Let me tell you a little story about a professional classroom teacher turned homeschool mom.
I always knew I wanted to homeschool, way before I was a mom. I was so confident that my formal teaching background and four years of classroom experience would make homeschooling a breeze. I was shocked that while there definitely were benefits, in some ways it made it so much harder. It all had to do with expectations. In the formal classroom I had complete control over the schedule. We could move from one subject to the next with very few interruptions.
I mean, what else was I going to do?
There was no washing machine, crying baby, or sink full of dishes calling my name. Kids raised their hands. There were organized places for books and papers. And at 3pm everyday I said goodbye to my students and had nothing to do with what they did outside of the classroom.
And then…I tried homeschooling.
Not only did I have to teach my students – I had to feed them. I had to potty train them. I had to discipline them, wash them, put them to bed, bandage their booboo’s, and just spend quiet moments cuddling. The lines between school and home were so blurred I felt like my world was turned upside down. That was two years ago. I am still in the beginning stages and God still has so much to teach me about grace. But over the past two years I have had some major “Ah, ha!” moments that got me back on that wagon and reminded me that there is nothing in the world I would rather do than teach my sweet babies at home. I want to share four of them with you to give you the same hope.
1. Plan, plan, plan – and then be ready to change.
When I first started homeschooling for preschool I planned out EVERYTHING. I had a schedule, a checklist, labeled bins of supplies, and tons of materials. But when it was time to start school the baby had a blow out. By the time he was cleaned up he wanted to be fed. The school day got pushed back so far we only had time to cover about a fourth of what I had planned. I panicked. Before the end of the first week I realized some of the assignments I had planned were too difficult which meant my lesson plans had to be completely reworked.
Maybe you are the opposite. Maybe you are not a planner and would rather grab a stack of library books and just “see what happens.” That can be dangerous, too, because life happens. Whether your approach is organized or freestyle, you will feel like everything is working against you – at first. Kids always benefit from structure. It’s up to you to figure out how much works for your family. One key is to know your broad goals and specific goals. As long as your broad goals are being met, you can change up the specifics as needed. Another key is to plan thoroughly, but always have a “plan B” in the back of your mind. For every assignment think, “If this is too easy/too hard/too messy/too boring, what else could we do?” It will seem difficult at first, but that kind of thinking will quickly become second nature to you. Don’t forget that one of the beauties of homeschooling is the flexibility – but strike a balance so you are always moving forward.
2. Don’t compare.
Nothing derails a homeschool mom’s confidence like comparing her kids to others’. Don’t fall for it, moms. It’s a trap and it will make you feel like you are losing your mind. Homeschool groups and conferences are an essential part of the homeschool journey, but every mom has to enter those situations with her guard up – the guard of, “It doesn’t matter what other families are doing. We’re going to do what we want to do with our own kids – which is why we decided to homeschool in the first place!” One mom might start her kid in kindergarten at age 4. Another might start at 6. Another might skip kindergarten altogether. Maybe a fourth-grader speaks Latin while yours is still in a third grade reader. A huge benefit to homeschooling is that your child’s progress is just between you and them. You pour so much time and energy into tailor-making lessons that fit your child’s personality and learning style. There’s no need to look around and suddenly decide to try to make them like someone else’s child. Keep your nose to the grindstone and your blinders on. Set your homeschool goals with prayer and research. Be open to new ideas, but look at them through the lens of, “Would this work well for my child and my teaching style?”
3. Enjoy your kids.
Partway into my homeschool experience another homeschool friend said to me, “Isn’t it great how much extra time we get to soak up our kids?” I smiled sheepishly and thought, “Oh, yeah. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing.” I had lost sight of it in the sea of phonics and number fact families. I remember when I was a teacher I used to think, “I wish their parents could see them now! They’re missing out on these special moments of discovery and excitement.” I don’t want to miss out on the biggest homeschool benefit of all – just being with them.
When school starts to stress you out, take a break. Switch to a different subject, take a walk outside, or gather your kids together for a time of prayer. There’s plenty of time for math and reading, but time with our kids is very limited. Soak up their enthusiasm. Treasure the ways that each new assignment reveals another part of their growing personalities. Answer their questions with patience. It’s okay to take lots of mommy breaks – you’ll need them! Give your stress to the Lord instead of bringing it into your schooling.
4. Tomorrow is always a new day.
One thing I’ve learned about homeschooling is that no two days are the same. That might sound stressful to another planner like me, but it’s actually a very, very good thing. I’ve had days where I’ve mourned for my kids’ education, sure they were falling a grade behind by the hour and I would never get the hang of this thing…only to find that the next day would be the best teaching day we’ve had so far.
Never make an assessment of your teaching or of your kids’ learning based on one day. Remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day. You will be amazed at how drastically attitudes can change from one day to the next – both in your kids and in yourself.
If school didn’t go the way you wanted it to, look back at what else God had planned for you that day. Maybe it was a day set aside in His sovereign plan for discipline. Our kids can’t go long without a few of those days mixed in. Maybe it was a God-given day to focus on your younger ones. The older ones will survive. They will be blessed by watching your example of serving the family. Whatever you accomplished that day was exactly what God planned for you to accomplish – no more, no less.
Take heart, moms! Whatever work lays before you today is God’s work. Don’t forget that out of the millions of resources you will find for homeschooling, the source of everything we need remains the same:
“Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”
2 Corinthians 9:10
Do You have a homeschool tip for first-timers? Please share in the comments!
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