You have stepped out to homeschool your child- timidly, but surely. You’re excited, but scared to death. Will we be able to keep up? Will my kids have friends? What if they are missing something? What if I ruin them?
I recently read a fantastic article put out by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association in which the author listed two crucial attitudes necessary for new homeschoolers to make it.
They need to believe
- “We really can pull this off!” and
2. “Homeschooling is good for our children.”
These two thoughts were the inspiration behind this post and the one I will publish next.
Here’s why I believe you really CAN pull this off!
You will learn as you go. You will fail. There will even be days when you will completely blow it, but you will learn as you go. Does your daily schedule not seem to be working? You will work it out. Are you having trouble managing both the house and school? You will find a workable routine. (And you just might become more flexible!) Do you stink at math? You will grow in it. You will become better at math AND you will become a better math teacher.
The other day my husband happened to be home for a school day and our 7th grade son asked him to help him with his math problems (fractions). My husband gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look across the room, telepathically asking for my help. It’s not that my husband doesn’t know fractions or that he’s bad at math. It’s not that I’m a math whiz or that math has always come easily to me. The fact is that I have been studying and teaching math every day for the past 10 years since our oldest (now in 10th grade) started Kindergarten. When you work at something everyday, you become better at it. It’s fresh in your mind and you can more clearly break it down in a way for others to understand. As our oldest grew and started some of his higher level math work, I had that same deer-in-the-headlights look at times, BUT we figured it out together step by step. Now I understand how to do it and teach it to the kids who are coming up behind him. You will learn as you go. When I was back in the early years with our kids-with two or three young kids in different math levels, I was always learning with my oldest child. Sometimes we would get to something new and I would begin to think I had reached my limit of what I could help him in with math, but we just slowed down, took it one step at a time and kept going. Stay one step of your oldest child.
You will learn as you go.
It gets easier as your kids get older. This is one thing I really wish someone had told me. The longer you homeschool AND the older your kids get, homeschooling does get easier. Yes, maybe the content becomes more challenging, but managing schedules, finding your style and your kids’ styles, gaining confidence, homeschooling with littles underfoot- all these things become easier.
The longer you are homeschooling, the more readers you have in the house. The more readers you have, the more independent they can be with their work.
In the beginning, everything feels so foreign, especially if you grew up going to school and homeschooling is a brand new concept to you. Choosing a curriculum at the start can be daunting. Becoming familiar with your curriculum also takes time. In the beginning, you may be just starting to establish a community that is a good fit for you and the kids. It’s not always easy finding and making new friends!
Many moms start homeschooling their Kindergartner while also juggling a preschool child and a baby or pregnancy. That is not an easy task for sure! BUT it is doable! And it is foundational work that is necessary in the early years. In any new endeavor, building the foundation is always the hardest and the most crucial part. My first several years of homeschooling were hands-down the hardest for me. BUT now I am reaping the rewards of that hard work and I’m so glad we stuck with it! Of our eight kids, six are school age. We have six readers and five fairly independent learners. I still have a preschooler and toddler, but it is different now than it was when my oldest was starting school. Back then it was a challenge to help the oldest with school work while keeping the baby occupied and the toddler from flushing something down the toilet! Now, my littles tend to follow the older kids. They want to do “school” since that’s what everybody else seems to be doing! They will sometimes sit beside them and draw or pretend they are doing their own work. Often my older kids will take a break and read to the littles. It’s a whole new world when you have older kids!
It WILL get easier as your kids get older!!
Encourage your kids to be self-learners and watch them thrive. When I was fulfilling my student teaching requirements in college, I studied under a cooperating teacher who gave me some excellent advice. She said, “The one who is doing the most work is the one learning.”
Think about that. Are you doing everything for your child? Are you holding their hand all day long as they muscle through their work? Consider pushing them to be self-learners. Give them their own checklist to follow. Make them responsible for all the work that they can do independently.
In our early years of homeschooling, I used a math curriculum that was very hands on and was taught by using manipulative and games. I thought it was a perfect fit for our second son who is a hands on learner. I was surprised, however, at the change I observed in him a few years later when I switched to a more self-directed curriculum. I didn’t want to change math programs because I loved the philosophy behind what we were using, but due to our growing family, I simply could not teach three math lessons to three different kids every day on top of all our other school work and caring for a baby. I was hesitant about the new curriculum, probably because I really felt that they needed someone to teach them a math lesson every day, but switching to a more independent program was really my only option. Given my teaching background, honestly, I was very skeptical about encouraging kids to be self-learners. Don’t they need someone to teach them a lesson every day in each of their subjects? How are they really going to learn it well otherwise? What I observed in my son, though, completely changed my opinion on this. He liked being able to see how much work he had to accomplish each day-as opposed to me teaching a lesson for which he had no idea how long it would take! Since he is the kind of child that only wants to hear what he really needs to know to figure out how do do things (no fluff!), he was able to cut to the chase when I set him free to be responsible for his math lesson. I became more of a facilitator in his learning rather than a lecturer. He came to me for the important things for which he needed help, but many other things he figured out on his own by reading and studying the lesson examples. He was learning HOW to learn himself! What a valuable skill!!
