Staring down the end of our homeschool year always makes me think about the mamas out there who are still on the fence about homeschooling. Spring is crunch time for us mamas. Are we going to enroll our littles in public school or take on their education ourselves?
The summer 2018 session will begin our 8th year homeschooling–my boys are now in middle and high school–and I’m totally willing to share what I’ve learned with you. Maybe it will help you choose homeschooling more easily.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a hard decision and a scary one. You probably have valid reasons for considering homeschooling your kids, but chances are you’re struggling with the same fears I had in the beginning
Deciding to homeschool
If you’ve never done it before, deciding to homeschool is downright terrifying. I remember well how scared I was as my beautiful husband and I made the decision. I remember going to my neighbor’s house. She has nine kids (I’ve counted them!), and has now graduated 5 of them from homeschool.
She had been homeschooling for several years when I met with her to discuss whether I should homeschool my boys.
She said, as any experienced homeschooling mama usually does, “Absolutely! You should go for it.”
There was A Lot more to that conversation. The logistics alone are daunting–can you really spend basically 24/7 with your kids? Will they learn from you? Will you become a closet alcoholic?
Mostly, when I went to my neighbor for advice, I just needed someone to tell me I could do it. That I wasn’t setting myself up for an Epic Fail that would destroy my children. I knew I was educated (though you don’t have to be to get it right), and that I had taught them all to read and write before they went to kindergarten at public school, and that I had A Lot of creative ideas for teaching them.
But I went to public school. My oldest boy graduated from public school. And I could imagine this thing going one of two ways–either it was going to be the most fun I ever had and I was going to have super-well educated, confident boys or I was going to turn into a giant stress ball and my boys were going to hate me for life.
Let me be the first to tell you, you can do it.
Because as scared as I was, homeschooling has turned out to be even better than I dreamed back in those early days.
Why homeschooling works
As amazing as professional teachers are, each year they have 20-35 kids to look after and educate.
You only have a few, or maybe even just one. So you can give your kids something a public school teacher can’t: one-on-one learning.
Even when you’re unsure of your methods, that one-on-one training opens up so many possibilities. When I first started, my homeschool looked very like public school–I taught the boys according to their grade levels, gave them separate subjects, worked on a schedule much like a middle or high school is set up: certain subjects at certain times every day. As that year progressed I realized my boys were far beyond what was considered their ‘grade level,’ so I upped the stakes and they followed along winningly.
The only thing I have kept from that first year is adherence to a schedule. In my house, we all work better with structure, so we keep it structured. However, now the only subject they do on different levels is math, and they both learn science, history, art, language, geography, literature, and music together.
It helps that the boys are only two years apart. Once they both had the basic understanding of a subject down, they began to work together without anyone feeling held back or left behind. And we have so much fun.
My point is, there are so many ways to homeschool. If you pick one to start out, no one is saying you have to continue with it. You can change it up.
I do. Every. Single. Year.
The boys love not being boxed in to a certain type of learning or even a set number of subjects. They give me input on how we should do things, and decide their own electives. They even help me decide what order we’ll do our schedule in. That way, they are learning to make their own decisions about their education, which I hope will stead them well when the time comes for college.
You can always change your mind
The myriad options for approaching homeschool should erase at least some of your fears. There are other fears, though. Like the whole, “Wow, if I do this, I am committed to doing this for 12-13 years.” Well, yeah. But you’re going to be raising them anyway, and it is kind of your job.
The one thing to keep in mind, though, is that if it all gets overwhelming, or you find that homeschooling isn’t working for your family, you can send them to public school. As long as you have kept them at their grade level or above, they should assimilate pretty easily.
So take that fear off the list. You can homeschool for a year or until they graduate. The option for change is always there.
Is it more expensive?
If you aren’t already a SAHM and you decide to give up half the family’s income in order to homeschool, it’s going to be hard. You’ll have to give up some luxuries and some social activities in order to afford books and curriculum or paper and pencils. I create all our curriculum myself, and I’ve found that by being thrifty I can give my boys a quality, advanced education that is less expensive than sending them to public or private school. Yeah yeah.
How do I do it? Most of our books and craft supplies over the years have come from thrift stores and garage sales. When I do have to buy something from Amazon or in a store, I shop the sales. I have homeschooling friends with whom I am constantly trading and borrowing from. I find free printables online and visit plenty of blogs to get ideas and lesson plans. It can be time consuming, but it’s also fun. Bonus–there have been times I’ve taught an entire course for the cost of a ream of paper.
The rewards far outweigh the sacrifices. I promise you, getting to be the one who teaches your kids their values and ideals, sees every nuance of their growth, and witnesses all their firsts makes it worth it.
If you don’t want to give up working outside the home, I know several families in which the primary homeschooler has a part-time or even a full-time job.
One of my favorite blogging friends does it, and she offers all kinds of advice for mamas who both work outside the home and homeschool. Check out Practical, by Default and you’ll see that it’s totally doable.
Yes, your kids will be weird
The socialization question has been covered to the point of being moot, so why are you worrying about it?
What I’ll say is this: Public school throws us in with a bunch of other people our exact age that we don’t get to pick. Then all we have to do is find one or two we can tolerate for the next 12 years while staying out of the line of fire of bullies, mean girls, and violence.
Do you want that for your kids?
The thing is, as long as you don’t hole your kids up in your house 24/7, they’re going to make friends. It’s what kids do. It’s what humans do. The boys have had so many amazing social experiences over the years. They’ve met and engaged with people of every age from every background. They are as comfortable talking to adults as they are to toddlers.
And they’re not any weirder than I am.
So conquer your homeschool fear
It’s healthy to have a little fear, because it helps you think things through. It can even help you throw on your big-girl boots and tackle a problem head on.
If you’re still wavering about homeschool because you’re scared, take a deep breath. Remember who you’ll be doing this for. Contact someone with experience and let them encourage and advise you. Look at how happy my boys were in all those photos.
Then look at your own kids. And go for it.
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