Sunday, June 9, 2013

Starting Out

The past year or so I’ve had several moms of young kids ask my advice about homeschooling. Specifically about starting out. This got me thinking quite a bit about what I did when I started homeschooling my three boys way back in the late 90s. Man, that was a long time ago! :o) It also made me question whether or not I was really qualified to give any advice??? Although I am nearing the end of my homeschooling career (Will is starting Running Start high school in the fall), I’m not done yet… I suppose if I were to write a book now it would be titled “So Far So Good”. :o)
I’ve thought a lot about what advice I wish someone had told me when I was a new homeschooling mom or that I found really helpful and came up with a few things:
1. You do NOT have to be patient to home school your children! The number one reason for not homeschooling that I hear from moms is, “I’m just not patient enough to home school my kids.” What??? Why do people think that homeschooling moms have the patience of Mother Teresa??? You didn’t have to be patient to have children, why do you have to be more patient to home school them? The simple answer is, you don’t! I am not patient. I have never been patient. God’s working on that, but we’re not there yet. You will lose your patience. It just gives you plenty of opportunities to work on that attribute and to model and teach grace, humility and forgiveness to your kids.
2. You do NOT have to home school like anyone else! I think we homeschooling moms inadvertently do a lot to discourage potential recruits. Homeschooling moms feel a lot of pressure to excel (most of this is totally self-imposed). We can project this “we have it all together” aura that scares moms off. You do not need to be Super Mom! You are not a failure if your seven-year-old is not fluently speaking two languages, can do long division and is currently writing his dissertation on the effects of post modern thinking on American society. On the other hand, if that’s important to you and you feel that is what God is calling you to, great! You just want to keep a healthy balance of not pushing too hard or holding them back.
Remember, that you are a unique family with one-of-a-kind children and circumstances. You may decided to school year round or go with a traditional school year schedule. You may choose to be very scheduled or completely unschool. You only need to be you! Love your kids, do what you feel is right for both them and you, and don’t stress about it! It will all work out in the end…
3. Join a support group or co-op! This will be invaluable to your sanity and your kids’ survival and socialization. Yes, people do still wonder about that! While the friends my boys’ have made at our various support groups and co-ops over the years has been such a rich blessing; it was even more important to me, especially when starting out! It is nice to share ideas. Field trips are way more enjoyable with friends! It is fun to get together to play and visit in the afternoons! But, more importantly, it is comforting to know that your children are not the only ones who still cry when you ask them to write a paragraph or are 10 years old and still barely read. It’s nice to have friends who understand where you are coming from.
4. You do NOT need to find the perfect curriculum! In fact, you probably won’t! There are so many out there, that you will probably feel like your head is spinning! Thankfully when you are first starting out, curriculum is much more simple. In fact, keep it simple. You will feel a lot less pressure and enjoy it more that way. You want those first couple of years to be positive! We used workbooks purchased from Costco, read books, sang songs, played games and made countless craft projects for the first couple of years. This gave me the chance to figure out what I wanted our home school to be like and to get to learn a little of how the boys learned. Keep in mind that both of these things may change over the years. Just be flexible and go with the flow.
Curriculum fairs, catalogs, websites and blogs abound! All of them can offer good advice on curriculums but can also just make you feel more confused than ever. Always try, if possible, to actually look at and touch a curriculum or book before you purchase it. The description may sound amazing,but in real life it may leave much to be desired. If you are lucky enough to have a home school resource store in your area, go! Your support group or co-op can also give you the opportunity to see things that other families use and like.
Friends may also be a good resource. But be forewarned, just because a mom at the co-op raves about it doesn’t mean it will work for your family’s needs. I often find my friends love curriculums that I hated and vice versa. Don’t worry about it. You can start fresh next year, or even next week. Just be careful about changing too often! Sometimes too many changes do more harm that just sticking it out. Not to mention I found that they can teach valuable lessons on persevering and doing your best even when you don’t like what you are doing.
Whether you decide to go with a comprehensive curriculum or a hodge-podge of things you like, it doesn’t matter! We’ve used both over the years depending on where we were at and they all worked just fine!
Oh, and just because you think the curriculum is amazing it doesn’t guarantee that your children will agree! It’s possible your child won’t love math or reading no matter what you choose. Some kids are just that way. Keep up a positive attitude, love your kids and encourage them to love learning, even when it’s hard. And there will be times that it is hard!
5. PRAY!!! You can do this, but you can’t do it alone! Having support from your husband, family and friends is important but you really need God in your corner. He is what you need to do this! I had Philippians 4:13 on my fridge/school bulletin board for years, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Bathe all that you do in prayer. Confused about curriculum? Pray about it. Worried about whether or not you have the patience? Pray. Having a rough day? Stop what you are doing and pray! Start your day in prayer. Begin each school day in prayer with your kids!
Did I mention that you should pray? :o)
I’m sure there are many things that I left out or that you still may have questions about. I’d love to answer them the best I can, so just shoot me a message or comment and I’ll give it my best shot.
Still thinking about it? Pray about it! Wait for God’s answer. If you decide to embark on this journey, you will not regret it! It is all worth it!!!

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