No matter how much you prepare, you can't really understand exactly what homeschooling will entail until you experience it. Here are seven things I wish someone had told me before we began our journey.
Sure, People Told Me Things...
During the early days of homeschooling, a lot of parents shared advice. People told me all about their favorite curriculum, offered all sorts of great resources for activities, and even made sure I understood what I legally needed to do so the truant officers didn't show up at our front door. But there were things that no one told me. Maybe they're the things everyone has to discover for themselves, but honestly, they would have been nice to know going in. For some of these little lessons, I could have prepared myself, and for others I could have made sure I was ready to fully enjoy them. So, I'm going to share with you seven things no one ever told me about homeschooling. Who knows, you may have a list of your own after your first year or two!
1. Homeschooling Is Expensive
Some people may disagree with me, but homeschooling can be expensive. When we first started, we hit the used section of the homeschooling supply store (we were lucky enough to have one in town) and scoured the internet for bargains. We found plenty, but we had no idea what materials would be effective. Starting out can be a whole lot of trial and error - especially if your kiddos have previously been in the school system. Luckily there is a market for used curriculum - after all, many homeschoolers are bargain-hunters!
Generally, good curriculum is not cheap, nor should it be. After all, content developers have families to feed, too. Most homeschool families accept and respect that. Fortunately, there are many places to find used curricula, shared teacher resources, and online portals like Study.com to help stretch your curriculum dollars!
2. Being Strict Is Hard
My kids were moderately terrified when we decided to homeschool. Mom was not known for being a pushover, and she was really picky. I'm pretty sure they thought they were going to flunk or die before they graduated from high school!
The fact is, it's really hard to be tough on your kids. At least I thought so. Maybe it's because I made mistakes along the way so that, in some instances, circumstances were my fault and beyond their control. Holding tight to deadlines and standing steadfast when grading was much harder than I expected. But once my kids were in college, I learned that professors didn't always hold steadfast, either. I'm glad they didn't, because it meant they had a heart for their students. And, it made me feel better.
3. Kids Are Very Capable
Despite the ups and downs of our first year of homeschooling, I was amazed at what my kids were capable of. (In all honesty, I was also surprised by some of the things they didn't know, and we worked on those things together). Elementary age kids can make connections and learn so much. They're also capable of keeping organized and being accountable for tracking their own work, as well as for following a daily schedule in a planner. They even know how to work the system - no matter how sweet and innocent kids may seem!
4. School Days Are Shorter
If lunch time rolls around and you find your kiddos are done with their work for the day, don't be surprised. It's amazing how much time is spent on disciplinary issues, class transitions, and working at a classroom pace in a traditional school setting. The amount of time actually spent learning is staggeringly little.
Resist the temptation to fill every moment. Set realistic learning goals for your kids, and reward them with the free time they've earned. We often used such free time for sports, music, art, or family outings. It won't take your kids long to figure out that their time is their own - a very valuable lesson in life!
5. Homeschooled Kids Are Nice
Maybe I'm biased, but I think homeschooled kids - and not just my own - are some of the most accepting and genuinely nice kids you'll ever meet. If you've ever watched a group of homeschoolers interact, you'll see the youngest children being included with the older ones. No one seems to care who owns cool stuff, who's from where, how old everyone is, or what hobbies they have. It's all okay.
Maybe it's because they spend so much time in mixed age groups, or maybe it's because they are all more comfortable with who they are, but it's uncanny. Homeschooled kids can even carry on conversations with adults at most any age. I guarantee you won't find that in most public schools.
6. Homeschool Can Take Over Your Life
This is a topic that deserves its own article, but it suffices to say that it's virtually inevitable: homeschooling takes over your life and your home, especially in the beginning. Homeschooling can quickly become a 24/7 task (at least for parents) while you are desperately trying to figure it all out. Grading, planning, regrouping, scheduling, reading, regrouping - you get the picture.
When it begins to happen, put a stop to it quickly. Confine homeschooling to a set number of hours and to a spot in the house where you can shut the door or put a lid on it. After all, more hours don't always solve the problem. Let it go, let your mind clear, and set limits. If you're having trouble setting limits, there are all sorts of resources out there for organizing your homeschool life.
7. You Will Never Have It All Figured Out
Which brings us to my last pearl of wisdom: No matter how long you homeschool, you'll never have everything figured out. You change, your kids change, their interests and priorities change, and circumstances change. But that's the beauty of homeschooling - it can be adapted as your family changes.
Sure, as your kids get older and are preparing for college, there are certain things they'll need to prepare for transcripts and to prepare for testing, but how you get there isn't nearly as important as it seems. If you keep the big picture in view, the little details just don't matter as much as they seemed to in the moment. Set your priorities, never lose sight of the victories and the joy everyday brings, accept the failures, and move on.
I challenge you to reflect after you've homeschooled for a while. What do you wish you had known going in? I'm sure you will have your own list, too. But hopefully, some of the things I've shared will make your journey easier and more joyous. Happy homeschooling!