You know how sometimes an internet search leads you to places you’d never intended to go? Well, that happened to me, and I came across something that I found to be quite interesting. It was a commencement address given by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the University of Southern California in 2009.
In this speech, Governor Schwarzenegger outlined six rules for success. He illustrated these rules with examples from his own life, but as I was reading, I thought how these same rules could easily help out a new homeschooling family. Here are the short versions of his rules and my own views about homeschooling.
1. Trust yourself.
This is probably the biggest key to success in homeschooling. You have to know that what you are doing is the best solution for your child at that time. Even if everyone around you doubts your abilities, you have to be able to trust that you, as the parent, knows what’s best for your child. You have to trust that you have what it takes to provide the kind of education your child deserves. And if you don’t think you can do it all yourself, you have to trust that you can find a way to make it happen.
2. Break the rules.
Arnold is very clear that he doesn’t mean break the law, and I wouldn’t recommend that either. You really should be familiar with your state’s homeschooling laws and follow them to the letter. However, there is definitely something to be said for breaking the rules. It is often very difficult for people who aren’t familiar with homeschooling to understand that homeschooling is pretty much nothing like traditional schooling. We homeschoolers are constantly going outside the box of current educational trends. We find success in the strangest of places sometimes. You don’t have to do things the way schools are expected to do them. You get to make your own plan and design that plan around your particular child.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Nothing in life is guaranteed. Homeschooling is wonderful and can be a tremendous boon to your family. But homeschooling is not for everyone. I don’t consider it a failure if you choose to never homeschool or you choose to send your kid back to traditional school after an attempt at homeschooling. This goes along with rule number one. Trust yourself. Do what is right for you and your child. Also, don’t be afraid to fail with your actual homeschooling choices. You need to be able to admit when something isn’t working well for your child, even if you were sure it was going to be just the thing the kid needed. It’s okay to change course.
4. Don’t listen to the naysayers.
This one is difficult. Some people are fortunate to be surrounded by supportive family and friends. Others have the naysayers constantly fomenting discord and criticizing their choices. In fact, some of the biggest culprits can be the people who love you the most. Don’t let these negative people have power over you. They are afraid. They don’t want to see your children suffer for what they perceive to be your mistakes or delusions. They can’t understand why you would want to step outside of the “normal” box and do something so crazy. They actually care about you and what happens to your children, but they think you’re going about it all wrong. Guess what? They are entitled to their opinions. But you are also entitled to entirely disregard their opinions. If you trust yourself and you know that you are doing the right thing, let the naysayers’ comments go in one ear and out the other.
5. Work your butt off.
Hmm. I’d say parents pretty much do this one without even trying. Parenting is hard work. Applied to homeschooling, I’d alter this rule to say, “Never stop examining your plan.” Things change, curriculum is updated, kids gain new skills and talents. Be open to updating your own goals and plans for homeschooling. Be engaged in the learning process. Research methods and materials. Help your child figure out life goals and how to achieve them. Don’t just hand your kid a workbook and expect them to get a quality education from it. Be involved.
6. Give something back.
I like this rule. I try to do this in my local homeschooling community. I was helped by veteran homeschoolers online and by my sister who had thoroughly researched homeschooling before her kids were born. I like to reassure new homeschoolers that everything will be okay, even if you feel like you’re on a sinking ship at the moment. This blog also provides me an opportunity to share my ideas and experience with a broader segment of the world.
Basically, in summary, to be successful at homeschooling, as well as in other areas of life, you need to be confident in your decisions but also willing to be flexible. You need to keep your eyes on the prize and ignore the doubters. And you need to work hard at your plan. When you finally reach a successful spot, reach out a hand and help a fellow human along the path.
Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for over 5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school. Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment. Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio. Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature. She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables. You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.