Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Only (my thoughts on homeschooling an Only Child)

There are both pros and cons to homeschooling an only child. However, I think you can probably say the same for any kind of sibling group combination. 

Some of us are homeschooling just one child while the others in school. Some are homeschooling our youngest child after the others have graduated or moved from home. 

Then there is my family. We just have the One and Only.

This is the group I am going to speak to today. I think anyone can use the tips I’m about to offer, but I am going to talk about what I know about. At least for today. Tomorrow I will probably be spouting off opinions about stuff I’ve never even heard of. 

That’s the way I roll.

When we first started I read well, meaning moms write about the craziness of homeschooling a bunch. Meanwhile, I was struggling with how to do it with just one. 

What was wrong with me? I used to teach a whole classroom of kids? Why did teaching this one overwhelm me? 

I’ve tried to explain this phenomenon to my family and friends who aren’t an Only or never homeschooled an Only. Raising an Only child is a different kind of animal.

Here are we are getting to participate in one of the benefits of being only child. Our movie dates! Having only one makes going to the movies far less painful. Not only that but we have a movie theater in town that has $1.50 days! That makes for some cheap fun! 

So how do I manage keeping my sanity, avoid homeschool burnout and attempt to raise a well-rounded individual? 

It’s a combination of things. I think we, as only child homeschoolers, should take advantage of those benefits of homeschooling an only. It might not look like your friend’s homeschool. She might have 4 with different ages and needs. That’s okay. We have to do what is best for us. 

When Josiah was of a certain age we made sure he was in some time of group lesson. In fact, we put him in group swim lessons. First of all, I wasn’t the teacher (Thank heavens). And there were a whole bunch of kids for him to interact with. He didn’t have the benefit one on one interaction with the teacher…which he has at home. This forced him to pay attention and cooperate. This wound up being the best idea I have ever had in my life. Well, almost. The idea I had for that apple cobbler I made last week was pretty great. He now is on a competitive swim team. 

This isn't the best picture, but its the first one I've taken of this year's swim season. You can see him warming up with a free style.

A misconception that people often make is that children need constant interaction. Especially from their peers. I maintain that this is not necessary. Interaction is fine. Constant interaction is exhausting. It is important that the child know how to entertain themselves in a productive way. Josiah doesn’t bore easily (there is usually a chore involved if he does).

In addition to being on swim team, Josiah takes a PE class at a local university with other homeschoolers. He also has "coaches" that are student teachers. It makes for a great dynamic.

I’ve handled this in our school environment a few ways. There is a time set aside every day for instruction from me. There is also time every day that Josiah is responsible for independent work. He has a list he works through. This was initially hard for him. He was used to me hovering over him. I decided that he needed to be more accountable for his schoolwork. Set a timer. Make a list. Josiah knows that I am available if he needs help, but his independent work is his responsibility. 

Josiah also has a few courses he takes online. Even a younger child can play games on a phonic website or take a keyboarding course. If I can utilize a variety of educational methods and not have to be the sole instructor it benefits Josiah. And it gives me a break. At least enough of a break to sit down with a cup of tea. Or laundry. 

We also have a support group.  We don’t belong to a large homeschool co-op. We have a few friends that we hang out with and I teach a reading club every week at a friend’s house. Josiah looks forward to this every week. I am still the teacher, but there are other kids involved in the class. A little competition goes a long way. He is not a very competitive child. He really hasn’t had to be. Having other children to spurn him on and encourage those good behaviors have benefited him. 

Our Reading Class

It’s not necessary every day of his life, but our reading club is a nice balance for him.
We also volunteer several times a year. Josiah has a great ease with the older folks. They adore him and he laps it up. He is attentive, polite and helpful. He listens to their stories, holds their hands and fills his pockets with whatever treats they supply. Don’t fall into the trap that tells you that solicitation with the young kids is the only way to go. 

One of the big benefits of homeschooling an Only is that you can really tailor your homeschooling to meet the needs and interests of that child. I have relied less on a structured box curriculum and more on what Josiah is interested in at the time. Don’t get me wrong. Our reading and math lessons have always been set in stone…except that I can adjust them to meet Josiah’s particular abilities and needs. However, we have been able to take rabbit trails in other subjects. I’ve taken advantage of this. This type of homeschooling is often called Delight Directed. We have used Unit Studies quite often through the years. I love Unit Studies. They are also great for multi-aged groups as well.

Josiah records in his Nature Journal.

One last thing. I mentioned before that homeschooling an only is a different animal. There are no older siblings that are able to lend a hand. There are no younger siblings to occupy or distract. I know for myself I want to make Josiah understand that he is not the center of the universe…yet sometimes it has been hard for him to grasp. I am always there. He has my undivided attention. Our little world revolves around his needs. You can see that it makes for an unhealthy environment if we are not careful. I am grateful that Josiah is a secure little person. I also want to help him become a compassionate and thoughtful little person. Every week we talk about something we can do for someone else. Last week we made my Dad a coconut cream pie. The week before we visited a friend in the hospital. This week we are going to make another pie (for an Aunt who just had a birthday) and start assembling a birthday box for an Aunt who is stationed in the Middle East. We have made cards or muffins to take to friends. Think about ways you can purposefully bless someone and make it a family project.  

Josiah made Monkey Bread for the guys at his Dad's work.

Don’t be afraid to take a few minutes for yourself during the day. Encourage independence as much as you can. We have time every afternoon that we are able to wind down and hang out. Josiah knows that he is able to fix himself a preapproved snack. He has plenty of activities at home that can occupy his time. Being in a group will often help a child learn problem solving. It is important to me that Josiah learn to work some things out on his own. Not that I am not available…but that he is capable of seeing things through. It is tempting to be a helicopter parent when you only have one to hover over. I try and make an effort to give him space to succeed or fail. 

Sometimes Mom and Dad make the best playmates.

Hopefully, I’ve given you some food for thought. If you have an idea please comment below. I am always trying to learn and grow. 

I am linking this post up to the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog. You can click on the banner to read more ideas from other members of the Crew.(it will be going LIVE September 10!)

Homeschooling an Only


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