My family and I began our homeschool journey last year, which is much different than how some may have begun. We didn’t do it from day one. In fact, it was a somewhat abrupt life change after I left full-time employment, but one that we felt aligned better with our core values and principles. And now I simply cannot imagine not doing it. It’s no surprise that the number of homeschoolers has grown since COVID and is now bordering on matching the number of kids in mainstream education. Florida is one of the top three states with the most kids homeschooled.
When I first began, I was nervous, anxious, and even doubtful that this was even the right choice for me and my family. If you’re feeling like you’re in a similar position or even still considering homeschooling but are not sure yet, I want to share some of these nuggets that I learned from other homeschool mamas, and through podcasts, books, and endless research, in hopes that it might give you the jump-start you need to get through this school year… or make a quick switch right now!
Keep It Simple
Find a curriculum that you think may work for you. Do your research. Look at example pages or get your hands on a friend’s actual teacher’s manual or workbook. Ask questions in local homeschool Facebook groups. And then don’t look back. Don’t second guess yourself or shift midyear unless something is drastically not working. You can always make small shifts and improve upon things throughout the year, but big changes like curriculum can be too disruptive for kiddos. And my advice from a lot of other homeschool moms is that you’ll generally know if it’s a good fit (go with your gut!) by going through the above steps to find one. You don’t want to end up with piles of partially used curricula that you can’t even resell.
All of that being said, there’s no harm in adding in supplementary curriculum or changing up your routine to make it better serve your schedule. For instance, we started attending art classes at a local place offering homeschool classes during the weekday mornings because a friend told me about it. After all, that is one of the perks of homeschooling — you have ultimate control over your schedule.
Find Your Tribe
There are so many different types of homeschool co-ops out there. Some meet locally in the same spot each week and learn as a group. Others meet at a new location each week, usually the same day of the week, finding different learning opportunities throughout the city of Jacksonville, of which there are so many. Or maybe you’d like to do a combination of both! We did the latter last year and now we are switching things up with the former method because I believe my boys will benefit from a bit more consistency. You know your kids best, and you will find that perfect formula. Just be patient with yourself.
Socialization is important, but don’t forget that kids interacting every day with checkout clerks at the grocery store (making this part of your day teaches them life skills!) counts, too! And so does soccer practice or youth group at church. However, if you can get together with other homeschooled kids on a regular basis, especially if they’re coming from a mainstream school setting, I think there are benefits for sure.
Give Yourself Grace
We know our kids best. As parents and especially moms, we often know when our kids are sick or upset about something before they even tell us. I’ve heard it said that is what makes us the most equipped to be their teacher. I’ve also heard it said that this will be a tough position to be in because kids are most vulnerable at home with their parents. (Who do they come crying to?) This is also true, but I still think there is a way to create enough structure at school and still be their safe space. It may take you a while to get there, but you’ll find your perfect balance.
One of the homeschool podcasts I listen to said that at first, she was hesitant to homeschool because her boys fought all the time. But then she thought, if she can get her kids to get along with their siblings, then they’ll probably be able to get along with anybody! And isn’t it true that we are ultimately responsible for how they turn out? That can be a scary and overwhelming thought. Or you can reshape it like that mom did and think, “How blessed am I to be able to influence my kids throughout the day, every day?”
Do you have a workout regimen? This is part of my daily routine because it brings me great joy, and bonus, I know it’s good for me. But am I motivated to do it every day? Heck no. Sometimes I hop on the ‘gram and check out what others did for their workouts that day before I get started. Or I write out the workout on my whiteboard while blasting music in my garage gym, long before the desire presents itself. And that’s okay. I still get it done, and once I get started, guess what? I usually end up enjoying it.
The same is true for schooling at home. Some days you will have no motivation. Some days your kids will have no motivation (maybe most days). Or maybe they’re excited to start, but the luster wears off by October (that’s what breaks are for!). You have to forge ahead, keep going, and find some tricks that keep both you and them going. Maybe you need a 10-minute dance break or musical chairs. Or maybe all of you need a snack break before lunch (plus more caffeine for Mom!), or you need to move lunch up sooner. Personally, I listen to podcasts throughout the week, and read books when I can to remember why I chose to do this in the first place. Which leads me to arguably the most important point I’ll make…
Remember Your Why
You can read my first blog to understand the reasons why we started homeschooling, but a lot of it had to do with how my oldest was beginning to view school. To summarize briefly, with the new onslaught of required state testing, his spark had faded. As kids grew older, bullying presented itself. And outside influences on the long bus rides were a huge concern for us, to name just a few. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this now long-winded post, homeschooling really aligned with our core family values and beliefs. Being able to instill those values in my kids and pour into them every day was such a blessing and a gift. And when I began unpacking the school system as a whole and what it’s evolved into, it truly began to blow my mind. Not everyone will agree with my last sentence, which brings me to my final point…
Ignore the Haters
Haven’t met any haters yet? Oh, they’re out there. They can take the form of an old aunt who is quick to voice her opinion at a family picnic, or that nosy neighbor down the street. Your communication style or mood that day will determine how you choose to respond, whether it’s always being on the defensive or just living your life unapologetically. I think it’s possible to balance both styles in your responses, depending on the receiving party. Since the age of people speaking their minds in the digital world has been off the chain, it can get ugly on the internet, too. But I always like to ask people to come from a position of empathy and understand our situation. In general, we need to do that more as a society rather than coming from a place of judgment.
If you haven’t encountered any haters yet, just know that they’ll be there — when you post about a field trip, change your curriculum, or at the end and start of each school year, waiting to comment on your Facebook post. And you can let it bug you, or you can let it go. I always try to do the latter. Now entering my second year of homeschooling, I am still uncertain if I’m doing enough. But in the past year, the amount we’ve grown together as a family, and how close I have seen my boys become, makes me want to press on. I see the spark back in my oldest’s eyes and I love watching them discover something new or want to research something on their own accord. And that, my friend, is what makes it all worthwhile.
Homeschool Resources: These are books I have personally read or listened to on audio or accounts I follow and can recommend firsthand.