10 Things I Learned from Our First Year Homeschooling

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.

10 things I have learned from homeschooling.

10 things I have learned from homeschooling.
10 things I have learned from 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.

  1. 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.

10 things I have learned from homeschooling.

  1. 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.

10 things I have learned from homeschooling.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

10 things I have learned from homeschooling.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

10 things I have learned from homeschooling.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

10 things I have learned from homeschooling.

  1. 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.

10 things I have learned from homeschooling.

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.

September 19, 2016

Leave a Reply 19 comments

Sarah B - September 20, 2016 Reply

Wow. I was wondering how your children were missing school since I’ve been following your road trip in Spain the last couple of weeks. Now it makes sense! Your family is totally “normal” to me.

Anna - September 20, 2016 Reply

As a mom that homeschools too, this resonated with me. This is our fourth year and I think I’m finally done apologizing for our choice to do so. I never thought of looking into a tutoring center to take the pressure of some of the subjects I’m not comfortable with, you just gave me a “why didn’t I think of that” moment. LOL

Emily Francis - September 20, 2016 Reply

Great article, Laura. We are currently in the transition to homeschooling and this answered a lot of my questions.

Helen - September 21, 2016 Reply

I loved this post so much. I don’t know all the details of “how you do it” but I love that you’ve made homeschooling happen and are learning along the way how to make it better for your family. I’ve been watching your snaps and I love how you guys are having a blast in Spain right now.

April - September 22, 2016 Reply

This is our fist year homeschooling our kids and it has been very overwhelming. This just gave me a huge boost. Thanks so much!

Patti - September 27, 2016 Reply

#10 is my favorite!! So well written here. Thanks for your insights on this topic, Laura!

Naiyan - September 28, 2016 Reply

Hello, I am glad I read your blog, it is so nice that you shared your opinions to us. I have been thinking to hire a helper to drive my child for after school activities. Will that consider nanny ? Or going through transpiration company ? Would love to know if you have any insights.

    Laura Fuentes - September 29, 2016 Reply

    I would consider a nanny, as they become part of your family. I would rather know who is driving my kids around rather than a car service with a different person.

Rebecca - September 28, 2016 Reply

Great post! I also am a working mother and have been trying to figure out how it might work for me to homeschool when the time comes (I still have another year). My biggest question I keep coming back to is how parents juggle teaching kids in different grades. Does the homeschool center take care of that teaching part for you and you become more a facilitator of activities and assignments with what’s been taught that week?

    Laura Fuentes - September 29, 2016 Reply

    It varies by homeschool center, and program that you choose. The one we are using comes with the option of adding in a tutor when needed. Where, if my kids are struggling in a subject, we can get a tutor for an hour a week to help with specialized attention to where they are having issues. Also, at the homeschool center in our area, there is a teacher leading the class.

Daphne Close - September 28, 2016 Reply

As a 7th year homeschooling mom, I affirm everything you wrote. I have a long list of what I loved in this story! I love your reasoning and practical approach to making homeschooling work. I love that you feel more like a mom and that your relationships are blossoming. (So many homeschooling moms feel the opposite because they feel like they’re more of a teacher than a nurturer.) I love that you have a great answer to “I don’t have the patience to homeschool” with “I don’t have to deal with homework!” Keep up the good work of balancing your family in a way that puts them first while continuing your passion off cooking. I’m so proud of you, but that doesn’t matter; you need to be proud of yourself!

    Laura Fuentes - September 29, 2016 Reply

    Thank you! It can be hard to find the balance some days. 😉

Patti - October 5, 2016 Reply

Hi…..I was wondering about your thoughts on homework. My daughter is on the spectrum. She is very verbal and super smart. She’s in a program specifically geared to kids on the spectrum. It’s a public school. She has such a seriously adamant distaste for hw. She insists that it’s her time to unwind after school and she simply cannot do hw. I’m a public school teacher (teaching 25yrs) and I’m not so sure how I feel about hw myself after all these years. I’m not sure how hard to push her. She dislikes school to begin with saying how boring it is and how uncomfortable she is. She missed 35 days last school year due to anxiety. I’ve seriously been considering home schooling her myself.
Just wanted to get your opinion on the hw thing. Unbiased. Thank you.

