So we just finished up the end of our second year of homeschooling, or should I say “road schooling”. The funny thing is, it doesn’t feel like we ever really “finish” school because a lifestyle of learning quickly became a way of life for our family when our littles were no longer done with school at 3:15 and dropped off back to me by the big yellow bus for a few short hours.
Their testing scores are in and they are not only learning but excelling! And honestly, the me of two years ago when we first started would maybe be a little shocked that we’ve survived this long because in the beginning let’s just say, I had my doubts. But mostly I feel like one feels at the end of the craziest roller coast ride – you know the one you were terrified to even get on in the first place? SURE you would die if you did, and then next thing you know you not only survived the upside down loops and stomach displacing drops – but oddly enough, you enjoyed them! You’ve long since forgotten the initial fear because all you can think about now is, “Oh. my gosh, we are doing it! We DID it! And we didn’t die!” Yeah, that’s sort of how the end of each homeschool year feels.
As challenging as taking your children’s education into your own hands can be, the thing is, no Nobel Peace Prize or Oscar for best supporting actress in the world could top the feeling of being the one to educate and grow tiny humans into healthy, thriving, successful, budding adults.
So what would I say to myself just two short years ago when I first had this wild hair, ridiculous idea that I might could snatch my kids from the grip of American culture and choose to take them back and let their MOM & DAD be the major influences in their lives? Oh, I have much I wish the me back then had known. Maybe it would have eased my fears just a bit. So here’s my letter to her…the one who had lost her mind and never got it back again – and maybe even to you.
Dear New Homeschooler,
You really have NO idea what in the heck you’re doing. In fact, you’ve been getting looks like you have five heads and you’re even starting to wonder if your good common sense has fallen off and gotten lost somewhere amongst some crazy, insane day of motherhood. But no, you aren’t crazy and you aren’t weird.
The truth is, there is something deep within so many mothers that was birthed the day we gave birth to our own first tiny human – the desire to grow and nurture tiny lives. And the crazy thing is, that desire doesn’t just up and leave us the day our children turn five and are old enough to be sent away for eight hours (or more) of their day, five days a week, while someone else
raises educates them – only to be returned to us long enough to make them a final meal and tuck them in so they can repeat the cycle all over again.
But for whatever reasons, out of necessity, lack of choice, information or confidence in ourselves that things could be different most moms learned well how to stomp out that feeling deep down in the pit of stomach that told us that there is something all wrong with sending our children away for 13 years to get ready to face the world as adults. But for those of us are can and are willing to believe there is a better way than letting society raise our children, here’s a few things we desperately need to know.
1. It’s not exactly a legislative act of Congress to take your kids out of school and create a homeschool
For most of us, just the thought of beginning is the worst part. But once you’ve made the decision to homeschool the very first thing you need to do is this 3 step process.
- Create a name for your homeschool. Maybe it sounds cheesy but every school MUST have a name in order to register as an official school with your state.
- Register your school with your state. While it isn’t hard to get start a homeschool, every state has it’s own unique website and rules homeschoolers must abide by. Click here for NC. Or Google “How to register a homeschool in ___________” (insert your own state for those in other states)
- Print out proof of your new homeschool registration and take to current school in order to unenroll your students. By law, you cannot just unenroll your kids from their current school without official proof that they will be enrolled somewhere else.
Viola! It really is that easy……well at least the getting started part is. 😉
2. The thought of homeschooling is much more daunting than the task
Now don’t get me wrong. It is hard work, and dedication and even tears on some days. And you must have a “why” to get you through the hard days. But mostly it is one of the most exhilarating feelings to teach your own children, watch them learn and grow right in front of your eyes and to know that you will be able to look back one day when they are ready to leave home and think, “Wow, it went by all too fast. But, I didn’t miss a thing. I was there right beside them the whole time.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better why than that.
3. YOU ARE CAPABLE of educating your kids!
While I do know that homeschooling isn’t for every one, anyone with enough resolve about why they want to do it, can do it. And no, you don’t have two college degrees with one being a masters in education, the patience of Mother Theresa and a magazine worthy homeschool room to give your kids a thriving, first rate education. You do need a decent amount of common sense, a healthy dose of commitment and a heart overflowing with love for your students. The thing is, no one on earth loves your littles like you do, therefore no one on earth is more qualified to teach them than you. So stop listening to the naysayers, questioning and doubting yourself and know that you are more than capable!
While buying one of those expensive, pre-packaged, grade level boxed curriculums might be the way to go for some – it usually only seems like the way to go for most. That is because all the prep work is done for you so it makes you feel like you won’t miss a thing. But let me just say, unless you plan on spending hours upon hours with their nose in the books and are okay with dealing with tears and a daily battle to get the to “do school” – you DO NOT want to buy into the homeschool companies hype that you need their “one size fits all” curriculum packages to cover all the bases for a solid education for your kids. It’s just not usually the case.
