So I've completed my first year of homeschooling. Those words don't feel right cause it wasn't like we "started" or "completed" anything. I should rephrase that to say "we completed our first year of not sending our kids to school while all of their peers went off to school and felt slight panic and fear wondering if we did the right thing amidst confusion over homeschooling styles and curriculum and explaining to everyone from family to the mailman that we have decided to homeschool when they ask what grade our kids are in while listening to everyone tell us their negative reasons for not homeschooling as if they had ever even truly considered it." That's what I meant.
And for the record we tossed the idea of curriculum-schmiculum and we are happily unschooling. Here's a list of 5 big things I've learned this past "school" year.
1. Everyone thinks it's harder than it is
I’ve learned that the most common response you’ll get from others when they find out you homeschool is “I could never homeschool, I don’t know how you do it.” At first this made me uncomfortable because I felt like a fraud, and now I just smile and nod while silently saying inside my head “That’s because you don’t understand homeschooling.”
They really don’t. Most people think homeschooling is doing exactly what kids do at school for an entire work day but at home. I’m pretty sure that’s what I expected to be doing too before we actually crossed that bridge.
But the whole point of homeschooling, at least for me, is to NOT have my kids schooled. I don’t want them to sit at desks all day working. I want them to have freedom and to learn what they are currently passionate about. So most people have no idea that our days look like playing and everyone doing their own thing for the most part.
Sure we’re together a lot, and sure we go to lots of places together like the library and park and museums, but I’m not on them 24/7 all day like a teacher at school. I sleep in. I do a morning meditation practice. The kids wake up when they want and play most of the day. We meet up with other homeschoolers and the kids run off together while I sit and have adult interaction.
I don’t have to wake up early and rush around to get everyone off to school. I don’t have to do homework in the evenings. I don’t have to make sure the kids are in bed by a certain time so they can wake up early and do it all over again the next day.
It’s actually pretty awesome.
2. The importance of saying NO
It is very easy to feel pressured as a homeschooling parent, to overcome that school mentality most of us have from growing up in the school system ourselves. For me this has manifested in several ways, from overspending on a curriculum we never really used to saying yes to every single activity we get invited to.
The last thing you want to do as a homeschooling parent though is burn yourself out. It’s not pretty for your kids or yourself.
This year I have learned so much in the arena of protecting my time and space. I’m naturally introverted and physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually need to be at home or doing my own thing most days out of the week.
When I have to rush around in the mornings to get to outside activities, it stresses me out. If I have to do this several times in one week, I quickly burn out and become very resentful.
IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO. If you’re not the type of homeschooling parent that is doing something outside of the house several times a week, that’s okay! Your children will still thrive, even more so if they’re also introverted. Who says learning and “socializing” has to happen in a similar fashion to the school model? Are you not a human? Then isn’t your child socializing by being around you?
Unless you are literally keeping your child in some creepy dugout in the backyard paranoid of the world, you should not feel wrong or guilty for having a quiet and slow life. Learning happens just as easily in the quiet moments at home as it does spending time in a museum or some other public activity.
You don’t need to be everywhere and doing everything in order for your child to be learning. You can say no. #notetoself
3. The importance of a self-care routine
Everyone under the sun needs a self-care routine, for sure every parent needs one, and without a DOUBT every homeschooling parent needs one.
As a homeschooling parent, you are the main caretaker for your child all day, every day. They come to you for everything. On top of that, you likely feel pressured at times if not all the time to give them whatever type of childhood and education you think is important. It can be really stressful.
Because of this, you absolutely need a self-care routine. Even if you’ve got 8 kids and are tandem nursing and getting broken sleep all night long: you need a self-care routine. It is not a luxury, it is necessary.
I have a dedicated spot in my house just for myself which is my night stand. It has a salt lamp, various aromatherapy sprays and roll ons, incense, calming crystals, my journal and worksheets, and several inspirational books. I also have the little tiny Amazon Echo which I use to play relaxing sounds on. I actually just wrote a post showing my current favorite items that I have on my nightstand.
