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SLOCA Parents Share: “Things I would do differently if I had known”

September 5th, 2017

{Photo by Jason Briscoe}

Many school or home education blogs run a post near the beginning of the school year titled something like “10 Ways to Start the Year Right,” and these can be immensely helpful and full of wise advice.

Today we have our own version of this topic, as we hear from SLOCA parents who responded to the prompt, “Things I would do differently if I had known.” This is almost like an Essentials Guide to SLOCA for new families! Or like having a cup of coffee and a chat about school and life with a friend.

The parents we asked are all in their 5th year (or beyond) at SLOCA, so they’ve been in the arena for quite a while. You’ll notice some common themes – this is not a coincidence! We hope that all SLOCA families, whether new, returning, or long-time veterans, will be reminded about what’s really important, and find practical tips, comfort, and inspiration in these words from your fellow warriors:

I would have been easier on myself, realizing teaching and re-learning the SLOCA way is a fun process. Unnecessary stress trying to get it right the first time isn't worth it.

I would have enjoyed the outdoors more during home days, not chaining myself and kids to the kitchen table to "Hurry, get it done!"

I would have asked myself every day "why?" in order to keep the main thing, the main thing. Getting the work done is important but the process in which you finish is the most important. 

I would have kept things lighter and not brought my public school experience into the home, but rather designed my own schooling home life and been ok with failures.

I would have read the HIG first before trying to teach it!

I would have reached out to teachers more often when I had questions and volunteered more to make friends. 

~ Jessica Webster, Track B, 5th year at SLOCA

Things I would do differently:

1) Be more confident.  Even though I was confident in my competence, I felt a great deal of anxiousness about doing things correctly.  That anxiousness was visible and I think it made my children more anxious about their school work.  I wanted to pass along a strong work ethic, and it worked.  But. . .

2) Have more fun!  I wish I would have built in more fun.  Yes, we did have fun times, but not as routinely as I could have.  I believe more scheduled fun would have encouraged more balance today.

3) Read more as a family, especially over the summer.  

4) Set a time limit for the amount of time I would allow a struggle to continue.  This includes both one-time assignments and/or longer-term situations where additional support would have been beneficial earlier in the process.

~ A mom beginning her 10th year at SLOCA

I wish i knew that hard isn't the same as bad.  Homeschooling can be really hard.  Being with your kids 3 long days a week can be really hard.  Feeling like you're not doing enough can be really hard.  But it took me years to realize that just because these things were hard, didn't mean they were bad.  These are all good things, worth investing my time in, even though they are not easy.

Also, as a first year parent:  VOLUNTEER!  You need community to do this SLOCA life, and you build community when you volunteer with others.

~ Lindsey Cheney, Track A, 10th year at SLOCA

As a new parent, I would not have stressed about getting every little thing completed on the grid for the day, on those days we were truly struggling.  I have since learned to prioritize the things that need to be turned in tomorrow, then fit in the rest at the end.

Do not wait to start projects a day to two before they are due.  The SLOCA teachers take great effort to plan out larger projects in smaller, manageable chunks.  This teaches our children to tackle projects over time, not cram it all in the last few days before it is due.

Your kids will drop the ball.  It is good for us parents who are giving our children more freedom to work from their grids more independently, to know that they still need to be checked.  My child has a tendency to check off an item when he starts it.  Then sometimes becomes distracted, see the item checked off, and assumes he did it.  I have learned that I need to check their finished assignments against the grid to make sure it is all done.

Talk to other SLOCA parents either at drop off, or get coffee together, or schedule a play date.  You'll find we are all having the same struggles.  You are not alone! 

You can reach out to your liaison or another parent if the instructions to an assignment is unclear.  Usually, you'll get a response from them before you get a response from a teacher.  Especially, if your teacher works on both tracks.

