As a second generation homeschooler, I was 100% positive that I knew what to expect in this whole homeschool journey. My confidence was at an all time high; it was glorious!
My first few weeks as a newly minted homeschool mom were simply put…epic. I had a big poster on the wall with a schedule that even included breastfeeding times, nap times, AND (wait for it) what my husband should be doing during different time blocks should he be off!
I had a baby, a toddler, a preschooler and a kindergartener…I’m pretty sure coffee and sheer determination are what gave me my head start. However, as you might be anticipating…my shotgun start had a pretty brutal screeching halt.
My first year of homeschooling was the year my kids smeared diaper rash cream all over my walls, their hair, and the bed and carpet. It was the year my kids opened an entire bean bag chair of styrofoam and filled a room with it laughing at the “snow”. It was the year of CHAOS.
When I had a few spare minutes, when all the stars aligned, and I tried to read with my son, I was impatient and easily frustrated and went to bed feeling like an utter failure. My house was falling apart, my homeschool was practically nonexistent, and my carefully polished veneer of a successful homeschool mom was shattered. I had NO idea what I was doing!
But then something amazing happened, towards the end of our “kindergarten year” (during which we maybe did a collective month of school), my son sat down and read full sentences, fluently, with big words like “beginning” and “forest”. He was 5; I was floored! This was the next step in my “education on the world of education”. He kind of did that on his own. Even when I was barely holding it together, he managed to learn by sheer osmosis!
Six years later, with four school-aged children and shelves brimming with nearly every curriculum and resource you have ever heard of (ask my hubby how he feels about that), I now openly admit that I don’t have all the answers. On a good day, I have some, but I have found peace in the fact that I’m kind of just along for the ride, constantly trying to adjust for the next new wind that blows in or the wave that’s crashing into our boat. Adjust; correct; feel it out; smooth sailing, and then adjust once again.
In my little voyage through the tumultuous waters of home education, I have learned a few things. Looking back at that naive little mom, her arms full of babies, eyes full of hopes and dreams and expectation…I wish I could just sit her down to coffee and tell her a few things that would save her a lot of tears, frustration and money. Here are my top 5 things I wish I had known about homeschooling.
1) Don’t Compare Your Kids
With my eldest son practically teaching himself; learning just comes easy to him. To this day, he is voracious reader and advanced in all his subjects. He is easy to teach, fun to teach, and rewarding to teach. My next two children are a challenge; they are behind, and they are disinterested in school. The contrast between their levels and general attitude towards homeschooling has been one of the greatest challenges I have faced, and I wish I had understood the complexities, variances, and spectrum of learning and development and not put the pressure on myself, nor my other children to try to be where their brother is at.
2) Home is the Most Important Part of “Homeschooling”
We get so focused on school, on bookwork, on checking off the boxes and getting through our books. But at the end of the day, relationship, the atmosphere of your home, the feeling your children are going to get when they think back on their homeschool days: these are crucial! We forget that most of “school” is about learning how to learn. We forget that every child develops differently. We forget that kids learn all the time, even without their books. Impatience and tears and doing school from 9-3 is NOT what I want my kids to think of when they look back. I don’t want them to be excited to leave home because I have fostered an environment of pressure and performance. I want them to look back and remember the field trips and cooking together and going camping as a family, and snuggling up and reading a book. The approach and environment of our homeschool is just as important as the lessons we teach.
3) Take Care of Yourself
I have spent years neglecting myself. We talk about self-care and how it is so important, but the reality is, my kids have always needed me more. I always tried to fit in a few minutes to myself really early in the morning or really late at night, which as you can imagine…backfired. I wish I had not considered school a higher priority than myself. If I am not eating and sleeping and reading that book I bought 3 years ago and is still unopened on the shelf…then I am not going to be the best homeschool mom I can be. I have spent years overwhelmed and frustrated and emotional simply because I am overtired and not eating good food. Two hours of school in the right frame of mind can be more productive than a full day if you are in the right frame of mind! Make yourself a priority!
4) Affirm Your Kids
If I could repeat the last six years, we’d do a weekly show and tell! They could read that word they mastered or show a picture they drew. We could talk about what we learned and have a few minutes to just be the center of attention. Have you noticed that kids literally glow when you praise them? It makes them want to try harder; it motivates them to keep going; it inspires them! I wish that when my friends came over I hadn’t talked so much about my struggles and frustrations, and instead focused on the wins and the accomplishments. Your kids hear you; they pick up on your expectations (or lack thereof) of them and that sets the tone for their interest in education. I am much more intentional about being positive and upbeat and excited for my kids when they read or are writing, to cheer them on and support them.
5) Don’t Get Distracted
This one is so huge. Everyone has the perfect curriculum, the perfect schedule or routine or program or app or resource, and that’s great! I want to hear about what is out there, what is working for people and why; I have found some really great fits for our family that way. But I have also wasted a lot of money that way and made a lot of mistakes. I spent so much time looking at everyone else and switching from one thing to another that I wasn’t really paying enough attention to what would work for my kids, in my home, with me as their teacher, in that season of our lives! I was hoping that someone else’s answer would work for me because I didn’t feel like I had the time or energy to try to figure out the answer for myself. Don’t get distracted by the elusive carrot stick of perfect…focus on what’s right in front of you.
There are really so many things I wish I had known back then. Things like letting go of my unrealistic expectations, stopping school if my kids were getting frustrated, understanding my kids learning styles and my own homeschool style better, learning their personalities and buying curriculum based on those things rather than what looked good. Things like not doing too much but rather doing a few things really well and having fun with them. Or including my younger kids instead of trying to occupy them or do school while they were napping. But the reality is, I’m still making that list as I go. I learn new things in each new season of our lives and I definitely don’t have this journey all figured out. But I love the fact that I get to model learning and perseverance and determination and flexibility to my kids! And that’s what this is really all about, raising kids who not only can read and write and go off to college and achieve their dreams…but can flex with the curveballs life throws and get up and try try again.
Keep on keeping on my friends. You can do this and it is SO worth every trial you will face along the way. 💕
About the Author
Rebecca Spooner is a homeschool mom of five young children who was homeschooled herself and blogs about her chaos over at Homeschool On. She and her husband are wannabe homesteaders on a little parcel of land in Northern BC, Canada where they juggle police shiftwork, parenting, marriage, working from home, and keeping up with their property. Sometimes they even get to sit down and visit with one another. 😉
Homeschooling 101 eBook
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