    Laura Fuentes - October 10, 2016 Reply

    Hi Patty. Thanks for reading my post and writing in. It’s taken me a few days to write back because I honestly didn’t know what to say to someone that has taught 25years, so I can’t really give you my opinion based on teaching my kids the last 18 months, only as a mother to 3 very different children.
    My thoughts about homework: should the school system have enough time to actually teach our children, homework would not be necessary. Kids are not meant to sit for 8 hours and expect to come home and do more of the same. However, I can’t expect a teacher to be able to reach every child in the 45ish minutes allotted for a subject in the manner/style that best suits an individual child. Much of the time is spent doing classroom management and maybe, just maybe, the teacher is lucky enough to have 10 minutes of teaching time. It’s not fair to the teachers and the child.
    There are many factors that affect why a child isn’t happy at school. Besides the homework and classwork, I would look at social factors. Is she happy with her friends? Does she enjoy the socialization part? My middle son was very anxious to go to school, to the point that getting him up in the morning and dressed was a fight. It it all about homework? I doubt it. My opinion is that the school isn’t teaching her in the best way that she learns and she might be anxious to perform and do her work because she might not be comfortable with the material. I’ve seen this in my son. Now, he still has school work for his subjects but we are able to enjoy quality time as a family like never before since we removed afternoon homework out of the equation. I wish you the best of luck Patti. Only you know what is best for your child.

      Patti - October 20, 2016 Reply

      Hi Laura,
      Thank you so much for your thoughts. You’re way too on target when you say that there’s not enough time of actual teaching time. We do spend tons of time on Behavior management and just getting settled in. I am teaching Art now (I taught 1st & 2nd grades for the first 19 years of my career) to grades 2-5. I only have 45 min to settle them in, do a mini Lesson, hand out materials, Work Time, clean up, then line up….and that’s if all 28-32 students are listening intently with no mishaps we can make it through!
      My daughter has difficulty with transitions and she spends most of recess alone because she says she’d rather talk to herself. She does not seem to enjoy being social at school.
      She’s an extremely visual/kinesthetic learner. I recently had a meeting with her teachers and they are more aware of her needs as a learner now..they are having her focus on four core subjects for now (reading, writing,social studies, and coding)….she needed a visual schedule with walking/movement breaks built into the day……you hit it on the head when you said they weren’t teaching her in the way she learns best….there’s a good book I’m reading “If They Don’t Learn the Way You Teach, Teach the Way They Learn” (Jacquie McTaggart).
      She seems less stressed about going to school each day, for now at least. I’m not pushing the homework thing. I’m going to just let it be for now.
      Thanks again for your time and for sharing all that you do!

Ruth Speed - February 12, 2017 Reply

Hi Laura

Thanks for your honesty on homeschooling – my children are at school and I have three also. We live in the U.K. But like you feel that the homework, the school run, the driving around and the tension of school in general for various reasons is not working well for us and even worse the kids are miserable. I am also wanting my children to view education as the whole world around them and not just by sitting in a classroom with a textbook, however I am I keen to find a good online curriculum which will help me as I am not a natural teacher. I feel worried about. Being judged and subjected to a huge number of questions and condemnation about my decision and worse that my kids will not be happy when they are out of school – so many worries and questions still in my head, but reading your blog helps, so thank you. Ruth xx

    Laura Fuentes - February 13, 2017 Reply

    Thanks, Ruth. I wouldn’t worry as much for all the details and what other people think… your children will be fine and they will learn. What’s most important to me is that you know that YOU ARE ENOUGH. You have everything you need inside of you to succeed -even with homeschooling. People will always ask questions because a) they are naturally curious and b) you are doing something different. Online curriculums are great (check out Liberty University Online Homeschooling program) and also take to the internet to find like-minded parents in your area. I know you are in the UK but you’ll find some. I promise. xox

Ashley Wright - December 16, 2018 Reply

Thankfully sharing this one– so many of us struggle with the stress! I find that my introvert personality really gets burned out with homeschooling, due to the fact that I almost never get that time alone to recharge. Plus, it’s hard not to have a cluttered house or school area constantly.

    Laura Fuentes - December 17, 2018 Reply

    We have a dedicated area to the kids’ school stuff (mostly desks, don’t’ think we built a school room) but backpacks are everywhere and it definitely adds to the clutter having kids at home all day long. I have really worked hard the last year to find time for myself and recharge. I need it. I hope you do too!

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