Homeschooling can be like dancing. A dance in which toddlers and/or adolescent children take turns standing on your feet until you can’t feel your toes and you’re sure you won’t regain normal composure ever again. Fun fact: exaggeration is one of my greatest gifts.
When I first started schooling my children at home six years ago, I actually did feel like I was in a psychotic dance. Every time I would try to lead us in a new direction or any direction at all, I felt like my feet were being numbed by the pressure of my kids’ education. I questioned my decision-making abilities when it came to curriculum, style, structure, lack of structure, screen time, and so on. Thus, the dance was ugly, and no one would’ve wanted to join us in our chaotic “homeschool” world.
But since that first year, I’ve learned from what I believe to be my worst mistakes (I’ll edit this post in the coming years when I make my future mistakes). Whether you’re a homeschool veteran or a terrified newbie, you may find yourself trying to figure out how to make the dance beautiful for your family. I’ve decided to try to help you (while I can actually feel my toes at the moment).
Here are a few of the misunderstandings I had with homeschooling and the lessons I learned from those myths I believed.
- I thought homeschool would be like “public school” at home.
This could not be farther from the truth. Not just for me but for every homeschool parent I know (from those with one kid to those with six or more). Schooling at home never looks like schooling in a typical brick and mortar environment. But why can’t it? Because you’re at home.
Home is everyone’s oasis. Home is where everyone lets their hair down to be who they really are. Home is where your toddler feels most comfortable pulling off his diaper and running around peeing on various objects. Home is where your second grader feels very comfortable crying about writing assignments every single day.
Home is where you don’t always use your inside voice and school ends early because you don’t want your neighbors to think you’re an unfit parent. Maybe these are made up exaggerations, or maybe they’re real. You’ll never really know unless, of course, you homeschool.
Home is unpredictable, and no matter how much structure you bring to it (and I do believe in structure), it will never quite be the picture-perfect classroom. I’m 99.9% sure of it (leaving room for those Enneagram Ones who might actually be able to pull off perfection). If you choose to school at home, it’s best for everyone to understand that home won’t change just because you’ve decided to do language arts there.
- I thought I could switch between my mom role and my teacher role.
I truly thought that, if I laid out new rules like a real teacher or set up my desk in just the right way, I’d be able to pull off being teacher for part of the day and then switch back to mom when school was done. Nope. Impossible. I fought it hard, but the truth is—I’m Mom first. And that was the reality I had to embrace to break through a tough struggle between myself and my kids. I wanted them to treat me like a teacher and just go through the motions the way I had seen students do in my public school but they couldn’t see me that way.
I guess I can understand since I have been their mom for as long as they can remember. But I thought if I could teach them to see me as a teacher, they’d stop getting so emotional, stop questioning things so often, and we’d get done much faster every day. Truthfully, I wanted little student-robots.
Homeschool is a school in which a parent teaches. That parent doesn’t become a teacher because he/she starts teaching math or science. That parent has been teaching since the day he/she became a parent. The roles don’t switch back and forth. The role simply continues blossoming into what it always has been—with new subjects to explore. And kids don’t just wake up one day and treat their parents as teachers. They see their parents teaching them new things the same way they always have.
- I thought I had to know what our style, curriculum, and structure would look like every day.
I know a lot of homeschool families. And each one of them is unique in too many ways to list. I know families who even use the exact same curriculum, but their days look so different. This is because of the fact, which I’ll reiterate over and over again, they’re doing school at home.
I’ve tried to nail down our system, our homeschool style (eclectic, traditional, modern, mash-up of some sort), and our daily schedule. I’ve implemented structure, and I’ve had no structure at all. My kids have spent hours doing school one day and minutes the next (we always find ways to make up things for all of you who think I’m breaking laws). The undeniable truth is that all six years have been ultimately messy.
We’ve started a curriculum and switched halfway through the year. I’ve been pregnant in the middle of a school year and had to take a leave of absence (to vomit, cry, or eat massive amounts of pizza bagels while binge-watching Netflix). We’ve moved to different states and encountered a crazy number of distractions from our schooling.
However, my kids have adapted to it all. Maybe sometimes we underestimate our children. They can handle life situations with us. They can learn to navigate new seasons with us. My kids have been able to welcome new siblings, move, spend hours at doctor’s appointments and still ace their spelling tests. They’ve learned to juggle the real world with their studies, despite whether or not we’ve “nailed” everything.
Homeschooling my children continues to teach me so much about my expectations and reality. All the things I thought were true turned out to simply be my unrealistic (mostly selfish) ideas of what my days looked like. The best thing I can do every year is to plan and then plan for the plans to be re-planned as my kids and I evolve. One thing I do know for certain is that this dance has turned into something beautiful and the work we’ve put into it has paid off.
So if you’re fearfully thinking of homeschooling or you’re exhausted in the middle of learning the ropes, just remember that there’s a mom out there who was once caught crying in the bathroom trying to figure out how to enroll her children into public school. Maybe a true story and maybe not. I guess you’ll never know unless you homeschool.
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