Dear Homeschooling Parents,
Congratulations! You have embarked on one of the most fulfilling and most frustrating journeys you will ever take. As a homeschool graduate, I feel compelled to encourage you in your decision. This road will be far from easy, but incredibly worth it. As I went through my homeschooling adventure, I learned several truths. These “top 10” are what I want to encourage you with today.
- You will have at least one day (more like 20) where you want to find the nearest school bus and put your child on it.
Let’s face it; there will come a day when you have argued about reading a book or completing a math lesson for the last time. When that day comes, that yellow school bus will come down your street and an idea will start to form in the back of your mind. Maybe, just this once, you could flag down the school bus and put your child on it. That way you could let a teacher, other than you, deal with your child’s attitude. My mom threatened this once. I don’t remember what we were arguing about now, but I remember informing my mom that it was Friday and she couldn’t stick me on a school bus the next morning. She told me she would find some bus and put me on it. Looking back, it’s humorous now. In the moment, not so much. This too shall pass. Don’t give up. Believe me, your child will be glad you stuck it out.
- Homeschoolers are not normal.
This isn’t a bad thing. I’ve been around some “normal” children and I wouldn’t want to be normal. If normal means being disrespectful, having innocence ripped away at a young age, or adjusting my morals to fit the prevailing trends, then I’d rather be different. This doesn’t mean that your children will not be successful. This doesn’t mean that your children will be socially awkward. It just means that you’ve chosen a different form of schooling so that you can have a greater impact on your children’s lives. God doesn’t call us to live normal lives. He calls us to love people who hate us, pray for those who mistreat us, and die to ourselves so that He can live through us. That sounds anything but normal to me.
- Not all homeschoolers are geniuses.
Maybe it took your child 487 easy lessons to learn how to read. Maybe your child still can’t multiply the twelve times tables. It’s okay. People learn at different rates. They will learn how to read eventually. And, is it really the end of the world if they don’t know the twelve times tables? They can multiply it out long hand or just use a calculator. Don’t pressure yourself by thinking your child has to be the next Albert Einstein. God only created one Einstein and he wasn’t your child. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
- Structure is important. But so is flexibility.
One of my favorite parts about being homeschooled was going on vacation when all my friends were just starting back to school. Early September vacations were the best. Less people traveled because school was back in session. We were the lucky ones. And when my birthday rolled around? Well, that was a day off of school. Baking Christmas cookies at Grandma’s? Day off with all my cousins. Sometimes we even took the whole month of December off because it was too hectic. Or, we did just a few subjects a day so we wouldn’t have to do math for what seemed like forever. Spontaneous field trip? Let’s go. Even with all of this flexibility we still usually finished the school year by Memorial Day. While a chaotic schedule and constant interruptions certainly shouldn’t be everyday life, being homeschooled did afford our family flexibility. Structure was still there. We weren’t getting out of doing math or science indefinitely, but we had freedom to take a break when we needed to. If we had a doctor’s appointment one day and didn’t get to math, we just doubled up the next day or added a day onto the end. Keep some structure, but don’t be afraid to be flexible.
- Homeschooling is not like a hat. There is no one size fits all.
Yes, you read that right. Homeschooling looks different for each family. In fact, it looks different for each child. If something doesn’t work, you shouldn’t be afraid to throw it out and try something new. My mom went through a couple of different math curriculums for me before finding one that fit what I needed. And then my sister used a completely different one. We learn different and that’s okay. Find what works best for each of your kids and stick with it. What worked for me, might not work for you. What works for you, might not work for the family down the street. It’s okay. God created each of us unique. Do what works. I was always able to just sit down and memorize material. My sister needed to be up and moving around to memorize something. I can’t tell you how many times she jumped rope or marched around the rug to learn a Bible verse. We’re different. Your kids are different. Embrace it. Don’t try to make them all the same. You’ll just make yourself and them miserable.
- Learning isn’t just for school time.
I’m pretty sure you already know this, but I want to remind you. Life is learning. Learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom or around the dining room table. Learning happens when life happens. When you’re making dinner to take to someone who’s been in the hospital, you’re teaching your children hospitality. When your children volunteer, they’re learning generosity. When your kids help you measure ingredients for dinner, they’re learning math and how to cook. When they are writing thank you notes from a birthday that is penmanship, writing, and gratitude. Learning doesn’t happen for only a set period of time. Look for opportunities to learn when you aren’t doing “school”.
- Be a tortoise, not a hare.
When you start homeschooling the temptation can be to load up on a bunch of extra activities because you seem to have all this extra time. Don’t give in. Take it from someone who during seventh grade was busy and out of the house almost every night of the week. Slow down. Don’t load up on everything. Choose carefully. Limit what you do. Spend time as a family. Don’t race through life; slow down and enjoy it.
- Be a tortoise, but not a dead one.
Slow life down, but don’t stop it. You will get tired of seeing your children’s faces eventually. And, believe it or not, they will get tired of seeing your face too. Choose intentionally to participate in an activity. Join a co-op. Take some sort of lessons. Get involved in a sport. Volunteer somewhere. Don’t do it all, but don’t do nothing either.
- Push the passions.
Find out what your children love to do and let them pursue it. If they love sign language, find someone to teach them, take a community class, or buy some DVDs. If they love playing an instrument, get them in lessons. If they love to read, choose a curriculum that will allow them to indulge and plan frequent library trips. If they love children, let them baby-sit or help in the church nursery. Let your children be who God created them to be. It’s okay if they don’t have a natural bent towards math. Do they still have to know it? Yep. Do they still have to work hard at it? No doubt. However, if they aren’t planning a career with a math focus, stick with Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra 2. If they need four years of math, throw in business math or consumer math. Don’t make them take Calculus or Trigonometry if they will never need it again and hate it. Don’t make both you and them miserable. Push what they enjoy. Relax a little about the rest.
- You are not torturing your child.
This one is partly just because lists should have ten items on them. But it’s also so true. Contrary to what your children may tell you, you are not ruining their lives. Eventually, they will come around. It might come in high school. It might come in college. It might come when they have kids of their own. Eventually they will know that you were right. And they may even thank you for homeschooling them.
Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. But when you get discouraged (because you will), remember why you are doing this. Start a list of the reasons now, before you’re ready to throw in the towel. Then, when you feel like giving up, you have a tangible reminder of why you are homeschooling. Talk with other homeschooling moms and dads. They’ve been in your shoes. Talk to some homeschool graduates. They will give you hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Most importantly, turn to God. Read His word. Remember that God made you your children’s parents. Before time began He knew you would be the perfect parents for your children. No one else can do what you can do in their lives. Turn to God and point your children to Him. They will thank you.
A homeschool graduate