Last night I spent some time on the phone with a woman I haven't spoken to in years, but who reached out to me to ask me some questions about homeschooling. I've heard her story before:
"I think this is right, but I'm overwhelmed."
"I have parts of it figured out but I'm worried about academics/socialization/support."
"I need to choose curriculum and there are so many options!"
I wanted to take a few minutes and tell you some of what I told her, and what I tell anyone who is considering homeschooling.
1. If you are thinking of doing it, you probably can.
The fact that you are interested in it, that you are researching it, that you are reaching out to others who do it indicates that your desire is strong. And if you desire to do it, you will find a way. So many parents are intimidated by teaching because they are not teachers by trade. But the beauty of homeschooling is that you don't have to be. You are dealing with very small student-teacher ratios, and so many curriculums walk you through step-by-step on the things you may not know. Plus, you have the irreplaceable bonus of being their constant guide, and the lessons they'll learn from you being there, loving them, helping them when they stumble--as only a parent can--are valuable beyond words. The teaching skills will come as you grow into the process. I will add that you will want to search out a mentor. They can be your cheerleader and practical support, and are especially valuable if not everyone in your current circle is down with homeschooling. Lean on them; they will be a great help to you (and soon enough, believe it or not, you may find yourself mentoring someone else!).
2. Commit to a year.
JUST ONE YEAR. Want to know a secret? When I think of homeschooling a kid who is a senior in high school, prepping for college and SATs and doing extracurriculars and DRIVING and about to leave home and be on their own and without me and reading Beowulf and using those big fancy calculators for calculus or whatever it is...I GET INTIMIDATED TOO! But then I remember: I'm not homeschooling a senior in high school! I'm homeschooling a kindergartener and a 2nd grader. I don't have to think about those things right now. I can deal with those when we get there. Right now I just need to think about things like memorizing the Beautitudes and segmenting spelling words and doing the Doubles Plus Ones. We will get those things down and then we will move on to the next step. And all those steps will, Lord willing, lead us to Beowulf and the Big Calculator, when it is time to deal with Beowulf and the Big Calculator. And driving. Oy.
3. Go to a Convention.
Know who goes to conventions? People who have been right where you are, and are willing to help you through it. You will be encouraged by their stories. Know who else goes to conventions? Curriculum vendors. That means you get to see and touch the curriculum, and ask questions. I will caution you to not stress out over making it to every single session or learning everything you need to know in one day or weekend, or even buying all your curriculum then. It can be information overload, so measure your time and spend a lot of it on the expo floor, asking questions. (Just remember that while vendors' answers can be helpful they are trying to sell you things that you may not need, at least not yet. I recommend making a budget before you go. They'll always be happy to take more of your money later, right?).
4. Re-think True Socialization.
If you've mentioned that you are considering homeschooling to more than 1.2 people, you've probably gotten that worried look and The Question: "But what will you do about socialization?" I could say a lot about this, but here are just a couple of things to consider: If kids in institutional schools are so well-socialized, why are there local, state, and national initiatives designed to stop the massive problem of bullying? And, even if a child manages to escape the bully's taunts, is it really socialization if the only people they are interacting with are their same age? When you homeschool, you have the ability to influence their concepts of respect, politeness, and hospitality. You can (and must) teach them those things in the home, then model and oversee them in practice. You are the one at the grocery store who teaches them to watch out for others in the aisles, to help the person who dropped a can of beans, and to look the cashier in the eye and say "Thank you" when complimented. You can have an elderly woman, a woman with younger children, or a friend their own age into your home at any time of day, and teach your child how to make someone feel welcome, warmed and loved. You can visit others, serving them and teaching them to respect other peoples' rule and possessions. You can make corrections in real time, help them navigate interpersonal problems with other kids and deal swiftly and intensely with real issues concerning how they treat others. And if they still need to learn things like how to stand in line, take turns and wait for you to stop talking, take them to the post office and the children's museum and on play dates where you'll be talking to other adults--those are prime opportunities to teach all those things. THAT is practical socialization that will serve them well all their life, and far more skills than what they would learn from 8 to 3 in the school room.
5. Do Bible first.
As you get into the practicalities of homeschooling, there will be days when Life will interfere with School and you will have to make choices on what academics you will accomplish that day. I say, always do Bible, no matter what. It teaches your children that yes, knowing God and serving Him truly is the most important thing, every day. Also, it will help keep all of you rooted in scripture for whatever else the day throws at you. Pray with them. Read from the Bible or their Bible lesson book (I'm a big fan of Egermeier's), sing a hymn (or lots of hymns, especially if you are in the car!). Work on memorizing verses. Talk about God's will for their lives as you start and go through your day. Eventually, the math curriculum will get done. They will learn to read one day. But the time to impress on their young hearts what will truly matter at the end of their life is short. Use it.
Obviously I am thrilled with the homeschool life, and will always encourage people who are interested in doing it. These are the things that helped me when I was starting out, and I hope you find them helpful as well! May God bless you on your homeschool journey.
For more good stuff, you can check out my Homeschool Encouragement Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/lbwolfgangmast/encouragement-for-the-amazing-homeschool-life/
Encouragement Spoken Here
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11