If I’m about to become unglued or I’m feeling stressed, I will set the kids up with their tablets and go to my room, light incense, turn on relaxing music or sounds, and spritz myself with essential oil sprays. I also make my bed every morning so that when I need to come to my room later in the day to de-stress, my space is clean and peaceful. WHAT a difference it makes.
As far as a full self-care routine, this can take as little as 15 minutes a day. Journaling, reading a few pages of an inspirational book, listening to inspiring audio while you take your shower, doing a guided meditation after the kids are in bed, doing just a few minutes of deep breathing…all of these things make a huge difference in your self-love reservoir and fill you back up.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you definitely can’t afford to think that self-care is just a luxury for the lucky few that make the time for it.
4. Children really don't need school
I have been so amazed this year at how much I’ve come to realize that kids really don’t NEED school like we’re all led to believe. When my kids spend time with other kids who are in school, there is no difference. You wouldn’t even be able to tell any of them apart unless you ask if anyone wants to do some homework and the homeschooled ones will be the only ones who excitedly squeal “Me!!!” (true story).
Yeah I really don't believe kids need school, they’re so damn amazing on their own. My 6 year old is a little genius. He corrects MY math. He’s currently obsessed with numbers and building–it’s all he does. He builds Legos for literally hours. He builds the biggest, most detailed creations on Minecraft. He’s always asking me to quiz him on math problems because he thinks it’s fun.
But he doesn’t know how to write his name yet and he could care less right now. I’ve asked him several times if he wants to write his name as I’ve watched kids younger than him learning to write their names and I felt that sneaky pressure rising up in me to make sure he doesn’t fall behind. Yet every time I try to force something on him that he’s not interested in, he loses that look of enthusiasm and excitement that I love seeing on his face while he’s in the thick of doing something he loves.
I really think of it like potty training. My youngest son didn’t potty train until he turned 4 and it felt like his peers had been using the potty for years by that point. But he did it in his own time and by the time they’re 20, are we really going to look at them and care what age they potty trained? Does it really matter? If your child doesn't learn to potty train by age 2, do you really believe they'll never learn?
Every child learns at their own pace and according to their own interests and passions. Some people ask me “Well what if he never wants to learn to read or write?” Which I think is a little fear-driven, because he’s going to WANT to read and write at some point. He's going to want to read books (or at least the video game prompts!) and write to friends. I highly doubt he's going to be 15 and asking me to respond to his friend's messages for him.
A child could struggle for a year at age 5 to learn something that they could learn in an hour at 10 years old. I’ve become so much more confident in this realization that people learn the best and the fastest when they are personally interested in it.
Some people worry that if they aren't forced to learn certain things, they'll never make it into college (given they choose to go). I made my way through college using good old memorization until the test was over. I really do have full confidence that if my child ever needs to know a certain subject, either for personal interest or because he needs it for an exam or for a job, he'll find a way to learn it.
I really don’t believe anymore that a child needs to be forced to learn anything to succeed in life. That’s an old, tired model. We have so many resources at our fingertips now, a person can learn anything they want on any subject with just a few clicks of a button.
5. I am 120% FOR homeschooling
And with all of that said, if you can’t tell already, I am for homeschooling 120%. I went from being unsure, to being 100% sure, to being someone who almost can’t stop talking about the amazing benefits of homeschooling my kids. I only talk about it to my husband and other homeschooling parents because I don’t try to push my life choices on anyone else, but it is FREAKING awesome.
More and more parents are going the homeschool route because the current school model just doesn’t work for the majority of kids. I did well in school because I can sit still, be quiet, and can learn from worksheets as opposed to learning hands-on. But I didn’t do well emotionally, and that’s what originally prompted me to consider not sending my kids off to school.
Every time we pass by our neighborhood school on a beautiful day and I see the play ground empty because all the kids are inside sitting at desks, I am reaffirmed in my heart of the choice to homeschool.
What about you? What are the biggest lessons you've learned in your homeschooling journey?