10 important reminders for your homeschool year.
Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Experiencing doubt from others when it comes to the massive task of taking on your child's education only magnifies the self-doubt or imposter syndrome that some days follows home schooling. Not all days, but some. As the year wears on it is easy to get caught up and lost in the noise outside. It amps up with the spring. With all of these things comingling with the regular experience of life, Have you found yourself thinking that you couldn't possibly provide the community, resources, friends, and daily routine that a school provides?
I am a homeschool mama of 2 children and I come from a broken home. I didn't exactly hate school and really loved the predictability of it because it was such a contrast from my home. Needless to say, I too struggle with my own inner world of imposter syndrome and other unhelpful ways my brain tries to protect me from the unknown. Some of what has helped me navigate these choppy waters to supporting myself and others in as graceful of a way as I can manage. Many of us want to look back on our past self and be proud of who we were, its not an isolated experience. Yet we build our future self and create memories of our past self in the present moment.
Building consistent support for yourself comes with daily habits, we all know this. With homeschool that is in and of itself the daily habit you're trying to foster, build, and ultimately fall in love with. Or at least on the worst of days, have a healthy relationship with. What that will look like for your family looks different for each and every one of us. The question remains- How? I do know that the most beautiful thing about my homeschool community that I appreciate deeply is that it looks different for every family. This is a good thing! It means that each and every individual learner is getting their specialized education. With that being said, here are 10 things that have worked out well for our family when they are implemented.
1. Rest is just as important as any other needed function.
When I have failed to rest well it has been devastating for my mental health. As a natural consequence, I have less patience and so the emotional state of my family is then affected. I am much more helpful to my family, community, and more if I prioritize my own mental, spiritual, and physical health first. No one can pour from an empty cup, and we will all have to adjust our definitions of rest as the demands of parenthood shift. We do our best each day, and some days our best looks incredible even to ourselves. Other days our best looks embarrassing, and we don't want to share our shortcomings with anyone.
Do not let the highlight reel of life that is social media fool you. We all have days where we feel we are not enough or too much. That is why it's such a good practice to fill your cup first, in whatever way that looks like for you. For me, it is working out, meditation, washing my face, then journaling or sketching with a cup of tea. Some days, I just wash my face and that's all I get. On the days when I have the time, or when the baby's nap is good and I can fit in extra time to take care of my body, I feel so good and so proud of myself that I took that time for me.
2. Prioritize what is most important for your family.
I'm going to get real with you here- there's times in your homeschool journey where the mess will outweigh the lessons. You will have to clean the mess. However, that is integral to taking care of the school itself, as well as learning the skills of life. No matter where anyone finds him or herself in life, we each still want clean clothes to wear, and warm healthy food.
These things are not given freely, they are worked for. When you do not live without modern conveniences (or simply take on the perspective of the billions on earth who do not have a washing machine or toilet) you understand what a gift they are. There are some families who don't want to integrate this into their learning time and some families who do. Each family knows their children well and if they will respond to cleaning as a distraction or as a chance to serve. Kids will always follow our example and chores it is especially so. What you choose is on you and it is what is right for your family.
3. Reach out to the homeschool community.
I'm so proud and honored to say that over years of searching I finally found my tribe. My core group of people who feel like a little ray of sunshine and they are all around me. However, I would like to add some emphasis on the fact that it took years of searching. I was convinced I was a mom group dropout. I've never 'fit in' a ton of places but weirdly I do not see myself as all that different from other people. Still to not find other moms you connect with among homeschool moms can be discouraging, and if you're new to the game and reading this I want you to know that one homeschool co-op does not reflect another. Keep reaching out.
Even after finding my tribe, I will continue to reach out and find more people to connect with. You will be able to find resourceful people who homeschool in the style you do to bounce ideas off of, and as a bonus be able to be hands off for a day. The kids get to see friends, the families get to connect and so much can be done in these groups because of the age differences. This is something that has led to so many blessings and richness in our family and community life, so I highly encourage it. Even before you homeschool, reach out and connect!
