I’ve been homeschooling for well over a decade now and every once in a while I sit down and reflect on our beginning years and how much has changed. Yes, we have three times as many children as we did back in the day. Yes, we now lived in a cramped house instead of a cramped apartment. Yes, the reactions of others when they see us has changed…but those are all outside things. What has changed on the inside? What things do I wish someone had told me when we started our journey?
1. It’s important to have a goal, but keep it flexible.
We thought we had a goal: to graduate kids from high school and get them into college. What I learned is that It’s easy to overlook the goal part when your children are 5 & 3, or to over generalize it. It’s important to have an end goal, in the early years it will remind you of why you homeschool (especially on the rough days) but as your homeschooling matures so should your goal.
Our goal has evolved over the years and college isn’t our end-goal anymore. We now realize that college just isn’t, or shouldn’t be, in the cards for some children; and that is okay! Our end-goal is to produce well-rounded adults who know how to operate in the real world. We want to raise adults who can do anything, simply because they know how to find the resources they need.
We don’t want our children to think “just a few more years of school and then I’m done!” One’s education should continue for a lifetime.
2. Don’t compare your family to other families.
When we made the homeschool decision there weren’t many books available on the topic, and no websites. In fact, when we made the decision we didn’t have internet access because you had to pay for it by the minute. We didn’t know how we were going to do it, or how to do it, but we were going to figure it out.
The few books available then had one common theme: with enough prayer and dedication your children will become homeschool super heroes and will get into an Ivy League college by the time they are 16.
Talk about setting a parent up for failure! These types of books and “inspirational” stories do a lot more harm than good. I would look at my daughter, who was barely 5, and wonder what was wrong with her. She wasn’t writing yet and didn’t know how to read more than a few words. Obviously I was doing something wrong!
It turns out that what I was doing wrong was comparing my daughter to someone else’s, I was denying the true spirit of my own child. I was doing a huge disservice to my daughter but an even bigger one to myself.
This leads to…
3. Find support, but don’t compromise on who you are.
I was lost. I didn’t relate to the books I was reading. I couldn’t get behind the ulterior motives of the curriculum that people were trying to push on me. I wasn’t welcome in any of the local groups because I wasn’t religious enough or I was the wrong religion. I was tired of going to events where the kids & I would make friends, only to have those few friends torn away after the event because someone felt that we were “outsiders”. There was no place for someone like me and my children and I almost gave up.
If it wasn’t for the kindness of one person I would have given up. This person said “You know, we’re both doing this homeschooling thing and neither of us really fit in, why don’t we find more people like us?” And so we did.
A few women who had been around the block already joined and became our mentors and helped us put together events and led us to better curriculum choices. Our group grew very slowly at first, but did it ever grow. Fourteen years later our group is the largest in our area and includes over 600 families. It turns out that there were other people out there like us, people who felt lost and in need of help. My friend & I are now the “experts” and enjoy helping others the same way we were helped.
Find a local support group that reflects your true self.
4. Finally, let the kids be kids.
You will never regret skipping the boxed science curriculum in favor of outdoor discovery. You will never regret putting the preschool math workbook down and counting the red cars that pass by. I promise that you can teach your child proper nutrition and health care without the preschool textbook.
Preschool curriculum is all the rage these days, and I understand why. I know how exciting it is to say “we’re homeschooling!” and to get started. Don’t deny your child a childhood in favor of busywork. Our younger children have one job, and that job is to discover. They discover through play, through art, by going out into the world with parents, by getting messy. You have many, many years ahead of you for workbooks and formal work, let your kids be kids a while longer.
Are you new to homeschooling or considering making the leap? I wrote an eBook just for you! Begin Homeschooling with Confidence is a guide that tackles everything from making the decision to finding the right curriculum to dealing with family who may not like your decision.
Meg Grooms resides in Central Florida with her husband, 6 kids, a dog, a cat, and a fish named Steve. A long-term homeschooler, Meg’s kids range in age from diapers to college. In her spare time, Meg blogs about frugal living and play-based learning. Meg is the former editor of the Homeschooling channel at BellaOnline.com and has been featured in publications across the world.
Choosing not to live a passive life, Meg and her family are heavily involved in volunteer causes that bring light to autism acceptance and foster care reform. Meg and her husband, Jason, own KidQuest Science Adventures, a series of hands-on science activity books that get kids outside and into science.
You can find Meg and Jason at the following websites:
Homeschool Gameschool –http://www.HomeschoolGameschool.com
KidQuest Science Adventures – http://kidquestadventures.com/
This Big Happy –http://www.ThisBigHappy.com