When I first considered the idea of homeschooling my kids, I had a lot of doubts. Am I qualified to do this? Will they learn enough from me? Is this what’s best for them? Or will they become societal outcasts requiring years of expensive therapy and an eventual appearance on Dr. Phil? You know, normal mom fears.
Thankfully, our homeschool experience has turned out to be the best thing we could have done for our family. Notice I didn’t say the easiest thing. Here is some of what I learned from our first year of homeschooling discovery.
- Superhuman patience is not required. I’ve heard so many times things like, “You must be so patient,” or, “I’d never have the patience to teach my kids all day.” Well, quite honestly, neither do I. It’s taxing, and some days my patience is thinner than rice paper. But the good news is patience for homeschooling is the same as patience for any other aspect of parenting – it’s good to have around, but it runs away a lot. I’m not always the calm, collected mom, but I keep trying and that’s all any of us can do.
- Year one is a rough draft. The saying goes, life is not a dress rehearsal. While I agree that’s true, a freshman year of homeschooling is much like a rehearsal for your final production. There are too many variables to set everything in stone right out of the gate. You’ll need to experiment to find what works and what doesn’t. Many of the great ideas I had for our first year have since been tossed. For example, I started out building all of our curriculum myself, but now I only do that with history and science. Our weekly schedule is different; where we do our work has changed; just about everything from our first year is different now. And as much as I wanted to perfect our homeschool from the start, it’s just not realistic if you want to stay sane.
- We all need a tribe. If you’re a naturally introverted mom like me, you may be thinking (as I did) that you don’t need support beyond your husband or other family. I’m here to tell you that you do. You really do. And here’s why. While your husband, mom, or best friend undoubtedly want to support you, they aren’t in the trenches. Sure they can listen and even offer advice, but the value of sharing with someone who has “been there, done that” is uniquely important. We recently joined a local homeschool co-op and the fellowship I get to enjoy with other moms there is every bit equal to the benefit for my kids. As an introvert, does it take energy for me to be social? Most definitely. But it is so worth it to make those connections.A quick note about online support – Online friends and support networks are fabulous! I enjoy following many other blogger moms and am part of several Facebook groups that offer support to moms from all backgrounds. What I’ve learned, though, is that these connections are not a substitute for face-to-face relationships. Building a network of support in your local community has unique advantages you just can’t get in cyberland.
- Homeschooling is not public school in your home. I’m guilty of making this mistake early on. I set up our “classroom” with informational posters, behavior charts, and all kinds of systems you’d find in a public school classroom. There is nothing wrong with having any of those things in a homeschool environment, but I was wrongly focused on replicating what I’d seen in public school for our home. Looking back, I see how ridiculous that was considering the whole reason for homeschooling is to be different than public school. The beauty of a homeschool life is the ability to customize it to the needs and priorities of your own family. It will look different for each of us, and that’s the brilliant design.
- Kids will learn no matter how good you are at teaching. Some days I feel like a teaching rock star. Other days I wonder how my kids will make it in the real world under my shoddy instruction. Either way, the fact is it’s actually quite hard to keep your kids from learning. Just think about that for a moment. Almost every part of life is a learning experience, whether they (or we) think of it that way or not. Each day is filled with teachable moments. Of course you’ll need to intentionally teach them how to read, write, and do math, but they will learn so much more apart from textbooks and worksheets. So long as you are encouraging a positive learning environment, your kids will learn.
- Homeschooling teaches parents, too. I thought this homeschooling thing would be all about the kids, but I’ve learned more than I could have imagined. From researching learning styles and education approaches to relearning school material I’d long since forgotten, I feel smarter than ever. Obviously, this is great since continuous learning keeps the mind sharp and helps combat the always-lurking “mom brain.”
- Breaks are a necessity…for everyone! Regular ones. Sabbaticals, even. It’s important, and you and your kids will suffer if you don’t make these a priority. As much as we love our kids, everybody needs some time on their own (cue November Rain music). The kids needs breaks from one another (and you) as much as you need breaks from being mom and teacher. Make some daily time for yourself and enlist the help of your husband, parents, or friends for periodic longer breaks.
Bonus Knowledge Bomb!
Homeschooling isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. I think this is true of all the greatest parts of life, and homeschooling is no exception. There is frustration; there is stress; there are tears, but I wouldn’t change our journey for all the naps and strawberry daiquiris in the world.