Welcome to Build Your Library’s “Homeschool Tidbits: Episode 14 – What I Wish I’d Known as a New Homeschooling Mother.” In this weekly video series, I will delve briefly into a topic related to homeschooling and I will share some of my knowledge and expertise as a long-time homeschooling mother of 4 children. Three of whom have graduated!
I began homeschooling my children when my oldest daughter was four. She is now 23 and about to graduate college next month. Back in the early 2000s, secular homeschooling content was not easy to find. This was before Instagram started to give you unrealistic expectations of the perfect homeschool family (though there were still plenty of message boards to make you feel like you weren’t doing enough). And it seemed that only very religious Christian families did it. Really, my only prior experience with homeschooling consisted of a single family that lived down the street from my grandparents. I remember thinking were super weird because they didn’t watch TV and the “s” word they never spoke actually meant stupid.
It would be years before I felt like I knew what I was doing. But I’ve learned a lot these past 20 years. So I want to share some things with you guys today that I wish I had known way back when we first started. Why didn’t anyone tell me?!
Starting it off with something controversial, academics can wait if necessary. There are many schools of thought on this one and obviously, you know your children best. But if your 6-year-old is struggling with math concepts, or not grasping phonics… just put it aside for a few months.
They are still very young and there is plenty of time to cover that material. I see a lot of new homeschoolers trying to cover so many subjects with their 5, 6, and 7-year-olds. Guys, it’s not necessary. All you are going to accomplish is burn-out, both for you and your children.
In your first few years, you are figuring out your groove. What kind of homeschooling philosophy do you feel is best for your family? How do your children learn best? There are a lot of amazing curricula on the market today, and you are going to want to use everything! But don’t feel like you need to keep plugging away on something that isn’t working you. You are the teacher, and you are in charge of your homeschool. Not the curriculum!
Even if it is a popular program that everyone else seems to love. If it’s not working for you or your children, move on to something else that does! This can be especially difficult when you feel like you’ve spent a lot of money on something, but remember, the resale market is huge. If possible, sell the books and let it go to someone who will get more use out of them than you did!
This one is hard because we all want to find a benchmark so we can be sure our child is doing well. But comparing children is NOT the way to do it. Every child is different and learns at their own pace. I say this a lot, I know, but it really bears repeating. It’s so easy to look at your friend’s children, or the prodigy who lives next door, or even your other children and get caught up in the worry that you aren’t doing enough or that they are behind. They aren’t. They are just going at their own pace. Some kids are early readers. Some don’t quite get it to click until they are 9 or 10. One child might be great at math, another better at writing. Everyone is different and that is okay!
Not to mention how damaging it can be to your children to hear you saying that so-and-so is already in the next math level, why can’t you be better at math? Even if you don’t say it to them directly, children have large ears. They will hear you and it will stick with them. If they are progressing, I promise, they will be fine!
Put on your blinders and focus on your own child and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.
There are so many different ways to homeschool. You can unschool, you can do school-at-home, or you can follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy. Waldorf, Montessori, Classical, the list goes on and on. The key factor to remember here is that once you figure out what works best for you and your children, hone in on that. Don’t worry about all those other ways.
I initially spent several years dabbling back and forth between every kind of homeschooling philosophy I could find. It was exhausting and frustrating for all of us. Then I still ended up back where I started, with living books and Charlotte Mason. I wish someone had told me that I didn’t need to do all of that. And I wish someone had told me that my way was just as valid. I didn’t need to think that I should try their way and see if I got better results.
If your child loves workbooks, don’t feel like you can’t use them because it doesn’t align with the Charlotte Mason philosophy! It always comes down to what works best for your family, flexibility is homeschooling’s best feature. You can be eclectic!
Instagram is full of gorgeously organized homeschool rooms, isn’t it? It makes you want to create that space in your home. But you know what? You don’t need it. I spent years and years, coveting a beautiful homeschooling space. Then I tried making it work in my basement and it was a disaster. I tried turning my dining space into a homeschool room and it was fine. But you know what always seems to work best for us? Working together on the couch.
I finally let go of that desire to have a beautiful homeschool room. It allowed me to have so much more freedom in where we school and how I store our materials. It also keeps me from wasting countless hours trying to organize and re-organize our space. I know what works best for us in our small home and I can make the most of what I have.
Not only that, but learning happens everywhere. Maybe you take your learning on the road as you travel to activities and appointments. Perhaps sometimes you pack up your work and go to the park when the weather is nice. Or maybe you scatter around the house where everyone can work where they are the most comfortable. Backyard field trip anyone? Go for it!
I think I realized this in the beginning, but I was also unaware of the difficulties that were to come down the road. Homeschooling a 4-year-old, or even a 6-year-old is very different than homeschooling a high schooler. And homeschooling 3 kids when you have a new baby was even harder. Especially if you are brand new to homeschooling, it can feel overwhelmingly difficult. You are going to have to let go of things like having a spotless house or having lots of free time.
You are going to have to make a lot of decisions, and some of them are going to be really difficult. Have you figured out your state’s laws and stayed on top of what is required of you? Can you ignore those people in your life who think that you are doing something wrong by teaching your children? Are you ready to deal with that moment when your children tell you that they hate homeschooling and wish they could go to “real” school because they watched a show on TV where school looked super fun? The answer is, or will be a resounding yes! You can do all of this!
There will be so many challenges that you can’t even imagine when you are just starting out. But know that you love your children and you can totally rock this. Even when it’s hard. Even when you want to quit. You got this and your children might even thank you someday. Someday.
I hope you found this Tidbit helpful! Come back next week for more homeschooling inspiration!
Until next time, happy reading!
Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 21 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.