Like most people in the United States, I grew up attending school. You probably did, too, either public or private. Homeschooling has gained momentum as a movement in the last twenty years, but when most of us who are now parents were kids, it was still in its infancy. Homeschoolers were still seen as “that family,” a bit on the edge, if not off the edge altogether, and in some states it wasn’t even legal (it is now, don’t worry).
That is me. A public school-educated girl now grown up and homeschooling my children. Which meant that our first year, even though I had friends and families who homeschooled, I really had no idea what to expect. You may not either. So if you are new to homeschooling this year, let me give you an idea of what’s coming.
Expect to cry.
You, your kids, your spouse. Tears of frustration, but also tears of joy. Homeschooling is a whole family, whole self endeavor, and it changes you and challenges you like nothing else. Hence the tears.
Expect to doubt yourself.
You will. You will wonder if you are really qualified to teach your own children (you are), if your children will ever learn anything (they will), and what the neighbors think when your kids are outside playing at 10:00 in the morning (who cares?). It’s normal, and doubting yourself does not mean you can’t do this.
Expect to be amazed.
At what you child will learn, at how it feels to be there for the “aha!” moments, at how quickly you can finish lessons and have time for other activities, at how much you are learning at the same time you are teaching your child. At how bright the stars actually are when you look at them for a science lesson. At how much history you learned but forgot. At how smart you actually are, yes, even in math.
Expect to be tired.
Being with your kids all day every day takes a ton of energy, plus you are just doing a whole lot of thinking, and figuring out new ways to keep your child engaged and to help him understand why two and two are four, all the time. Then there are the field trips and co-ops and classes and playdates and… It’s SO easy to overdo it the first year and enroll your kids in a thousand activities because hey, we are homeschooling, which takes less time, so we can do these other awesome activities. If you aren’t careful, you may find that instead of homeschooling, you are on-the-go-schooling – which is fine for some families’ personalities, but for a lot of us, it is just too much. We need down time, and overscheduling is not the way to get it.
Expect to wish you could put your kids on the bus.
Because there will be days when you are tired of it and you need a break (especially in February). When you wish you had never signed up for this whole adventure. When that yellow school bus looks awfully nice and you would love to have a quiet house for the day. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you made a bad decision, it just means you need a break.
Expect to think everyone should try homeschooling.
Because on the best days, it just makes so much sense. You will want to share the joy you are finding in this new adventure with everyone and you may wonder why more people do not homeschool their children. That’s okay, too! (Just don’t overwhelm your friends with all your reasons why they should pull junior out of school, like, yesterday. If homeschooling is for them, they will catch on to your excitement on their own, and if it isn’t, you will just bug them.)
Expect to change your mind.
About your schedule, your curriculum, your reasons for homeschooling, the co-op you signed up for, the other activities you thought you would have time for. The first year of homeschooling, especially, is a time of trying things out and seeing what works. Don’t think that you have to finish a math book just because it seemed good at the homeschooling convention you went to this summer. You can put it aside and do something else.
Expect to grow.
As a parent, as a spouse, as a scholar, as a teacher, as a person, as a family. The call/drive/desire/whatever to homeschool is about your child, of course, but it is also about you. You will not be the same person in May that you are now. Embrace that and wait expectantly for it! And then this time next year, you will be the one telling the homeschooling newbie what to expect!