I don’t know about you, but when I began homeschooling I was positive that I could still do it all — keep up with my four kids under the age of 5, one a newborn, keep my house clean, pay the bills, chauffer everyone to soccer practice and turn my kids into little prodigies. Silly I know, but that’s my personality. I call myself an optimist, and my husband calls me completely unrealistic.
I was thrown headlong into homeschooling when my oldest missed the kindergarten deadline and was beside herself that all of her little friends were heading off to school — except her — so I offered to do school at home with her as consolation. It was actually a great year (a very serendipitous accident!) and we all loved it.
I attribute our enjoyment, in large part, to my nonchalant mindset. My almost-5-year-old could already read pretty well, and my 4-year-old was quickly picking it up, too. I figured my daughter would be hopping on the school bus with all the others the next year, so I didn’t feel responsible to teach her all the things.
The next year, my daughter was finally old enough to start kindergarten, but we had all loved homeschooling so much we decided to continue. Once I began actually homeschooling in earnest, I found my priorities shifting.
All of a sudden, I felt like I needed to teach my little ones the capitals of all the states and the capitals of all the countries, and about their cultures and languages, and speaking of languages, clearly we should all be learning Latin and Spanish if I wanted my kids to amount to anything! But Chinese seemed to be the up-and-coming language. What the heck, why not add Chinese? Oooh, Russian! And I once heard about a mom whose eight-year-old Calculus learned alongside his older brother as the mom and brother worked on Calculus together daily. Calculus is one of my strong suits — surely we could add that to our days?!
Sounds silly now, I know. But I really felt that way, and I really did buy all of that curricula!
Time would wait for no man, and we were off to conquer genius!
I was the only person at our house aboard that crazy train. My kids did learn lots, sure. And it was an amazing way to teach a 4-year-old who surely would have been diagnosed ADHD at a public school. He could do his monkey gymnastics while listening to books about astronomy and repeat entire chapters back to me nearly verbatim, with perfect comprehension.
But nobody has yet invented a way to magically produce an extra eight hours every day. Or any day.
The more time I had to spend producing prodigies, the less time I had to fold laundry or cook. Not only could I not keep up with my house, but I couldn’t keep up with myself and my own enjoyment of life.
I didn’t particularly enjoy lengthy flashcard sessions, and I enjoyed being laughed at about my Spanish pronunciation by my Spanish-speaking husband even less. (Who knew that it’s nearly impossible to teach your kids to speak a language you don’t speak yourself nor have you heard it spoken more than a handful of times?)
As I plodded through the next ten years of homeschooling, pregnancy, nursing and sleepless nights, my entire paradigm shifted, and I emerged much wiser. I’d like to share just a few of the ways my priorities and expectations have changed or been discarded altogether.
Create your own schedule, and create a life you love.
If you love spending 8 hours a day teaching your kids — and they also love it, and everyone is happy with the schedule, by all means continue. We found that 3 hours a day is just the right amount for our family. We work together around the kitchen table from 9am-noon M-Th. We take educational field trips and co-op classes on Fridays, and spend Wednesday afternoons at music lessons and orchestra. 12 hours a week is totally doable for us.
Related Reading: Lazy Homeschoolers Raise Geniuses
My high-schoolers take classes through our local university, so they do spend quite a bit more time on academics, and they also usually work a part-time job, so their schedules are frequently more hectic, but they still spend a whole lot less time away from home than the average high schooler.
Because I devote mornings to helping my children learn, I expect them to help with household chores, the garden and farm, and family work projects on the afternoons that we’re home. They’re great helpers, and we have a clean, well-maintained home. I feel like involving kids in chores is every bit as critical to their development as academics.
Related Reading: Want to Raise Successful Adults? Give Your Kids Chores
I never sign my kids up for community extracurriculars in the evening, because I feel family dinners are more important than being on a soccer team or any other team. I want my family home and together in the evenings, so that’s what I’ve intentionally created.
You might like your life much busier than I like mine, and your kids might want to be more involved. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can create your schedule and your day and your schedule to be exactly what you want. Just make sure you do it intentionally. Freedom is the number one beauty of homeschool!
I remember leaving home for the first time, going off to college, and the accompanying feelings of freedom. Nobody would be telling me what to do anymore! Of course, I had to live with the consequences of my actions. If I chose not to clean my apartment, I had to live in the filth.
But I loved that I could choose everything for myself. As homeschoolers, we have that same freedom! The local public school can’t tell us our kids need to be in a certain place for a certain number of hours, or that our wide age-range of kids will all attend different schools with different schedules, or that we can’t take a trip whenever we want to.
We determine the what, why, how and when of everything we learn. We do our learning at national parks and the beach, and in foreign countries, where our kids are able to hear how a language is actually spoken and not just learn words, badly pronounced, from flashcards! All that freedom gives me chills!
A million yesses to teaching my kids math and science, but I vehemently dislike teaching them writing. I don’t mind teaching them grammar, and we all absolutely adore reading, but writing causes us all fits. So I just don’t! I don’t teach writing. I don’t even worry about it until my kids are in about 7th grade, and then I find and purchase a writing class or two. Nobody seems to have suffered any ill effects yet.
