What a wild ride this first homeschool year was. One thing I’m learning in this homeschooling world is that definitions and labels rarely apply. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the different homeschooling methods and trying to decide where my own educational philosophy fits. We aren’t really a unit studies family, we’re not unschoolers, we’re definitely not into traditional schooling, we did quite a bit of Montessori methods in the beginning but are starting to shy away from that as Big Sis gets older. (If you want to take a fun quiz to see what homeschooling methods you are most like check out this quiz) Both Charlotte Mason and Classical Education have pieces that are very appealing to me but still didn’t meet exactly what I felt was right for our family. One night I sat on the couch feeling totally defeated and torn between the Classical and Charlotte Mason methods. I poured out my frustrations to Dirk and he said, “You studied teaching methods for years, you have an elementary teaching credential, you are passionate about teaching and your teaching philosophy. Just do what you think is best for our family and for Big Sis.” DUH! Sometimes the things he says can seem so simple but feel so profound. And so from there I guess we would now be classified as an eclectic homeschool family. Every time I say that I can’t help but chuckle. If you know me, you know I am anything BUT eclectic.
Why did I just tell you this? Because it’s just a brief look into the struggles of the first year of homeschooling. I have talked to a lot of new homeschool moms and we all have the same issues plaguing our minds. We are constantly questioning ourselves, wondering if we are screwing up our kids, wondering if they are where they “need” to be. We are struggling to find where the rest of our lives fit in amongst this new homeschooling thing. How do we still pay attention to the little ones who are not being homeschooled? The first year is hard!
After talking to a few of my wisest and most seasoned homeschool friends this is what I learned and I thought I’d share it with you. Hopefully this will be just as encouraging for you as it was for me…
#1 Come up with a homeschooling mission statement.
Why are you homeschooling? You need to know this because there will be days, maybe even weeks when you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” You need to have something written on paper to refer back to and to remember why you are doing this. Why are you giving up coffee dates and play dates and some “me” time when you could be sending your kiddo to school and regaining some of those fun days. Some days sending Big Sis to school full time sounds freeing. Please do not misread this, sending your kid to school for 8 hours a day is NOT a bad thing but if you are called to homeschool this year you need to know why. Which brings me to another point…
#2 Know When It’s Time to Quit
I know I’m going to ruffle some homeschooling mama feathers out there but I do not believe that homeschooling is for every kid, for every family, or for every season of life. What might work for one kid doesn’t work for another. What has worked for two years may not work this coming year. Have a list of parameters in place to know when it’s time to quit and even if you think, “I would never stop homeschooling” know that there may be a time when you do have to call it quits. One of my very best friends recently ended, or at least suspended, her homeschool journey with her kiddos. This is a family who has been such an encouragement to me and in years past I know that she never would have thought she wouldn’t homeschool. I have so much respect for their family because despite what they always thought they would do, they had their list of reasons to stop homeschooling and when it was evident that God was calling them away from this method of schooling, they moved on to where God wanted them. It wasn’t easy for her but in the end God was of course faithful and has met the needs of every member of their family.
#3 Have a Support System
If you don’t know other moms who are homeschooling find some! I can’t tell you how many times I texted my homeschooling mom friends asking questions from what curriculum do you use for this? to did your kiddo ever experience this issue? So many questions and so much help and so much support. If you don’t have people around you who homeschool find people! Search Facebook to see if there’s a local homeschool Facebook group. Search the #wildandfree hashtag on Instagram. There are lots of homeschooling mamas on there who are so encouraging and many are willing to answer your questions. They even have periodic homeschool meetups all over the country. I’ll post the next time they have one to keep you in the loop. Ask around your church or play groups to see if people know homeschool families. To know that you are not alone in this is so helpful!
When you homeschool, homeschooling is a priority and you need to be stubborn about this priority. Be ready to refer back to your mission statement. You will get invites from friends to do things, you will be tempted to commit to Bible Studies, weekly playgroups, etc. You have to decide what’s right for you and what you can handle while still keeping homeschooling a priority. One of the hardest things for me was that people who don’t homeschool, just don’t get it. At times I felt judged and was questioning whether it really was okay to be quitting this Bible Study or saying no to certain outings. In the end remember you can’t do it all!
#5 Be Prepared to Be Flexible
Be prepared for things to not go according to your plan. Your curriculum may not be the right fit or may need some tweaking. It’s going to take awhile, maybe a whole school year to figure out your schedule. And just when you figure it out, it’ll be time to figure out the following the year. Then there’s the issue of where you’re going to homeschool. You may think that homeschooling on your dining room table is going to work and then like us you realize that somedays you want to just leave school stuff out which leaves no where to eat dinner. Or maybe you have an empty space in your hallway, I know random right?, and so you set up your homeschool area there and realize that you all feel boxed in. Finally you decide that the extra sitting room in your master bedroom is actually the best fit and you move there and it mostly works but even after a full school year you haven’t found something that REALLY works so you brainstorm for the next year. Things aren’t always going to go your way. Your homeschooling is not going to and shouldn’t look like a traditional classroom setting. Things will need to be tweaked. Be prepare to be flexible.
There’s a long list of other things I’ve learned but I felt like these four things were the main things I learned this year. If you are a homeschool family, I’d love to hear things you’ve learned along the way. I know there are many of us who would benefit from your experience. Would you like to share? Leave a comment below!