I see it time and time again. Desperate pleas for help from new homeschool moms come across the feed of our local homeschool group.
“I am pulling my son out of second grade tomorrow, and I don’t know where to start.”
“We are thinking about homeschooling our kids in the fall, and I need to know what curriculum to buy for a fifth grader?”
“I’ve got to get my junior out of school — she is miserable. How can I make sure she gets her Algebra credits?”
You are out there — moms who have made a decision to homeschool — and you are not alone. Some of you agonize over it for weeks and months, a few have to make a rushed decision because of a bad situation at school.
You may be scared and unsure and wondering if you are going to ruin your kids by doing this.
Let me tell you right now, you are not.
But I know that is a hard thing to take at face value. So let me give you five things to keep in mind to help you on your journey:
1. You do not need to be a “professional” teacher to teach your child.
Anyone who tells you that you can’t is just protecting their own job security. I taught for seven years. I was the new teacher of the year for the seventh largest school district in the entire country.
I was considered a good teacher, which basically meant I was good at managing a classroom, content delivery to a group using a prescribed set of rules, and organizing lesson plans.
Yet I have learned so much more about teaching since I left the “profession.” My college courses only taught me the version of education the current establishment wanted me to know. They never touched on the myriad of other, older and more time-tested methods of education like the classical model or the Charlotte Mason Method. My professional development was woefully incomplete.
You can read or listen to this post.
Since leaving teaching, I have homeschooled myself on how to be a better teacher. I read books, listen to audio lectures, watch TED talks, attend conventions, and even participate in a form of peer review with other homeschool moms.
You can do it too! Anything you really want to learn, you can find out for yourself — no Degree required. And that includes how to be a better teacher.
2. You will like being around your kids much more than you think you will
Yeah, I know that fear is probably rattling around in the back of your head. You are dedicated to doing what is best for your child, but you secretly wonder if you will be able to stand to be around them all day.
I know the question is there, because you know the number one thing people tell me when they find out I homeschool? All together now homeschool moms: “I could never stand being around my kids all day.”
I am not going to lie, there are days that it are harder to do. There are days these sweet little monsters drive me up the wall. I tell people that I love homeschooling my kids in the macro sense if not always in the micro sense.
We are human — fallen and in need of grace. So yeah, it’s going to happen. But let me let you in a little secret — the kid you homeschool will be totally different from the kid you deal with during the homework hour(s) each night.
That kid, the one who drives you crazy every.single.evening (stop please and think about how sad this really is) has bottled up almost every emotion all day long in order to ensure his own survival.
He is tired from constant social interaction and stimulation. He is tired from hours of holding his growing body still in a desk and struggling to overcome distractions. He is tired from having to perform tasks that have little meaning and relevance. He is tired because activities ran late last night, and the bus came early this morning. And he knows you are a safe outlet for his tiredness and frustration. Even if he lets loose on you, you are going to continue to love him.
I see the worst of my kids, sure. But I also see the best of them. I see ALL the good moments, the lightbulb moments of understanding and the sweet moments of compassion to another human.
Yes, they still save their worst for me, because I am that safe harbor, but I also get their best — their funniest, their smartest, their most creative. And I get it every day.
3. School doesn’t have to look quite so school-y.
Please, right now, banish the image from your mind of your child sitting neatly in a chair, pencil in hand, filling in the pages of a workbook for eight hours a day. It’s not realistic. It’s not necessary. And if you try it you guys will end up fighting like cats and dogs before the second day is over.
Let me tell you a secret. No matter what you have seen, eight hours a day of productive work doesn’t even happen in schools. Not even close.
Learning can happen in so many places and can look so different from what we have been lead to believe. Learning can happen on the floor, the porch, the couch, the backyard, the museum, the kitchen counter, the car, even the park.
It can take the form of a workbook (they do have their place), a good book to share, an audio book or lecture, a video, an experiment, a project, or even just a conversation. Learning can even be initiated by your own child and not something that you have prescribed for the day.
