Ok, so we are at a point in our world where we feel forced into a situation we wouldn’t particularly choose for ourselves or our children otherwise. I get it; I was in your shoes five years ago!
So let me start by telling you our story and how we became a homeschool family (because quite frankly, I never wanted to be either.)
My husband is a contractor, and his job landed us an opportunity to move to Italy. While this was such an AMAZING chance for us to live out possibilities we only dreamed of, it also meant that my career would come to an abrupt halt, and the kids charter school education would go as well. The pressure was high!! We moved to an area in southern Italy that spoke very little English and where only a small amount of Americans had ever lived. Our only schooling choices were a private Catholic church, little nonna nuns that still paddle and all, and only had Italian speaking teachers. While they did have an “English teacher,” the language was very broken and taught in a formal British English way. Or an international boarding school 4 hours from our home (yea, no way in hell was that happening). The children attended school in our region six days a week from 8 am to 1 pm. Considering this option, we knew that, 1. It would be extremely hard to dump the boys in that setting, 2. It would require after school tutoring for Italian and a tutor to help with homework (which consisted of 4 hours worth of work each day), and 3. We would not be able to or have the freedom to see the world as we hoped when we envisioned living overseas if we only had Sunday free from obligations.
Seeing that I was not allowed to work in Italy (I could only accompany my husband on his work visa) and knowing I was about to embark on this new “stay at home mom” life, we decided to homeschool (not so excitedly and indeed with lots of fear.)
With only a few months to prepare and learn everything I could about homeschooling, I was beyond overwhelmed. I read blogs, books, forums, joined groups, and reached out to everyone and for everything I could to prepare myself. Although some of this is needed, do not overwhelm yourself with too much information, it will only make this decision so much harder on you. And let me tell you why (not that you will take my word for it, because I certainly did not from all the homeschool moms that told me), but, YOUknow what is best for your child, will love and support them more than anyone else in this world, and YOU have been their greatest teacher since the second they entered this world! You will have to put some blinders on, maybe even some earplugs, and sit with what an ideal homeschool life looks like for your family.
Now, my ideal homeschool life was complete with too many books, programs, a classroom setting, posters, globes, teachers and students desks, tools, etc. NONE of that was successful for our boys! For the first year, all I ended up with was tantrums, crying, screaming, fighting, two unhappy boys, and one super distressed momma!
I had to go back to the drawing board repeatedly, and I am willing to bet you will too! There will be times you feel like a complete failure, that you made the wrong choice, and that you just wish you could go back to the way things were, but there is no going back to the way things were. Like now, our world has changed. Just like the bad days you are going to have (because brace yourself, YOU WILL), there will be days that are so incredibly happy and good that you will think, “why have I ever doubted this journey?”
So, why am I writing this post to you? Because I want you to know that I see you, I feel you; I have literally been where you are!
Fast forward to our move back home to the states, and our choice to continue to homeschool. I am not going to sugarcoat this for you; the social aspect of homeschool is different than that they receive in school, no doubt. However, it is not impossible. We had a tough time adjusting to Italy because we did not have the resources we have here in the states, nor did we know anyone for quite a long time. Imagine this HUGE American family (and when I say huge I mean we are all descendants of the giraffe family basically) in southern Italy with these t-tiny Italian folks and not a lick of English spoken for about a year. We stood out just a bit and certainly did not fit in at all! We missed our friends and family, our social life; the boys missed school and sports; we longed for home comforts.
We just had to adjust and accept that our world had changed and would never be the same. The same way you will!
Socializing as a homeschool family in the states, SO much more accessible and attainable. Your kids can play sports (often along with their regular schools), join co-ops, have playdates with friends, take field trips, and go on family vacations or group vacations any time they want. You will have the freedom to adjust school schedules to your life, not your life to school schedules. Wanna book that vacation in the off-season that is half the price that it is in the summer? Yep…you can do that! Need a dr appt in the middle of the day (around your wake up, work out, nap, eating schedule? Yep…you can do that too. Not only all of that, but you can actually keep them, kids, perhaps a bit longer. Let’s face it; school is not like the school our generation experienced. Two words: Social Media. The pressure and judgment our kids face these days are unlike anything we had to deal with.
Please do not think I am knocking our excellent teachers and school systems; I am not. I am merely saying I feel privileged that my children’s knowledge of subjects that may be too mature for them at any given time can be addressed, taught, and understood adequately without fear of repercussions that many of our teachers face. They will also receive factual information that they can choose to read about on their own or with me instead of the student sitting next to them in class that may have collected their “mature audience” information from an older sibling or the lovely internet.
Both of my boys know that they can come to me, ask me anything about any subject, and go over the absolute truth, the ugly, the uncomfortable, and real aspects of the question.
