DIRTY SECRET #1) When I had my first child in 1987, if you would have told me that I had to homeschool, I would have given him away. Obviously a few years later, my feelings had changed, and we made the decision to homeschool. But there are things I wish I would have known. Here is my list of what I wish I would have known when I began homeschooling:
EDUCATION AND LEARNING ARE NOT SYNONYMOUS:
Education is the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. I do not want my children to be in the education system for their entire lives, but I do want my children to be lifelong learners. I want to instill the love of learning into my children so they want to seek out knowledge at all times, not just during a few select years of their lives.
HOMESCHOOLING IS A FULL-TIME JOB: Well-meaning friends, family and church family will think that since you are home all day, you now can be available to help watch their children, volunteer at church, attend Bible studies, and make meals for everyone. And while I think it is important to be involved in some ministry, you cannot be everything to everyone AND homeschool. Homeschooling is your primary job. It takes a lot of time and effort, and to do it well, you have to be present with your children.
YOU WILL LEARN SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU DID WHEN YOU WERE IN SCHOOL: Do you wonder if you can teach certain subjects? Often when I hear from potential homeschoolers they will say, “I am not smart enough to teach my children,” or “I wasn’t very good at math.” Trust me when I say that you will even be able to teach those subjects that weren’t your favorites or you can find someone who can. I HATED history when I was in school. I found ways to make sure that my children learned history, I learned history and no body hated it. In fact, I now LOVE history. The amazing thing about homeschooling is that since I began teaching, I learned so much more. And I found ways to make learning work. History doesn’t have to be boring; math doesn’t have to produce tears. If you are teaching in a way that is frustrating and not working, you can change curriculum, put it aside for a period of time, or find a different method to teach that subject. Homeschooling is flexible and can produce learning even in the most difficult of children.
YOU CAN DO THIS: Let’s face it. You taught your child how to talk, walk, ride a bike, tie their shoes (although my youngest still doesn’t tie his shoes), eat with utensils, write their name, etc. Each year is just an extension of the previous year. Don’t think about high school math if your child is 6. Just focus on what your child needs to learn this year.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT FINDING THE PERFECT CURRICULUM: I do recommend a few books to help you find what is best for you and your child, but I don’t recommend obsessing over curriculum. When I first started I selected a curriculum published for Christian schools. It had scripted teacher’s manuals and lots of busy work. I quickly dumped that in favor of something that “would work better” for our household. Over the next several years I kept fine tuning and adjusting until I found the “perfect solution.” However, it was not perfect for my younger children. And so I was back to square one with the younger kids. I wish I would have spent those early years worrying less about curriculum and just reading, writing, painting, and exploring with my kids.
HOMESCHOOLING HAS BEEN ONE OF THE MOST REWARDING THINGS I HAVE EVER DONE: I thought I was just “teaching” my kids. I have found that I have a better understanding of myself and my children because of homeschooling. I love to watch my children and my grandchildren explore the world around them. I have been blessed to watch them grow and change, and I got to be there for all the milestones in my child’s life. In addition, my husband and I were the ones to have all the mundane and also the important discussions with our children. Some of my favorite discussions would not have happened if my children were in school.
VACATIONS and TRAVEL HAPPEN WHEN IT IS CONVENIENT FOR YOU: One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is that you set your own schedule. If you want to start school at 6 am, noon, or 6 pm, that is entirely up to you. You make the decisions about which months, what days you have off, and when you vacation. Our family never took snow days; instead we had sick or dead animal days. We spent time taking care of a sick animal or grieving over a lost pet. We also have set our vacations for off season. We have seen the country, and we travel when it is convenient or when there is a business trip. I know many people that say, “but I have no problem pulling my kids out of school to travel.” And then their children get to middle school or high school, and the vacations, trips, or time together dwindles to nothing.
BE CAREFUL WHO YOU TAKE ADVICE FROM: One mom talked like an expert. I thought that she knew so much more than I did, and I devoured everything she said. It turned out she was just homeschooling a couple years longer than me, and her methods and teaching style were not in line with how I wanted to parent and homeschool. Today we are living in the era of everyone has an opinion to share. I have seen blogs by parents who haven’t even started homeschooling yet. Their children are still in public school and yet they are sharing their thoughts about what is best. It is similar to people telling you, “When I have kids they will never. . .” I think we all know how that ends up! There are also people who say, “I have homeschooled for 6 years” and their oldest is 9. Raising your children is not homeschooling. When looking for advice, make sure you talk to people who have faced challenges and overcome them.
REMEMBER TO PUT ON YOUR OWN OXYGEN FIRST: This is a constant struggle for me. My tendency to to put myself on the back burner and put everyone’s needs before my own. You cannot be all things to everyone, and you cannot be effective until you are healthy and whole.
MODEL WHO YOU WANT YOUR CHILDREN TO BECOME: If your children never see you pray, pick up a book, or go on a date with your spouse, chances are they will not develop those healthy habits. You are the example that your children will copy. Work to find balance in your life, and your adult children will have role models that are worthy of the title.
REMEMBER TO JUST KEEP SWIMMING: It takes a long time to raise a child, but you blink and they are married with children of their own. I remember moments of being scared and overwhelmed, and the next moment I was on the top of the world. It seemed like the first several years were touch and go. I was never really confident. In fact, it wasn’t until my oldest son graduated with his Bachelors Degree in three years with a 4.0 that I thought, “I can do this.”. So far I have three adult children who are in the work force and are productive citizens. But if I had thrown in the towel in those early years, I would have missed out on so much joy, laughter, and learning.
REMEMBER TO PRAY: When you feel like giving up – Pray. When you feel defeated – Pray. When you want to send your children to military school – Pray. When you can’t find the curriculum to match what you are looking for – Pray. When you are taking care of your sick children, your husband is away on business, and you haven’t had a shower in 5 days – Pray. No matter what your question or issue is, praying will help you through every situation. I certainly don’t have all the answers, and I feel like I am still learning, but I know that my faith in Jesus Christ has been my best resource in this journey.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And My DIRTY SECRET – THE LAUNDRY, DIRT AND CLUTTER ARE NEVER ENDING: If you are homeschooling, your children will track in dirt, they will have more laundry than their public school counterparts, and you will have books, science experiments and art projects taking up every surface of your kitchen, dining room, and living room. They are seldom away from you so you will never have an empty house to get all the cleaning done at once. It is a fact of life that you will eventually accept. Accept it now and make everyone in the household happier!
When people look at my family and see my three adult children, they say things like, “You are so blessed.” And my husband and I know that we have been blessed. We are still working on homeschooling the last two, and this journey has not always been the easiest, but it has certainly been an adventure!