5 things I've learned in 10 years of Homeschooling
1. You will be eaten alive without a morning routine/rhythm.
I don't mean actually eaten alive like camping in high summer in Wisconsin (Hello mosquitos!!) but all your good intentions, ideas, and even applications to do things or even valiant efforts to change will be thrown down the drain if you, yourself, are not ready in some way to take on the day when the kids wake up. Barring that you do not have a child who is less than 3 years old. If that is what your family situation is right now, ask for help in the morning by from your beloved. Even if it is just that they grind your coffee beans before they leave, or get the dishwasher started when everyone wakes up provided their schedule works with that- there is always something we can do to help one another.
My routine looks like this: try my best to wake up at 4:30, if that does not work try for 5. Exercize for 10-45 min. Make my coffee, brush my teeth, braid my hair, drink water and take supplements. Take coffee into my office, write for my blog until the kids wake up. Ahhh, that sounds so nice but considering I have a 15 month old as I type this it is definitely not the norm. There are days where it happens sure, but those days are vastly outnumbered by the days where I am simply trying to get out of bed and my toddler is just not having that!
I learn to pivot, that going with the flow may be failure in one endeavor yes, but that is also an opportunity to learn and change for next time. My patience and ability to bear not meeting my own expectations nobly will teach me later. Most days I still exercise for my little one's nap- 10 minutes a day is 70 minutes a week. That's nothing to scoff at. It's not about getting discouraged because that will happen- it is about embracing all feelings that will come your way as you blaze a new trail for your family as part of the process.
2. You change their world by first inviting them to change yours.
I remember once I was playing with my son out in the yard in our old home in Milwaukee, and a post man came to deliver a package for our family. He commented on how quiet it was as my 4 year old was reading a book while I weeded the garden. He just finished helping me and was tired so he was able to find that space within himself to actually relax and settle. It was not because he knew EXACTLY what to do. In fact, I remember clearly needing to take deep breaths as he crawled INTO the raised bed and stepped on the dirt. (Deep breaths, if you know you know)
I didn't get frustrated, I didn't yell or use an irritated tone, I invited him into the garden to help me in this tradition I was starting. I am a child who comes from a chaotic environment so I needed to get real with myself on how I was going to provide a space where I could be both patient with my explinations and ready to correct even when I was feeling at the end of my rope. I, myself, had to learn how to EMBRACE chores. They are not a consequence or a drudgery to get through but rather a blessing many families do not have.
I also had to unfold and allow myself to be loved and helped. To ask for help BEFORE I was ready to explode from carrying the load. Chores in a home are not 'mom's chores' and other people helping to clean the home are not people 'helping mom'. The home, as a consequence of existing, has chores to do within it and it is up to both caregivers to show the life skills needed to attend to those responsibilities of a home. It is not that complicated, and not one of these chores falls on one gender or the other. Both mothers and fathers can operate a lawnmower as well as a washing machine. In the same day! Not because they are doing any favors but because they are allowing themselves to realize what needs to be done.
This applies to both 'seen' and 'unseen' tasks. By 'seen' tasks I mean things like washing the dishes, cleaning the toys and books up in the living room, or mowing the lawn. These are things that can be seen once they are done. By 'unseen' tasks I mean things like dentist, doctor, or eye appointments, writing a grocery list and meal plan for that month or week, mediating sibling fights to be learning opportunities or teachable moments, organizing the laundry in kids dresser drawers, or really any drawer or cupboards organizations for that matter. These things cannot be 'seen' when they are done but they help the entire house to move smoothly. ALL of these tasks are both caregivers responsibility. This is because both caregivers live in the home and neither one is a ghost who will not consume food or wear clothes or need medical attention. All of these things and more need to be done by both parents.
3. You're in the trenches and you'll have to learn how to be patient with other adults as they misunderstand.
What do I mean by 'in the trenches'? The term is from World War I when soldiers were not only IN trenches but digging them, too. As a homeschooling family the default provider (meaning the one who has no choice but to go to work) has to be alright with a significant amount of their earnings being spent on things that would otherwise be expenses of a private or public school. Such as books, field trips, supplies, bookcases, desks, play items to make learning content accessible, co-op charges, community meet ups and gas for them, transportation in general and oh yeah, curriculum.
The default parent (meaning the one who has chosen to stay home with the kids and do the work of both the daycare and the institutions) is the one who juggles all of the aforementioned things to ensure the child's social/emotional health as well as the academic side of things. Not only that no matter how many subjects you get through in a day, no matter the point of enlightenment you reach that day you will still have to fold laundry, do the dishes, mop the floors, and keep the baby away from the snow piles left by shoes at the front door.
