Hindsight is 20/20
My dad likes to remind me that hindsight is 20/20 anytime I am lamenting over a choice I might have made differently if I had only known then what I know now. There are some truths about homeschooling that I wish I had known when I began this journey that I hope can be of encouragement to families just beginning their homeschool experience.
I’ve met several families in the last few months who are in their first year of homeschooling. Although I’d prefer to think of myself as “young” the reality is that I’m considered a “veteran” homeschooler by others because I’ve been homeschooling since 2001 (you can do the math!). I was asked last fall to be on a panel of veteran homeschool moms for a homeschool co-op discussion. While I was flattered to be asked, I was also horrified to think I was THAT OLD! When my family began this journey our public library only had about three books about homeschooling. And I didn’t personally know anyone who actually homeschooled.
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Here are 10 things I wish I had known when I started homeschooling:
- Don’t think that it’s always going to be rainbows and unicorns. It will be ugly and messy, sometimes for long stretches of time. Give yourself and your kids grace when there are bad days and bad attitudes, frustration and fussing.
- Don’t give up just because it’s hard; it really will be worth it in the end. Nothing worthwhile is easy. Think about why it’s really tough. Do you need to change curriculum? Maybe you need to switch up your schedule? Or maybe your family just needs a break from the regular routine with a game day or nature study day.
- Don’t be afraid to use the resources in your community. Get extra help with your little ones and hire a homeschooled high school student as a mommy’s helper while you work with your older kids. Ask retired homeschool moms about tutoring. Look into after-school classes like an art or pottery class at a museum. Maybe your child needs some special services such as speech or occupational therapy. (Read these articles to find out what to do if you are worried about your child’s speech or langauge.)
- Don’t start kindergarten a year early at age four; let them enjoy their childhood. Check out the book, Better Late than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore for research based reasons to not start formal schooling at 4 or 5 years of age. I started my second daughter in formal kindergarten book work at age four because she’d already taught herself to read and add and subtract mentally. She didn’t have any problems with academic schoolwork, but when she graduated from high school, just having turned seventeen, we didn’t feel she was quite ready for dorm life. (It turned out okay in the end though as she took a gap year, worked several jobs, and lived at home–and we bought her a puppy–can’t take puppies with you to the dorm!.)
- Don’t compare your family or children to others. That mom that looks like she has it all together? She doesn’t. We all have stuff that we’re dealing with; some of us just hide it better. Don’t let comparison and FOMO steal your joy.
- Don’t be afraid to ditch a curriculum that isn’t working for your family. Maybe you selected a curriculum because of all the positive reviews from the homeschool community or how nice the display was at the homeschool convention only to discover that you and your kids want to cry every time you pull it out! Use samples online to experiment with different choices to find the right fit for each of your children.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Schedule regular times to draw support from other families with similar interests. Make sure that you and your kids are regularly filling your buckets. Keep it simple, like an hour at week at the park with friends, so that it doesn’t just become another THING you have to do.
- Don’t forget that kids learn in different ways and at different paces. Different homeschooling styles will mesh better with different learning styles. Find the one that best fits with your child’s style. I used the same curriculum for my two oldest, but discovered with my third child, that one type of curriculum doesn’t fit all the kids in a family. He needed a more hands-on, immersion style instead of a rigid, boxed curriculum set.
- Don’t overbook your schedule. Figure out how much time your family needs at home to complete schoolwork and then schedule outside activities around the times you’ve dedicated to schoolwork. Balance is key. My family prefers activities in which everyone can participate (like 4-H) instead of having 3 kids on 3 different sports teams with 3 different schedules.
- Don’t worry about “messing up.” Make your educational decisions with prayerful consideration for your child’s best interests and give yourself grace when mistakes are made. I mess up plenty every day and so far my two oldest daughters still turned out great!