Reading covers a multitude of sins. Ask any experienced homeschool mom for advice and you will hear this across the board. READ. TO. THEM. Read a lot. Read to kids who can already read.
Whatever mistakes you will make your first couple years (and you will make them!), they aren’t terribly crucial if you are reading to them a lot. Reading covers so much ground. It fosters their imagination. And more importantly, it creates in them an insatiable desire to learn more, to read more, to know about things at which they have always wondered. Reading will be your margin for error. It’s okay to make mistakes in homeschooling if you are reading to them a lot.
Find a community. I’ve met them. The people who say they’ve tried homeschooling and it just didn’t work for them. This is what they all have in common. They tried to do it alone. Don’t make this mistake. Don’t think you can pull this off without somebody in your corner. No man is an island. You need to meet other homeschool moms and your kids need to have friendships other kids who are also homeschooled.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is a great resource for national listings of homeschool support groups. They have a community section on their website where you can look up organizations by state and more specifically, by county. If you live in my home state of Pennsylvania, CHAP has many resources for homeschoolers including homeschool laws in PA, community groups, and homeschool convention details. If you live in Lancaster County, I highly recommend visiting CHALC which lists all the homeschool co-ops in the county and coordinates a phenomenal county-wide graduation ceremony for homeschool graduates.
Another great way to find community is simply to ask around. Many churches hosts co-ops. Look for groups on Facebook. Asking people helps give you a feel for the best options in your area.
If you have a pioneer spirit, you can also start your own support group! That’s how our co-op started over ten years ago. There were five of us moms with kids about the same ages. We met and talked about homeschooling here and there. We decided to start meeting in each other’s homes every week. It was a wonderful way to start, especially because we were all at the same place and had so many things in common to talk about. Over the years, our group expanded and we now have 35 families and over 150 kids! Our co-op is like family to us. I can say with certainty that I would not have continued homeschooling if it were not for the wonderful friendships and support we found through our co-op.
YOU are the expert on your child. Here’s the biggie. I really believe this is the number 1 reason you can pull this off! No one knows your child like you do. No one has a personal, life-long investment in your child like you have. There is no one who will work harder or search more diligently than you will to find the resources your child needs for their struggles AND their gifts. While I have great respect for the amazing teachers in our schools (being a former teacher myself), the teacher is an expert in his or her field. They may be specialize in teaching a certain age such as primary or middle age kids. Or they may be an expert in a certain subject, like technology, math, history, etc., but YOU are the expert on your child. And the more you homeschool, you become even more adept at understanding the unique person they are becoming.
Imagine the following scenario. Imagine that your child went to school from K-12th grade. Imagine that among many teachers along the way, he had one teacher, chosen because he or she had the utmost ardor and care for your child. Imagine that this person remained his teacher, his advocate, his role model, his champion from Kindergarten through the culmination of his education, his final year. That teacher is you. YOU are the expert on your child.
Let me just say something here to clear the air. I have a teaching degree. I have teaching experience. I cannot tell how many times I have been in conversation with homeschooling skeptics, who, when they hear that I have a background and experience in education, completely change their tune when they hear I have a teaching certificate. They quickly decide that that background and that experience somehow “qualifies” me to homeschool my kids. While I have great respect for teachers, being a former teacher myself and coming from a family of teachers, I personally do not believe that having an education degree or teaching experience makes you a better homeschool parent. Some of the most amazing homeschoolers I have met have had no education background at all! The two basic qualities that I see great homeschool parents have are these: 1. An insatiable desire to learn and 2. a passion for their kids’ success.
Not every parent wants to homeschool. Not every parent is called to homeschooling. But it is my personal belief, that ANY PARENT can homeschool their child well. Given that their motivation is their child’s best interest and given that their drive is to educate themselves at any cost in this attempt, I believe any parent can create a learning environment that thrusts their child to love learning and life.
When I started homeschooling over ten years ago, I felt alone and unsure of myself. I knew that God had called me to this. And I really loved it.. even with the challenges. I just wasn’t sure how it was all going to turn out. I wanted our kids to have the very best. I remember reading this verse one morning and tucking it away because it was so encouraging to me.
Psalm 37:6 “He will make your righteousness shine like a light, your just cause like the noonday sun.”
If you are going to make it this year,
you have to know,
from this experienced homeschool mom who has been where you are….
don’t doubt yourself,
don’t underestimate what God can do through this,
you really CAN pull this off.