As you may know, we homeschool our kids. Yep, all 9 of ’em. They have never been to any kind of traditional school and at this point 5 of them are homeschool graduates. Currently I have 4 kids still homeschooling….all boys.
As you can imagine, it’s not easy to homeschool. But the hard part isn’t getting information in their brain. They’re naturally curious and smart and desire to learn (OK, they don’t always desire to learn what you’re trying to teach but they are natural learners). The hard part is figuring out consequences for poorly done work, creating an environment where they can concentrate, being available to teach lessons while trying to get meals on the table, working out schedules and extra activities, discipline. The hard part is getting other people to understand that you can’t just drop everything and talk on the phone or go out. School is work and it requires sticking to a schedule just like anything else.
But the benefits….oh my word it would be impossible for me to list them all. Besides the amazing, focused education the kids get, there’s the relationship that gets built. They have someone teaching them who loves them completely and is invested in their future. They get to go at their own pace, so if they want to move faster through the books they can, if they want to learn more about some subjects, they can do that too. And while there is a schedule, there is also flexibility. If we decide we want to work at the local food pantry one morning a week, we can build that into the schedule. Park day, classes outside, a weekly day off, starting at 10am, whatever works best for your family can be arranged.
I have loved homeschooling my kids, and I have hated homeschooling my kids. Some of mine have learning challenges and some have occasional attitude problems and sometimes I just wake up not sure I can do it that day. There have been times when we had a difficulty I had no idea how to tackle. From reading comprehension to lack of interest to time management to cost issues….we have had our share of struggles.
And then there are the beautiful moments that make it all worthwhile. When you’re sitting there as the curtain pulls back on a child’s mind and they really get it. They read that first word and you see the world open up to them. When they fall in love with history or science. When you figure it out together. Those moments of heart connection….swoon. Reading books aloud as a family, watching their “plays” and listening to them practice their instruments for you. What. A. Blessing.
So homeschooling is the story of the good, the bad and the beautiful. Some days are successes and others are dismal failures. You learn to get up the next day, put your armor on and try it again. You see the progress you have made and cling to it like a life raft on the Titanic.
If you’re a homeschooler, here are some tips from this old homeschooling mama to you:
- Let go of the opinions of others. Nothing will help you more than to release yourself from feeling the weight of the words of others. The mother-in-law who shows a lack of confidence in your homeschooling or the neighbor who constantly “quizzes” your kids are no help to your very important task. Not everyone will understand or support you. OK. Move on. Find a support system in others and let the nay-saying go.
- Don’t compare yourself to other homeschoolers. Not all homeschoolers look alike. Some moms are teaching their kids Latin and taking them to the state senate chambers to learn how government work while you’re barely out of your pajamas hoping they get half of their math pages done before dinner. It’s different for everyone. Don’t let what other moms are doing set you back and put a guilt trip on you. You are on your own path and that’s what your kids need.
- RELAX. My number one tip to any homeschool mom who asks for my advice is to relax. You can’t possibly offer your kids everything that traditional schools offer….you don’t have the time or resources. You don’t need to rush anything or pressure your child to keep up with someone else’s system. Enjoy your days together! Moms who try to do too much end up burning out and feeling guilty. There’s no reason to do that to yourself!
- Go at your own pace. This isn’t a race. There’s no prize for finishing your books by May or getting it done early. When you make your plans be sure to consider what your family needs. Is there a new baby coming? Maybe plan a month off for that time. Do you love Christmas? Take an extra week to enjoy it. Take a vacation in the middle of the school year (one of the fantastic perks of homeschooling!) or take Fridays off. Who cares if you are still finishing up school work in July? Who says summer should have no schoolwork? We always do school in the summer. It works for us.
- Enjoy it! This time with your kids is about so much more than learning math or memorizing geography. This is being together, building character, living life and becoming who we are all supposed to be! I learn as much as my kids do most days. Do you like to be outside? Go out there and have school lessons! Are you on the road a lot….make fun ways to do school in the car. Laugh and slow down and take rabbit trails and be creative. We have had school on the top of Enchanted Rock and at the bottom of an empty creek bed. Don’t limit yourself and enjoy this time!!!
