Five Tips for Moms Who Are New to Homeschooling

I Remember It Well
Though it was many years ago, I remember that day so well. It was the first day of homeschooling. Well, more accurately, it was the first day I chose not to send my child to school. In essence, I had been teaching him since he was born, so he was already being schooled at home.
I remember the sound of the buses rolling through the neighborhood streets, and I remember the feeling of the big knot in my stomach. Could I do this? Should I do this? What would others say? Would I ruin my child's life? My self-doubt was far outweighing my self-confidence. I had this precious soul entrusted to me, and I was pretty sure I was about to totally mess him up.

Chemistry in Kindergarten?
I remember, when I was contemplating homeschool, I talked to a friend of mine who was already homeschooling her older boys. I told her I was not sure I could homeschool my son all the way through. I told her I definitely could not manage to teach him high school chemistry. She chuckled and asked if my kindergartener was ready for chemistry. I laughed at my own panic and said, “Well, I guess not.” Then, my friend gave me the piece of advice I have since passed on to many mothers considering homeschooling. My friend said to take it one year at a time. My friend told me to plan for that year and see how it went. Then, when the next year approached, I could decide how to handle it. Her advice was what finally helped me take the leap of faith, and now, a proud mother of a homeschool graduate and another one well on her way, I am so glad I took my friend’s advice.
Today, I was pondering how scary this time of year used to be for me and how, now that my younger child is in high school, the road is much less treacherous. I said a little prayer for those of you just starting your homeschooling journey, and I wanted to share some pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way. I certainly can’t take credit for these nuggets of truth. No, instead, I give credit to my homeschooling friends – the ones who coached me and prodded me and helped me along the way.

If I could say 5 things to all the new homeschooling moms, I would tell you:

Take Baby Steps
Just like my wise friend told me long ago, don’t feel like you are in this forever. If you view it that way, you’ll be facing a life sentence that will sometimes feel like a noose around your neck. Instead, take it one school year at a time. Set your goals for the year and work toward those goals. Then, when the new school year is approaching, reevaluate. Be honest with yourself and do what’s best for your children.

Don't Do School at Home
Let’s face it. If the school system worked, we would all have our kids in school. The truth is, it’s broken. You know it. I know it. Even those who are huge supporters of public school know it. Our school system is not working properly for all the kids all the time.
So, if sitting still in a classroom for 6 to 8 hours a day doesn’t work effectively in school, why would you put your kids through that at home? Don’t set up your classroom to look just like a room in school and write an essay. Don’t follow the traditional methods of teaching. Think outside the box and go for it! Your kids will learn more when they are having more fun!
Let your kids learn multiplication tables while bouncing a ball. Do math on a picnic table at the park. Let them act out stories as you read books to them. Make lapbooks together. Use playdough to form letters. Use glitter and glue and scissors and pom poms! (Lots of pom poms - I love pom poms!) Have fun with your kids and show them learning is fun.
The love of learning is the most valuable thing you will teach your kids. If they love to learn, they will be life-long learners.

Listen to Your Children
I remember when my son was barely two, and I decided it was time for him to be potty trained. I worked and worked and worked, trying to get him to use a toilet. I ended up frustrated, and he ended up frustrated. About a month into it, I finally gave up, and I told him to let me know when he was ready to wear big boy pants. I did not mention potty training to him again. Before his third birthday, my son told me he wanted to wear big boy underwear. I told him he couldn’t unless he would use the bathroom. He said he would not wet his pants, and reluctantly, I let him try the underwear. My son never had an accident. Not once. He never wet his pants again, day or night. He was ready, and it happened naturally.
The same is true for other skills our kids will learn. Whether it’s reading, spelling, handwriting, math or science, they will learn it when they are ready. If you find yourself in a constant battle over school, your child might not be ready. Take a step back, stop fighting and give him a little time.

Don't Listen to Other People
Let me assure you, everyone will have an opinion to give you about the fact that you are homeschooling. The grocery store clerk will tell you she disagrees with your choices. Your relatives will try to quiz your children on math questions. Your neighbor will try to determine when it is that your children actually do school. Ignore them. All of them. They aren’t your children’s parents. They don’t know what’s best for your family. The sooner you can stop caring what other people think, the happier your little homeschool will be.

Don't Worry So Much
This is the biggest, most important piece of advice I can give you. Mama, you are going to worry. You are going to compare your child to other children of the same age, and you are going to panic. You’re going to wonder if your child is on the right reading level. You are going to worry because he won’t learn his multiplication tables when you want him to. You are going to be convinced you are ruining him and blowing any chance he has at being successful in life. You aren’t. Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.
Your child will learn multiplication tables when he’s ready. Or maybe he won’t. He may not learn them until he actually needs paper writing tips. Then and only then, he will learn them.
Your child will get what he needs, when he needs it. Let me repeat that. Perhaps you did not hear me. Your child will get what he needs, when HE needs it. He probably isn’t going to learn it on your timetable, and if he does, chances are, he’ll forget it as soon as he finishes that unit in the textbook. He’ll learn it when he needs it.

When I was in school, I learned how to divide fractions. I did not understand why it worked like that, but I learned how to do it. Then, I put it in the back of my brain and did not think about it again. Later in life, when I wanted to divide a recipe, I remembered how to divide fractions, but this time, it made sense to me. I actually learned how to do it, because I needed to know how to divide fractions.
How many things did you learn in school that you’ve forgotten? Is there a rule that you can’t learn them again? No? Well, then why do we have this unspoken rule that kids must learn certain things when we want them to? Why can’t they learn it later when they need it?
Eighteen is not a magic number. Just because your child will graduate at that age, it doesn’t mean he will be finished learning. I’m 42, and I still learn things every day! So, relax! Stop worrying so much! Your child will get it when he’s ready.

It Will Be Worth It
The beauty of homeschooling is we can listen to our kids. We can take baby steps, and we can let them learn gently. We don’t have to force them into learning things in a way that does not work for them. Instead, we can tailor our educational programs to meet their needs. How exciting is that? You have stepped into the adventure of a lifetime with homeschooling!
You will have days when you will be frustrated and ready to quit. You'll have days when your children drive you crazy. Hopefully, though, you’ll have many more days that are rewarding and worth it.

I Wouldn't Change a Thing
Honestly, most of my homeschooling days have been full of frustration and being ready to quit. However, despite the difficulties I've had, I can honestly look back and say I would not change my decision to homeschool. I have watched my kids grown into decent, likeable human beings. They are smart, they are articulate, and they are nice to be around. I’m not sure the outcome for my kids would have been the same if they had gone to school. For my family, homeschooling was the best decision we could have made. I hope the same will be true for you!

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