Once we made the decision to bring our oldest home it was time to get down to the business of really schooling her.
We took a couple of months to “deschool” (I had read somewhere to give your child a month for every year they had been in traditional school - so we needed about 3 months to get public school out of our system). I needed this time as well to get my ducks in a row.
I began researching curriculum and methods and reading anything I could get my hands on. I ordered a full curriculum kit from Sonlight and we began!
Everyone remarked about my qualifications to homeschoolL
“Your children will do just fine being homeschooled because of your background in education; I have no idea how you could do it without a teaching degree.”
I would soon come to learn, however, that training as a public school teacher was actually a HINDRANCE to homeschooling. The most important qualifications for a homeschooling parent were a love for their children, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to their child’s individuality.
The Classroom Mentality
I began homeschool with the classroom mentality. This involved:
a strict schedule
what children “should” know
a physical space where learning occurred
Even though we had the beautiful curriculum guide and all of the gorgeous books from Sonlight, I still tried to recreate school at home.
Homeschool Mom Fail #1 (the first of so many!)
I purchased the popular books about what children need to know at each grade level. I tried to supplement Sonlight with some of that knowledge.I followed the Sonlight curriculum guide to the letter.
I made sure all of our written work was complete before we had any rewards like reading for pleasure, playing outside, or taking field trips. (I’m sure this is NOT the purpose of Sonlight - I was just a slave to the curriculum.)
I purchased a gradebook program and began keeping grades.
We said the pledge first thing every morning and sang songs about the weather. (I turned a space in our upstairs family room into our school area - and would make the kids sit and listen to me as I went through our beginning of the day litany - the one I had been used to in public school!)
It was ridiculous.
Thank goodness it only took me approximately 6 months to realize (after reading many blogs and meeting a few wonderful local homeschool moms) I was doing it all wrong.
My child was basically getting a one-on-one classroom education at home. That wasn’t what I desired for her, and over the course of the next year we made many adjustments.
*I still am a huge proponent of the Sonlight box curriculum. I’m just giving you an example of how I wasn’t willing to trust the homeschool process and know that between their resources and what my OWN child needed we would have had a more than sufficient homeschool education for her.
Homeschooling Wasn’t My Plan
Because homeschooling my children hadn’t been part of our thought process for very long we were still adjusting.
I knew I wouldn’t be going back to work full time. I also knew I wouldn’t have any “free time” while both of the kids were in school.
To be honest, it felt a bit like a death of something I had been working towards for 8 years - getting of my children into school so I could do my own thing again. I’m ashamed to admit this. Homeschooling has caused me to die to self again and again, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that blessing. Our lives changed in a few marked ways:
Dependence on God deepened.
Friends were lost - and gained.
Certain members of our family drifted from us - others supported us 110%.
The relationship with my children became oh so sweet - they were (and still are) my buddies day in and day out!
Looking back I realize those first six months of homeschooling were a training ground and deschooling time for all of us. By the time my youngest was ready for Kindergarten I was confident in the decision to homeschool. As we entered the Fall of 2010 I was homeschooling a 5 and 9 year old full time.
I had an extremely eager five year old! I was so thankful to be homeschooling him because he just SOARED! I cannot imagine how stifling a traditional learning environment would have been for him.
Things That Worked
I was obsessed.
Homeschooling offered so many advantages. We kept our own schedule, imparted what WE deemed important to our children, and spent time on things that truly interested them. I could see my children thriving.
A wise friend advised me that as long as I was covering reading and math I could follow my children’s leads and do a lot of interest led learning with them. She encouraged me to cultivate the wonder in their lives. This was probably the best homeschooling advice I’ve ever received. We didn’t truly “buckle down” until 7th grade with my oldest and it was just fine!
I decided to piece together curriculum for my children and follow their lead. If I’m being honest this was the most fun time in our homeschool journey!
I was beginning to see the true beauty in customizing their education. Certain resources and activities just clicked with my kids.
The Boxcar Children (remember how my mom was skeptical when we told her we were going to homeschool? She hopped on board the homeschool train quickly and purchased the entire Boxcar Children set for my kids. She had gone to a one-room schoolhouse herself and had fond memories of the teacher reading these books aloud to them. (I love this!)
We joined a local homeschool co-op that met one afternoon a week. This gave the kids a chance to take fun classes and make friends. Through the co-op we learned about a homeschool literature fair (that we participated in for several years) … all of the wonderful homeschooling opportunities simply snowballed.
I was beginning to realize I COULD homeschool my children. The naysayers had been wrong. Imagine that.
When It’s Not All Roses
Please don’t get the impression that homeschooling was all roses. It wasn’t.
We definitely had many beautiful days, but there were hard days, too. It’s the same way now.
Some of the things we battled in the early years…
Attitude (from mom and kids)
Friendships - it took us a while to find our “tribe”
Opposition - from family and friends
Isolation - My husband worked an hour away and was gone for long hours - I felt isolated and had trouble finding like minded friends the first few years.
Relationships - my kids needed to learn how to be with each other full time - and I needed to learn to be with them full time, too.
These things got better over the years, but it was definitely an adjustment for all of us. Our lifestyle was changing, and I now see that we were actually going through the process of building a better life for ourselves, but it was going to take time and patience.
And then, just when I thought I was getting the hang of things, something happened… middle school!