- Be realistic. Some days you simply won’t get everything done that you hoped. This is true for everyone, of course, but it feels so daunting when you fall off the plans in homeschool. Moms say to me all the time, “We are so far behind!” I always ask, “Behind WHAT?!” Why do you feel pressure to keep up with an arbitrary schedule? Expand it to fit your needs, adjust it to work for you, tweak it to fit your lifestyle. The rush is imaginary and we let it drag us along for no good reason. If you can’t keep up…..change the plan! Be honest with yourself about what you can really do.
- Don’t try to be SuperMom. She doesn’t exist. Your friends on Instagram….they’re not showing you the tantrums and messes. We all have them. It’s when we put pressure on ourselves to perform at some crazy level that we start to crash. You can’t teach all day, make gourmet meals, keep a beautifully clean, Pinterest worthy house and keep up with violin/piano/karate/dance/speech&debate, the list goes on. Here’s a word of wisdom for you: Just do what you can do. Deep, huh?
- Ask for help. If you’re struggling….please tell someone! This is hard stuff and your struggles are normal. Your friends care about you and want to be there for you. I’m not talking about complaining….I’m talking about being honest. I once had a problem that I could not figure out how to solve. My son, who was 7 at the time, could not add tens but he could add dimes. I mean it nearly drove me up the wall and out the door. I would sit down to do math with him and no matter how many times we went over it he could not add ten to anything. “Son,” I would say ever-so-sweetly, “What is 5 + 10?” He didn’t know. Blank stare. “OK,” I said starting to sweat, “What is 5¢ + 10¢?” He would answer, “That’s easy….15¢” WHY COULDN’T HE ADD THE TENS!???? One day I told a friend my problem. I cried on the phone and poured out my inadequacy to her. She listened and then told me, “Lisa, he will get it. Just drop it for a while and come back to it later. This is nothing to worry about.” This mom had older kids and I respected her so I just did what she said. And the problem was gone. When we picked that back up in a month or so he could do it. I was so glad I reached out to her! There have been many, many times I shared a homeschool struggle with a friend and got great wisdom.
- Be honest. It doesn’t help anyone if you try to put on a show. We all need this tip…..just show who you really are and don’t try to prove anything to anyone. Some days are great, some days are terrible, most days are somewhere in between. If you’re having too many terrible days, get help. If you’re having a lot of great days, count your blessings. You have no one to impress and you aren’t doing yourself any favors if you’re trying to look perfect.
- PRAY! I can’t imagine how I would have done this for so long if I didn’t have a good God to lean on. He gets me through, gives me fresh ideas, helps me know what each child needs, loves me when I feel like I’m a mess.
I also want to say something very, very important…..so if you read only the end….read this. Homeschooling doesn’t guarantee anything. It doesn’t mean you’ll have happy kids, successful kids, brilliant kids, geeky kids, awkward kids, kids who like you or appreciate all you did for them. There are no promises with kids no matter how hard you work or how much love you pour into them.
My 5 kids that have graduated are all on different paths…..
-Our oldest daughter is living in Dallas and goes to a fantastic church and is seeing a great guy and they are planning to get married (brace yourself for lots of wedding planning posts coming soon). She has self published 5 books and if you have a kid who loves sci-fi then you need her books!
-Our oldest son graduated from law school last weekend (WOOHOO!!!) and we are unbelievably proud of him. He’s on his way to the life he dreamed of. He is in the process of finishing his own album and you will LOVE it. He is also in the Young Living business and y’all, he is brilliant with this stuff. He amazes me every day.
-Our third child is on her own and figuring out how she wants her life to be. We are thrilled for her and get to see her all the time. She has developed a really cool writing program for kids that you should check out!!!
-Our fourth child is the one who has been a struggle for us. She ran away from home and it broke my mom-heart. There is still much pain and loss involved and it’s a story yet unfinished. But I can tell you that there is still joy. If my joy was wrapped up in my kids then I would be lost…..instead it is wrapped up in Christ and His love, mercy and grace. Even through the pain I am filled with happiness and victory.
-Our youngest graduate is still living at home and doing great. She has a thriving photography business and she also has a Young Living business. She goes on mission trips and helps with her siblings. She’s downright adorable and a blessing to me! (they’re all a blessing of course, no matter what the circumstances!)
-The rest of the kids are still home, in school and I love my days with them. I know how quickly it passes and don’t waste a minute of it.
So mama, if you’re homeschooling, hang in there. You’re gonna make it! Your kids will be FINE.
If you liked this, you will also like my post about how I use essential oils in my homeschooling.
Be sure to get my book, it will give you even more encouragement!