~ Brenda Tebbets, Track B, 9th year at SLOCA

I read aloud to my second child far more that my older that went through SLOCA before. I wish I had done more with my older one. It takes time, but it is so enjoyable to encounter events in a great story when reading aloud because you are both “in it” at the same time. My daughter especially loves when I start crying while reading aloud. I honestly think some events in the stories would not have the impact they do if she were to read them on her own and not see my reaction. Our discussions are more meaningful because of it. I know that time spent reading aloud is always a big time suck, and the rewards are hard to see when you have a million other things you could do while your child reads the chapters on his/her own, but force yourself to get in there and do it!! My older child is almost out of the house, and I see how quickly this precious time flies by… Go to the coffee shop, or the park with a blanket, and experience the beautiful historic stories together.

~ Susie Lerner, Track B, 5th year at SLOCA

I would never have scheduled appointments or music lessons during a home day! School work is so hard to come back to!

~ Tamzin Ritter, Track A,  8th year at SLOCA

I would stress less about the grid, enjoy the time spent together with my child more.   More important for my child to have positive associations/memories with learning than turning in the quality that I expect. The quality of the work happens on its own as a result of happy learning. 

Stress less about the progress report. Start collecting work samples earlier. Doesn't matter if its "the best" sample. Just pick one that's pretty good.  Get the report done, turn it in/submit it. Just needs to be complete so the school has it on file. 

~ Wendy Dahl, Track B, 5th year at SLOCA

For me, always start homeschool early in the morning, right after breakfast and math comes first. Play all the math games and don't sweat the small stuff. Things will get done if you just keep working on them one step at a time, so no Mama freak outs! Hug you kids and tell them you are proud of them no matter what.

~ Liane Kascha-Hare, Track B , 7th year at SLOCA 

First for me is I wish I would have realized right away to treat the day as if I was at "work" and allow only "work" related activities:  that means do not answer the phone and only return emergency calls, try not to set appointments up during homeschool days - set them up during after school hours, keep lunch to 45 minutes and breaks to 15 minutes.

Second, review Grids when they arrive so you are not scrambling for materials last minute.  Read lessons the day before so you are prepared and have a strategy on how to present to best meet your child’s needs.

Based on my teaching style and my sons learning style, I found that having structure and a schedule to the day works best and keeps us more on task.

~ Armida Gibson, Track A, 6th year at SLOCA

If I could do it again, I would make sure to keep the laundry and chores until later in the day, not during my homeschool hours.  

~ Amy Houser, Track B, 7th year at SLOCA

Always teach the Singapore lessons exactly as instructed in “Home Instructor’s Guide,” don’t be tempted to teach your own “personal math tricks.” Things that may seem like extra steps now will help your child later on. With that said, the Singapore math program may seem like it’s easy at first then suddenly very difficult. When that happens, don’t be discouraged, just stay the course and don’t stress about it. It’ll all come together as your child moves up through the program. 

~ A 5th grade mom beginning her 5th year at SLOCA

I would let them do their own projects. I would take more of a backseat role instead of a hands on role as they got older.

In middle school I would help them create a system that would let them start being more responsible for remembering their homework and deadlines instead of remembering for them.

~ Lisa Merrill, Track A, 11th year at SLOCA

Slow down but be bold. By that, I mean do not feel as if you have to follow the grid to the letter or check off all the boxes. Do not be afraid to spend extra time on a lesson if your child just isn’t grasping the concepts. Modify the lessons to fit the needs of your child, honoring the fact that every child learns at his or her own pace.

Finally, speak up early when you notice that your child doesn’t understand the material. The faster you intervene, the easier it will be for your child to reach his or her potential.

~ Julie Lynem, Track B, 6th year at SLOCA

It is OK to take a day off… There will be a day where either you or your child aren't feeling it. Take a walk on the beach, go to the park.  The work will still be there when you get back.

Don't be afraid to talk about the struggles you are having with homeschooling.  I guarantee someone else has had the same issue.  

Connect, connect, connect... make sure to introduce yourself to other parents in your child's class, show up to classroom connection meetings, stay around at drop off to chat.  These people will be your greatest support during this journey.

~ Shelli Rohr, both tracks, 11th year at SLOCA

Thank you to all who participated in this survey, daring greatly by sharing your heartfelt words and lessons learned through the ups and downs of SLOCA life. This is yet another reminder that we are in excellent company, and so thankful for this community of parents who keep going and keep encouraging each other!