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Advice for The Young Mom Starting Homeschool: What I Should Have Listened To

Are you thinking about starting homeschool for your family? Read this advice from an experienced homeschool mom so you don't make the same mistakes she did.

We’ve been at this homeschooling thing for quite awhile now.  If you count the pre-school years, when I started teaching my daughter to read, it’s been about 18 years of non-stop homeschool.  But I really count starting homeschool as when we signed up for our church’s Christian-school-sponsored home study program.  It was basically a homeschool co-op that was under the umbrella of the Christian school.  My oldest was entering kindergarten at the time.

I remember our very first co-op day.  The kids went to classes taught by the Christian school teachers, and we homeschool moms met for coffee and encouragement.  The group discussion that morning was about doing homeschool with older kids while having toddlers and babies around.  I have no doubt that the discussion leader chose that topic to help out the new moms in the group such as myself.

But guess who was one of the first to speak up with advice for everyone?  Yup, that would be me.  Granted, as a mom of four at that time, with the oldest being 5 years old, I had some experience in controlling a circus of kids.  But as a new homeschooler, I had no business thinking I knew the score.  I had SO MUCH to learn — but I didn’t realize it.

Are you thinking about starting homeschool for your family? Read this advice from an experienced homeschool mom so you don't make the same mistakes she did.

In case you’re wondering, I told them about a book I had found a few years before, called Managers of Their Homes, by Teri Maxwell — it’s all about scheduling your home and family.  It had helped me a lot, and I still recommend it to anyone who would like to feel more in control of their daily home life and homeschool with many children around.  BUT having a ready answer meant that I didn’t listen very much to what others had to say.  I thought my way was best and others just needed help.  My help, apparently.  And that first day basically set the tone for much of my homeschool mom career.

Looking back now, I realize I could have learned a lot from those other women.  There were many styles of homeschooling represented there — but I was stuck on mine.

I wish now that I had listened to the ladies who WEREN’T so rigid and controlling about their homeschool schedule.  The early elementary years could have been so much more fun for us, if I had been willing to ditch the books and take my kids out for field trips and walks in the park, or if we had read more together or played more games.  I was so afraid of not covering everything I should, of my kids not learning what they were “supposed” to learn.  I didn’t trust myself to evaluate them; it was necessary to plod through the books so they could take the tests which would show me what they knew.

So let me go on record now and say to all the young moms starting homeschool who might be reading this:

RELAX.  Take time to breathe.  Take time to have FUN with your kids.  If you want to schedule your days, that is totally fine — but build in field trips and walks in the park and reading and games.

Don’t be so tied to the workbooks that your kids find learning a chore.  Guess what?  It is VERY OK to not finish the book each year.  It is VERY OK to not give tests.  It is VERY OK to take days and weeks off in those early years.  All of what they are doing now will be covered again — AD INFINITUM.

Find ways to make learning fun, like memorizing multiplication facts with singing or watching historical movies or going to the children’s science museum every other week (oooo, that would be a great family Christmas present!).  Drag the toddlers and infants with you and don’t stress about naps so much.  Yes, everyone might be more cranky — but life is not all about controlled situations with everyone at their best.  Life and learning are often more about EXPERIENCES — which don’t happen when all you do is sit at the table filling in the blanks.

Oh, I wish I had been more open to listening to what others were doing then.  REALLY listening, and changing our ways to incorporate more of a relaxed learning approach for those elementary years.  Middle school and high school are soon enough to begin a more rigid approach, and whatever the child missed in the elementary years can be made up quickly then.  LISTEN TO ME when I tell you this.

Just to be on the safe side, let me hasten to clarify that I am not advocating not doing school at all.  I think grammar and math are important, and I am not against workbooks for those subjects — or for any subject.  I am just cautioning against being so tied to the kitchen table and the pencil and paper that family life becomes an endless round of rigid school days where a certain amount MUST get plowed through and no one is smiling or laughing much.  Homeschooling  is the perfect opportunity to broaden your kids’ horizons and live at your own family’s tempo — don’t waste that.