4. It isn’t a race — really!
If you take your kid from school on Friday don’t feel compelled to start homeschooling on Monday. Take a day off. Take a week off. Take off two — I give you permission!
Get your bearings. Go to the library, check out a stack of interesting books, and for the first few weeks just read to each other. Talk about the good bits. Try one of the experiments. Look on the internet for more information. Go grocery shopping. Make brownies and double the recipe. Email someone about your exciting new life.
Oh my goodness! Do you see what you just did? You did math and writing and discussion and reading and literature and learned about all kinds of things from those books. You are not behind!
Behind whom, I ask you? Learning is not a race. The only way you fail at education is to stop doing it when you turn eighteen. The only finish line to a life well-learned is dying, folks.
5. Every day is a do-over.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret right now — you are going to have some hard days. There are going to be tears — yours and theirs. Why?
Because you both care so much about what you are doing, and you care about pleasing each other. Because learning new things stretches us and is hard sometimes. Because someone didn’t get enough sleep or woke up on the grumpy side of the bed.
Some days it may get so bad that it is just better to let it go for the day. Run outside to play! And you can, because the sun will come up the very next morning and you get a fresh start, a chance to try again. An opportunity to forgive and be forgiven.
Repeated tears or bad days need to be addressed with a change in tactics, but for the most part, the tough times disappear with the sunrise, and you get the chance to try things again. Embrace it with a fresh attitude, a willing smile, a bit of silliness and tackle the task one more time.
You CAN do this new homeschool mom!
The number one factor that will determine your success is your motivation to succeed. If you WANT to be a good teacher to your kid, and are willing to do the hard work necessary to make it happen, then you will be successful. They will be successful.
It’s that simple, because it’s really not that hard. (So profound I know, but so true.) Your love for your child and your desire to overcome obstacles will drive you to find the self-education or outside resources you need to make sure your child learns.
And that, homeschool mom, is the only thing you really need to know after all.
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Beautiful post! And not only relevant to new homeschool moms– your highlights helped remind me of some of the reasons why we are homeschooling. I especially loved the part about enjoying your kids more than you think you will.
Thanks Kristen. Yes, I need to hear it myself often. I think that is why I write it. To help me remember. 😉
This is the best new homeschooler encouragement or just thinking about it encouragement post I’ve ever seen. Great job!
Thanks Cassie! I appreciate it.
Thank you!! We are going to “start” next year with Kindergarten, and I get cold feet every other day. 🙂 All the doubts keep running through my head. It doesn’t help that we got into our “charter school of choice”, but I KNOW that that is not the path we are supposed to take…just so tempting. Ugh. Thankfully, my husband is my biggest cheerleader and keeps reminding me that we can do this! It is also nice to hear it from someone who is in the trenches already. I LOVE your blog and gain so much wisdom and so many great ideas from it! Thank you for sharing!!
Thank you Amy. You made my day. I am so glad you have a supportive husband. That helps so much. The doubts will never really go away — we are human after all — but I know they are better off here than anywhere else.
Nice! This will be great for some friends I was just “playdating” with. Heading off to share your post now…
Thanks for sharing. Hope they enjoy it.
Thank you, Pam! I was home schooled myself so I *know* a lot of this really, but I’m still scared when it comes to starting with my own kids (who are 4 1/2 and 1 1/2). Mostly I’m scared that I won’t get it together enough to cover what I think I should, and that they won’t be willing to learn from me. Good to be reminded that it’s never perfect and that’s OK… and that we can keep on making adjustments and figuring out what works for us.
No one ever gets a “perfect” education, that’s true!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this beautiful post. I pulled my daughter out of school just 4 days ago, and they have been the best days yet. She was the child who had a meltdown as soon as she walked in the door after school. We would argue through homework for hours. We were both miserable. You are so right, it took everything in her to keep it together while at school, that she had nothing left at the end of the day. Thank you for your encouragement. God Bless!
I am so glad things are going well Shannon! There will be bad days, no doubt, but even when there are I remind myself of all the benefits to what we do and it keeps me moving on. I will pray for you on your homeschool journey!