Freedom without structure is chaos, so while allowing children to persue their passions is incredible! Provinding little to absolutely zero structure is actually terrifying and difficult for a young mind to grasp- and while I believe we do not give children enough credit for their capacities to act I beleive we also give too much clout to the idea that children thrive in a space of absolute freedom without structure. You will have to read your child, work with your child, and try again and again to figure out the type of structure this growing individual needs.
Other parents have never had to think of these things, if you're a first generation homeschooler then your parents didn't have to think of these things. You WILL be misunderstood, and you WILL face people projecting their fears onto you. It is not IF, it is WHEN. It is wise as a couple to figure out how you will stand together when asked the same questions in different ways by a nosy aunt at a family cookout or when you have grandpa trying to quiz kids in history or math when you're just trying to enjoy family time.
4. No school can provide what you can with homeschool. But you are not a school.
With new homeschoolers one mistake they can make which is quite grave is to try to provide a school experience at home. This is not only impossible but it does not allow you, the parent and teacher to work with the advantages of homeschool. There is something called 'deschooling' and you need to 'deschool' yourself if you are a first generation homeschooler. This is a slow process so I recommend doing it as soon as possible. There is no one on this earth who wants to see your child succeed without limitations as much as you do.
This is to say that the way school taught you was with the limitations that school had. Teachers have 1 hour to teach a certain subject and then whether or not that subject blends with others may or may not be collaborated upon with other teachers depending on many factors. The art teacher cannot collaborate in the spring, he is putting together the spring art show and running around like crazy trying to get everything just right so the kids are proud of their art. The history teacher cannot collaborate before a big state test.
You, as a homeschooler, have ALL day to make a subject known to a child. If your child is into dinosaurs, you can combine math by measuring bones, science by visiting museums and writing/drawing your observations, writing and reading by studying material and then copywriting it down into a workbook, and compiling it all into a book that the student can reference. Meanwhile, they can learn the rules of grammar and writing through you as they write. If they are interested in writing, it is all the better they are corrected by your loving questions rather than an editor who is not paid to be kind, they are paid to be correct and make corrections. You can make it fun! "I wonder why this comma is there? It sounds suspenseful when I read it in my head like that." OR "Did you know that important people such as yourself have a capital letter at the start of their name? Lets go for a walk in the city sometime and see if we can spot some similarities between important things and where the capital letters are."
LEAD with CURIOSITY above all as the guide and facilitator of making content accesible to your learners and creativity will come to you because you love your children and you want to see them succeed. I have never met a homeschooler who does not embrace the decision to spearhead the education of their children as a small one. We all recognize the daunting size of the task, we are in the trenches and do not need to be reminded this is big.
5. Guide the child, trust the child, follow the child.
As stated before, freedom without structure of any kind is chaos. Children as a rule, cannot handle chaos. This is why we collectively agree that minding a toddler is too much cognitive work for a seven-year-old. Not because the three-year-old is a baby or because the seven-year-old is ill equipped but because the baby has many needs and it would take a lot of sorting the chaos of cries, biting, throwing things and more to handle. With this in mind, discipline is just as integral to freeing oneself as consistency. I do NOT mean being hard on yourself or your children! The world is chaotic and hard to navigate all on its own. I mean that if you want mobility long term in your life you will need the discipline to work out everyday to maintain muscles. If you want health you will need the discipline to stick to an everyday diet meaning there are things that are completely off the menu. If you want to grow then you need the discipline to challenge old patterns that do not serve the growth you are attempting to achieve.
Discipline provides structure and freedom, when you are working to bring others into your discipleship. Which means to lead them out of darkness into light and out of chaos into order. This means they need a guide, but you can teach and teach all day without any learning going on. Just pull any highschooler out of a lecture class and ask them "Hey what was your teacher just talking about?" vs asking a middle schooler working on a hands-on science experiment. You'll get a lot of information based on that.
There is a lot of liberal literature out there that I do not overtly disagree with but there is a lot of leeway given to children who are just discovering new things and concepts about the world through the process of growth. I have seen children left to figure out their structure and while they are deeply passionate, they do not seem confident in articulating their points well because their passion is overriding their abilities. There is no structure that builds upon itself in their learning so in their speaking they cannot share or convey the information. What is the purpose of education? It is not to keep what we learn to ourselves; it is to share our stories and to help those in our friendships, families, and community come to a deeper understanding through the time we put into our passions.
So let's share here. I know there is a lot that I missed- what would you add? Write it in the comments below!