New homeschool mama, you have been on my heart lately.
You have just made such a weighty decision for your family, for your children, for you. You have taken the leap into being a home-educating family. You probably feel the full spectrum of emotions, from anxious and overwhelmed to excited for what’s to unfold. While I am only a few years in, I do have some words of wisdom to share that I hope will bring you peace and help light the new path that you are starting to walk down.
While I may not be able to sit across my dining room table with each of you reading this with books spread out while we sip tea or hot lattes, let’s try to imagine we are. This is what I would say to you.
You have what it takes.
The mere fact that you have made this choice displays that you are brave and that your heart is for your child to succeed. You do not need a teaching education or background to teach your child at home. You do not need all the fancy wooden educational materials or an Instagram-worthy classroom in your home. What you need is what you already have. You are the most qualified person in the world to teach your child because you have a mama’s love and a desire to see your child love learning.
Let enough be enough.
Start simple. With so many amazing options out there on blogs, Pinterest, and Instagram, it can be easy to compare your lessons and curriculum choices to every other and feel the need to keep changing and adding more. You can start to worry if what you are doing is enough. You may want to scratch it all and start over. While there is the freedom to evaluate what isn’t working for your child, that’s not what I am referring to. I’m talking about looking around at everything else and having a serious case of FOMO until you jam pack your planner so tight that you choke out peace and joy in your home education. Your goal as a homeschool mom should not be to read every good book, use every neat printable, and teach every fact about every subject. Instead, your goal should be to offer your child inspiring opportunities to discover their own passion for learning, and usually, that means less is more.
Relationships are the foundation.
No one on Earth knows your child like you do. If that isn’t true, it soon will be as you walk down this road together. Home education means you are together a lot! Having all that time together with your children gives you the opportunity to form a close relationship with each one of them. Take the time to get to know their learning styles, their personalities, and to create special moments with them that will bond you closer and create memories. I’m talking about spontaneous dance parties, cozy read-aloud time, and silly games played around the table.
That bond is built during nature walks, while you walk hand-in-hand and chat about the praying mantis you found or while mixing muffin batter over hot tea and stories. A deep relationship with you is far more valuable to their education than all the shiny curriculum and resources money can buy. That connection is the foundation and the rest will be built on that.
As a new homeschool family, I recommend easing into lessons and focusing on the relationship first. That will make the new teacher-mom role that you are stepping into much easier for everyone to adapt to.
Related: Deschooling: What, Why and How?
Home culture matters more than curriculum choice.
The culture and atmosphere of your home matters more to your child's education than the curriculum you choose and how effectively you check all the boxes. Children soak up everything that they are exposed to from the minute they wake until the minute they fall asleep. If a home and family culture is full of strife, clutter, stress, busyness, shallow stories, bad habits, and hours in front of screens, that is what the children will soak up and produce, no matter what they are presented with at “school time.” Their entire day is education, not just the hours spent with books at the table.
Learning happens when they observe how you interact with strangers and your spouse, solve problems, do house projects, and as they see what you value and how you steward your time. Learning is in the rhythms of your days including personal and home care, teamwork, and discipleship. Your job as a home educator is to create an atmosphere of creativity, beauty, truth, knowledge, stories, and good character. This is done by being intentional about what is offered in their space and in the way their days are planned out.
Related: Habit Training: Household Chores
Children need time and space to thrive. As easy as it sounds, I have found that the best way to offer my children room to seek out learning on their own is by slowing down, simplifying their schedules, surrounding them with richness and beauty, and letting them be bored. You will be amazed at what your children come up with to discover, create, and learn when there is time to do so. (Here are a few of my favorite open-ended play must haves that help foster their imagination and creativity)
You are free!
There is so much freedom in homeschooling, which is one of my biggest reasons for choosing this path. Don’t try to recreate a classroom setting and the way things are done for a room full of children for your one or small group of children at home.
You have the freedom of environment.
We have done lessons on the couch, on a blanket in the yard, in the car, and at a campsite. You can even scratch the formal lessons and spend the day at a nature preserve, serving in your community, or at museum and it’s still school.
You have the freedom of time.
Is your child struggling to get a math concept that “should” be covered in 2 days? Take two weeks! Want to move your formal lessons to the afternoons for a season so that you can go on morning adventures? Go for it. Want to school year-round so you can take vacations whenever you want or take off a month at Christmas? Why not? Time is your friend when you are a homeschool family. Make it work to your advantage.
Related: 5 Tips to Boost Your Toddler's Language Read about our own journey with hearing loss and how the benefit of slowing down and going at our own pace helped our family.
You have the freedom of content.
Is faith important to you? You can make that the foundation of your children’s education. Is one of your children interested in a certain animal? Head to the library and create a unit study on it. You even have the freedom to ditch worksheets and do all of your learning through games and hands-on activities if you wanted to. You can adapt everything to your child’s interests, learning style, and development. Is your first grade child reading at a 3rd grade level? Ditch the first grade readers and move along. Same goes if they are reading later than their peers or needing more review in math for another school year. There is no “behind” as long as they’re being challenged and making progress.
There is so much more bubbling up inside of me to tell you, but this is a good start. This is a whole new chapter for your family. There will be tough days. Your kids will resist you and you will have days where you scramble and fail. It is okay! This is a new journey that you are all on together. If you commit to this lifestyle, I promise that the good outweighs the difficult. You will feel more bonded to your children than ever as you laugh together over a good book or discover nature together. You will see the lightbulb go off when your child makes a learning connection and it will all be worth it.
You got this, mama.