1. Family life is not classroom life.
Before I started homeschooling I had a picture in my mind about how we would be able to peacefully move through all of our school subjects in one sitting. And then ten minutes into our first math lesson, the baby pooped. And then the toddler glued my shoe to the floor. A twenty minute lesson ended up taking thirty-five. After a few weeks of less than perfect school days, I realized that I was trying to create a classroom environment in my home. And I was becoming frustrated with the little interruptions of family life.
It took me a while to realize that my home is not a school. My children are not all the same age and working on the same thing at the same time. A teacher can set aside thirty minutes of time to complete a math lesson without interruption because a school is set up this way. But in a home, teething toddlers will demand your attention too. Older children will bicker with one another. A dishwasher will break and flood the kitchen.
Instead of feeling defeated and thinking you are not setting your children up to thrive when things go wrong, think about real-life work environments. Working adults have to constantly navigate around distractions. Co-workers stop in to chat. Managers email and want the latest report within twenty minutes. It is real life to have to stop what you are doing, pick up something else, and then go back to what you are working on. When this happens during your school lessons, your children are watching you to see how you handle unpredictability and they are gaining wonderful life skills!
2. Set a schedule that works for your family.
Homeschooling is a little out of the box so it might feel weird to break away from the typical September-May schedule. It might even feel weird to break away from the typical 5-day school week. But you are in charge of your homeschooling adventure so you can set up a schedule that helps your family thrive. This might be something you adjust after you try it for a few months.
A lot of moms set up a schedule before school begins and by October feel burnt out. You have permission to change your schedule as soon as it stops serving you. Some families thrive by doing school first thing in the morning every morning and do not allow any sort of interruption during the week. Some families work around weekly extracurricular activities and their school time varies each day. Some families like to go to school year-round.
Our schedule has changed as our family dynamic has changed. I set up our school schedule after observing my children and noticing when they naturally were ready to sit down and focus. We used to sit down at the table right after we finished breakfast, but my kids were so excited to play with their toys that their schoolwork was rushed and the quality of their work was poor. Now I allow them to play outside for a while to burn off steam before we sit down to begin and their focus has improved! If I would have stuck to our previous schedule we would have battled our way through this school year.
3. It is ok to toss a curriculum mid-year.
Sometimes we don’t know which curriculum will be a good fit for our family until we try it. I wrote a little more about that here. If something isn’t working for your family, ditch it. You set the tone for the day. If you dislike what you are doing, you can’t expect your child to be excited about it. If your kiddo isn’t thriving with the teaching style in the curriculum you are using, find a different one that better matches his needs.
4. Do not fall into the comparison trap.
Instagram has allowed us to have a peek inside the homes of our families and friends. But when we are scrolling, our brain isn’t able to tell us that what we are seeing is just the highlight reel. I love to use Instagram to get inspiration and learn about new books and ideas, but if it becomes a place where I start to feel inadequate about my life I know that it is time to put the phone away.
There will always be a new curriculum hot off the press that you wish you had. A family you know will have the latest gadget and it will make you feel like your budget is not enough. You will see kids reading years ahead of your own kids. Comparison is the thief of joy and will make you feel very small if you allow it to.
You are blessed with the children you’ve been given. You will have to teach them very differently than the lady next door. Pretty curriculum doesn’t always mean that it’s better. Your kids don’t need a house filled with educational toys and gadgets. They need you.
5. You are perfectly equipped to teach your child.
You taught your child how to speak properly. You taught him how to tie his shoes. You were there when he learned how to hold a fork properly and when he rode a bike for the first time. So why do you think you aren’t capable of teaching him how to multiply? Your qualifications to teach don't come from a degree in Education. You are qualified to teach your children because you know them better than anyone else does. You know what makes them tick. You know about their quirks. You know how to juggle the sibling dynamics and how to pull away right before a meltdown happens. You know what embarrasses your children and you know how to speak to their love languages.
Textbooks are set up to guide your child through the academic content so you aren’t walking into this blindly. They tell you what to teach and when to teach it. But when you sit down and make a plan for your family, you will see that homeschooling is so much MORE than just academic content. Creating a family culture is something that only you can do. And you’ve been doing it since the day you became a mom so don’t doubt yourself now.
6. Set realistic expectations for your child to master.
School is the only place where we take a group of people who were born within a 12 month span and expect them to master the same things at the same time and at the same pace. I cringe at the phrase “grade level” because it can make kids feel like they aren’t enough when they aren’t meeting expectations.
When my son was in 1st grade, his stack of textbooks ranged from 1st grade – 5th grade material depending on the subject. This is normal for humans! We naturally move through some content quickly, and other subjects take us a little more time to practice and master.
Resist the temptation to push your child through a difficult subject at a pace that isn’t reasonable because the word “grade level” is driving you. Accept where he is and love him through it. You WILL see improvement with hard work and dedication but it might not be at the pace you originally thought it would be.
7. Give yourself grace.
As a homeschooling mom, you are wearing many hats. You are lesson planning for multiple grades, preparing 3 meals a day, scheduling appointments, and trying to maintain some sense of order in your home. It’s overwhelming sometimes because everything happens in the same space. Make sure you are nurturing your heart and feeding your mind so you aren’t running on empty. This post addresses how to figure out your priorities to make sure your cup is filled.
8. Write down your WHY.
If there is a whisper in your ear telling you to homeschool your children, don’t run away from it. Lean into it. Why is this lifestyle so appealing to you? What are you hoping to accomplish within your family? What are the hopes and dreams that you have for your children? Write all of this down and save it. There will be days when you will be frustrated. There will be days when life is hard. It will be tempting to throw in the towel and quit.
If you eventually discern that homeschooling is no longer for you, that is ok! But don’t make that decision in a heated moment of frustration. On the hard days pull out your piece of paper that has your WHY clearly defined and you will see beyond the moment. You will be reminded why you chose this life for your family. And you will see how far you’ve come.
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