Today marks the thirteenth day of my second year of homeschooling my youngest son, who is in the sixth grade. My son is happy, thriving and enjoying the whole process of learning. However, if you were a fly on the wall this time last year, you would have witnessed a frustrated, defeated kid who fought me tooth and nail getting through the curriculum. Honestly, it took until probably January for us to finally start gelling in this homeschooling journey. I want to share a few things that I learned my first year of homeschooling. I pray that if you are a mama who is new to the homeschooling world like myself, or are considering the homeschooling option, that it encourages you.
Homeschooling is not school at home. I know that may seem a little strange, but it is true. I come from an education background. That’s what I went to college for. I spent the last ten years in the public-school system working as a basic skills intervention aid. I worked with children in kindergarten and first grade that were identified as needing remedial help to exit at grade level. I had very definite training and ideas on what education looked like. I tried to implement that at home with my son. I had access to all the curriculum from work and that is what I used to teach him. I worked part time in the morning and then happily taught him in the afternoons. My son, on the other hand, he was not having it. It was not until weeks of crying fits (both of us!) and high levels of frustrated angst (again, not just him…) when he yelled, “I hated these stupid books and junk at school! I thought it was supposed to be better at home!” that I stopped in my tracks and re-evaluated what we were doing and why we were doing it. This leads me to number two.
Homeschooling is learning at home. I know, I know, you learn at school. True, but just stay with me. The public-school system is filled with amazing teachers. It really is. However, it is very regimented and filled with one child fits all standards. Regardless of how amazing the teachers are, in a class of 25 kids, there are going to be kids that just don’t fit that one size fits all mold, and they are going to get lost in the flow. That’s my kid. He hated the classroom and consistently complained for years about it. Honestly, that was very hard for me to grasp. I have two boys, and with my oldest, we like to joke that he would spend the night in school if he could. He just began his freshmen year at our local, full time vocational high school, studying IT. He still loves the classroom, even at this level. He just loves the process of learning. He thrives in the classroom environment. I had a lightbulb moment when my youngest cried out about the books. He wasn’t me, he wasn’t my oldest son, and he wasn’t a kid who thrived in a classroom setting. It made him miserable and yet, here I was, trying to force him into a classroom setting at home. Hence, I had to find a way for him to thrive at learning in a way that fit him. This leads to my next thing I learned.
Homeschooling is the freedom to be flexible. I spent hours and hours lesson planning, only to have my plans come completely unraveled in one day. If I didn’t get to finish something on the list, I then became overwhelmed and unraveled as well. “Oh, no!! I am behind…my son is going to be behind!” It took me a while to take a deep breath and go with the flow. It’s good to have a generalized idea of your plans, yes. However, the beauty of homeschooling is the freedom you have. Didn’t finish the lesson? It’s ok. Pick it up the next day. Your child is having a bad day? Scrap the day, start fresh the next. Feel like having school on the porch? At the park? With the cat in your lap and a snack at your side? Go for it. And, pssst…here’s a secret: You don’t have to use textbooks. What??? Nope. You can tailor your lessons in a way that suits your child’s learning style. There’s a huge resource of things to educate him or her with and that doesn’t have to include the standard textbook. This year, we have a math text and that’s it. I am a huge fan of notebooking, which I will share about soon.
Homeschooling provides opportunity for you to really get to know what makes your child tick. I like to think I am a good parent, within the grace God gives me daily. I love my children deeply, I strive to be sure they know who the Lord is and grow in Him in a way they will want to know who the Lord is. I provide them with fun experiences and activities. I have worked hard to make sure my kids know they can always talk to me about anything. Friends, I did not know my son loves the American Revolution and the years immediately following. I mean, with a deep, God given, passion. We read a book on George Washington and my boy lit up like a light bulb. He filled with joy and was eager to learn anything and everything about this period. He can tell you the timeline, the players, settings, battles, etc. He said, “I always liked it. It’s the one thing I did like in school but we didn’t spend too much time on it.” For the last three months of school, I used that love of American Revolution and used it to teach grammar, writing concepts, vocabulary, etc. It was awesome.
Homeschooling is not a community filled with weird children without any social skills. Take all your preconceived notions about what homeschooling is and throw them out the window. Look at the facts. Three percent of the children in the US are homeschooled, with a nearly 7% increase each year. There’s currently nearly 2 million children in our country who are homeschooled. That’s a lot of children. These children consistently outscore their public-school peers on standardized testing, SATs, etc., and go on to flourishing college and life careers. Homeschooling is a viable choice. While a lot of parents cite the ability to provide a Christian education as reasoning for homeschooling, there are just as many “secular” homeschoolers, who cite wanting to provide a safer environment than a school environment (bullying, etc.) for their children. (Stats found on the National Center for Education Statistics website) In short, homeschoolers come from all walks of life and homeschool for a variety of reasons. It is not an isolated community; you are not alone. Your child will not turn out weird, without any friends, should you choose to homeschool. Plug into a co-op, meet likeminded people on the same path as you. I guarantee you there is a thriving homeschool community in your backyard and you aren’t even aware of it.
These are the top few things that I learned last year in what I like to call, “My Crash Course to Homeschooling,” year. Please don’t think that I have this thing locked down, either. I don’t. It’s a work in progress, and it is hard. However, I know I can do it. Yes, I have a background in education. In the scheme of things, that is not what makes homeschooling a fit for us; that I have “formal” training. What makes it fit, is that God gave me my children to raise. He entrusted me with the blessing of my kids and equipped me with what I need to raise them. He thinks I can do it. He thinks me worthy of this task. The task of teaching them about Him. Really, that’s my command from Him. He wants me to raise them in His Word to serve Him. If I am equipped to do that, then I am most certainly equipped to teach them math, grammar and the likes. If you have this calling on your heart, follow it. You can do it. He has your back.