(Last Updated on November 24, 2020)
This post is part of a series of helpful teaching tips for homeschoolers. If you haven’t yet, check out Tip #1, Tip #2 and Tip #3.
Of all the teaching tips in this series, this one has probably been the hardest one for me to put into practice.
Over the years I’ve gotten better, but I still tend to spill too many school beans. What are school beans, you might ask? Allow me to explain.
School beans are the ideas and plans you have for the year. It’s the awesome new writing curriculum you found. It’s the field trip to the planetarium that you’re planning five months in advance. It’s the new microscope you found a great deal on for science this year.
School beans are all the things – both tangible and intangible – that you plan on sharing with your kids this school year. And, for some reason, I find it very difficult to keep these beans unspilled.
Maybe it’s my overly-excitable personality. Maybe it’s the fact that my husband can only take so much homeschool-talk and there’s no other adult in the house to blab with about it. Maybe I want my kids to have the chance to eagerly anticipate the exciting awesomeness (AKA “schoolwork”) that I have planned for them. It’s probably a mix of all those things.
But spilling all the school beans leaves you with… an empty bean can.
In our early homeschool days I was particularly guilty of this. I’m really not sure what reaction I was expecting when I showed the new spelling curriculum to my first grader the June before the next school year started. “Wow, neat mom! I can’t wait! I wish summer was over so we could jump right in!”
Long story short, I shared too much of my homeschool planning with my kids too soon.
Now, I’m not saying NEVER share any information with them. Some kids, especially as they get older, love to be involved in planning what they want to learn that year. And if, for example, field trip opportunities come up, asking them if they’d be interested makes a lot of sense.
I’m just suggesting we don’t take the entire can of homeschool beans and dump it in their lap. When I’ve done this, it’s led to these problems:
No Element of Surprise
In the previous post, I shared about finding hooks to engage your kids in lessons. Hooks are like the first impression of a lesson. In a way, when we share all our homeschool plans with our kids right away, it’s like wasting our chance at a first impression.
For example, if I show my kids their new science curriculum as soon as I buy it in July, they’ll either be excited or not-too-thrilled. If they’re excited, but then I tell them we won’t be using it for another 2 months, I’ve kind of blown the opportunity to ride the wave of their initial enthusiasm.
On the other hand, if they weren’t too thrilled with it, I’ve now created a mini bad impression. When I bring the curriculum back out 2 months later, they’ll already have a sour taste in their mouth — “ugh, this again?!”
So, either way, I’ve found it best to do what I can to maintain the element of surprise. This way, you can use their excitement to build momentum and at least give their lesser-loved subjects a fighting chance.
Uninterested and/or Overwhelmed Kids
I’ve found too much information all at once is either irrelevant or overwhelming to my kids. Some high school kids appreciate a syllabus of the content for the year, but when I’ve given too much detail to my elementary-aged kids, it backfires.
It might be interesting to ME that they’ll be learning fractions, decimals and percents this year. But to a kid who doesn’t know what those are yet, it’s either meaningless or intimidating.
Once, when I spilled the math beans early, I had problems when we came to fractions later in the year. My son recalled the term and associated the topic with the “eek, that sounds hard!” feelings he had when it was first mentioned.
Before sharing all the details of what they’ll be learning this year, make sure your kid wants and can handle that much information!
No Room for Changes
When I’ve shared exciting curricula or field trip ideas with my kids too far in advance, I often regret it later if plans change. If you spill all the beans about the fun stuff planned for the year and those things don’t happen, they’ll be disappointed.
I’ve never liked the business phrase “under promise and over deliver” since it kind of sounds to me like we’re telling people to aim low and not try hard. But, in this case, I think it’s actually a good motto. Spilling the beans is kind of like making promises really far in advance. I don’t want to be a homeschool mom who over promises and under delivers.
It’s not fun when your confused and disappointed kids start reminding you of all your changed plans…
“I thought I was going to learn cursive this year?”
“Weren’t we going to go to the Aquarium after we studied fish?”
“You said we were going to get a Raspberry Pi and I could take a coding class!”
Be careful about when and how you share your exciting ideas. If you want to get their input on a class or outing, let your kids know upfront that you’re just brainstorming ideas. Do what you can to keep everyone’s expectations on the same page and not make promises you can’t keep!
Homeschoolers are, by definition, very involved in our kids’ education. And, because of that, it’s easy to get really excited about all the cool plans and opportunities we’re trying to provide for our kids.
Since they’re with us so much, it seems only natural to share our ideas with them and, to some extent, that’s part of what makes homeschooling so awesome. But sharing too much at one time or too soon can backfire.
Before you spill all the school beans to your kids, take some time to think about the impact it will have on them and you.
Try and maintain some opportunities for surprises throughout the year. Think about each child and only give them the amount of information they can handle. And always, as much as possible, leave yourself the ability to change your plans. You’ll thank yourself later!
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