Like many homeschooling moms, I’ve been planning out the coming school year for the last few weeks. It’s that season, for those of use who stick to a traditional school year, and I love it! Looking at my (temporarily) neatly arranged shelves, with all the new books and supplies that we’ll be digging into soon gives my heart a little stir of excitement. This will be a good year!
In the midst of all the planning and printing and buying, I had a flashback to this time last year, and I was struck by the difference in the way I’m doing things. While I had basically the same ideals and goals for our homeschool, I was floundering in the planning department. I had no idea where I was going. Even when I thought I did, I had no idea how to make it happen.
Some people never get out of that phase of uncertainty, and they find something that works better for them than attempting to predict the flow of their school year. Others, myself included, really need the structure and accountability of some sort of plan.
The problem with planning was that I didn’t know what I was doing last time. Nor did I know what I was doing the year before that! So I ended up “planning” by copying things out of other people’s lesson plans and curriculum. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to follow through because I was either under- or over-estimating our abilities and interests. I became discouraged when I realized we weren’t accomplishing everything I thought we should.
I thought we’d never be real homeschoolers!
If you find yourself in the same boat, homeschooling mom, take heart! This is not how it will always be, I promise. I’ve learned a few things about those first few years of homeschooling, having gotten through them myself:
The teacher is the student. You thought you were going to do a field trip every Friday. You didn’t know math would be this hard to teach. Your kids seem to learn more things that you didn’t teach them than things you tried to teach them! You’re starting to wonder if you’re accomplishing anything at all. Believe me, you are! You are not failing. You are refining your methods. The first few years of home education are all about getting things figured out. Homeschooling (if you weren’t homeschooled yourself) may be so foreign to you that you can’t even see the progress you’re making yet!
You’ll never find the perfect “style”. I started out with big plans about classical education. Then I thought maybe I needed to be a little bit more traditional in my approach. About halfway through last year, unschooling started to sound really appealing to me. This year, I’m reading Charlotte Mason to see how much of her wisdom I can incorporate in my homeschool. Right now, I think I’d define our style as relaxed classical. (I sometimes joke that we’re the world’s first Classical Unschoolers). Find out as much as you can about learning and teaching styles, and then make up your own style. Your family is unique. Your school should be, too!
The 5000-hour Rule. It’s a common rule of thumb that it takes 5,000 hours to become an expert on whatever you’re doing. That’s a lot of hours! It will take a few years for you to really feel like you’re an effective homeschooling mom. Until you’ve logged that many hours, don’t let anyone attempt to discourage you from homeschooling because of your mistakes! Wanna know a secret? A friend of mine who teaches once told me that public school teachers don’t know what they’re doing for the first few years, either. Don’t get fooled by the “professional” mystique. They’re just kids with brand new degrees and thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off. Everybody starts out clueless! (Well, almost everybody.)
This year, I think I finally know what I’m doing. We’ve gotten the hang of working together as a family (as opposed to just living in the same house), and the flow of our days is predictable enough for me to plan them accordingly. We know what our learning styles are, what our strengths and weaknesses are, and how much activity we can handle. I’ve also developed—at least in part—the patience required to teach.
There is a great deal that I still have to learn, I know, but I believe the hardest part of homeschooling is over. I’m sure we’ll go through growing pains with each new age and each new child, but we are, at last, comfortable in our own homeschooling skin. You will be, too, new teacher-moms. Just hang in there!