I have homeschooled my kids for close to 14 years now. When I was just starting out and had my older one as a toddler, it was easy. We were contained in our happy little bubble. He was so happy to just spend his days with mommy, learning to read, coloring, and playing with blocks. Then came that age, at about five, he began getting restless, clearly needing more. We set out on the path of more socialization and more schoolwork. Naturally, I tended to meet parents of other toddlers much more then families with teens, so a lot of the points below escaped my attention. We learned by trying, but I do think that it would be easier for me, for us, if someone had told me these things right of the bat. I do wish someone that has done it before me told me these things. All of the points below come from our personal experience, and everyone’s experience is different of course!
Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Began Homeschooling:
1. Finding friends takes work. Finding friends you absolutely love takes even more work. Homeschoolers are a mixed bunch. As you go through your journey, you will meet all sorts of folks from all walks of life. While usually everyone gets along splendidly. it takes quite a bit of effort and time to find a group of friends that you click well with. You know, that wonderful group of people that you just feel at ease with, where the friendships are deeply rooted and can go on for the rest of your (and your kids) lives. We have been in so many different cliques and attended many groups, but it was a while before we found friends that we absolutely love. The key is to just stay at it: keep going out, keep meeting people, keep making play dates. Give it time, and eventually you will find your homeschooling tribe! Don’t get frustrated, and just keep trying.
2. Remember to take care of yourself! Yes, you, the mom or the dad doing the homeschooling. It can take a lot from you. A lot of time and energy. Between all the planning, the driving, the schooling, the reading, researching, cooking and cleaning, it’s easy to get yourself lost in your tasks! Take care of you for you and for your family, because no one will have fun if you burn out, especially your kids! Make sure to take well deserved breaks, treat yourself to a spa day, a walk in the forest, or a beach day, or whatever it is that floats your boat.
3. Don’t over-schedule! With all the great options available for classes and activities out there, don’t over-schedule! This was one of my largest issues when the kids were younger. I would run from one class to another, sometimes scheduling two or three a day with quite a distance in between and hardly any breathing room. Throw in part time work in there, and full time homeschooling, and you get a situation that needs some serious diffusing. We ran from gymnastics to fencing, to sports, from art to a playgroup, and music, archery, soccer, swimming. You name it, we have done it, and probably all in the same day (just kidding about the same day). The best thing to do is to pick a few that they love and stick with it. Over time we have narrowed it down to several activities. Two that go on all year on a weekly basis, one that only happens in the winter and one that only happens in the summer. It allows us to have a day at home to catch up and rest, as well as time to just spontaneously get together with friends here and there.
4. Remember to play. While we are talking about being too busy, I wish someone made me understand not to rush it when my big kid was little. I was just starting out, and I was a really young mom, and I was studying to become a teacher while working part time in school. So, at the age of 5, we made a decision to start a ‘formal’ homeschool kindergarten. Seriously. Curriculum and all. After doing a bit of research, we got Calvert. It’s not bad for what it is and gives a good starting point. I wish someone told me to relax, to let him just play and explore, to wait with the worksheets and the phonics. Yes, sure, my kid knew how to read by 5, and he did fine and adjusted to doing school things well. It’s just that if I did it all over again, I would wait, and relax a bit, and let him just have fun for a while longer. My second one got the benefit of hindsight in this case. He learned to read a few years later, but with so much less effort and time.
5. Don’t be afraid to walk away if something doesn’t work for you and your family. Or to change things up if what you need is a change of pace. We took a bit of adjusting things, and figuring out what works best for us before we were comfortable. It is still a work in progress. We always examine what we are doing, what works for us and what doesn’t. It is not easy for me to quit something, even now. I generally prefer to see things through to the end. This is why I make sure to give it time and several chances to work with it before calling it quits, but I did learn when to quit. When it truly doesn’t work for us, it has to go. It is important that whatever you do works best for you and your family!
Also, the last one and probably the most important one for me personally, is not to worry so much. Do your best in every moment. Time is relentless, it just keeps moving along, the kids will learn, they will be fine. Do your best, and remember that it will all be alright.
What are some of the things you wish you knew before you began homeschooling.