Articles by Donna


Over the years I have spoken at many educational seminars and talked to veteran homeschoolers. One concern that I have heard again and again is how to avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. Many mothers find themselves feeling tired with the hours spent on making children do all their work, setting up academic schedules, and being involved in many extra curricular activities.

Learning is a lifelong process and as independent thinkers, we strive to find methods and resources to help our children learn in ways that best suit them. We understand the value of education for our children. Often, parents will begin homeschooling their children with traditional textbooks and all the accompanying help. As a parent’s level of confidence in their own abilities increases, a strictly traditional textbook schedule can add stress to a family’s life. Sometime it takes awhile to figure out what the problem is. How a parent responds varies — one can blame the child or one can blame the method and curricula.

Recognizing these overwhelming feelings is the first key to resolution. The second key is solving them. After much thought on this, I have come up with a few things that can be of some help.
1. Take time to communicate with your children.

If your child has spent time in the public schools, it is easy to forget how to really listen to them. They want to tell you what they would like to do, in what areas they are interested, and where they would like to go with their interest. Sit down, listen to them, and talk to them. You will learn amazing things about their thought process as well as what things they are capable of doing.

2. Focus in on your child’s learning styles, interests, abilities, maturity level as well as your learning styles.
Even though education is often defined by grade levels and then learning assigned according to those levels, there is no reason to believe it is helpful or needful by your child. Neither is it a worthwhile goal for your child. Many areas come into play for a child to learn, especially when dealing with abstract ideas and concepts. If a child is a visual learner yet you learn with auditory skills, you may naturally choose resources that appeal to you but quickly become frustrating to your child.

3. Choose curricula/books carefully, if at all.
You will find that the more money you spend on books, the more pressure you will feel to complete every page and chapter. Before investing a lot of money, buy one or two books and make sure your child is able to use them and likes them. I have known parents who have bought an entire computer-based grade-level curriculum only to discover their child hated it because they could not take books with them on trips or lounge on the bed to read. Textbooks should be used as references and not as the only source of information.

4. Grade-level books can be misleading and detrimental to learning.

There is no such thing as grade-level information. This is a myth invented and perpetuated by a system that needs ways to monitor, grade, and label children. Information is simply information, and giving children access to knowledge will insure they learn at their own rate rather then being forced to keep up with or slow down to a rate predetermined by someone else.

5. The actual 12 years of school can be completed in about 6 years.

If we don’t hurry a child at a young age but allow them time to mature in all areas, we can be assured that they will learn everything they need to at the right time. His or her timetable is different than any other child’s. School does not need to be broken up in twelve years. Children can do many different levels at once. So much time is spent in public school as review. When you remove that element, you have a streamlined method of learning.

6. Take planned and unplanned breaks.

A day away from the norm will do wonders in invigorating a child as well as the parent. Going to a museum, a park, or even just out to lunch can help a child internalize ideas and thoughts. Often when a child is struggling with a concept, taking a break will help them get past stumbling blocks, internalize new concepts and skills, or give them time to think about what is being asked of them. Learning is a very personal endeavor, and we need to give children space to learn. It can also be times of personal growth for the parent as they learn to trust their children.

7. There is no magical key to learning.

No one invented knowledge. It simply is there for the taking. If one person can learn something, anyone can with motivation, interest, and maturity. To think that only experts can teach children is to suggest that information is sacred and not available to everyone either online or at a library.

8. Catch those windows of learning.

By listening to our children on a daily basis, we can take advantage of these learning windows. Knowing what they are interested in gives us opportunities to find the resources needed to help our children.

9. Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow.

If your child is only five years old, don’t worry about college. By that time, things will be different than now. Don’t even worry about next year; concentrate on today. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

10. Resist the urge to make book learning/academic time REAL learning and all of life NOT real learning.

Book learning is not more important than non-book learning. If we give the impression that real school is when you are working in books and playtime is all other times, we rob our children of developing a learning attitude that all of life is education. All of life is here for us to learn from, both from our mistakes and our triumphs.

11. Commitment to your child.

Home education is a lifestyle, NOT an option. If we commit ourselves to educating our children through thick and thin, through stressful times as well as fun times, without the option of going to public school, we will finish the course we set out to do-Raise happy, competent, well-balanced children. We ourselves will learn how to creatively solve problems and our children will see how it is done. They themselves will learn that you don’t throw in the towel at the hint of a tough situation, but you work with all parties involved to find a solution. Putting children back into school simply tells them they are not as important as they should be.

12. Point out your interests.

Allow the child to see what you are interested in rather than trying to tell a child what they should like. Letting them see you get excited about life helps them develop an excitement also.

The bottom line is, What do we believe about home education? If we believe that we, as parents, are responsible to clothe, feed, and nurture our children, then educating them must also be on that list. It is not something we should give to the government to do simply because we are told it is for the best. The frustrations and stresses we will feel are parental issues, not educational issues. If you are committed to home education for you family, you will work through those issues without resorting to putting the child back into public school or worse yet, blaming the child for the problems rather than the materials or our expectations.

Although these ideas won’t promise a non-stressful, non-foot-stomping, or always-smooth-sailing day of home schooling, it will help you think through those times when home education seems akin to teeth pulling. It will help you put into perspective what is really important and worth your time, energy, and love.

Each second we live in a new and unique moment of the universe,
a moment that never was before and will never be again.
And what do we teach our children in school?
We teach them that two and two make four,
and that Paris is the capital of France.
When will we also teach them what they are?
You should say to each of them:
Do you know what you are? You are unique.
In all the world there is no other child exactly like you.
In the millions of years that have passed
there has never been a child like you.
And look at your body — what a wonder it is!
Your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move!
You may be a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven.
You have the capacity for anything.
Yes, you are a marvel.
~~ Pablo Casals ~~
Donna Mitchell
This article was originally published in the
May/June 2002 issue of HELM
(Home Education Learning Magazine) and
subsequently published in the online e-zine

Educational Freedom Press was a service of