Howdy friends, this is a departure from my home decor posts but given the new Smart Happy Organized blog design I thought I would take this opportunity to toss my hat in the mom blog section! As many of you may know I am a stay at home mom who is homeschooling our three school age kids, with the 4th too young yet. We are incredibly fortunate in that we are able to have me stay home with them.
As far as the homeschooling goes, we kind of fell into it. I had always been interested in the idea of homeschool but never had the drive to really dig into it and to be honest, I was very intimidated by it. How do you even begin? Where do you get the textbooks, workbooks, teachers editions, videos, all those materials you need? How can I manage a seven hour day of schooling? Sure, I have a college degree but not in teaching, can I really do this? All of those thoughts swirled through my mind, so I didn’t do anything about it, until we moved.
We moved in the middle of the school year, to an area of town with no school nearby and the school we were slated to attend was not on the stellar list. So, we opted to continue to drive our two school aged kids (at the time ½ day kindergarten and 2nd grade), across town (which amounted to 20-25 minutes each way) three times a day until Christmas break, which was almost two months. I can tell you how awful that was, I spent all day every day in the car with our 2 year old in tow. We knew after doing this for awhile it just wasn’t ideal. On top of the travel time, our daughter, who was in the ½ day kindergarten, was having trouble recognizing some of her letters. With so many kids in her class she wasn’t getting the help she needed at school so she was falling behind. Our son (2nd grader) was falling in with the troublemakers and was coming home with pink slips for not listening, which is the opposite of his personality.
By the time Christmas break came we decided we were going to try homeschooling for the spring semester, no long term commitment, just for the last half of the year. We even submitted the paperwork to get the kids into a good school (Colorado has School of Choice if available) that was in a different district but much closer to us, for the following year. So that was how we began homeschooling. I wasn’t too stressed about it because we had an out for the next year. How much could I really mess up?
Folks, it was the best decision we have made so far regarding our kids education. Our daughter went from being unable to recognize all the letters (we thought she may have dyslexia for awhile) to reading books from January to May under my tutelage. Now in the 5th grade she LOVES to read and flies through books faster than I can buy them. Harry Potter, the whole series lasted three weeks. She also loves to write short stories. Our “troublemaker” son didn’t have quite as easy a transition. He feels like his is being forced to learn to read, that’s our difficult area, and he hates english. But in the areas of math and science he flourished! He blew through his math books without a problem. After discovering their right environment, they both exceeded the expectations I had set for them and myself as their teacher. The monumental difference in them was hard to ignore, so we chose to homeschool them the next year, and the year after, etc. until here we are now. They are in 7th, 5th and 2nd grades. Every year we sit down and ask the kids how they feel about it. Do they want to go to regular school like most of their friends? Do they like and want to continue with homeschooling? We’re still cruising along so something must be working.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we began a once a week program through our school district that is solely for homeschool kids. They were instrumental in helping me have the confidence to do this and that I could continue do it. They helped me with tips on curriculum, advice on teaching, and some great resources on where to get materials. Our kids still go every week and have tons of friends they look forward to seeing. This program is awesome as it gives the kids enrichment classes like cooking, art, using legos to build (engineering), guitar, Spanish, bells, PE, science experimentation, dancing and music, language throughout history, etc. I could go on and on with the benefits of homeschooling, but I realize it is not for everyone. Which brings me to the topic of this post. Confessions of a Homeschooling mom and why you shouldn’t be intimidated. Here are some things I feel anyone considering homeschooling, currently homeschooling or just plain old mom talking might want to know.
“How do you do it all?”
I get this one a lot and while it’s flattering to hear, I have no real answer. People, I HAVE NO IDEA. I have no set lesson plan every day, I have no set school hours every day. We do have school days which are Friday-Monday mornings until we’re done. (5th day is our district program) That’s about as organized as I am. One big secret is that we use an awesome program online for most of their curriculum and it’s already broken into days so that helps A LOT. I have days all the time where I ask myself “what the hell am I doing and what was I thinking?” Especially on the days where the kids, or one of the bunch decide they don’t want to do homework today. I know it will be a LONG day. My other sanity secret is my husband. Two years ago I sat him down and told him I couldn’t do it anymore, it was too much trying to parent, teach, keep the house clean and everything else. I felt I was failing the kids as a teacher and a parent because I would get frustrated. Not with them but with myself if we were having trouble with something. In all honesty it still happens from time to time but I’ve learned to walk away, take a second and try to rework my teaching method so I can help the child understand whatever it is that’s giving them trouble. My husband felt it was important enough that he was going to step up and take some of the schooling load. It saved me and our homeschooling life. He tries to help out two of the four at home days and it makes the biggest difference.
Homeschooling allows our family to be very close.
One of the draws for us was the schedule. My husband works shift work, odd hours and his days off are Wednesday and Thursday. With a more traditional school schedule they would never see their dad. This way our schooling is scheduled around his work schedule which allows us so much time to do things together. I love the freedom that this method of schooling provides us.
Everything is a learning opportunity.
Grocery shopping? Ask your little one (age appropriate) to tell you the price or (if older) how much would two of those be? What color is the can? What shape is this box? Math can be found EVERYWHERE. Teaching english, listen for their conversations if you hear anything incorrect use it. What’s the past tense of to go? Shopping for plants, what variety is this tree? Can you read the label and tell me something about it? Every day mundane chores can be used as a learning opportunity. Reading, grammar, math, science all found right in front of us every day. I realized this and it was a revelation. I was working so hard to figure out how to teach things when there was so much right in front of us.
Do I need a break sometimes?
Do I literally ask to be sent to the little white padded room just for the quiet and alone time? Yes, I most definitely do, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I get burnt out, dried out, hollowed out, all of the above but it’s part and parcel of not just homeschooling but parenting. If you are considering this it might sound intimidating but it’s totally worth it in the end.
I have learned that it’s ok if I don’t know everything.
If I don’t do everything right or have a bad day. I think this is the biggest lesson and advice I can share, not just for homeschooling but parenting. As I mentioned earlier I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and sometimes it scares the crap out of me. What if they are behind? What if I didn’t do enough history? This still occurs regularly, I just put myself in check and if I am really worried I google where they should be at their ages. So far so good! We recently went through an “attitude” patch with our almost 13 year old and I felt like I was treading in unknown territory. Nothing worked, talking to him, arguing with him, grounding him, extra chores. Finally, it just melted away and passed who knows why but thank goodness, we survived. Until next time anyway.
Parenting is about learning as you go and doing your best.
That’s all anyone can ask and homeschooling is no different. Learn as much as you can, keep learning, be open to change and then sit back and watch the magic happen. Our kids are growing up so fast and we don’t want to miss a second of it, homeschooling allows us this blessing.
Going hand in hand with #5 is getting to watch them learn.
Watching our daughter go from not recognizing all of the alphabet to reading, not only that but LOVING to read, will always be one of my greatest accomplishments. Our 2nd grader is now the same way, he LOVES to read and stays up for a little while after we tuck him in to read in bed, makes my heart melt every time. We are sharing in their successes far more than we would have had we not gone through the rough patches with them to get to the finish line.
To sum up, homeschooling has been the toughest yet most rewarding experience, and continues to challenge me (and my hubby). Our kids continue to blossom and learn. They are now all ¾ of the way through their math this year, soon we will begin next years math. We are talking of adding German and piano lessons into our day. I am humbled, I am proud and I continue to learn and grow with them every single day.
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