When we decided to homeschool our boys for the 2011-2012 school year, one in second grade, the other in Kindergarten, it was mostly an experiment. I’d talked to other homeschooling moms about curriculum and enrichment classes and asked how they structure their days, but I wasn’t sure it was for me.
Not once had I considered homeschooling prior to that summer, so I went into the first year knowing full well that we could all hate it.
Today we are about to start our eighth year of homeschooling — ninth and seventh grades — and we have no intentions of stopping now. Homeschooling fits our lifestyle so well that I cannot imagine doing it any other way. Not only have we created the life we wanted, we have the freedom to shift it whenever necessary.
One of the first and best lessons I learned about homeschooling is that it looks different in every household. Some adhere to religious-based curriculum, others don’t. Some get up early in the morning to do work, some prefer the afternoon, and some take a university-style approach with certain subjects on certain days. Some homeschooling families pay for standardized testing throughout the year, but some prefer to avoid testing until it’s time for the ACT. There are overachievers and underachievers, those who thrive on a strict schedule and those who flourish without one.
There a dozen different ways to homeschool, and I’ve tried many of them depending on what felt right or necessary at the time. It’s this very freedom that keeps us coming back each year.
However, do not be fooled. It’s not all easy breezy. Homeschooling requires its own level of commitment from the entire family, and it’s essential that everyone’s priorities and efforts align when it comes to accomplishing a full, qualifying year of education. While the child must earn his grades and eventual diploma through personal effort, the parents must provide every opportunity for the child to do so.
If you are considering making the shift, keep these things in mind:
You can always change course.
Nothing is set in stone. Don’t like a curriculum? Change it. Don’t like your schedule? Change it. Want less on your personal plate? Find a co-op. In fact, I’d suggest finding a co-op that suits your family when you start homeschooling. Your kids will likely enjoy the school-like atmosphere, and you will appreciate the educational help. Elementary-age classes are enrichment and fun, but the academic classes come in handy when you don’t want to dissect cow eyeballs in your kitchen.
2. Ignore the “What about socialization?” questions you’ll get from your family and friends.
From extracurricular activities and co-ops classes to volunteer opportunities and part-time jobs in high school, your child’s life will be plenty full of socialization. It’s been my experience that homeschooled kids are every bit as socialized, or more, than kids who attend traditional school.
3. Your reasons for homeschooling don’t have to be the same as everyone else’s reasons.
Don’t even bother comparing. You do you.
4. Kids are kids, no matter what.
Homeschooling parents know they cannot shelter their kids from the world, and frankly, that’s not the goal. It’s to ensure that when hard times come — emotionally and physically — parents are the touchstone for questions and comfort. Just like their traditional school friends, homeschooled kids talk back, complain, get lazy, and would do anything in the world to avoid their school work.
5. And that is why attitude is everything.
The best homeschooling days are when everyone wakes up on the right side of the bed, when the Pre-Algebra lesson isn’t as hard as previously thought, and the weather is perfect for reading a history lesson on the front porch. The worst homeschooling days are when hormones spike and I can’t see straight because they won’t stop fighting and Pre-Algebra suddenly got hard again. Homeschooling is like anything else connected to family dynamic and circumstances. It can be made better or worse by everyone’s mood.