Truth From A Homeschool Mom Who Has Been There
When I first began homeschooling I dove in as a complete newbie. I was not raised in a homeschooling family. In fact, I thrived in public school. I did not have any close friends or even distant family members who were homeschooled. I had never taught a single class much less every single subject. I was in all ways an accidental homeschool Mom.
I came into this crazy homeschool life completely unprepared and terrified of messing up the most important undertaking of my life – responsibility for my son’s education. If I could go back and tell myself (or any other new homeschooling mom) just five things in those first tentative months of their homeschooling journey, this is what I would say.
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Homeschool Truths Every New Homeschooling Mom Should Hear
- Homeschool is not a public school and that’s the point.
- It’s ok to buy a used curriculum.
- It’s ok to switch curricula at any point along the way.
- Student-directed learning is pure gold. Let it trump your lesson plan.
- Life Skills and Character Development are as important as Math and English.
Homeschool is not a public school and that’s the point.
When I first began homeschooling T I was determined to mimic the education I had received. I tried to recreate the public school setting and schedule in our home. We were doing school and that meant scheduled lunch, scheduled recess, and a strict and rigid lesson plan. It turned out that was absolutely zero fun and not only boring but actually took away all of the best parts of learning at home.
Flexibility in the lesson plans, impromptu field trips, student-directed learning, cooking class during a lunch hour, and studying outdoors as often as possible are some of the best perks of homeschool life. It is simply not healthy to be chained to our desks for eight hours a day. School is about learning, and that can happen in so many wonderful ways. Education should be fun. Learning should be an enjoyable experience. Reach for that.
It’s okay to buy a used curriculum.
When I first started homeschooling I bought the most expensive brand spanking new, shrink-wrapped, crisp curriculum out there. I don’t regret it either. In those first months, I needed as much direction as a girl could get and the more expensive curriculums are awesome at giving you that line-by-line teacher direction.
But that said, six years in, and guess what? I’m a homeschooling mom who buys used curricula off eBay. I know, GASP, right? But it’s true, a used curriculum is far more affordable and it’s the same stuff you get for the big bucks.
Yes, someone else’s kid has probably used the book before but I survived a similar experience in public school. The books may have a note here or there but that’s not a big deal. It’s really not.
And it shouldn’t be because let me spare you the shock, a lot of times you end up with a curriculum you don’t even like. It’s true. The only thing worse than a curriculum that isn’t working for your family is a brand new super expensive curriculum that isn’t working for your family. This brings me to my next point.
It’s okay to switch curriculum at any point along the way.
In those first few months, we ran into some materials that were not resonating with my little man. He hated that curriculum. It was dry and miserable and repetitive and just, yuck! It was his Math curriculum. I had paid a small fortune for the set and I was committed to making it work. All that commitment succeeded in achieving was feeding a powerful hatred of Math Class.
I finally decided to let it go. It hurt, all that investment just getting packed right up like that. But then, I found Life of Fred. T loved Life of Fred. Math was fun again. We added in some dice Math games and another game using playing cards and soon Math was becoming his favorite subject. We added things like having him use the weights of his favorite wrestlers to practice his addition and subtraction and he was suddenly all in. Math was even cool now. This leads me to my next point for every homeschooling Mom…
Student-directed learning is pure gold. Let it trump your lesson plan.
In the beginning, I was so glued to those lesson plans. We HAD to complete this many pages of this subject, complete exercises A through G, do this many vocabulary words, and read this many chapters of this and that. I worked hard on those lesson plans and we were getting it done. After a while though, I started to see something that made me lose the iron grip on the lesson plans. People learn best when they are passionate about the subject they are learning. People of all ages. Including my son.
No, you may be thinking, good luck having this homeschooling mom show any passion for English, or Math, or whatever subject you totally dreaded in school. And you know what? That’s a fair statement. I believed the same thing. Getting T to read a chapter book was like trying to force-feed a stuffed monkey a banana. They just won’t swallow that. So I get it.
But the longer I taught T the more I realized that the stuff he was truly absorbing was the stuff he was most interested in. And I started getting creative. He hated reading so I tossed aside the books he was required to read and found books about pirates, jungles, or whatever his current thing was and he read those. Soon he learned that he loved to read. And that was the trick. Before long he was reading the required curriculum without fussing because he now loved to read in general. His vocabulary exploded. His imagination caught fire. It was beautiful.
Teaching the love of learning itself is one of the most important things you will ever teach your child.
In Science, he would easily get bored with bookwork, so I started searching for hands-on experiments he could do that were related to the subject material at hand. And that was the trick. Not only was he super cute in his little safety glasses, but he also became completely fascinated with how things worked, what elements they were made of, and cause and effect. He fell in love with Science. He is still in love with Science.
When teaching, striving to achieve a sense of excitement is gold. Excitement will encourage every student to dig deeper. I will let T go as far as he wants with whatever has managed to grab his attention at any time. Because I can then be teaching him stuff that sticks instead of forcing him to absorb material he will have forgotten the next week. Here is one quick example of how this works at our house.
