Sitting at our homeschooling table, my desk is strewn with books and blocks and colours, and on the floor sits a pile of books and cushions. We have completed our first year of homeschooling. In part I want to do a little celebratory dance, and on the other hand I want to to crawl into bed because I’m totally exhausted. It’s been a nine-month journey, and there has been growth and joy (with more than a dash of overwhelm and fatigue!) A journey of emotion, survival, and tears (all of them mine).
For the experienced homeschooling families, tales of this newbie’s rookie mistakes and unrealistic expectations may cause you to roll your eyes, or maybe smile, reminiscing on your first experiences. For those still considering homeschooling in the future, I hope sharing my heart and a little of the reality will be beneficial.
Honestly, I was not one of those mamas who dreamed of homeschooling her kiddies. When we looked for our new home two years ago, a good public school was on our tick list. My husband and I both attended public school and enjoyed incredibly positive experiences. But after my son’s kindergarten year it was evident for many reasons the system was not a good fit for our family. After agonizing a bit, we decided to go for it. I’ll be honest, I have shed some tears this year, fueled by exhaustion, frustration, and self perceived failure. I’ve worried, made comparisons, questioned my decisions, and considered giving up a few times in moments of frustration. But I’ve also grown. I learned to trust my instincts and ultimately enjoy the experience of teaching, guiding, and watching my children learn as their mum and teacher.
Let’s start with the positives:
- Watching kiddies make visible progress
- Tailoring our homeschooling lesson plan/curriculum/days according to their interests, their mood, and sometimes even the weather.
- Beginning our day with circle time, stories, poetry, songs, and lighting a candle.
Once I truly understood the real value of our homestead life (growing our food, being guardians of the forest and land, and caring for animals), it became an incredible part of their education and in itself, was full of life lessons. And on those days when we sat somewhere incredibly beautiful, during ‘school hours’ I felt blessed that we were able to make this choice as a family.
Like the dreamer I am, I went into the first year of homeschooling with unrealistic expectations (family afternoons on the floor cushions listening to audio books with tea and homemade banana bread). Ha ha ha! Maybe some families can pull this off, but not us. In the early months I overcompensated and over-scheduled, trying to meet what I perceived as their ‘social needs.’ We were going broke paying for extracurricular classes, and I ran myself ragged with a grueling schedule of playmates. Luckily, winter and snow came along and difficult driving conditions forced us to stay home. Thereafter, I took a different approach and I really struggled. We decided the kiddies would go to a homeschool academy two days a week, which was a life-changing decision for all of us. I’m now able to view this not as a personal failure, but as a mum being proactive.
My biggest challenges haven’t been with the teaching. My son (7) and daughter (6) are motivated little learners, and we used a waldorf-inspired curriculum which we loved. The challenge was figuring out how to do all the other stuff while homeschooling; balancing individual needs of four children (keeping a 3 and 1 year-old busy while teaching the older two), running our homestead, striving to lead a zero-waste sustainable life, and keeping the house in good order. These days we shoot for a not-looking-like-we’ve-been-burgled look.
Homeschooling lessons learned:
- You cant do it all; compromise, priorities, and doing what you need to do some days to keep your sanity intact.
- Value what you have, your outlook on life, your family hobbies and lifestyle, and the input of friends and family. Life skills and experiences come in many shapes and sizes outside of the classroom.
- Self care; you are a better mother and teacher when you look after your needs. Self care can take may forms, but do something for you when you need to.
- There are no rules. Feel free to keep changing up routine and curriculum until you find what truly works for your family.
Wine and chocolate in the evening helps too!
So, one school year in and we are still finding our homeschooling rhythm. Juggling a homestead, lesson planing, and four kiddies is no mean feat, but will we be be doing it all again next year? You bet!