It was the one thing I said I’d never do. In fact, I might have laughed at other homeschool moms a time or two.
I was career-oriented, working as an ER nurse and loving it, And besides, even if I’d wanted to homeschool, I didn’t know “how.”
Then my firstborn daughter turned three. And something in my gut said, “This one needs something different from a classroom with thirty other kids.”
Eight years later, I can tell you that homeschooling is one of the best decisions our family has ever made. Yes, there’ve been sacrifices; there’ve been bumps in the road. But the memories made together? The look in a child’s eyes when they finally learn to read – and you were the one to hold their hand along the way? Now, that’s priceless.
Easing the challenges of homeschooling
I know so many mamas are homeschooling – or thinking about homeschooling – for the first time this year. So I wanted to share a few things that I’ve learned along the way, things that have eased some of the challenges of homeschooling:
1) You are the boss of your curriculum, not the other way around. Your curriculum is there for you as a tool; it is not your master. Depending on your state, you may be held to certain requirements. If you homeschool as part of a charter program, you may turning in work to a public school teacher. But homeschooling is a lot like parenting – you decide what’s best for your kid (and what’s not working). At the end of the day, you are the teacher in your home.
2) Have a set time of day when you take off your “teacher” hat and you get to just be Mom. And your kids get to just be kids. If they were working jobs in the “real world,” they would clock out at some point. Kids need lots of time to play and decompress, and you need time to breathe and connect with your family without an agenda. So set a time of day when the books will be closed, whether your to-do list was checked off or not. For us, this happens at 3 pm. I might be tempted to coax a child through one more lesson; but I know the learning won’t be productive after that time, anyway and the books will still be here tomorrow.
3) Take time to learn or practice something you love alongside your kids. Maybe it’s music or gardening; a certain time period in history or an ethnic style of cooking; maybe it’s a place on the map or a local sport. Just make sure it’s something that you love, mama. Because that passion? It’s contagious. And it’ll do more to make your kids lifelong learners than a thousand lessons that were read through yawns and/or tears.
4) On the flip side – don’t fall for the lie that you have to be an expert in a subject to be qualified to teach it. In nursing school we learned the theory of expert teachers vs novices; teachers who are experts in their field can actually make the worst teachers because their skill has become so second nature that they’ve forgotten what it was like to learn it. Novices can be the best teachers because their learning days are not far behind them. Example: between high school and adulthood, everything I ever learned about U.S. History quietly left my brain. (Seriously. It’s embarrassing how little I remember.) But it turns out that History has been my favorite subject to study with my children, because every page is something new. I am learning alongside them, and they feel my excitement.
5) Realize that you are always learning in one way or another. Educational reformer Charlotte Mason famously said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” For me, this means that the next great lesson is only as far away as our backyard. Don’t ever feel like you haven’t “done enough” in your homeschool; rather, realize that learning is all around you. Going to a pumpkin patch this fall? Your kids are observing a commercial garden at work. Trying out a new recipe? That’s a math lesson (all those fractions and teaspoons and cups). Writing thank-you letters or Christmas cards together? Yes, that’s a language lesson. Pat yourself on the back. If you are doing life together, you are learning together.
Don’t ever let yourself think that you’re doing your kids a disservice by homeschooling. If you’re anything like me, neither your home nor your lessons will be perfect. But if you’re giving your kids the gift of an education that’s formed within the context of relationships – relationships that learn and grow and never give up together – that’s a gift they’ll remember for a long, long time.