Last year, my husband and I decided to homeschool our kids. One of the biggest motivators was to have a flexible family schedule and be able to take advantage of my work travel opportunities in order to have our children experience new adventures. Adjusting to a new routine and responsibilities didn’t come easy and today I’m sharing some of the things I’ve learned from our first year of homeschooling.
As we embark on our second year of homeschooling, there are things I wish someone had told me before I began the journey last year. No matter how many homeschooling blogs or books on the subject I read, nothing prepared me for juggling working full time and overseeing my children’s education.
I realize that we are not like most homeschooling families, where one parent is home full-time, I believe there are a lot of things we have in common; we just go through the process a little different.
- Learning doesn’t take as long as you think.
Kids are quick learners when they are having fun, being stimulated, and learning in a way that suits them. At home, without classroom management, we are able to learn a day’s Math lesson in about 20 focused minutes.
Gone are the days of filling-in repetitive worksheets to fill the time and then more for homework. When my child grasps the concept, we move on; if he or she needs more time, we might spend 3 days (in 20-minute increments) figuring out different ways to learn something. We work at my child’s pace and still get it all in.
- There is a lot of time to fill.
It’s hard to imagine just how fast instruction-time goes, so after that, the kids need passive learning time via activities, books, games, crafts… something.
We are usually done with all school work by lunch and that means that there is a three hour period where they need something to do. They are too old to nap and YouTube or television are not the answer. This 3-4 hour period is the best time to explore their interests.
Having “more time” available during the day means my kids can spend hours doing something they are interested in, like crafting, video editing, or even spend hours on the sofa reading a good book.
They are also learning Spanish at home this year, something that was not offered at their previous school and is very important to me.
- You don’t have to do every subject, every day.
The greatest thing about homeschooling is that we can create our schedule. I like to create a plan for the week and then shift things around to go on a field trip, the pool on warm days, or travel.
An entire chapter of Social Studies or Science can be taught in about an hour, followed by a cool activity or experiment to expand on what you went over that day. Homeschooling is more about exploring their interests while learning than about getting through a subject as planned.
- Your study area does not need to look like a classroom.
I know a lot of homeschooling families have dedicated “school-rooms” in their homes that resemble a classroom; we don’t. We have cubbies in our family area with each child’s supplies and a craft supply closet. My kids study on the dining room table and this seems to work well for our kids since it’s a place where they feel most at ease. Once a week, we go to a local coffee shop and work from there.
- Everyone feels like a failure at some point.
The first couple of months were the most difficult to get adjusted –both for our kids and I. I’ll admit to having a few private meltdowns where I cried-it-out to my husband after the kids went to bed. It can feel overwhelming to think about all the things your kids need to learn, and you’ll second guess your choice a lot. Paving your way isn’t easy, and you will have difficult days, everyone does.
- What works for other families might not work for yours.
I know a few homeschooling families that take field trips a few times per week, have their kids signed up for a lot of daytime activities with other homeschooling families, and do meet-ups regularly.
Unfortunately, I’m juggling working full time and my children so meeting up at 10 am with other homeschooling parents doesn’t work for me. I have hired help to drive my kids around to the numerous activities while I work –and I’m ok with that.
- You can, and you will change curriculums.
There are hundreds of curriculums available online for homeschooling and selecting one alone can be overwhelming. When we first started, I bought one “out of the box” by a very well known program. After two weeks, neither of my kids liked it so instead of sticking with it I searched for another solution with a different learning style.
Towards the middle of the year, we found a homeschooling center in our area, and that was the best solution for our kids. A homeschooling center is a tutoring center for homeschooled kids where they learn the core lesson and then we expand on it at home. It takes away the pressure to teach a subject a parent might not be knowledgeable about while the child receives the instruction they need.
My oldest kids attend the homeschool center two days a week, from 9 to 2:30. There are four to six kids in each of their classes, so education is extremely efficient and focused. Most importantly, they are having a blast, and they’ve made new friends they like.
- Everyone will judge you.
Homeschooling is the equivalent of going against the grain in society’s terms. Regardless of the reasons why you chose to do it in the first place, it’s best you accept early on that not everyone will understand why. When I say that everyone will judge you, I mean everyone. It’s best you stop trying to convince them to understand and just accept that most people are not wired to accept the different. They want to, but they can’t. Change doesn’t come easily to most people -and that’s ok.
Even your closest friends and family won’t understand the decision and will try to suggest that putting your kids in regular school will be easier –for everyone. Be prepared with the many questions that will follow about socialization, grading, testing, learning, and more. They are just trying to equate what you are doing to something they can relate to.
If homeschooling is what you want to do, then do it. Stop apologizing for your (and your spouses’ choice) and stand firm in your decision.
- It’s best to take one day and one week at a time.
I’d be rich if I earned a dollar for every time someone has asked how long we plan on homeschooling our children. The answer is always the same; we are taking one school year at a time and giving our children the opportunity to go back to regular school if they choose to do so.
I know a lot of families that create a yearly calendar for their schooling, they break it down into months, then weeks, and days. Well, I’m not that organized and I’m easily overwhelmed with too many details.
I have a yearly plan for each grade that is broken down into chapters. I plan each week based on the previous week, write out my kids’ weekly plan in a school planner for them, and they are responsible for getting it done at their own pace. The beauty of this is that they can work ahead and open up other days for fun activities, field tips, or simply head to grandma’s house.
- Homeschooling has allowed me to enjoy my children.
One of the first things I noticed early on is that our evenings became stress-free during the 3 to 8 pm hustle of chauffeuring, mealtime, and activities. Before this year, I juggled picking up the kids from after-school care a few times per week, then rushed home to do homework before rushing out to swim practice, art, and other activities. We’d get home late, and the kids would finish up their schoolwork before dinner. Shortly after that, it was showers and bed.
Now, afternoons are pretty stress-free and not rushed since we are not squeezing in homework and projects between activities and dinner time. It’s amazing how much more I enjoy parenting and my children when homework is removed out of the equation. My kids get the best version of me since I’m no longer nagging or rushing them to finish their homework and they are not as tired or mentally checked out at the end of the day (neither am I).
I can honestly say that being around my kids is the best part of my day. I no longer feel like I’m an after-school, evenings, and weekend parent anymore. I used to feel like I was sharing custody of my children with the school, constantly worried about them missing one more day because of our travel opportunities.
I realize that my family is not like most homeschooling families by some of the emails you send in. I work full time, my husband has recently joined my company and will now help manage homeschooling, our kids go to a tutoring center and activities during the day, I’ve hired help to do a lot of the driving to-and-from activities, and we skip out on homework. What’s important is that we are much happier this way.
I am certain that years from now my husband and I will look back at this time as some of the best years of our life; I’m pretty sure our kids will too.