Saturday, 13 August 2011

What I Have Learned

We will start our sixth year of homeschooling on Monday. I truly have enjoyed every single year. I have enjoyed them, but it doesn't mean that every day has been picture perfect! I thought it might be useful to share with you what I have learned so far about homeschooling.

I find myself repeating the same kind of "advice" to moms that are considering or are just starting homeschooling, so here is my little list (with explanations!):

  • Homeschooling is a lifestyle: think hard about it and do your research.
I think this is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. Check out books on the topic at your local library, try to find families in your community that are already homeschooling and talk to them, try to imagine being with your kids ALL the time (if they are currently in public school).
The reason I write that first point is because I feel strongly that it is necessary to do this. I spent almost a year reading about homeschooling before starting. I also met with a local homeschool group at a bowling alley which gave my children and myself a chance to talk with families that were "doing it" already. We then took the summer to try homeschooling. We did small unit studies and workbooks before making our final decision.

  • Once you start, give yourself time to adjust to this new life!
If you are starting with young children, you are probably already used to spending a lot of time together, but maybe not with a routine that might involve structure or focused learning activities. If your children are school-aged and have been in public school, spending a much larger amount of time together is new to you and your children, and that might take some adjustment. Also, your school aged children need some time to "deschool", which means some time to adjust to this different learning environment. Depending on the homeschool style you are choosing, you will now be a "teacher" as well as Mom. My oldest daughter, who was in public school from kindergarden to grade 2, took some time to adjust to that. She often would tell me how I was doing it wrong, that this wasn't how Mrs. X did it in school!

  • Take it one year at a time, but keep in mind a long-time goal too.
I know, this is contradictory, but let me explain. I feel that it is good to revisit your decision about homeschooling at the end of every school year. An assessment to see if it's still working for your family. Maybe it isn't, maybe not for every child, maybe your family situation has changed and homeschooling isn't an option or maybe it is just perfect! I usually also assess our curriculum choices at the end of each year. I do think that it is important to keep a long-time goal in mind. Do you want to homeschool until high school? Or until your children are ready to enter college or university or the workforce? This might affect your curriculum decisions and how you homeschool.

  • Bad days happen and it's ok to take a day off sometimes.
Yes! Bad days. Everyone has them. Give yourself permission to take a day off if you and/or your children really need it. If someone is sick or particularly off, it's ok to take a day off and "catch-up" if needed on a different day. Spend the day playing games, reading aloud, or just relaxing, or get out of the house for a walk or something special. You will very likely feel better the next day because of that little break. The beauty of homeschooling, in my opinion, is the flexibility with your time. My husband works in retail, so his schedule is not your typical Monday to Friday 9 to 5. We have often switched our schedule to accomodate his, so we could spend time together as a family on his days off from work.

  • Homeschooling is as expensive as you want it to be.
Curriculum, if you choose to use it, can be costly, but if you divide the cost over the months you will be using it and for every child that will use it, then the cost is still less than the tuition to a private school. There are more and more curriculums available every year in various price range. Request several catalogues from homeschool suppliers and shop around (check amazon as well!). Use google or sign up with a homeschool chat board to help you find the many options available for free or very little cost. Depending on where you live, the province or state might have support for this too. We have used the public library extensively over the years, it's free and saves us a lot of money. One last point, if you are currently working and considering homeschooling, you might choose to leave your work which would mean loss of that income. That is something to keep in mind, but there are many families who homeschool while working. I worked part-time at the beginning of our homeschooling adventure.

  • Every homeschooling family is unique.
As I said at the end of the last paragraph, some families work while homeschooling, some don't. Every family has a different take on many aspects: method, curriculum, schedule, beliefs, etc... I think it is important to keep that in mind, especially as you connect with other homeschoolers and respect our differences. Support groups are great for just that, support and shouldn't become a competitive or judging ground. A good homeschool goup should be a safe place to meet other families, develop friendships for kids and moms, maybe even have field trips or activities.  With homeschooling becoming more common, more groups are available, so if one doesn't give you what you need, go look for another one, start your own, or just choose to "hang out" with the homeschool families that you have connected with. The important point, I think, is to have your own group (however small or large) that you feel confortable with and enjoy spending time with, for your children and yourself.

  • Learning is fun!
As I "teach" my children, I am learning myself. I never knew learning could be so much fun and so interesting. I certainly didn't know that when I went to school as a child. School was just something I had to get through, not something I enjoyed. Learning with my children has given me a new attitude towards learning.

  • Don't forget about yourself!
Homeschooling requires a lot from the person "doing it". It is a lifestyle and if one really enjoys it, then one doesn't mind spending a lot of time researching, reading, preparing, etc... It is like a full-time job! Homeschooling is very important to me, but I have learned that I need to have some other interests just for myself. I learned this lesson during the year that my children attended public school. It was a great experiment for them and for myself. I had dedicated my life to homeschooling before that year  and when they left, I felt lost. I really did! All of a sudden, I had nothing to do. It soon became really boring! I decided to re-visit hobbies that I had enjoyed in the past and rediscovered quilting in that process. I took up running again. I read books for pleasure! When my children finished their year at the public school and we all decided to go back to homeschooling, I knew I couldn't let go of my interests. It can be a challenge to include some of these in our daily homeschooling life, but I have found that if I do take some time regularly, even if it is only once every week or so, it is enough for me. Some activities, like reading for pleasure, I can squeeze in daily, others every other day (like running or walking). All these activities recharge me. It also has a "side effect": my children see me pursuing my passions and it rubs off on them. They see and hear how enthousiastic I am when I complete a quilt or when I finish a long run or a good book. So, whatever your interests are, don't forget about them.

My little list turned into a long post, but I wanted to explain each one of my points. I hope you enjoyed reading this post, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts!


  1. Very thoughtful post and so different from many I see on the web where the author doesn't even seem to have much experience homeschooling. We're just starting our second year so these are things I sometimes still need to be reminded of.

  2. Alex, I think this is the most wise, honest, and informative post for a person considering homeschooling to read. There is more to homeschooling than just the word homeschool. People should do their homework (lots of research) and do lots of consideration. Great post.

  3. We will be starting our second year of homeschooling. One of the first things I did was join a local group and pick apart their brains. I read every book I could find. My husband was totally against HSin' but after I educated myself I was able get his approval. If both partners don't agree then I don't think it will work out well. Love your blog. It is one that I have been reading since the begging of this journey.

  4. Well said! I think sometimes even those of us who've been schooling for a while need a refresher on the basics :)

  5. One year at a time...most definitely! One year and one child at a time since I seem to regroup with each new child.

    Loved your post.

  6. I don't even home school but I found your list very interesting. Thanks for sharing your tips. I am sure that they will be helpful for other families.

    Good luck getting your new school year under way. I look forward to reading about it.


  7. Just stopped by to see how your new year was going after you startedon Monday. I'll drop by again later.

  8. This is wonderful, I'm going to repost it on my blog FB page... Have a great new year!


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