You’re thinking about homeschooling, aren’t you? Don’t be shy. I see you looking.
Whether you’re new to homeschooling, toying with the idea of homeschooling, or seeking to support a homeschooling family, you’re undoubtedly curious. I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s a huge learning curve associated with homeschooling, and it’s not what you’re thinking. It has less to do with curriculum and teaching, and much more to do with overcoming that model of what education “should” look like in your mind.
Here’s the scoop on what I WISH someone had told me before I started homeschooling:
- That socialization thing you’re worried about is a non-issue. REALLY. This was the biggest thing that made me resistant to homeschooling; however once I got started, I quickly realized that we have far more socialization opportunities as homeschoolers than our schedule can accommodate. In fact, it’s quite easy to be overscheduled! There are sports, activities, field trips, and enrichment classes (e.g., Brooks Museum, Zoo) that provide awesome opportunities for socialization in a focused way. We even do a homeschool Cotillion class! The amazing homeschooling community here equals tremendous opportunities to connect with other homeschooling families.
- School takes less time than you think (…but you’re constantly in “learning mode.”) We can finish an entire school day in much less time than it takes for “traditional” school days because we can focus on what we need to do and scrap the fluff. You might even like deschooling or unschooling! It took me a full year to realize that I didn’t have to run through EVERY item on a worksheet or answer EVERY question in a book with my kids. When my kids get it, we move on; if they don’t understand something, we have the flexibility to spend extra time on it without them feeling as if they’ve fallen short. There is no normative standard, and I like that a lot.
- Speaking of standards, testing and grades might look different, especially when your learners are young. Personally, I don’t provide grades to my kids at all, and they don’t really define themselves by a specific grade level because we adjust curriculum to fit their abilities. I do record their progress with my umbrella school, but my goal is to develop independent scholars who are not defined by their grades. We “practice”, but we only “test” once a year for standardized assessment. This might shift as they get older; however, right now, this works. I want to generate a desire for content mastery, and as it turns out, this is exactly what helps homeschoolers succeed in college.
- Let me pause to address the elephant in the room: You WILL have less “Me Time.” Your kids will be around more, but the dynamic shifts to accommodate “We Time” in a seamless way so that you aren’t as bombarded as you’d expect. There is more time, so there is less frenzied competition for that time. You’ll have to find what works for your family as you get into the groove, because it is different for each family. I find that having a regular “quiet time” each day helps my kids [and me] recharge.
- Your relationship with your kids will change. This took us a few months. It’s been amazing to see the changes in my kids. Instead of getting the “leftovers” from kids who’d been at school all day, I get them at their best. I learned more about my kids’ learning styles, and I became a better parent as I incorporated that into our homeschooling style. (Don’t be too impressed – I’m still a work in progress.)
- Selecting curriculum sounds OVERWHELMING and downright scary the first time around. After that, it might be THRILLING (and you’ll feel like a complete dork when that happens.) Almost every homeschooling mama has posted the euphoria of finding the perfect curriculum on her Facebook at some point. It is THAT EXCITING. Some of my favorite curriculum resources are Christianbook, Rainbow Resource, and Alpha Omega. You may also find it handy to check out reviews or one of the many homeschooling Facebook sites to ask questions. Remember, learning isn’t confined to books – get out there and get moving!
- You don’t have to be an expert on every subject that your child is learning. There are curriculum sets that spell out everything (and provide materials for each step). If you prefer to create something yourself, there are free resources online from Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. Last but certainly not least, you can outsource classes if you’re not comfortable teaching them. Many families use tutorials, co ops, individual courses, and/or hybrid formats (e.g., Veritas, Classical Conversations). For more local resources, check out this blog.
- Compare yourself to other homeschooling families. Then stop it, already. While it is helpful to see how other families homeschool, you might reach a point at which you feel inadequate if you rely on comparisons. Your family is different. Your reasons for homeschooling are different. What works for you will inevitably differ. The beauty of homeschooling is in that difference, so embrace it as you find what fits your family best. There’s no “one size fits all” homeschooling.
- Throw out all of your ideas about how a classroom “should” look. Yes, there are many homeschooling families with amazing and enriching formal classroom spaces in their homes. I’m not one of them. We homeschool all over the house, in the car (“car schooling”), and while traveling (“road schooling”). Nothing is off limits for learning purposes, from the grocery store to games to historical sites and museums. Many museums have days for homeschool families!
- You CAN work and homeschool … but you must be a time management ninja. Learn how to prioritize time, accommodate distractions, and tag team teach with others. In our family, my husband has been an incredible blessing to support this process. We also do light schooling in summer and weekends to allow for less pressure during the traditional school year. If you opt to work and homeschool (as if homeschooling isn’t enough work, right?), you will need to seriously consider shifting your schedule to allow enough time for both. And buy lots of coffee.
If you’re new to homeschooling and feel like a “deer in headlights”, you’re certainly not alone. Memphis has the most incredible homeschool community in the universe (totally biased here), and we’re here to help you get started.
Hey, if I can do it, you can do it!