If you can try to step away from the unexpected stress that this new idea of homeschooling has brought you, take little bits of info at a time in, you will indeed be able to see the benefits it will provide your children. I know that we are all in different situations, that perhaps both you and your spouse work outside of the home, and you have no idea how you are going to add more to your workload and make this a smooth transition for your child. It will not be easy under any circumstance. But try to find comfort that so many of us are in this same situation, reach out, come together, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
My seven essential life lessons from homeschooling that I hope you can embrace as well are:
- Comparison is the theft of joy! Ol’ President Theodore Roosevelt stated, which evokes a powerful sentiment that can be life-changing. At some point along this journey, you will feel inadequate, that maybe your children are not learning the material that they were in school; or that “so-and-so’s mom is doing this better than I am.” Stop yourself from those thoughts the second they enter your mind! No one and I repeat, no one can be more influential than you/your spouse for your children. Yes, they will have people they adore and look up to ( I have teachers I will never forget), but you and only you have what it is inside you to raise them to be the best little humans that they can be, you have the most influence of anyone!
- Children do not need the school structure to be social. They will more than likely have more profound and more reliable connections to the children and groups that you involve them in because there is no pressure to fit into a box that the school structure often puts them in. As children learn and play freely, they feel more confident in being who they indeed are—not pressured into being just like, dressing like, and acting like the other 30 kids sitting next to them. I feel like this is hugely beneficial for kids with learning disabilities or special needs that can often be made to feel like they need to be and learn like their peers.
- Homeschool structure does not have to look at all like the structure in public school. If your child prefers to chill in their room with their laptop or take their workbooks outside, allow that. Some kids cannot physically learn properly sitting at a desk, in the quiet, perfectly still. Some need music or dim light or stimulates, such as fresh air and their furry friend’s nestle, to learn best.
- State required testing is not the only way to know if your child is “smart” or succeeding in school. You can create chapter tests, essays, multiple-choice, finals, whichever best suits your child, and that supports them in their success. As a child, I had extreme test anxiety, I could have an A in a course, and the second a final came around, I would question all and everything I knew and undoubtedly score low! I doubted myself with every question because of the fear of failing. In homeschool, you can test to succeed per se. If they do not make a passing grade, reapproach with a different style. Or go back over the course material they doubted knowing in the test. Set them up not only to have confidence but to actually succeed.
- Try lots of content. Not all children learn the same. My two boys have completely different learning styles. Have them take a quiz, like this one, http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles.shtml, to find out how they even learn; I doubt you know; I didn’t (hence why my classroom structure setting failed the first year). I have one son who is a complete visual learner and must have me by him during school hours, needs music, and is up and down and all around. My other son is a full auditory learner who prefers to be alone and in a quiet space during school hours, no distractions. Don’t be afraid to use different programs, projects, books, for each of your children, and each semester or year.
- Do not get stuck on grade level. A perk in homeschooling is that children have the freedom to work ahead, together (teach the same curriculum no matter age/grade level), or go back and invest more time on a subject they are struggling in. This also applies to kids that may reenter public school in the future. So what if your child already learned the material at home that they may have to take again when they return to public school. Or perhaps they will need a tutor or additional resources from the school for a particular subject, not the world’s end.
- HAVE FUN!!! No seriously, have fun, and a lot of it! Incorporate what brings your child happiness into your schooling. We LOVE nature, so we have purchased books on insects and wildlife; we take hikes and create journals of what we see. We have foraging books and look up different plants and flowers to research. Sign up for online courses in whatever may interest your kiddos. Find documentaries, YouTube videos, museums; that support their interests and spike their learning. Become members at your local water parks, zoos, aquariums; surprise your kiddos on a random Tuesday with a trip to the zoo with friends. Have the kids join you in the kitchen for a cooking class (home ec class was always one of my favs!) or to the gym for a family workout, or out in the garage with dad to build something (hello, workshop)! The BIGGEST perk to homeschooling is it can be light, loving, full of random snuggles, and kisses and hugs, meaningful and personal discussions, and FUN!
Ok, I know, that was lengthy but hopefully a bit inspiring. And I know you all want to probably just want to know resources I can share with you. Here are a few that we have thoroughly enjoyed in our journey!
I have faith that ALL of you will love this life (once you hop over those speed bumps like a Fiat going 60) and look back as I do with nothing but gratitude for this opportunity.
(just a view and story from a veteran homeschool momma)
Suggest for younger kids or extra help:
Suggest for all ages—College Ace College Credit for many HS courses:
Suggest for HS and ACE College Credit Courses:
For info on what to choose for your curriculum:
History of the World Series and Workbooks (you can find these many times gently used in homeschool groups and on Amazon):
Resources to read to understand homeschooling better:
The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life by Julie Bogart
The Call of the Wild and Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education by Ainsley Arment
Homeschool Bravely: How to Squash Doubt, Trust God, and Teach Your Child with Confidence by Jamie Erikson
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace 2.0 Edition by Sarah MacKenzie