I received another phone call today from a mom who is going to start homeschooling her children. She seems to be joining a growing trend in our state. Moving her children out of public school and into homeschooling. "What am I doing? How do I start? Am I going to mess them up?" Listening to her questions automatically threw me back six years to the point where we started making the decision. We had just hit a wall. I was so blessed to have a very close friend who was already homeschooling and gave me so much incredible advice. However, I just want the chance to encourage you with a few basics as you make the transition from public school to start homeschooling.
Take time to reset. My boys had been in the public school system for six years when we started thinking it was time to make a change. We were all fully invested in our schools. I served on the PTO boards every year that my boys were in school including two separate years as PTO president. We had the public school routine and way of doing things down pat.
That was our first obstacle in homeschooling. You need time to reset yourself. Since one of the reasons we decide to homeschool was the fact that my boys were losing their love of learning, we took an entire month off from anything that resembled "school". We made a list of every museum, art show, sporting event, or educational opportunity that we could find in our area. For one month we did nothing but read a LOT of books, visit the places on our "field trip" list and play a lot of educational and strategy games.
I did not make a lot of great decisions in my first year, but that is one that I would definitely do again. Even six years later we take a "reset" day if things get too out of control. That brings me to my second item...
Throw away your expectations. The most discouraging part of starting is the fact that you feel like you do not know what you are doing and if you have picked the right curriculum. The first year is a huge learning curve. For you and for your kids. Just because your friend, Susan, has all of her children starting school at 8:30 and finishing up at 2:00 so they can head to piano and guitar does not mean you have to. Just because your friend, Olivia, has a perfectly organized homeschool room where everyone has their desks that they sit at and do their work does not mean that is going to work for your kids. You can create your child's learning situation in any way you want. That may be different for each of your children. One of my boys needs complete quiet and sitting at his desk to get his work accomplished. My other son can be stretched out across his bed, on the trampoline or under the dining room table. Their learning styles are different.
Basically, this year is a learning process. Will you make mistakes? Most definitely. Mistakes are not fatal. Learn from what didn't work and go with another option until you find what does.
Every day is a new day. When the dishwasher floods in the middle of math and you have to call it quits for the day? It happens. My boys often hear me say, "It is what it is." Some days go as planned and some days won't. The good thing is that tomorrow is a new day!
Set boundaries. You have just added a new hat to your hat rack: teacher. One of the biggest mistakes of my first year was not setting boundaries to our school day. One of my boys is an early morning child and would get up at 6:30 and work until he was finished with school. My other child is a night owl. By the time he woke up enough to start school it was 10:00 and he wouldn't finish until time for my husband was coming home. I was exhausted. I needed to set some boundaries so that at some point in the day I could take off my "teacher" hat and just be mom for the rest of the day. At first I tried putting us into this rigid schedule but it just made all of us frustrated. Then it dawned on me. I set "office hours" of 9:00 - 2:00. They now know that all questions, assignment review and lesson teaching that require me have to be done during this time.
Don't drown in the textbooks and curriculum choices. Going to public school meant they handed our kids a book and they learned from it. Now we have the freedom and opportunity to choose what they learn! It is a wonderful blessing and an overwhelming decision. I never realized just how many choices there were out there. A lot of people pick from one particular publisher for their needs, but I have always chosen from lots of different approaches and publishers. Above all, don't get bogged down in the curriculum. You will HATE homeschooling if you try to recreate "school" at home.
If someone asks you about socialization... LAUGH! homeschool co-op activities, homeschool co-op classes, church, student choir, library, guitar lessons, tennis lessons, 4H shooting sports, volunteering at the nursing home, bowling club, swimming, mountain biking club.... Do I need to go on? The reality is that there are often so many opportunities to socialize that you have to put a limit on them. If they were still in school they would only be hanging out with kids of their same age group all day. I love that they have met and learned from war veterans while volunteering at the nursing home. They hang out at lunch with our co-op group which will consists of all ages. Times like these have been great "communication class" experiences.
Relax and enjoy it. You have been given a gift. Precious time with your kids. You will get to know them and they will get to know you. Enjoy it!
Pray. Last, but definitely NOT least... Before you make that final decision: Pray! Make sure that this is what God wants for your family. If this is in His will for your family then He is going to "make your paths straight" for this new adventure ahead!