5. You will not know what you’re doing your first year
…or your second. Oh heck, maybe you’ll never be an expert. But I guarantee you, unless you’re doing nothing, your kids will learn lots. Probably even more than they would in traditional school. So if you want to make it past your first year of homeschooling, go ahead and throw out needing to feel like you’ve got it all together. Because you won’t – like, ever.
6. Don’t compare yourself to or try to copy other homeschooling moms or you’ll crash and burn
In the beginning I had a friend who homeschooled. She had a room set up just like a school room, she bought the expensive boxed curriculum and spent hours verbally teaching her kids like a normal classroom teacher. When we would get together and I would listen to her talk about all she does, let me just say – I was ready to RUN, not walk my children back to public school because it was very apparent that I was a big fat failure as a homeschool mom. After all, she had it all together, and I did not. She was doing WAY more work than me which in my mind translated into “My kids will be dumb forever. will never make it through college and earn a decent living one day which means they will have to live with us or be homeless.” Little did I know I was seriously on dangerous ground for a homeschooling mom. Comparing or trying to copy another families teaching/learning style will spell death to your own. It is hands down one of the fastest ways to get discouraged, over-whelmed and give up. Just don’t do it.
7. Build your own education/teaching philosophy.
Knowledge truly is power. In my opinion, the main reason so many homeschooling moms crash and burn is because they never invested the necessary time (reading, researching options) to gain enough information about their children’s different learning styles and ways to teach them which would shape their own personal philosophy about education. You can’t piggy back on someone else in this area. It won’t work for the same reason successfully educating a classroom of 28 students will never really work. I had just two children and don’t use the same curriculum or teaching style for either because if I did, they would HATE learning and therefore, they wouldn’t learn. (I will include links in my next homeschool post to books/websites, ect. to help guide your decision to build your own education philosophy.)
8. Develop your own love of learning and self-teaching
If you yourself don’t love to learn, then it isn’t likely you’ll be a great teacher for your own little students. After all, the best teachers aren’t necessarily the ones who stand in front of us and dump information down our throats, telling us what to learn, they are the ones who demonstrate how to learn. I know I don’t always tell my kids all that they need to know, but I am always making sure to strew their paths with every tool and opportunity to discover it for themselves. My son doesn’t know that the book he found on the coach about the planets, or the new Presidents game I laid out on the table was meant for learning.
9. Spend the first year (or two) getting to know your children’s unique learning styles.
Right off the bat this takes the pressure off of having to have everything figured out from the beginning. Maybe you are more in tune with your children than I was the day I yanked them out of public school and scooped them back up into my arms. But honestly, I didn’t even know much about what they had already learned in school….much less what their learning styles were. So we spent most of the first year getting “reacquainted” with each other again.
It is was in that first year that I learned that my 9 year old daughter is more of a traditional learner. Meaning, I can explain any new concepts she doesn’t understand from the directions, then she prefers to sit alone and do her workbook oriented lessons independently. She is a visual, independent learner. For my 7 year old son however, when I tried to teach him the same way, I would set a small stack of worksheets for the day in front of him only to watch him slide right out of his chair onto the floor like he was literally having a meltdown. I learned very quickly that he doesn’t learn that way. And unless I wanted to spend our school days with lots of tears, begging him to do his work, I better learn to teach how he learns real quick like. Little did I know, he is a kinesthetic/visual learner. So he needs me a bit more than she does.
This point also reinforces the idea that feeling the need to be concrete about curriculum choices in the first few years is a dreamy idea, but it isn’t likely it’ll work. At the end of, sometimes smack dab in the middle of a school year we re-evaluate what did and didn’t work for each child, throw out what didn’t, keep what did. Even with that and I’m constantly adding and trying new things. That’s just the process of how you create a curriculum that fits each child best! It’s a lot like putting pieces of a puzzle together, and that’s just part of the fun!
10. Don’t separate “school” and learning from every day life.
I could have read this statement in a book in the very beginning and it wouldn’t have meant as much to me as it does now. But the problem with “traditional school” is that the kids go to school for a set amount of hours per day and then all of sudden learning is over and it’s back to normal life. I believe this creates an image of school that is a huge detriment to a life long love of learning. But when you homeschool you discover that most of your time together is spent learning, whether you are doing actual workbook learning with a pencil or taking trips to the library, nature or science museums. Many many days we toss out the school books and just go to the library and read books on things the kids are interested in. Or we do science all day and end it with a fun experiment (usually something gooey) In this way it doesn’t feel like school but they are learning, and probably much more than any worksheet could ever teach.
This creates a love for learning that will last them well beyond SAT tests and graduation day. And after all, that’s what we are really going for in the first place.
Click here to check out a very helpful “Homeschool Q&A” I did a few months ago. Also, here are just a few of my favorite homeschooling resources to get you started! I will post lots more homeschool helps for you to come!