10 Things I Wish I Would’ve Done Differently as a New Homeschooler
This fall we will begin our 12th year of homeschooling. It’s amazing to me to see how much the homeschool community has grown over the years. When I first took my son out of public school, he was in the 2nd grade. He was the first student that had ever stopped public school there in order to start homeschooling. The principal actually scheduled a conference with me because he was concerned that something bad had happened, because my son was a well known, excellent student, who loved attending his school. I told the principal that his school was a wonderful place, but God was tugging on my heart to bring my son home.
When we began our journey, I had every intention for it to be a fun, exciting adventure with my son. I did a ton of research, bought a full package curriculum, and planned out a full year in advance. I was ready! Or so I thought.
As I reflect on the past 11 years, my heart sinks a little bit. Actually, a lot! If only I had known then what I know now. I imagine that my relationship with my oldest son would be a lot better. I can’t change the past though. All I can do is learn from it and help others to not make the same mistakes. So, here I am, pouring my heart and concerns out to you, in hopes that you will hear me out and not take this lightly. Whether you are taking this leap with full confidence or with a fearful heart, I just hope that you find this information helpful.
Here I’ve listed my top 10 personal mistakes that I’ve made in regards to homeschooling.
***These are 100% my opinions, based off of my personal experience. Some of these things might actually work for your family, but for me, they were mistakes.***
#1 ~ I think my biggest mistake of all, was trying to mimic a public school setting.
So many parents make this mistake when they first start out. Most of the time it’s because that is all we know. I was raised in a public school. I never knew of any other homeschoolers until I met my husband’s friends who did it. So, how was I to know that I didn’t have to be just like a public school? I set up my classroom, complete with my teacher’s desk and a desk for my son that actually came out of a public school. I had charts on the walls and we said the Pledge of Allegiance each morning (nothing wrong with that).
Homeschooling is all about the freedom to do things our way. But because I was so set on doing everything exactly like a public school, I really limited my son’s potential. We have the option to allow our children to become the unique individuals that God created them to be. But in order to allow that to happen, we have to trust our children more and follow their lead, instead of forcing a public school mentality onto them.
#2 ~ This is a big one if your child has already attended a public school. Take time to deschool them!
What is deschooling? It’s exactly what it sounds like. If your child has attended public school, then they will expect their homeschool to be just like what they’ve experienced. Deschooling is a time where everyone in the home needs to adjust to just being home together. Don’t rush out and buy a boxed curriculum, checking off every single activity that is meant for each day, please! Love on your child! Take time to learn what your kids are interested in. Take field trips. Read books. Spend time really getting to know your child. And slowly, oh so slowly, start adding in curriculum if that’s the route you choose to take (more on this later).
#3 ~ Buying a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
Some people are fortunate enough to say, after years of use, that they absolutely love a certain “boxed” curriculum. You know, the ones that have it all together for you. And honestly, this may be a good place for some of you to start, but don’t get stuck there. Don’t think that’s all there is. There are SO many options these days! In my experience, even some full curriculum packages that I absolutely loved, had a few things here or there that I wish I could change out. Guess what? You can! If you love Abeka for example, but aren’t a fan of their math, don’t be afraid to swap out their math for something else. Learn to be flexible!
#4 ~ Not having enough fun.
Man, if only I could take back the times that I threw books across the room out of sheer frustration. Yes, I really did that. I screamed. I cried. My son grew to hate school because I tried to be just like a public school, but I couldn’t keep up with all the plans that I made. I couldn’t do gym, and art, and music, and have a set time for lunch each day. So, you know what happened? I cut out all the fun stuff because I had to make sure that he was getting in the academics, right? NO! If I had it to do over, I’d lighten his load. I would play more games, take more field trips, laugh, and play. I’d give more praise for his efforts instead of correcting every error with my red pen.
#5 ~ Staying home all the time.
I tried so many times to stick to a schedule. I had to check off every single point that was to be taught, every single day. This meant that we didn’t go many places. Now I see that staying home so much completely wrecked me and my sons. We were all so cranky and miserable. Now, I lead a homeschool group and we meet up every single Monday just to get together and socialize and have fun. I also use every excuse I can to take a field trip. There are so many places to explore that not only provide an educational environment, but you will be making lasting memories with your kids. They’ll learn more from your trips than they’ll ever learn from studying for a test.
#6 ~ Not following my son’s lead.