So recently we had a Blood Moon, and this got his interest rekindled for the solar system and how all of that works. So, we got up from the books and drove to the planetarium and watched a great show all about the Solar System. Then for Art that week, we made a model of the Solar System. For his vocabulary words that week I included space-related terms. His Creative Writing Assignment that week was all about the first colony on Mars. We spent time on the NASA website and even attended a webinar on the latest space discoveries.
We fed that love of the solar system and it stuck. We make time for NASA every time they get up to something really interesting. As a matter of fact, we made popcorn and watched the recent InSight landing on Mars totally on the edge of our seats last November. You would have thought it was a multi-million dollar blockbuster we were watching. The level of excitement was intense. We cheered like our team won the Superbowl when that baby entered the atmosphere all intact like that. Our hearts were in it, guys. And that’s what we are after! Education that includes emotion and excitement. Passion. Yup 🙂
Life Skills and Character Development are as important as Math and English.
Now to the most important thing, I would have told terrified newbie homeschooling Mom – me. You are right to believe that character development and community service deserve an equal slice of his education pie. Yes, life skills matter, teach him those. And let faith guide both of you.
Let’s face it, there are some things that public schools don’t or often can’t (in the name of political correctness) teach. Really important stuff. In my opinion the most important stuff. Things like faith, service, mental health management, goal setting, time management, and character development. The greatest blessing of this homeschool journey is being able to educate the heart of the student as well as the mind and being able to offer life skills that I know will better prepare him for life as an adult.
T and I start every day with a bible study. We pray at the beginning of every school day. We often pray throughout the day. T is a boy who prays. This matters. He knows he has a purpose. He knows to whom he belongs. His faith is his rock. I have taught him nothing else that matters more or will provide him more guidance throughout his entire life than who he is in Christ. It’s the best time spent in our classroom, hands down.
Community Service matters. We live in a world that can really be hard to handle. There is a lot of sadness and anger and hate out there. There are a lot of problems in the world. No denying that. The way I see it is this, we do live in a fallen world and it’s our responsibility to be part of the solution. I don’t ever want T to view himself as a victim of this world. I want him to recognize that he has power. Power to change things for the better. Power to shine his light into every corner of darkness and illuminate love and hope. And so, we volunteer.
Volunteering is, however, a two-way street. When we went to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, I wanted T to feel good about helping a family have a home they could feel secure in. Which is amazing in and of itself but you know what, he learned how to use a hammer, how to build walls, how to run a power drill and a power saw, how to paint walls, and so much more in exchange.
He also volunteers weekly at the stables working with the horses. The group he works with also assists At-Risk Youth, children with disabilities, and Vets suffering from PTSD. T works hard there.
He has learned all about how to take care of horses, a barn, and the property that the barn sits on. And how to relate to the veterans with who he has developed these beautiful relationships. He has also prayed with and for those kids labeled At-Risk Youth. T has raked that arena over and over again so every special needs child feels a smooth and solid surface underneath them when they get their lessons.
We have also packed a ton of food for families in need, cleaned trails, collected liter, delivered food and supplies for people, and provided whole Christmases for families in need and you know what, every single experience has given us back more than we were able to reach out with. And I can say to T, you know this is a hard world we are living in but man oh man, you sure are making a difference, My Love. What you do matters. Stay on the path.
Character Development and Mental Health have made it into every single year of our homeschool. We have learned about depression and anxiety. We have studied autism and ADHD. We have worked our way through self-care and nutrition and it matters. Mental health matters. Teach them how to handle their emotions, how to be compassionate, how to handle themselves in the company of others no matter what each is facing, with love and respect and you have really taught them something that blows the rest away. Stuff that sticks.
As for life skills, yes it’s ok to use class time to teach them how to cook, clean, and do laundry. Allow them to help you pay the bills and balance the budget and live the life of an adult in a nice safe trial and error environment without serious consequences. They need to know. Let them call and make their own doctors’ appointments, set up family dinners, and shop within a budget and meal plan. They deserve to know. It matters. It goes toward the quality of life they will live when they leave your home and make their own. Send them out ready and able. If that’s not education, I need someone to redefine it for me.
And that’s what I would tell homeschooling Mom newbie – me. And I might apologize for getting all wordy like that… Possibly.
But here is the thing, if you are a homeschooling Mom at any phase along the journey, I am sending you my love and gratitude. This is hard work. This is a massive responsibility. It takes a lot to give all that it takes to really make this work. But isn’t it awesome too? Isn’t it fun? Aren’t your kids just so incredible? And how about seeing this opportunity as a great big blessing for them and for you too!
We are so blessed. I am sending you a virtual hug and I am seeing you, recognizing you, and loving your Momma heart. You have got this! What you are doing matters! Thank you, sweet girl! Stay on the path.
Do you have any tips or truths you think every homeschool mom would benefit from? Please share your greatest truths in the comments section below. We love to hear from you and we value your advice.
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