways to do things. And certainly not enough time in the world to learn about all of those choices!

My advice is to think BIG PICTURE FIRST (I will call that 'strategy') before worrying about the details of exactly HOW you are going to implement various subjects (I will call that 'tactics').

The key is to NOT get buried in tactical decisions before you get your strategy in place. This has the added benefit of making those tactical decisions less daunting when you come to them: you will have more confidence in making those decisions because you have taken time to get a sense of what a good overall strategy will be for your family.

How to develop a (big picture) strategy?

  1. Talk with your child and other family members. What does everyone want to get 'out' of homeschooling?

  2. Talk to other homeschooling families: but you don't have to take any advice that doesn't work for your family! BUT for now: try to NOT ask about specific math or social studies materials. Ask them WHY they homeschool, what lessons they have learned; focus on the big picture for now.

  3. I STRONGLY suggest a 'Life Value Inventory' for you, anyone else involved in parenting the child and ESPECIALLY the child themselves. This will help in making obvious to everyone what each person holds most dear. (For my son consistently 'Humor' and 'Friendship' come out on top of his value surveys. For me? 'Learning New Things.' So I am intrinsically excited about learning ANYTHING. But if I expect that to be equally true for the kiddo? We are both going to end up frustrated!) There are lots of online options to help you do this Life Value Inventory.

  4. Take. It. Slow. Please (please!!) do NOT start with every subject all at once if you are new to homeschooling. There is plenty of time. It is not a race. (In any case, homeschool students very often are academically ahead of their peers in public school because they get so much one-on-one guidance and teaching. Even if it were a race...but it isn't!!)

  5. Keep a journal: what does your child choose to do when they play or have free time? Does it involve movement? Time with friends? Time in nature? Incorporate those things when possible! (And it is almost always possible!) Also, make note of what seems to make for a super enjoyable time with your child vs. when the two of you are completely aggravated at each other. What can you learn about each other and your own selves that could help make this homeschool experience less frustrating? - because at times you WILL have frustrations, the both of you!

What does a strategy look like?

Let me give you our approach as an example:

  • We'll try classes and activities with friends whenever possible (because Joe puts a lot of importance on his friendships).

  • If a topic or subject is interesting to Joe we will stick with it and find ways to incorporate it. (Ex. He could be 'done' with math at this point, but he likes it, so we will stick with it (yay!). Another example from earlier days: he built landmarks out of Legos and labeled them for Geography.)

  • We follow our own relaxed daily schedule and are very careful to not over schedule.

  • Writing (Language Arts) and Math must be included for most of the year. These are my personal requirements: if you can read and write well and keep your math skills sharp you can easily do ANY other subject.

  • Exercise is a must every day, but it can be an organized sport or a solo thing like bike-riding, or a for fun social thing like swimming with friends. (This incorporates student choice for buy-in).

  • Art is a must all the time. This is actually due to Joe's preference! I am all for it!

  • We discuss our strategy (big picture) and tactics (day-to-day school stuff) often. We reflect on what is working, what isn't and what we can try differently. (Lots of stuff we have tried DIDN'T work well and that's great info - it helps us better make the next decision.)

Or to put it more simply: We try new classes and activities with friends and Joe follows his interests in learning. We make sure Joe is doing Writing, Math, Exercise, and Art as a foundation.

Having that simple strategy in place, I don't fret about details. For example, we are focused on Art History in the 20th Century just now - doesn't matter if that lines up with anything a public high school kid would be doing or not. Another example: I am not worried that we have just now had to back WAY up in spelling to be able to 'catch up' on some skills. Learning is life-long and homeschool students are typically much more independent and intrinsically-motivated learners than the public school system produces.

Also, do you see how nothing in our strategy says WHICH Math (or any other) curriculum we use or what time of day we do a certain subject? Those are tactical decisions, to be made AFTER we know we have a strategy in place.

So for now focus on your strategy. What do you want these years to be LIKE? Lots of traveling? Relaxed schedule at home? Is reading your passion? or Cooking? or Building? What is your child's passion? How can you incorporate your passion and your child's into a homeschool experience you can both really enjoy?

Don't worry about your exact Science curriculum yet, or if your child should memorize certain math formulas or not. Those are tactical decisions that can come just a little bit later.

For more ideas on discovering what strategy could work best for your family, check out my 'Big Picture' ideas.

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