Homeschooling: What to Love, What to Guard Against
You've decided to homeschool. It's a big decision, but you've carefully weighed what's involved, spoken with friends who're doing it, figured out the division of labor in your home, and are committed to doing the best job you can. Good for you! You've embarked upon a very exciting journey, and joined a terrific community of learners.
Homeschooling has the potential to add unbelievable richness to your life! It also can be a source of a lot of stress and anxiety, depending on how you handle it, and your own personality.
I'd like to share some of the things I absolutely loved in the years our family homeschooled, then share things I learned the hard way, to help you avoid some of the potential pitfalls unique to homeschooling. As you may know, I've written several posts about the physical aspects of schooling at home, (starting here,) and a post regarding things to consider before you decide to homeschool (here.)
Things to love:
Flexibility: When you homeschool, you decide when to begin and end studies each day, when to take breaks, when (or if) to do projects and field trips, and when/how long to take vacation breaks. You choose what to study, what materials to use, and in what order. If you want to take the entire month of December to do only Christmas-related things, you can. Your options are endless!
Delight-directed study: You say your child is fascinated by insects? Or is obsessed with Formula 1 racing? You have the freedom to allow your child to do a deep dive into whatever they're motivated to learn--you can curate spelling lists, literature, geography, history, and more to go along with your child's interests.
Family relationships: If all of your children are homeschooling, you will find things that can naturally be taught to all of them, at different levels. You can read the Bible together, memorize poetry or Scripture together, and share meals. They will see each other succeed and struggle in various areas, and learn each other's personality quirks. They'll develop their own inside jokes, and invent ongoing imaginative-play scenarios that may last for months. They'll go on field trips together, experience mom's wrath together, and enjoy hearing the same stories read aloud. These are strong bonds that will last a lifetime.
A built-in labor force: The house needs to be cleaned, the kids need to learn responsibility--It's a natural fit! Take the time to teach them how to do chores, then make it part of your everyday routine. You'll be amazed at what this does for your children, how capable they are of good, hard work, and how grateful their future spouses will be! If you haven't read my blog post, Chores: Your New Secret Weapon, I highly recommend it! Find it here.
Consistency: You're with your children during nearly every aspect of life as they grow and change, and you can see how they interact with siblings and respond to all sorts of challenges. Because of this, you can address problems immediately and with far greater consistency than if they were spending the day at school.
Things to guard against:
Being consumed: It's easy to become consumed with homeschooling. This can happen when you love it and are thriving, and it can happen if you're fearful and worried. To avoid it,
Do your best to keep school things in one location, dedicated to school. When lessons are finished, let all materials vanish from sight--just leave it, physically and mentally.
Avoid the temptation to subscribe to all the blogs, websites, and magazines. Read for enjoyment! Your brain needs a break!
Don't spend time on social media. Please. You don't need to post everything that happens--it leads to comparison and anxiety.
Focus on enjoying your marriage--take weekend getaways and regular date nights. Talk about things other than behavior issues or curriculum decisions.
Cultivate your pre-children interests--schedule time for hobbies, coffee with a friend, zoom movies with girlfriends, etc. each week.
Trying to do everything:
Focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic to begin with. As you gain confidence and competence, expand to other things, or find tutors for extras. This includes everything from art to Latin to volunteer projects.
Do NOT compare what you are doing to anyone else. This is deadly, and will convince you that you're never doing enough.
Let other people help: take advantage of a co-op, online courses, tutors, coaches, and maybe even hire a housekeeper and/or nanny/babysitter as needed! It's not a sign of failure!
Ask someone--your husband, your mentor, your bestie--to help you see when you're taking on too much--and listen to them!(This may not be the best time for you to become a doula or a foster parent.)
Becoming isolated: Isolation is an occupational hazard for any stay-at-home mom; when you're homeschooling, it's even more of a challenge.
Spend time with friends, especially those who don't homeschool. It's vital that you make time to enjoy talking about something besides your kids.
Join a book club, church women's group, art class, or take up Salsa dancing--you must get out, at least mentally, and focus on non-school-related things.
Ask one of the above mentioned persons to keep tabs on you--if they haven't seen you for awhile, they should check on you.
Perfectionism: If you tend to be perfectionistic, watch out. There aren't enough hours in the day to keep an immaculate home, provide healthy meals, teach every subject with excellence, and make sure your children are learning all the virtues. You'll end up with sleepless nights, possible marital problems, and the beginnings of serious anxiety and depression. Guess how I know that.
As with so many things in life, homeschooling comes with the potential for wonderful benefits and serious difficulties. Keep your head up and your eyes open. Remember that anything you start to rely on for satisfaction, fulfillment, identity, and meaning has too much power in your life, unless it's God himself.
Do you have a story to share? What are your successes and struggles with homeschooling, or school-at-home? I would love to hear from you!
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