I haven’t been homeschooling for long myself, but I am a second-generation homeschooler (meaning I was homeschooled and have now chosen that road of education for my children), so my insight into this world comes from an uncommon angle. I hope that some small amount of knowledge I have gained through my experiences will be of help to you if you are considering homeschooling, are just getting started, or are feeling discouraged midway through what is beginning to seem like a very long journey that is wiping you out!
Here are my 5 tips/encouragements for homeschoolers or aspiring homeschoolers:
1. You were made to do this. Yes, you. When the Lord knit you together in your mother’s womb, he already knew who your children would be, what they would need, and everything about your relationship and choices with them. He gave you your child with the specific design to be raised by you and taught by you. Whether or not you have begun technical “homeschooling” in the traditional sense, believe it or not, you have been homeschooling your child since the moment he or she entered your life! Every time you open a book, every time you ask, “What sound does a doggy make?”, or every time you even talk to your child about your surroundings, you are teaching them. They are learning! So congrats, you are already a homeschooler! Turns out, you were a natural all along!
2. You are not her. They are not them. This is a big one. Remember that part I mentioned about God designing your children to be raised by you? Yeah, that means your children don’t need “put-together Susan”. You know… the one with the perfectly clean home enjoying, constantly field-tripping, journaling, beautiful outfit wearing children? I could go on about how Susan is tricking you through her fabulously fake Instagram photos, but the point is, even if her life is that perfect (it isn’t for the record, but for argument’s sake…), it doesn’t matter! Because you are not her. You were not created to be her, and your children were not created to have a mother like her. Some…scratch that… MOST of us are riding the Hotmess Express, and that’s okay! Just as a side note, I’m not advocating laziness or neglectfulness by any means. I am simply suggesting that life comes at you fast and hard (especially when you are homeschooling and have your kiddos home all day destroying the house), and as long as you are doing your best to glorify God, don’t worry about Susan! Don’t hate on her, but also don’t try to be her. You go, Susan! I am cheering you on while sporting my mom bun and yoga pants- you do you, girlfriend! On another note, your kids aren’t Susan’s kids either. Just because her kids totally love analyzing Shakespearean literature, stargazing, and charting constellations while listening to Mozart, that doesn’t mean your kids have to enjoy and engage in the same hobbies and interests. If your kids love downtime, sitting together enjoying a good book, or other simple pleasures, do those things! Trying out new activities is great, but torturing yourself and your kids into keeping up with the Susans is foolish and completely opposite of why you chose to homeschool in the first place! Which takes me to my next point.
3. Use your resources, but don’t over-analyze. Every family is different. Every child is different. Every curriculum is different. Don’t limit yourself, and don’t choose based on someone else’s success. Check out a bunch of options, pray about it, and make an educated decision. Does this trigger anxiety? It doesn’t have to! Your child may need something way structured or totally off the walls eclectic! And guess what, the following year, they may change. So don’t sweat it! You don’t have to sign some sort of blood oath and stick to one method! Also, realize that your resources don’t stop at curriculum. Not at ALL! Get involved in local homeschooling groups, use Youtube to your benefit (cautiously of course- it can be a great supplementary tool for science, art, history, etc.), go to the library (an incredible resource!), and the list goes on.
4. Don’t be afraid to switch things up. This point touches on a couple of different things. First, don’t be afraid to stop mid-semester and change your curriculum 100% if you have to. Better to resell your partially used curriculum and seemingly “waste” some money rather than go insane trying to force a curriculum on your family that everyone detests. The reason I say “seemingly” waste because it is never a total loss. Through trying out various methods (“trial and error” if you will), you learn more about yourself and your children! You will find a method that suits everyone. Second, don’t be afraid to change things on a smaller level as well: stop working and take a walk, go to the symphony, spend the day baking and making cards for a local nursing home or your neighbors. Start school at a different time if you feel like your child might be able to focus better at another time of day. Third, you are in charge! If you feel like there is a section of curriculum that your child is loathing and it isn’t necessary to them experiencing a full, well-rounded school year, skip it! Do something else and give that growing brain a break! Again, you chose homeschooling for a reason. I know one common reason is freedom! Enjoy it and utilize it!
5. Dive in, realizing that you can always step out of the water if necessary. As with anything truly worth beginning, the best way to start something new is to make a firm decision. Not a “try” decision but a “do” decision. You WILL homeschool! You WILL jump in and do a great job! You WILL succeed! However, can I let you in on a little secret? If you go bald from pulling your hair out within a few months and feel like homeschooling is going to somehow cause your entire family to implode and turn everyone into sociopaths, you don’t have to continue. That’s right! No one is forcing you to continue doing something you hate. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I am an adult,” and walk your big girl self to the school and re-enroll your child. Ready for another secret? If you decide that circumstances and dynamics have changed by the following year, you can try to homeschool again- or not! No one is duct-taping you and your child to your kitchen table and forcing you to home educate! Furthermore, no one is saying that you can’t try and fail over and over again until you find exactly what works for your family! Take your time, don’t be fearful, and be sure to give yourself and your children a heaping scoop of grace!
I hope this encouraged and uplifted those of you who are making new, tough decisions or just needed a mid-journey reminder of some things you may have forgotten along the way. If you have any questions or have some encouragement for others who might be going through a rough time, please feel free to drop a comment! Happy homeschooling! Keep up the great work!
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV)
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (ESV)