My kids don’t have fun memories of homeschool when they were young.  (Read Our Homeschool Journey for more about that.)  I regret that.  If you are a young homeschool mom, don’t be as arrogant as I was.  Be open to other ways of doing things.  Slow down and gaze at the flowers — the beautiful faces of the children God has given you.  Enjoy them, and enjoy making homeschool enjoyable.  For all of you.

wishtold

 

I’m linking up today over at the iHomeschool Network, where many homeschool moms are sharing about What I Wish I Would Have Been Told Before My First Year of Homeschooling.  Click the image at the left to go see what they have to say! 🙂

About the author

Ann Karako

Ann has been homeschooling for 18+ years and has graduated four children (one more to go). She believes that EVERY mom can CONFIDENTLY, COMPETENTLY -- and even CONTENTEDLY -- provide the COMPLETE high school education that her teen needs. Ann's website, AnnieandEverything.com, offers information, resources, and virtual hugs to help homeschool moms do just that. Ann has written Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: A Step-by-Step Manual for Research & Planning, and she founded the popular FB group called It's Not that Hard to Homeschool High School. She and her family, including two dogs and three cats, live in rural Missouri.

16 Comments

  • Oh how this post resonated with me! I love this, thank you so much for being so honest. Homeschooling now for 8+ years I wish someday’s I could go back and really enjoy those younger years. I missed so much being tied to the books. Not that I don’t appreciate what we did had, but I let my fears guide me for too long.

    Thank you for sharing! I hope others read and learn from this post 🙂

    • “I let my fears guide me for too long.” YES, that is exactly what I did and what I think a lot of homeschoolers do. Hopefully we can encourage those in our little corners of the world to have more fun! Thanks for stopping by, Jen! 🙂

  • Beautifully written and very true! I fell into homeschooling, and I went to my first co-op seeking information. By the end of that first year, I had BIG ideas. I wish I had slowed down, too. We only have one left at home now. She and I have a much more laid back system, and it still works. I know many young homeschool moms will be blessed with this!

  • What a wonderful post!! We use managers of their chores in our house and have LOVED it Terri Maxwell has some wonderful products. I have felt the same as you, wishing I had learned to slow down and not be so rigid in our early years of homeschooling our older kids. Luckily I have been able to do that now with my younger ones, as well as include the older kids on our fun field trips. All homeschool moms need to read this, thanks for sharing. Praying you have a blessed Christmas!!

    • Thanks so much, Nicole!! Do you feel like you finally figured stuff out with your youngest? I’ve felt that way about pretty much everything, from being in the hospital after she was born onward, lol. 🙂

  • Oh yes! Such helpful tips for new & experienced homeschoolers! Taking time to enjoy our kids and this blessing of homeschool that we have with them. I also started off with a rigid schedule & feel so grateful to a dear friend who pointed out that we didn’t have to homeschool like public school. So glad to have found your helpful post on The Homeschool Nook!

    • “We don’t have to homeschool like public school.” So true, and that is a larger concept than we sometimes realize. Thanks for the comment, Amy! 🙂

  • Yes! All of this… we learned pretty quickly to ditch the books when field trips called and still find that more often than not we pick life experiences over books but it took a few years to stop feeling guilty that we weren’t finishing every workbook and sitting at the table every school day “doing school.”

    • Those workbooks just keep kicking you in the teeth, don’t they? Saying “Finish me! Do every problem! No page left behind!” Aargh. It’s great that you have stopped listening to them! 🙂

  • Thank you for the post! I am pulling my kindergartener out of public school after the winter break to homeschool. I can already feel myself tensing up about getting enough done. I need to focus on why I’m doing this – to spend time with my sweet boy! 🙂

    • I am so glad for you to be taking this step, Melissa! Kindergarten with your child can be such a fun time! Go DO things. Yes, work a little on reading and math but don’t make it a high-pressure deal. Play together. Talk about what you are seeing and doing. Read aloud LOTS. I confess I’m a bit envious… 🙂

  • We are working on first grade this year, last year we didn’t take as much fun time as we do this year. They grow up so fast, enjoy the little moments & catch up when you can. This Is a great article.

  • Thank you for this post. I was sitting here at my kitchen table staring at my first grader’s math workbook and thinking about how we won’t finish it this year. I’m 13 weeks pregnant with terrible morning sickness and we haven’t gotten much “done” the last several weeks. I appreciate the encouragement and reassurance that it will be OK. ?

    • Oh, Danae, I feel your pain! DO NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR FIRST GRADER FINISHING HER MATH BOOK. She’ll see it all again next year and for many years after that. You take care of yourself and the baby during this exhausting time! HUGS!!!

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I’m Ann (aka Annie), a veteran homeschool mom of five. I believe YOU can do this homeschool high school thing!
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