What is Homeschooling Really Like and Can I Do It?
I feel like a common thing I hear when talking to other moms when I tell them I homeschool is, “I would really like to do it, but I don’t have the patience/skills/knowledge/wouldn’t know where to begin,” etc. If that sounds like you, you are not alone!
Jumping into the world of homeschooling can feel completely overwhelming! How do you know if your kids are getting what they need? How do I find the right curriculum, or even, what curriculums are out there?! And the more personal question – am I up for it? Is this really something I can do?
Now I am no expert at all, but I wanted to write this post to share a few things I have learned over the years that I hope will help you in getting your homeschool started off on the right foot!
Success Strategy #1: Give Yourself (and your kids!) Grace
It would be heartwarming to put this as the last point, but I put this as the first because I feel it is that important. Whether you are homeschooling for the first time with little ones, or you are homeschooling for the first time after pulling kids out of school, there is definitely an adjustment period – adjusting to being home all the time with each other, adjusting to mom being the teacher if coming from a traditional school setting. Don’t feel that you need to start out the gate as prepared and with a classroom as well-stocked as a veteran school teacher (this goes along with #2 below!).
The beauty of homeschooling is its flexibility, its ability to change to fit your family’s and your individual children’s needs. If something is not working you can change it. If you all need a break, you can take it.
Understand that there are “seasons” in homeschooling, really because it truly is more than just school, but it is a lifestyle that follows the seasons of your life. Sometimes things go according to plan, sometimes it is messy. As a single mom homeschooler, there have been seasons of life that my grand plans went largely undone. There are homeschoolers I know that with new babies or toddlers in the house, in that season, they were only able to read books together on the couch. But know that it is ok to have these seasons. They don’t last forever, and you learn and grow from them. Don’t let the hard times make you feel like you are a failure, that you are not cut out for homeschooling, etc. You are learning too! And it is a process!
We all do not have it together, no matter what it may look like on the blogs and in the Instagram pictures of farmhouse-style organized home classrooms with vintage globes decorating the shelves and chalkboard bible verses adorning the walls, smiling kids completing their worksheets together around a big well-worn wooden table. 🙂 Homeschooling looks different for each family and for each season of your life, and you are not a failure if you didn’t get to math today because Momma needed a mental health day, or you are switching language arts curriculums (again) because you just weren’t feeling it (and no one else was either!). But give yourself (and your children too!) grace for learning new things and trying new things and sometimes failing. It happens to us all, and tomorrow is another day!
Success Strategy #2: Do Not Try to Recreate “School” in Your Homeschool
I myself was not homeschooled, but I am a product of “the system”. And when you come from that background, there’s a certain amount of deschooling needed as you discover that your homeschool does not need to look like what you experienced growing up in school.
Now obviously, it’s your homeschool, so you can do what you want and what works for your family, but I think problems occur when you have an expectation of what homeschooling should look like based on what you had in school – kids in desks, minimal movement, raised hands, worksheets, tests, grades, etc. Many of these things are in place in a school setting because that was the most efficient way to teach 20-30 kids from different backgrounds with different learning styles all at once. But this is your home and your kids, so the dynamic will be different.
And as far as your homeschool space is concerned, it doesn’t necessarily need to look like a classroom. Once you figure out your homeschooling style, your homeschooling space will grow and change as your homeschool does. You don’t even need to have a room dedicated to it. You absolutely can, and many people do because it is nice to have a place where all your supplies and books, boards and posters are in one place. But many people homeschool around the kitchen table, on the sofa, at the library, in the car, or at the park.
I was a school teacher before I chose to stay home with my kids, and I have had friends tell me that I am more qualified to homeschool because I have that experience. And I can tell you, friends, that there is very little, if anything, from my teaching years that prepared me for homeschooling! But the beautiful thing is you have all the qualifications you need already to homeschool – you are their parent who loves them and wants the best for them and wants to see them succeed, and you know them and have taught them every day of their lives. You are the most qualified teacher they will ever have!