Absolutely! Thank you for saying this so beautifully. I thank God every day that we get a do over!
Yes! And some days I need them so much more than others. 😉
This is a beautiful post! A great reminder for ‘old’ homeschoolers as well as good advice for new ones. Thank you so much!
I think that’s why I write some of these things Mary, because I need the message most of all. It really helps when I can come back and read and be reassured again, I agree.
I think these are some great points, especially “School doesn’t have to look quite so school-y”. I think a lot of homeschoolers think they have to imitate a school classroom in order to have school. It’s great when homeschoolers take advantage of the freedom they have as homeschoolers!
I think it’s an important point that “Learning can even be initiated by your own child”. When homeschooled children are given the opportunity to initiate learning, then they can take advantage of being able to pursue their interests and talents as homeschoolers in a way that no kids in school have the opportunity to do, and it’s good when kids can become experts in their own areas of interest. It’s the person with different knowledge and skills who can make a special and unique contribution to the world, not the people who only know exactly the same things as everybody else in their school.
” It’s the person with different knowledge and skills who can make a special and unique contribution to the world” — I like that! Yes, most of us have thirteen years of conditioning to overcome to shake off the shackles of our public school past. We former school teachers have even more of a hinderance. But it is so worth the effort to step outside the box and see all the different ways that kids can learn. Thanks for stopping by.
This was so very refreshing. My daughter is only 3 years old but the decision to homeschool was made years ago. In fact I was a senior in high school and was being tutored for most of the year because of a car accident. When I returned to school, I realized that I had learned more in 4 months with 2 tutors than I had in the previous 3 years of school. Even though I have been steadfast in my decision, I have had moments when I questioned whether or not I could actually be a successful homeschooler. My husband and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and for 20 of those years, we talked about “some day” having kids. But I had been told I would not be able to have children when I was 13 years old. I hoped the doctors were wrong but as the years rolled along and nothing happened, even when we did fertility treatments for over a year, I figured sadly they were correct. Then when I was 43 years old, I found to my total and complete shock that I was pregnant. Knowing that this would be my only pregnancy and child, I have tried to embrace and enjoy the good times and the rough ones too. I can never understand how people say they couldn’t be around their kids all day. That was one of the reasons homeschooling was so appealing to me.
Oh Maria, what a lovely story. I’m so happy for you. Yes, my frustration with high school and all the time I felt like I wasted there, was a huge factor in our decision to homeschool as well. There are some great resources online about homeschooling an only child. You guys are going to do great!
Thank you for your sweet encouragement. I have a 15 month old boy and I so badly want to homeschool him, but I have tons of fear because I didn’t do well in school and dropped out of college twice because I hated it and didn’t want to waste anymore money. My heart feels very strengthened and determined to learn and grow alongside of my little guy after reading this post. Thank you again for sharing;)
You can do it Leslie! There is no one who wants more for your child to succeed than you do. Yes, grow alongside your little guy. Now that you have the motivation (him!) start to learn for yourself. I invite you to check out http://scholesisters.com. One thing we will be talking about there is mom’s own learning and how we can grow as parents to help our kids get what they need.
Great advice, well written. It is a paradigm shift for most moms, so I hope they are open-minded enough to trust that they don’t have to do school at home. 🙂
Oh My! This post is fantastic!
The section on being with your kids all the time made me cry!!
Love it x
Thanks for the motivating message! I needed that. I’m giving it a go in 2 weeks?
I have been homeschooling for a couple years now, and I love it. There are some rough days, but, mostly great days. This article almost had me in tears, it is so true. Thanks so much for the motivation. Kudos to all the hardworking homeschooling mamas out there! 🙂
You are welcome! Thanks for reading.
I am not sure what platform you use for your podcast, but I always have trouble with them. I listen to lots of podcasts, but yours always take so much time to load that I usually just give up. I have an Android, however, I don’t have problems with anybody else’s podcasts. I thought maybe I wasn’t the only one and should mention this.
yes! yes! yes! thank you so much for developing this fabulous vlog idea.
