Dear Newbie Homeschooling Me,
Don’t freak out. I’m you, seven seasons into this homeschooling gig. I have come from your future to tell you a few things.
First, homeschooling is NOTHING like you think it’s going to be. Oh, sure, it’s 2009, and you’re forcing your tiny kids that you JUST pulled out of third and first grade to watch the historical inauguration of the first black president of the United States---and you have all these high ideals and expectations about what they should be getting out of it, and how you’re going to start each day with a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, a spiritually enriching devotional, hearty breakfast, and then whip through five or six academic courses before lunch (which will be carefully planned, entirely nutritious, and maybe even served in a bento box, for variety!) You have a VISION. You have a PLAN!
Well, babe, four months in, you’re going to abandon that vision, because out of all the days, your vision was seriously impaired. Your plan happened ZERO TIMES, no matter how hard you tried, and you are going to be so frustrated and full of self-doubt that you want to just give up.
Except, you won’t.
You’ll realize that trying to muscle your two school aged kids and your two itty-bitties into a public school-style routine at home is not only stupid, but impossible. Schools are institutions. They run like institutions, as they should. But your HOME is not an institution. It should be run like a home. The kids have already learned tons of things from you, naturally, organically. It can be that way with academics, too.
I know you don’t believe me now—but give it a couple of years. You’ll try variations of the public school routine—each one less like public school—as you find what works for you. Right now, you’re all concerned about finding the right math curriculum and language arts curriculum. You’re reading A Well Trained Mind and A Thomas Jefferson Education and you’re all on fire about HOW TO MAKE IT WORK so the kids are learning and outpacing their public school counterparts. You are determined to show people, yourself included, that homeschooling is WAYYYYY superior to public school. Your standards are so impossibly high you can’t even sleep. You are worried about EVERYTHING. You HAVE to get it RIGHT!
Well, listen close, babe---the RIGHT way to homeschool changes as you go along. Kids have this uncanny insistence on doing things like growing and maturing, and having preferences and strengths and weaknesses. And so do you. You’re going to make mistakes. The kids are going to make mistakes. But, we’re a resilient bunch, and we keep trying and we find what works. And when it quits working, we find something else that works. The resources available to you are limitless and infinite in variety.
There is no one golden road to homeschooling success. What works for one kid may not work so well for another. What works one year, or for two years in a row, may be worn out and dead the next year. The people in your family like variety, they like to shake things up every now and then. They are kind of funny that way. There is no such thing as autopilot in learning.
You’ll start thinking more about educational philosophies instead of curriculum. You’ll start talking to veteran homeschoolers and really LISTENING to their experiences. You’ll cry on people’s shoulders, and borrow their ideas. You’ll clunk and rattle along and you’ll get involved with a great, supportive community. You’ll worry less about socialization as you find community and get out in the world and interact with anyone and everyone. You’ll gain confidence and so will the kids. You’ll make friends, and your kids will make friends. Your universe will expand so much and so fast you won’t believe it.
You’ll learn to love being around your kids. You’ll learn to really like being around them for hours and hours and hours every day. You’re giving me the side eye on that one. I get it—the older two are bickering at your feet and the toddler is whining for Cheetos, and the baby just took his diaper off and smeared poop across his crib. You will have sucky, sucky days sometimes, but I promise, the good ones will outnumber the bad, and you WILL find that these little people that you are raising and teaching are a lot of fun, MOST of the time. That said, you’ll also learn that you’ll need regularly scheduled breaks from them. And they’ll need breaks from you, too. You can be a real pain in the arse sometimes. Go put yourself in time out. At a restaurant. With friends. And something chocolate. Take the breaks. INSIST on the breaks. Your husband and children will thank you for it. And stop being cagey with Krav Maga and go fall in love with it RIGHT NOW. (Seriously. Don’t wait on this one.)
Over time, you’ll discover that the kids are doing fine—they are learning in their own ways and at their own pace. They will astound you with what they learn, their self-motivation, and their intense drive to create their own educational path. They will delve into courses of study you can’t even fathom for them, and you will be awed by their abilities and their talents and interests. You’ll wonder how the heck such amazing, interesting, talented people came from little ol’ you. Of course, you’ll always have twinges of doubt, especially when your kids won’t practice the piano or forget that 7 x 6 = 42 or would rather read Calvin and Hobbes and draw Manga than listen to you read Moby Dick. You’ll squirm when your kids commit some social faux pas and some moron blames it on homeschooling, because no public schooled kid EVER did or said anything awkward or inappropriate or didn’t respond appropriately in every social situation.
You are soooo tense and fearful and humorless, 2009-Newbie-Homeschooling Me. I want to hug you and give you a big happy, triumphant smooch, but I know right now you’re really only open to a pat on the shoulder and a nudge forward. There, there, babe. It’s going to be awesome.
Most of all, I want to tell you that you will learn SO MUCH STUFF about SO MUCH STUFF. YOUR education is just beginning and there’s no end in sight to what you’ll learn and you will thank God for it every single day. Homeschooling will provide you with an unequaled opportunity to set the tone for learning and discovery for yourself and your family in EVERY ASPECT of life. You’ll blow your own mind with the challenges you take on, the direction you steer your life. You’ll learn that life isn’t just something to endure and to react to. You’ll learn to hurtle yourself right into it---to laugh and explore and share---to charge into the hard things--to take on impossible challenges--because don’t you tell me what I can’t do!
Babe, it’s going to be epic.