The most important homeschool tip ever
Every day I hear about another family (or five) that is embarking on the adventure of homeschooling. Common Core seems to be the biggest catalyst with the huge influx of new homeschooling families. The most recent homeschooling conference where Richard and I presented was made up of 75%, yes, seventy-five percent, new homeschoolers (meaning they had either been homeschooling for less than a semester or were about to start in the fall). I’ve never seen such huge numbers of new families and it’s so exciting!
But with all these newbies there is a lot of anxiety and a quest for that key that is going to make it work out.
It is a scary thing. I know. Fifteen years ago we made the decision to homeschool our family. We had two very small children at the time (3 years old and a newborn) and I had no idea the road that was ahead of us. I didn’t know then how hard it would be or how wonderful it would be. I didn’t know that Richard and i would end up presenting at homeschool conferences and mentoring other families or that our life’s mission would make itself manifest through the process.
I made lots of mistakes and we had lots of victories, large and small. And now with my oldest just graduated and my other children thriving I feel like I can take a breath and say, yes! This works!
So, what is the biggest lesson I’ve learned through it all? What one piece of advice can I give to those newly homeschooling parents?
It’s a big one so get ready..
I don’t just mean pretend to relax while freaking out on the inside every day. I mean the king of relaxing that comes through having faith in the process. Yes, chances are you’ve met some weirdos who homeschool and you are terrified that you are going to have kids who can’t form complete sentences. Or bathe. You may worry about grade level and aptitude testing and proving to your mother in law (or husband) that you are good enough to do this. You may worry about what the neighbors think, what your friends think, what your church leaders think, or what the bagger at the grocery store thinks (personal experience). It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to prove your worthiness or your child’s ability to anyone and everyone who decides to ask you why you are homeschooling.
But here’s the deal. Those weirdo homeschoolers would have been weirdo public schoolers, should their parents have chosen that option. They were raised by weird parents who don’t think their kids are weird and that’s okay for them. You are the parent of your children. They aren’t going to suddenly morph into backwoods social misfits just because they spend more time with you than with a bunch of third graders. Honestly, the reverse will be true.
And your mother-in-law, she will just have to deal with it. Chances are she’s going to nag you for a while but as she sees your steadfastness, she will get over it and start to brag to all her friends about how brilliant her grandchildren are.
In other words, those outside pressures are easily dealt with. Be polite, don’t be defensive, and thank people for their advice and interest then do what you were going to do anyway. Which is to . . .
what is it?
Because when it comes down to it, all those nosy people aren’t really the problem. The problem is that voice in the back of your head that asks that ever annoying and painful question.
What if . . . ?
What if I can’t do it? What if I’m not disciplined enough? What if I mess up my kids and they can’t get into a good college? What if they get behind? What if someone is judging me? What if I get lazy? What if it’s too hard? What if I never have another day to myself? Etc.
Those what ifs can drive you crazy. They can make you panic and try to recreate a public school setting at home (worst idea EVER). That leads you to getting way too strict with you children’s time which makes you (and them) overly anxious and frustrated. Nothing good comes from that.
It’ll happen. But if you know it’s coming then you can be prepared for that harshest of critics, the internal one. You can tell him/her that you hear what is being said (try, shouted) but you are going to trust this process.
And a magical thing will happen. You and your children will blossom together. You’ll start out afraid and tentative but as time goes on and you keep at it, you’ll become fearless. You’ll be willing to try new things and fail together gloriously. What better learning experience could there possibly be?
And then, you’ll succeed. And nothing in all the world can compare to the feeling of sitting with your children, being the most bonded, close-knit family unit you can imagine, and being a part of their biggest educational breakthroughs and successes.
You can do this. For centuries people have done this and succeeded gloriously and so will you!
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