Thank you so much for this post!
I pulled my two boys out of public schools two years ago. They had just finished 4th and 6th grade. I began homeschooling them and the first year went pretty well. The second year, well not so much. See, we had construction going on most of the year. Which in fact should not have taken so long but it did. We tried doing school but with all the hammering and loud noises was just distracting us. Plus, I had to be out there to pretty much baby sitting the workers to make sure they were doing it right. Needless to say all my boys done during that time was play minecraft all day long. Now that we started a new year (July 25,2016) they don’t want to do anything but play minecraft. I have tried to get them to work on Discoveryk12 or khan academy but they complain that it is stupid “why do we have to watch videos of dead people” (history), they don’t want to do any of the writing . They say make it fun and we will do it! I have tried to tell them that I can’t make everything fun. Public school wasn’t fun but yet they did the work! The reason I wanted them to do those two programs is because it was at the grade levels they are suppose to be at. I gave them the PASS test and one completely failed all three tests. I know he really didn’t try very hard. He did so well in math and science in public school. Although science was not on the test. Now, I am trying to figure what I am suppose to do, what level are they suppose to be at, do I go by public school standards or what? I’m lost, confused and very frustrated. Any advice ?
Pauline, That sounds like such a difficult place to be!
I think first, I would encourage you to take a few moments to rest your mind. Don’t be afraid.
You have to start where your children are. Don’t worry about the grade level or the test scores. You have to look at where they are, where you want end up, and consider the steps you need to get there. Don’t rush, but make a plan. This might help: http://freehomeschoolplanner.com
Community Care Coordinator
We, homeschool moms, get in the trenches everyday, often times ignoring the heart issues we have ourselves or maybe not even knowing how to help ourselves out of them. Thanks for a useful article!
Thank you so much for this post!
We are strongly considering homeschooling our daughter. She is only 13 months right now, so we have some time to iron out the details. I would be the primary homeschool teacher and my husband mentioned wanting to help once or twice a week. But, a concern of his is how the parent-educator role will impact their father-daughter relationship. He and I need to discuss this more, but he has been waffling with the idea and mentions, “part of me wants to just be her Dad.” I’ve gathered he’s worried that being a homeschooling parent will negatively impact their relationship in some way, possibly not letting her “relax” around him. In other words, an inability to switch the student-teacher relationship off and the father-daughter relationship on.
Have you encountered this concern with other parents? And should this be a concern of his/ours?
Meredith. I can’t point you to anything specific, but I really don’t think it is a concern. As a parent he is already your child’s first teacher. The fact that he is teaching her something slightly different and more bookish doesn’t really change the teaching dynamic too much. My hardest part in making the transition from “mom” to “teacher” is making sure I require enough from them. Other than that teaching them to do addition is not really any different than teaching them to make their bed or not talk with their mouths full. It requires diligence, gentle correction, and repetition.
Thank you so much for this post! What an encouragement!
We have made the decision to keep my very soft hearted, daydreamish 1st grade son home next year! While I’m excited to have the time with him (and his two younger brothers) and to build him back up (lets just say that this year was extremely rough on his self esteem) but I am also TERRIFIED!!
We have enrolled him in a once a week enrichment program to help ease the transition, but I’ve already gotten the ‘what curriculum are you using?’ question to which I had a deer in the headlights look because I couldn’t even make up an answer! I know it will come and I can’t wait to go on many adventures together! I so appreciate encouragement like this so thanks again!
Hi. I have a seven year old daughter that is in first grade. She is testing at kindergarten six months. She also has a speech delay. And I don’t feel like she’s getting the help she needs from public schools. Im wondering if homeschooling would be the right thing to do. I’ve never homeschooled so I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. I don’t want to get in over my head .
Bradi — You CAN do this. A mama with a giving heart and a willingness to learn will always be a child’s best teacher. Bring her home — you really have nothing to lose in trying it.