4. Consider a rhythm instead of a routine.
Once upon a time a friend who was new told me "We like to do a rhythm during the times when our everyday life is demanding and a routine for when we can. This makes sure it all gets done as best as we each can manage." This woman is now a dear friend, and thankfully she has helped me understand. However, I remember when I first heard it, I was thinking "What does she mean? What even is the difference between a rhythm and a routine? Both of them are the same thing." I was so curious about it so I looked into it. When we think of a routine, we think of something like getting ready for the day or the commute to work. These things can sometimes require abrupt changes that are fast. These sometimes provoke anxiety in a developing child and a rhythm can help to alleviate this. Where some teens may thrive in routine, many young children will thrive in understanding a daily rhythm. This also gives a child a chance to understand their day before it happens, so they know what to expect and aren't (always) asking you what's next. They know what is next and understand what is expected of them. You can do this same thing with routine, but many children flounder in it because there is little example given to them to follow.
Children tune into how we feel about things, the spirit we bring into them. They see how we react to ourselves when we say things like "Time to do the dishes." or "It's time for lessons to begin." Whatever intention you are giving that activity or day is what you will get out of it. Our children will amplify and echo our intentions.
5.One day a week gets dedicated to appointments or medical needs.
I realize already that upon reading that you were possibly thinking, "In what world...?" because let's face it, some of the time this isn't possible with schedules of others. Except for when it is. We try our best to stick to a certain day of the week to handle appointments, important calls, emails, and more because it's easier to handle it as soon as possible rather than let it build up.
One thing that can really interrupt a good momentum of any kind is an interruption or distraction. This is so true with anything we are trying to learn. No one wants to study while trying to talk to the doctor at the same time. It will help everyone get to where they need and everyone in the family will eventually come to know the day as the day where you're on the phone doing important calls.
In our family this has helped so much with keeping everyone one the same page. Save yourself some mental stress and give yourself this gift. Tuesdays have worked well for our family.
6.Batch cook all the food, snack tray during lessons.
Getting the food settled helps so much when cooking more meals than hobbits would. The MOMENT dishes are done there’s tea to be made. It will get messy doing science experiments and meals at the same kitchen table. This is a lifestyle change, a complete upending of all you knew. It is ultimately the best decision for your family if you’re here reading this article so welcome, we’re all mad here. Completely bonkers and doing the dishes all the time. While home education is worth every second, you save so much time keeping meals organized, cooked and under control. Not to mention the enormous benefits to health if you cook from scratch, at home, and use fresh local veggies in each meal. This helps you stay away from pre frozen meals in a package or a bag. Kids learn a ton by watching you and there's plenty of real-life math to be had in the kitchen! From spending to how much of what to add to each meal. Be sure to watch for my post on meal prep for a family and how to keep a menu looking exciting for the whole family. One of the things that helped so much for our family is before lessons start I will fill a muffin tray with snacks of all kinds. The snacks are pre cut and easy to choose from, also easy to set up! This way everyone knows what is acceptable, available, and there for them. I personally allow tea in our learning space, but no food. It helps our family to keep it in the kitchen, it all stays cleaner that way. Food can be used as a tool to explore so much of the world and its history, so your kitchen is practically the new living space sometimes. It’s great to have some peace of mind around basic meals. I hope you find some value here around that as I struggled with this for years. It ate up so much time, expect a post on Meal prep in 2022.
7.Slow and steady wins the curriculum research race.
For some reason there feels like there is this weird judgement cloud homeschool parents face about curriculum. It’s like you need to know about every single one for some reason and if you don’t then you're not paying attention. No, no mama we are not doing that today. There is no official who’s going to come in any start looking over everything you’re doing. In homeschool no one's there to oversee you, you‘re make the lists and the decisions for your child. That is what is both terrifying and incredibly liberating about homeschool.
That said, take your time with curriculum research. Find 10-15 different ones you like, write them down, and dedicate 30 minutes each day for 2 weeks looking into them. This leaves so much extra time to dive deep into the ones you think will fit your family the most. There's so many mistakes that can be made when you purchase the wrong curriculum as well. Many families will stick with something that's not working for them simply because of the financial burden taken on to have the curriculum in the first place.
