Dear First Year Homeschool Mom,
First, I would like to say congratulations on your decision to embark on this crazy, fabulous homeschool journey! Next, I must admit that I do not claim to be an expert! I am just a fellow homeschool mom trying to find my way down this path. A path, that at times, I have conquered like an experienced hiker with my Swiss Army knife and water backpack. While other times, I have felt more like I belonged on an episode of Naked and Afraid. After six years, I may not know what the road looks like ahead, but, I can speak of where I have already been . Here are a couple of tips from my first year of homeschooling.
Tip number one, don’t expect homeschooling to make everyone a genius. What I mean to say is don’t get overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations. In the homeschool community, I have met individual thinkers and history lovers. Kids who dive into science full throttle and kids who compose lovely essays. Homeschooling is a beautiful way to grow your child, but there is a little bit of a myth that it produces social recluses and academic geniuses. The social part has been written on quite a bit and shown to be the untruth that it is, but many moms still feel the pressure of proving themselves and producing those geniuses. Moms! Homeschooling is a great way to educate, but if you have a child who struggles with reading, they are still going to struggle a bit, even when homeschooling. If math is their weakness, it is still going to be a little challenging, even when homeschooling. The beauty is that you are going to be able to tailor each child’s learning to fit that child. They are going to be their best them, so don’t own their struggles as your defeat. Homeschooling is not a magic pill, and it won’t solve all your problems, but it will provide an education that is custom-made. You will meet some geniuses, or you may even be teaching one, and you will be amazed at how they blossom. You will also find, that they too, have some areas in which they struggle. By the way, we may not all be teaching a genius, but we can better understand the ways in which our children are smart. This is a great book, that I recommend, by Dr. Kathy Koch on the subject of multiple intelligences.
Tip number two is short and sweet. You don’t have to discuss homeschooling with everyone. It is that simple. It took me a little while to figure this one out, but just like politics, you don’t have to give an in-depth answer to every curious stranger you meet. Why not? Because it will become exhausting. A brief, polite, closed answer works best, like “thank you, I will keep that in mind,” or “we like it, thanks.” I don’t mean to imply that everyone who inquires will have a hurtful or negative motive. It is just that, sometimes, the timing is inappropriate or the expert advise is from a one-sided expert. Don’t worry about missing an opportunity to encourage someone else, the ones who are asking because they are interested in homeschooling for themselves will be fairly easy to spot. Save yourself some energy and time, don’t debate homeschooling with strangers, or possibly even family and friends. Be brief and polite.
Pray! That is my next tip. Don’t forget to pray. Pray for your children. Pray for yourself and for your school. Pray without ceasing. You are going to need the strength of the Lord. Not because homeschooling is that much more challenging than sending your kiddo off to traditional school but, in my experience, it is a little more emotional. When my oldest was in public school, I knew a little about where he had some academic struggles, but when I brought him home, I knew a lot. Not to say that he had a lot but I was just more in the trenches, if you will, with his day-to-day learning. Where I once saw only grades, I now saw every gap and valley. As both mom and teacher, it is hard not to feel the full burden of each gap. When I first started I didn’t see a child who needed a little extra help learning multiplication. I instead saw my future adult son, whom I had failed, living on my sofa in a basement I don’t even own yet. It is our own children we are teaching, and we are thoroughly and emotionally invested in them. That can be scary! What I am saying, mom, is relax and pray. You have got this and the Lord has got you!
Don’t go it alone. After you have asked for the Lord’s help, find some support from fellow homeschool moms too. You will be glad you did. One of the best things I did, my first year of homeschooling, was meet some amazing, inspiring moms! By the way, you don’t have to grind your own wheat or bake bread from scratch. You may end up wanting to, but you don’t have to. They will like you anyways.
Lastly, think in seasons, and make decisions for your child and your family. Nothing has to be all or nothing. If you want to send your preschooler to mother’s day out twice a week while you homeschool the other two, go for it. If you have one still in traditional school and one at home, great. If you teach classical one year and switch to Charlotte Mason the next, don’t worry about what your classical mom friends will think. The whole point of homeschooling is to make decisions based on what is best for your child and your family. You know what is best. Don’t worry what others may think. No one is judging. We all have our own gravy to stir. Take each decision a season at a time and reevaluate at the end. It is kind of that “how do you eat an elephant” concept. Take one bite at a time. It feels a lot less scary that way.
That is it lovely mamas! Before you know it this year will have come and gone. It is your year, your year with your children. It is your year to make memories, to make mistakes, to show grace, and to have fun. Oh! That is my last tip. Don’t forget to have fun! I wish I would have remembered that one a little more my first year. It can be fun!
May God Bless,