As many of us have unfortunately learned, devouring a shelf full of homeschooling books can cause surprisingly high levels of discouragement and confusion. Sort of the opposite of what we intend when we crack open a book. However, the right keys can empower us to explore the treacherous landscape of education theory. Here’s what I wish someone had told me:
1. You are an expert too. Remember that you define success and set educational priorities in your home, and you have access to the feedback loop that’s created between student and teacher. If you are putting in the time, thoughtfully observing and interacting with your kids, then you are unquestionably an expert in their development. If someone with a lot of letters after their name makes a suggestion that disconnects from your actual experience, go ahead and kick them to the curb. They don’t know as much as they’d like you to think.
2. There is no blueprint for success. Nobody has it all figured out. As silly as it sounds to say aloud, it’s natural to try to find the person who has ‘solved’ education. The ridiculousness of this should be allowed to sink in before buying any books.
3. Prepare for extreme viewpoints. And take them with a grain of salt. It’s hard to whip customers into a frenzy by claiming to have a pretty good idea that works sometimes, under the right circumstances. In order to be heard above the noise, authors have to present their conclusions boldly. Don’t blame them; balance and wisdom simply do not move a lot of product.
4. Steal everybody’s good ideas. When you read a particularly compelling point by an ‘Unschooler’ or ‘Classical Education’ proponent, resist the urge to plant your flag on their side. You don’t need to join their team, just steal all their good ideas–the ones that work for your family. When you come across competing concepts that seem to have merit, chances are the tension between those things is good. Put them both in your toolkit.