If you hate teaching math, use a curriculum like Teaching Textbooks that teaches for you, or find a class with a great teacher. You don’t need to make yourself miserable trying to teach all the things to all the children.
Your worth is not determined by your children’s achievements.
Neither is your child’s worth determined by his achievements.
Before I had kids I believed parents were the determining factor in a child’s behavior and achievement. Oh, the things parenting teaches us! All eight of my children live in the same house with the same parents, and they are each very different.
I have a couple of kids who are diligent and people-pleasing and would earn straight A’s no matter their situation. I have two kids who I think probably would have been diagnosed ADHD had they been forced to sit in a chair for any length of time. Those two learn very naturally, easily and thoroughly, but I think they would probably receive poor grades in a public school setting and would have been made to feel dumb and to dislike learning.
A couple of my children are very lazy and require a double-dose of inspiration on my part. And I have one extra determined child who is going to learn everything she wants to, voraciously and all by herself, and she will stubbornly refuse to learn the things she doesn’t want to.
It isn’t about you! Your kiddos are unique, and they were born that way. God created them that way because he has special missions for each of them to fulfill. Homeschooling gives you the opportunity to emphasize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses — allowing each child to learn the way he learns best.
Disregard other people’s expectations.
It’s very stressful to worry about meeting the expectations of others. Society expects kindergarteners to read and third graders to learn long division. In addition to our homeschooling responsibilities, our houses are supposed to look like Better Homes & Gardens magazine ads and our children like Gymboree models.
We can’t control what others expect, but we can control how we react.
People always ask me how I do it all. Frequently, that sentiment actually seems like judgment, disguised as admiration, because they really just think I’m crazy. The truth is that there is a lot I don’t do. My oldest is my only child who has ever had a birthday party. It caused me so much misery I’ve never thrown another one!
My kids don’t participate in sports or scouts or any of the things the neighbor kids do.
We’ll never win any style awards, either. My only requirement when we leave the house is that everyone is dressed and clean. Mostly. If the pajamas can pass as clothing, and my 5-year-old can hop in the back of the suburban before I get a chance to see what she’s wearing, we just run with it. Shoes are even negotiable lately.
We tend to build up veritable wardrobes in our suburban, as my kids change clothing in the care between activities, and I don’t know how else, but we have piles of shoes and clothing throughout our vehicles. I do clean our Suburban out regularly, and I try to make my kids bring their belongings into the house, but it’s me against eight, and I think the law of entropy is exponential.
So lately my kids have been hopping in the suburban without shoes, hoping that they’ll be able to find a pair inside. And if I’ve recently cleaned out the car, we end up places without shoes. You just learn not to care what others think. And honestly, I just refuse to feel bad about how my kids are dressed or whether they have shoes or not. It’s not worth the added stress.
I’ve learned not to compare myself, or my family, or my homeschool with others. Comparison is nothing but a thief of joy. And we frequently inadvertently compare our worst to others’ best.
Some kids naturally and easily learn to read before or around age 5, but others don’t, and there are no ill consequences down the road. Trust me! One of my younger children was completely uninterested in reading until he was 8-years-old. He had plenty of older siblings to read to him, so there was no need! When he finally became interested, he learned to read fluently, with perfect comprehension, in about three weeks. All I would have gotten from pushing him was unhappiness all the way around, or even worse, I could have made him feel dumb. That would have been disastrous because he is such a smart kid!
You know your kids best, and you know when they’re ready to learn things. Don’t let anyone else’s expectations rob you of your confidence in your role as your child’s parent. When outside pressures dominate my actions, I find myself stressed and unhappy. And when I’m miserable, the rest of the family is, too!
Your homeschool will not always be happy and pink and fluffy.
I know. You spent your summer researching different methods, and bought your brand-new, exciting curriculum, and hung enticing maps in your school room. You have charts, stickers, diagrams and dry-erase markers. You can’t wait to introduce your kiddos to all of the wonders of the world!
Unfortunately, kids have their own ideas about how they want to spend their time. They’re people, too, with their own preferences. Despite your best efforts, homeschool is not always going to go as planned. You’ll even have days where school looks like an absolute disaster.
That’s when we start doubting our abilities, our method and our choices.
What do you do when those inevitable doubts creep in?
In a nutshell, you let things go. You’ll learn that bad days are par for the course, but that they make the good days even sweeter. You learn to let go of your desire for control and trust God that your kids will turn out alright in the end. Your children are also God’s children, and they were His first so He knows them best.
When your expectations run smack into the wall of reality you need to take a deep breath and rethink those expectations. Be brave and kick any expectations that don’t work for you to the curb!
Related Reading: Advice to New Homeschool Moms From a Veteran Homeschooler
If school has gotten off to a bad start, turn on some music and have a dance party instead. Salvage your day with some laughter and fun. Then try again tomorrow! And keep trying every day. Habits take time to establish.
You can miss days with no ill effect, I promise! We missed eons, practically, and my two oldest still aced their college entrance tests and earned scholarships everywhere they applied.
At the end of the day, the thing I love best about homeschooling is that we’ve been able to spend all of our time together, enjoying each other and building relationships. My kids are each other’s best friends and biggest cheerleaders. Homeschooling is probably the very best decision I’ve ever made for my family!
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