“We are homeschooling next year!!” the message from my dear friend, Anna, read.
I found myself excited, but also nervous for her; I have a similar reaction when someone becomes a new parent. They have no idea how much their life is going to change. The change is for the better, but it will involve some turbulence: like parenting, homeschooling reveals character.
If, like Anna, this is your first year homeschooling, you are probably excited, full of nervous anticipation, and maybe a little worried. Here are some thoughts from a few seasoned homeschooling moms:
- Have a reason. You will be asked at least once—probably more times—by family, friends, and your spouse’s work colleagues (and maybe even a store clerk) why you are homeschooling. Take the time now to prepare an answer. It doesn’t have to be long, but being able to answer that question on the spot at any time will make you feel more confident, reassure you of your decision, and convince potential critics that you didn’t decide to do this on a whim.
- Educate yourself. My friend Marya advises first year homeschooling parents to take time to figure out how they work best, how they motivate themselves, and how their priorities and personalities shape their homeschool environment. (If you’re curious about these things yourself, read Sara’s post on homeschooling philosophies, and take the quiz.) If you work on understanding your personality (Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, or others) as well as your kids’ learning styles, you will have an easier time than some of us who figured those traits out after using a visual curriculum for an auditory learner, or getting involved in too many activities that burned us out. Just like your home reflects the unique people who live there, your homeschool should look different than my homeschool.
- Set a budget. Even if your budget is limited, you should have one. I lump a lot of things in my “school” budget: music lessons, museum fees, curriculum, art supplies. When Ranee transitioned her kids from private school to homeschooling, her husband wisely realized the impact it would have on her workload. He advised Ranee to hire household help to free up some of her time from cleaning so she wouldn’t be burned out by homeschooling. Not everybody can pay for a cleaning service, but recognizing that you are adding a full-time job—homeschooling—to all your other responsibilities should allow you to allocate some changes in your budget. Take yourself out to a coffee house one night a week for some quiet reflection, or hire a mother’s helper to keep little ones occupied two mornings a week. Your priorities matter.
- Find support. Keep up with old friends and make new ones that will be there for you. I’m introverted enough that I can’t overwhelm myself with people, but I find immense value in meeting with friends a couple of times a month to talk about books we are reading. I also have a routine phone call with a friend several times a week. Another friend and I routinely text, “help, pray for me!” on our overwhelming days. Most evenings, my husband patiently listens as I describe a challenge I encountered during the day.
- Give yourself a break. Unlike teachers in schools, you don’t get to leave the kids at the end of the day. But sometimes you need to. Teachers don’t have the responsibilities of parents. They don’t take time out of the school day to deal with siblings slapping each other, with a child stealing their brother’s toy, or with a child lying to you (again) about having done their chores. They don’t look at a student and think, “I’m probably the reason Johnny has an anger issue.” It is a true benefit of homeschooling that you can deal with those things in the moment . . . but it may not feel like it at times. Marya takes one night a week away from her family to rejuvenate. I take a short trip once a year with either my husband or a good friend. Sara goes away to a hotel to read and write. You will need a break. Be sure you get one. Also, you might need to take a couple of days off from school, sometimes unexpectedly, because you or your child needs it. It’s ok. That flexibility is one of the great reasons to homeschool.
- Don’t compare. When you hear other moms talk about their superkids, and when you listen to all the amazing things they do in their homeschool, you may feel inferior, angry, or envious. Homeschooling is a job, and in our culture, a mom who feels like she is missing out on something may overcompensate with boasting, just like someone who brags about a promotion or a pay raise. Give that mom grace and realize she may be having a hard time without feeling able to show it. Mainly, don’t compare your kids or your homeschool to others.
- Everyone has bad days. When I asked my experienced homeschooling friends for the one thing they would tell new homeschooling parents, it was this: SOME DAYS ARE REALLY AWFUL. (And by days, we can mean “weeks.” Or the entire month of February.) I am not proud of it, but this was the first year in recent memory when I didn’t seriously consider driving (at least) one of my children to the closest school and enrolling her (or him). But right now, as you are starting out, starry-eyed and eager, you need to know that the bad days are normal. Don’t make any long-term decisions on one of those days. For my sanity, I have researched every local school. Without fail, I find myself grateful at the end of every year that I stuck with the best option for my kids the past year: homeschooling. Your decision may be different, but don’t make it on a bad day.
So, to Anna, and all you other first-time homeschoolers: Hats off! You’re heading for an adventure. Just like when you became a parent, you will never be the same again.
Photo Credit: iStock