by Janny Jackson
I am a first generation homeschool mom.
Although I only have three years experience under my belt, I have learned a lot, and I’m happy to share these five things I wish I had known before starting to homeschool my little learners.
There Is No One Way To Homeschool
When someone like me who had no homeschool knowledge or background took a deep dive into the homeschool world suddenly, it was incredibly overwhelming. The homeschool community, and resources available for homeschoolers, is incredibly vast and rich. The pressure to have my kid’s education in my hands, and to feel like I had to get it right, was immense. It felt like a huge puzzle that I had to suddenly piece together, with no way of knowing what the big picture is supposed to look like.
But that’s the thing. That’s what I think every homeschooler should know first and foremost. There is no big picture. There is no one way to school your children. Biblical, secular, literature based, relaxed, structured, unschooling, game schooling, part year, year round, co ops, schooling inside, outside, on the road, working full time while homeschooling,.. there is so much FREEDOM in how YOU choose to school your kids.
The one caveat I would say to that is, know your state laws and what is required of you as a homeschool parent. Some states do not require record keeping and evaluations, while others do. Whether it is required or not, keeping a portfolio is highly recommended. I have a blog post on how to create a homeschool portfolio here.
It Will Not Look Like Public School
I had a public school upbringing. All I knew about school all the way up until I took that deep dive into homeschooling were the long drawn out days of public school with never ending homework, studying, and testing.
I had to unlearn everything I knew to be able to effectively teach my children.
It will take a couple years, yes years, to feel confident in your rhythm and the homeschool environment you want to create. I don’t say this to overwhelm, I say this to comfort. Sorry about all of the obnoxious bolding, but I WISH someone would have told me these things when I first began our journey. You CAN’T possibly know it all in the beginning! Even if you were raised homeschooled, and have it in your mind to homeschool your newborn child once at school age, you still have learning to do that you most likely won’t be able to learn without the experience. You will have to learn your teaching style, but most importantly, your kid’s learning style. Your teaching style will inevitably cater to how your child learns. And don’t even get me started on the never-ending resources available. Like I said before, it can become incredibly overwhelming when you are first getting started.
My advice is to focus on the basics. Focus on the core subjects. Hone in on learning those teaching and learning styles. You may/will have to jump around until you find something that works for you and your child, and that is OK! It is normal in the homeschool community to jump around to different curriculums as you learn those styles. Don’t try to force something that doesn’t work, it only leads to overwhelm, burnout, and unnecessary stress. It does not mean you are a failure and that you should quit. It takes time, and that is the beauty of homeschool. You can take all the time you need to to figure it out, because you have the freedom to do so.
Don’t Buy The Hype
What’s the first thing our generation does when wanting to learn about something new and to get first hand reviews about a product? We go to social media! The internet and social media have been an invaluable tool in helping steer me in the direction I want to go, making me feel less alone, and making it all seem possible.
But be aware, you will be absolutely inundated with a TON of information. Remember, everyone schools differently. People have different beliefs. Kids learn differently. And social media is NOT REAL. You will see that mom that only posts how everything is going perfectly, she has bought all the books and pretty props, and her kids are perfectly behaved, and you will start to compare. In that comparison, you will make yourself think that you have to have everything she has in order to have a “successful” homeschool, and you’ll buy it, only to realize you don’t actually have use for that book or product, or that it doesn’t fit your teaching style, or your kid’s learning style, and you will amass a library full of things that don’t fit your homeschool. Or you’ll just be so overwhelmed by homeschool in general that you forget you even have it. We have ALL been there.
Again, focus on the basics. Build your schooling year by year based off of how your kids learn, your teaching style, your schedule, etc., and you will eventually have created a rhythm and environment that fits you and your child’s needs.
This is mainly about resources you can purchase, but there are TONS of FREE resources available for homeschooling as well. Or buy previously owned/gently used, my personal favorite. There’s no rush.
If you don’t get anything else from me, please get this. Self discipline is KEY to accomplishing all of the above. No one told me how HARD it would be to make sure we get school done every day, and stay on track. With the freedom we have in homeschooling, I can choose if we do school that day. I can choose if I sleep in. I can choose if we skip that extra reading or that spelling quiz I don’t want to do with my kid. But hear this:
You won’t see progress without discipline.
That’s just the truth. No one is checking in with me and holding me accountable to make sure it gets done. My kids are too young to do anything independently, and even if they were older it is still my job to create the structure of our homeschool, and hold to it. It wasn’t until the end of my second year homeschooling that I gave myself a good swift kick in the behind and shaped up and began really taking this homeschool thing seriously. In our lackadaisical schedule I started to notice some things: my kids had no sense of a proper schedule, whether school was happening or not; their attitudes were poor when I did say we were doing school because we had fallen out of rhythm; and I wasn’t seeing the progress I should’ve been able to see in them, with reading, writing, spelling etc. My care-free attitude, read laziness, was affecting their learning, and their ability to retain the things they had learned, greatly.
Learn from me, please. If this is the road you choose to travel on, I’m so glad you have chosen this route, and it can be an amazing opportunity with immense amounts of growth and learning and strengthening of bonds within your home. BUT, it is not easy. You have to be prepared to hold yourself accountable, because as a homeschooler you are responsible for your little learners and their education, and it is not something that should be taken lightly.
Actively Seek Community
Having friends and community to get together with and bounce ideas off, as well as have adult conversations with, is SO important for encouragement and sanity. I feel incredibly blessed to have a handful of very close friends that I talk to regularly that also homeschool, and they, at times, have been my rock. They encourage me when I feel like I’m failing, they celebrate successes with me, they give me different perspectives on ideas I might have, and they let me vent when it’s just too hard and I don’t think I can do this anymore. I guarantee you every homeschool mom has said something like this before at some point in their homeschool career.
If you don’t have close friends that homeschool alongside you yet, that is okay! Social media can be a blessing to you in that sense as well. So many groups and co ops have been created for the sole purpose of homeschool moms getting together for each other, and giving their kids an outlet and group to befriend and grow with. Take the initiative and try one or two, when you are ready. Community is important, but just like any resource, do your research, figure out the environment you want to create in your homeschool, then reach out and try to connect with other like minded moms/groups.
Even though homeschooling has to be internally motivated in your own home, it’s so important to have others of a like mind to walk this journey along with you, for some external motivation.
I hope this post has been just as encouraging for you as it has been for me. I am so proud of this journey we are on, and I hope that one day you can say the same for yours as well.