Whoever said homeschooling is a journey hit the nail on the head. Going into it, I hadn’t a clue what I was doing or what it was really like. Sure, I’d researched the logistics, chosen my curriculum, read all the blogs, and talked to several people. But not even my thorough investigation into the homeschooling life could have prepared me for the truth of what lie ahead.
1. Homeschool Burnout is Real
My wake-up call came in the form of homeschool burnout. It’s real folks. Of course, I had read all about it. I’m diligent like that. If you spend any amount of time Googling “homeschool burnout,” you’ll think you know all you need to know about the subject. Wrong. You can read everything anyone has ever written about homeschool burnout and still not fully grasp the weight of the situation, the hopelessness, the anxiety, the fear of failure. But you can bet your sweet bippy you’ll know it when you feel it.
2. You May Try to Pick Your Homeschool Style, but Sometimes it Picks You
After only about a month into our homeschooling journey, burnout hit me like a ton of bricks. I was trying to fit us into the “school at home” homeschool approach, which only works for certain types of kids. It did not work for my talkative (read:
know-it-all gifted/twice-exceptional), hands-on, fidgety son who just resorted to argument whenever I opened my mouth. He was six. It was ridiculous. (Update: It is less ridiculous now that we’ve learned more about each other, but there is still frequent sighing and eye-rolling going on. I won’t confirm by whom.)
3. Homeschool Co-ops are the Bees Knees — If You Find the Right One for Your Family
When I first started homeschooling, I didn’t have any homeschooling friends to bounce ideas around and to SoCiALiZe with. Not only did I have to deal with all of that and my failure to teach (or so I had convinced myself), but also I had a newborn on my hands. It was isolating, even for me – the introverted, socially-awkward bookworm who prefers solitude to multitude. No matter who you are, it helps to have cohorts. As long as you find the right ones, which leads me to my next tip.
4. You Gotta Know When to Hold ‘Em and When to Fold ‘Em
I desperately needed to make some changes. I needed a tribe; so, knowing no other homeschool moms in my area that shared my philosophy, I purposefully sought them out online. We ended up joining a homeschool co-op that met twice a month to go on field trips. I switched curricula to a more project-based/kinesthetic/unit studies approach vs. traditional textbooks and worksheets. Lo and behold, my first grader is thriving! My sanity is also intact. (Update: My now 8 y.o. is doing even better academically, and our days are filled with much less complaining, arguing, and drama. Additionally, we have since learned that the co-op we originally joined, and another we tried after that, did not suit my family’s needs or philosophy of life. Had we known what we know now, we wouldn’t have tried to force ourselves into something that was clearly not a great fit to begin with, no matter how nice and welcoming the people are. Hindsight is 20/20.)
Thanks to necessity, I have founded a more fitting co-op in my area geared toward both gifted/2e/neurodivergent and secular homeschoolers: Southeast Central Texas Homeschool.)
5. It’s Cool To Unschool, Especially When Your Baby/Toddler is Wreaking Havoc on Your Best-Laid Plans
Another “obvious” tip I learned was to school when the baby/toddler is napping, eating, or playing by herself. It was hard for me to let go of the rigid schedule I had set for us and to go with the flow, but babies/toddlers don’t follow anyone’s schedule but their own, and they are extremely demanding of time! (I seemed to have forgotten this between kid #1 and kid #2.) I still have goals laid out for the day, week, and year; however, if I find it’s just not working that day, we simply unschool and “catch up” later.
Even though I now have a toddler to contend with, our days have become more rhythmic. I’ve found that homeschooling really is a lifestyle, and capitalizing on those teachable moments is truly a necessity. There have been several times where we had to veer away from our designated curriculum due to illness or otherwise, and when we came back around to it, my son breezed through the material because we already covered it numerous times in real life!
Truths From My Homeschooling Journey
Whether you’re new to this homeschooling thing or you’re simply curious about the lifestyle, let me share a few final bonus tips:
- Reading as much as you can about homeschooling beforehand is good.
- Seeking guidance from those who have gone before is even better.
- Expecting the homeschool journey to be a wild ride is best of all.
The truth is, while you will most certainly cross some rough terrain, you and your child(ren) will be more resilient and knowledgeable about each other and also the world in the long run.