If you feel like that could be you, take your time researching what a curriculum is and how its built, this can help you understand if you'd rather take a custom approach to your child's education, and it can also help you choose materials from many curricula. This empowers you to choose what is best for the student rather than moves the adult to choose what is most comfortable for them to teach.
8. You'll have a lot to learn, unlearn, and relearn.
We all know we were lied to a time or three in school and had to relearn a lot of material for ourselves. We all had that one subject we hated in school are introduced to new ways of seeing it later in life, it all comes together. Suddenly, what was uninteresting and hard to understand becomes incredibly rich and full of inspired questions. I believe each student has that within, already there lying-in wait to be awakened by that new way of seeing things. In a young pre-k classroom this is easy to see, each student practically bounds into a room where learning is as close to play as possible. Yet by high school, most if not all students are practically dragging themselves past the threshold of the classroom door, regardless of any natural interest they might have in the subject.
We live in a society where the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is a common question and "Who do you want to be when you grow up?" is a questi0n that's not asked per se but it is expected that a boy or a girl grow into someone. If we are supposed to be engineers and accountants all of us, then why is it that each one of those people on an engineering team are all so different? This is where learning fundamentally takes its philosophical curve. There are some who believe learning is something done from the outside in. For example, we learn through a math teacher that 2+2=4. There are others who believe that learning is something that blossoms from within each one of us and comes out. For example, I see that if I add 2 more apples to the pile of 2 apples, I then have 4 apples.
Many homeschool families agree that a classroom out in the fresh air with a good book and some snacks is so much better for learning than indoors. What I know is with homeschool you receive a chance to work with what is best for the student. You will notice how different yet how similar you are to your child and vice versa. I have personally seen 'childhood' being more of a 'verb' rather than a 'noun‘ especially in the early years.
9.Get yourself a good planner-this means one for you and one for the family.
We all need to organize each day but most notably homeschool families do. If you have each day planned out - especially weekends- everyone in the crew knows what is going on and what to expect from each person in the house. At least, each child or adult in the house will have an easy point of reference until the rhythm for the week is well established. I fill out the planner and at times when the chores get to be a lot for me mentally, I will need my husband to remind me of what's next or to tell me what is going on. The fact that we both have a waypoint to go to for information is so helpful and keeps things peaceful.
This takes time but it is well worth it and has saved I need to plan my next day out before bed if I want to have a successful day. That is part of my rhythm each evening and I love the ritual of it. It helps to calm and center me knowing I am doing this work to organize needs and wants in the household for ultimately, my own future self.
10. Research the legal homeschooling requirements in your state and follow them.
Researching legal jargon can seem daunting at first but you may be surprised what you can easily find in the resources available online. Firstly, anywhere in the world you are it is worth it to check out and join the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, or HSLDA. I cannot recommend this organization enough. Facebook groups then led me to parent groups and now I attend zoom meetings with a cup of coffee and my awake baby at 6 AM. You can visit the HSLDA site and find answers to so many questions, and facebook groups are so receptive and knowledgeable about how to remove your child from school, when to file an intent to homeschool, if you have to, and more. It helps so much with a community, just like when your children are in school. With membership to HSLDA, you can reach out for any legal questions you may have.
I also highly recommend finding Facebook groups in your area for local meet ups as well. Getting to know the other mamas dedicated to doing this puts it all into perspective. When it's just you doing this, typically it is easy to feel alone and overwhelmed. Any of us with a job and a family knows that every day while you're at work you're thinking of what you're going to get done at home all week. Then, as soon as that weekend hits you realize all of the....life happening around you. You don't get it all done OR if you do, you feel like you missed out on wasted time. Mom guilt applies to all mothers, whether homeschooling your littles or working full time. Whatever you're facing, it helps so much to have a community and there has never been an easier time to reach out and find the exact community you're looking for.