I really wished that I had figured out sooner, what my son was good at and what he had a passion for. It was difficult with him. We pushed him into so many different things, mostly because I thought that I had to and because of family telling us that he needed to be involved in stuff. I thought sports would be good for the socialization. We tried soccer, basketball, swim lessons, horse back riding, and karate. He never wanted to finish any of it, except for the horse back riding. It pains me to look back and realize that sports just wasn’t his thing. I should’ve done everything in my power to get him into more art lessons. He only had one art class as a child, but he did great. Even at just 3 years old, he’d draw me some amazing pictures. He’s so talented there, but I didn’t catch it at the time. I can only imagine how much more spectacular he’d be and how much more fun we would’ve had together if we had helped him follow his own path, instead of pushing all these other things that he just wasn’t interested in.
#7 ~ Don’t let someone else’s opinion become your voice of doubt.
As a newbie, you will have doubts and fears. And you know what’s not good during that season? Being around others who will add fuel to those flames. Don’t let another person’s opinion plant seeds of doubt in your mind. Once you’ve decided that homeschooling is the best path for your family, don’t look back. Surround yourself with other homeschoolers and people who choose to support your decision. If someone can’t respect your decision, then don’t allow them to give you input. Even though my oldest son just graduated, I still have people in my life who just refuse to accept that this is the path that my family is going to walk out. I have had to learn to let their remarks go in one ear and out the other. Well, honestly, I usually have a comeback remark for them now. I point out all the positive things happening in my boy’s lives, or the negative things that I continue to see happening at public schools on the news. Send me a message! I’m here to encourage you! You can do this!!!
#8 ~ I couldn’t find the line between mom and teacher.
Just because you officially become a homeschool parent, doesn’t mean that you step into this new, magical role of “teacher”. You taught your baby how to walk and talk. And then they learned how to recognize some colors, and animals, and how to count to 10. When your child learned those things, did you have on your teacher hat, or were you just being mom? You know what’s amazing? You can continue being “mom” while you teach your kids and they’ll thank you for it later. Well, probably not, but I guarantee you’ll have a closer relationship with your child if you spend more time focusing on learning with them as their parent, than you would if you constantly forced yourself into the role of their teacher.
#9 ~ Breaking things down per subject.
Okay, remember #2, where I said “And slowly, oh so slowly, start adding in curriculum if that’s the route you choose to take?” You probably thought, “What does she mean IF that’s the route we take? Don’t you have to have curriculum?” Well the answer is yes and no. Be sure to check your states requirements on what exactly you are required to teach and what (if any) paperwork needs to be submitted. In my state, we are required to teach certain subjects like math, literature, science, etc. And most of the years, I’ve had a workbook for each separate subject because I thought that’s the way it had to be (again, public school mentality).
But last year, something happened. Once again, I was noticing with my 2nd son, the same types of negative behaviors that I had noticed in my oldest son. He was starting to dislike school. This was a big red flag to me, so I started researching ways I could make it more interesting again. This is when I stumbled onto unschooling. Now, this may be extremely difficult for some of you to wrap your head around. I spent months and months researching this new concept and convincing my husband that it was the right option for us at the time.
You may think that unschooling means not doing school. But, honestly, unschooling can be harder on a parent than following that pretty, packaged curriculum that you just bought. You see, unschooling requires you as the parent to pay more attention to your children and to help them expand on the gifts that God has already placed inside of them. Try if for a year. You’ll be amazed at how much they can learn if you would just step back and follow their lead. Science can be taught from hiking your favorite trail and studying the wildlife you come across, or even a YouTube video from Slow Mo Guys or The Backyard Scientist. “Gasp! She uses YouTube for schooling!” Why yes, yes I do! It can be a great resource. Math can be taught in normal conversation. My son asked us so many math questions and we able to teach him how to find the answers. We watched documentaries and took field trips. I’m not going to go into more detail here. Maybe I’ll do another post entirely on unschooling. But for now, if this sounds interesting to you, at least take the time and start researching it like I did.
#10 ~ Just because something once worked, doesn’t mean it always will.
Last but certainly not least, you will learn through the years that flexibility is key! Even if a certain curriculum is working great for your family, life is a mystery and we never know for certain what the future may hold. Unschooling came to us because of a need that I saw, to put the love of learning back in my child’s life. However, I also learned last year, that we just need a little bit more structure. So this coming year, we’re still taking the unschooling approach to most of it, but I have picked out curriculum for math and literature. You have to figure out what works best for your family. Your family may thrive on very rigorous academics and strict schedules, but mine does not. Both are okay, as long as it’s working for you. If what you’re doing isn’t working, by all means, keep changing things around until you find your perfect fit.
I want to leave you with a bonus thought that pretty much sums all of this up.
When you’re planning your homeschool year, don’t forget about your relationship with your children. When you start dreaming of their bright future, don’t forget that your’re still their parent first! There is no curriculum and no extracurricular activity that is worth destroying the bond between you and your child!
Be blessed my friends!