Coming from a public school, I had to change in my mind what school should look like. Without trying to sound too corny, I have found that school is all around us! We may have not done the science lesson I had on the schedule, but we were outside in the backyard garden watching a praying mantis. School was in the conversation about why birds can sit on power lines on the way back from the store, the talk about kindness after a disagreement with friends, in the kitchen measuring ingredients while cooking dinner. You have such an awesome opportunity to really connect with your kids and discover the joy in learning new things together, and the freedom to do that without the pressure of having it look a particular way.
Success Strategy #3: Join a Homeschooling Group
Whether it is a homeschool co-op (a group that meets to socialize and take various classes together in a more traditional setting), a play group for park days, or simply a homeschoolers group on Facebook, it is important to get connected to other homeschoolers.
One thing about homeschooling moms is they LOVE to talk about homeschooling. Could do it all day long. Well, maybe, if they didn’t need to get back home to finish up today’s math. Other homeschoolers are a fantastic resource for ideas, curriculum suggestions, etc. Not only is it great for you to get connected with others that homeschool that you can learn from and share ideas with, but sometimes they become some of your very best friends (and their kids can become friends with your kids too!). It is so nice to have that community and support of others who are doing what you are doing, have struggled with what you are struggling with, who totally get and understand the joys and the challenges associated with homeschooling!
Success Strategy #4: Discover Your Family’s Style of Homeschooling
As you may have started researching homeschooling, part of the overwhelming feeling comes from realizing how much stuff is out there! Like… I just thought there was a list out there of things you need to get done for each grade and you buy a curriculum, but wait, who is Charlotte Mason, and what is unschooling, and wait, there are how many math curriculums???
Probably the best place to start is to figure out what style of homeschooling fits you and your family best. And be ok with the fact that it may change as you actually discover what works and what doesn’t. It also may be a blend of multiple types! But it is a great starting point! I really like this post from Simply Charlotte Mason that briefly describes five homeschooling styles. They also have a nice e-book that is free on Getting Started in Homeschooling. It was actually one of the first resources I looked at when I first researched homeschooling, and it was very helpful for me!
Once you decide what style of homeschooling fits you best, that helps you in narrowing down curriculums. Years ago, when I was first starting, after reading those descriptions, the style that most appealed to me was Charlotte Mason homeschooling. I grew up the daughter of a librarian, and I loved books. I loved the idea of not having traditional textbooks, and using literature for learning! To this day, that is still our main style of learning. Now I tell people our homeschool style is eclectic Charlotte Mason-y with some unit studies and unschooling thrown in for good measure. 🙂 But discovering that I was drawn to the Charlotte Mason style even before I really knew what would work helped to to narrow some things down – like I knew right away any curriculum that was textbook and worksheet based was not going to work for me. But some people may look at the traditional style and feel most comfortable with that. Knowing your style, or at least deciding what style you’d like to try, is a great starting point!
Success Strategy #5: Know Why You Are Homeschooling
This seems like a weird thing to mention, but if you know why you are wanting to homeschool right from the start, it gives you a sort of mission or goal, so that when things get tough or go awry (as they inevitably will do) you know what you are striving for and why. You have a reason to persevere and keep going!
The reasons people homeschool are wide and varied and as unique as each family. I feel that the benefits of homeschooling are enormous, and it’s something that I love to do, good days and bad days, and because it is something I am so passionate about, I am willing to make certain sacrifices. But I don’t think I would be able to make those sacrifices or persevere in the trying times if I didn’t clearly know what I was sacrificing for!
If you aren’t really sure why you are homeschooling, or you’re not really sure you want to do it in the first place, it makes it a lot harder to keep going when challenges strike. So it is best from the get go to define to yourself why you are choosing to homeschool, and maybe even create your own mission statement to remind you why you are doing this.
Creating a family mission statement (like in this article from The Art of Manliness of all places – it’s a good article! 🙂 ) is an awesome thing to do anyways, but it is a great idea to create a homeschool mission statement too! Companies do it, schools do it, churches do it, and for good reason – it helps to provide a focus and a common goal for everyone to work towards together. If you are interested in creating a homeschool mission statement, here are a few good posts:
Having that hanging in your home can be a reminder and a encouragement on those discouraging days!
If you have decided you would like to jump into the world of homeschooling, you can do this!!! It is an awesome gift to be able to learn alongside your children!