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You Got This: Steering Straight in Your Homeschool Journey

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

I fondly remember canoeing at the nearby Tomoka State Park, where my family often spent Saturdays when I was a girl. Exploring the shaded trails, picnic areas, and historic landmarks of the 1,800 acres was always an adventure, topped only by excursions in a rented canoe.

My fraternal twin sister and I would help one of our older brothers carry the craft past great oaks and palmettos to the shoreline sprinkled with coquina shells. Tomoka River’s alleyways of marshes begged to be explored, and we were happy to oblige.

Judy and I splashed our wooden oars in the murky water while Peter gave instructions from the rear: “Paddle on the right side! Now a little on the left!”

While a few minor mishaps were inevitable, Peter did a fine job of steering our slender craft. So much so that I started to fancy that I myself had quite the canoeing skills. My young mind easily ignored the fact that Peter was the one at the helm.

Fast forward to adulthood. Full of confidence from my youth, I convinced my future husband to go canoeing with me. “I’ve got this,” I bragged as I climbed into the rear seat. “I did this loads of times as a kid.”

Only things didn’t turn out exactly as I’d envisioned. Instead of gliding forward, we kept going in circles. Perplexed, I tried switching my oar to the other side of the boat, without much success. After several awkward revolutions, we finally got going straight, relatively speaking.

“It’s all coming back to me now,” I assured Geoff. My confidence boosted, I steered into an alleyway, only to nearly miss getting stuck in a marsh. And of course, the passage I picked was a dead end. Our attempts to return to the main part of the river were embarrassing at best. Thankfully we eventually made it back to the shore. Without capsizing, I might add.

Peter, five years my senior and an Eagle Scout, was by far the better helmsman.

In a way, parents are helmsmen of a different sort. Our job is to steer our children in the right direction in things like behavior, relationships, and learning.

Of course, it all goes much better if you steer more like my brother: keeping your eye on what’s ahead while being aware of the here-and-now.

That’s especially true if you homeschool.

If you “steer” your homeschool like I steered the canoe, your days will be all over the place. Instead of staying focused, you’re liable to let any little thing turn into a distraction that takes you off course. Sometimes that can sink the whole day. Too many days like that can burden your child with seemingly never-ending catch-up work.

How discouraging. That’s one way to quash the joy of learning.

On the other hand, if you follow my brother’s steering style, you and your student will fare much better.

Like canoeing, some homeschoolers are more skilled at this than others. I greatly admire my friend Christina, mother of two, who has this down pat. By the time her oldest hit middle school, Christina had already mapped out each daughter’s high school courses, as well as the timeframes for such milestones as taking the SAT and getting a driver’s permit.

Since she knew the courses so far in advance, she had plenty of time to scope out local co-ops to determine the best fit for the subjects she didn’t want to teach. Plus, she had ample time for course corrections (pun intended!) if need be.

As you move along in your homeschool journey, take time to pause and see where your student is headed. You may not want to get as detailed as Christina, yet there’s great value in keeping the end in mind.

Assess your student’s progress once a month. Maybe you’ll find she needs more of your help in one subject and less in another. Maybe you’ll add in a field trip to explore a topic she finds interesting. Maybe you’ll decide to pick up the pace with more daily assignments or slow it down with less.

More than likely you’ll see that you’re steering a straight and steady course. You got this! Here’s to enjoying the journey. Happy paddling!

Tomoka State Park, Florida, Photo by Gina Stidham


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