In just a few short weeks I will be the mother of a third grader. I’m still not sure how she got to be so old so quickly, but one of my joys in watching her grow has been getting to be her school teacher.
We decided a few years back that we would be a homeschool family for as long as it worked for us and our children. My husband travels a LOT with his job, and I wanted the freedom to travel with him when it was feasible. Homeschooling has allowed us to do this.
While I never really saw myself as a homeschool parent (and the idea honestly intimidated me), I have learned a lot in the last few years. I am by no means an expert at homeschool. But I’m also not new at it anymore. That has given me some opportunity to reflect on how this whole endevour is going.
Here is what I have realized so far…
1. It is not school at home (unless you want it to be).
I grew up in some truly wonderful Irmo public schools (go Foxes!) and really only knew the public school way of doing things. So when my oldest daughter started first grade, I defaulted to treating our school days just like the ones I had experienced. We had a set start time, a set lunch time, and set class lengths. It took me about two weeks to realize that not only was this not the way I had to do things as a homeschooler, but that it really wasn’t working for us either. So we changed our style.
That’s not to say our way is the better way. It is just better for my daughters and me. But if a more structured, traditional approach works for you, go for it. That’s the beauty of homeschooling and one of my favorites things about it — you do what works for your family.
2. Homeschool is a lifestyle.
Learning in my house is just as unintentional as it is deliberate. If my daughters are curious about something, we learn about it then and there if we’re able. I look for opportunities to teach my girls even if we aren’t right in the middle of our lessons. But chances to learn also present themselves through our daily activities. What homeschooling has taught me is to watch for the opportunities and make the most of them when they occur.
I learned very quickly that my oldest daughter is absolutely crazy about all things science. She even asks for science related gifts for birthdays and Christmas. I love when we are done with lessons, and a few hours later she will ask to do a science experiment with things around the house. She is having fun, and when she chooses to learn on her own, she’s even more engaged.
Homeschooling has made curiousity and learning a way of life and constant in my children’s lives (and mine!).
3. Just start somewhere.
If you wait to start homeschooling once you’re fully prepared, you’ll never start. Read up on it, learn the laws and requirements for South Carolina, pick a curriculum, and dive in. Watch for your child’s learning style along the way, and adapt to it as you go.
Seek out the insights of others, but try not to compare yourself to other homeschool families. If you’re in tune to what works best for your children, you are already ahead of the curve. I read The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start, which gives the insights of other experienced homeschoolers, before my daughter started kindergarten. This was just one of my resources, and there are countless others available to get you started.
4. You will doubt yourself.
Some of my best ideas (I thought) and greatest efforts have been total flops. Sometimes my daughter and I argue. We are both very strong-willed women, which makes for some difficult days here and there. As the parent-teacher the biggest challenge is keeping your patience and empathy in check. The hard days are fewer and farther between, but in the beginning it was so much harder when I thought I was supposed to just be loving this whole homeschool gig all the time. Knowing there are hard days for you and your children actually takes some pressure off.
5. The benefits exceed the workload.
There is definitely plenty of work to do as a homeschool teacher. But the more experienced you become, the more efficient you become as well. I spend less time preparing (this is where organization really comes in handy) and more time teaching.
While I have definitely taken on a huge job in homeschooling, the perks have been well worth it so far. I love seeing my daughter’s face light up when something in her math lesson first clicks for her. I love seeing the strides she has made in the last few years. It is wonderful to see her read a book to her little sister. When I see her recall and use the things she has learned, I get to know that I played a part in that. Between those things, and the added family time and flexibility of homeschooling, I am thankful that I took on this role.
6. Seek out help.
Homeschool support is one of my new favorite things about the internet and social media. Check out these great homeschool programs in and around Columbia for ideas on how to maximize your child’s learning and get some support for yourself at the same time.
I have found some great support groups on Facebook, and even a group for families using the curriculum I chose for my kids. Teaching your child is much less intimidating once you find the right community.
7. Organization is everything.
Homeschooling is far easier if you are organized. You need to keep an extensive amount of records in order to meet South Carolina standards. There are also deadlines througout the school year that you need to document. The more you keep your binders, calendars, journals, etc. organized, the better.
8. Be flexible.
I had a lot of set rules for our school day schedule in the beginning. But on the days that didn’t follow the schedule, I felt like I had failed. I am all about planning and scheduling and checklists, so to come up short on days that didn’t go as planned was a huge confidence killer for me.
I had to learn pretty quickly that I needed to bend so that I didn’t break. Homeschool is a great opportunity to be flexible and adjust to what comes along. If a lesson isn’t “clicking” we move on and come back to it later, or we try a different approach. I let my girls run around outside for a while before we start school on those days where they are full of energy. On days we are in the mood for something different, we get out and do some learning elsewhere (check out some ideas for homeschooling outside the home).
Every family and child has different needs, but flexibility has been key for me.
9. It gets easier.
I doubted myself more than once in the beginning. It is a huge undertaking to educate your child at home, and the hard days can shake your confidence when you are a rookie. If you are new to homeschool, or considering it, try not to let the worry keep you from pursuing it. Even after just a couple years, I feel so much more adept than I did at the start. Keep what is best for your child and family at the front of your mind, and you will naturally become a pro.