Before I started homeschooling, I searched everywhere for the most accurate, thorough information. I asked veteran homeschoolers for advice, researched curriculum, and read everything I could get my hands on! But as prepared as I thought I was, I discovered there were valuable tips I wish I’d known sooner. In fact, I identified 10 specific things I wish I’d known before starting to homeschool.
This upcoming school year will be our 9th year homeschooling.
That’s nearly 9 years of ups and downs, highs and lows, optimism and anxiety, excitement and boredom.
Close to 9 years of triumphs and obstacles, growth and stagnation, laughter and tears.
It has been quite an adventure, this journey we call homeschooling. I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I would choose this path all over again in a heartbeat.
There are definitely some things I wish I’d known before starting to homeschool.
And having this knowledge could have saved me valuable time and energy. I could have avoided countless tears and moments of helplessness.
I would really like to spare you some of the frustrations I experienced. If there is a way for you to benefit from my mistakes without having to make them yourself, I will be thrilled! So I’ve decided to compile a list of several things I wish I’d known when we first began homeschooling.
10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting to Homeschool
1. Keep Things Simple
This isn’t a race. Homeschooling is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Take your time to settle in, relax, and explore. This is the best way to discover your homeschool rhythm and what works best for your family.
During our very first year of homeschooling, when my daughter was in Kindergarten, I tried to pack WAY too much into our days. I wanted our homeschooling classroom to look perfect. I tried to cover every academic subject imaginable. Planned extensive playdates and field trips. Documented each little detail.
And I didn’t NEED to do all of this!
Because we were talking about Kindergarten, after all! If I had it to do over again and with several years of homeschooling now under my belt, one of my biggest suggestions is to keep things simple.
My priorities would have been board games, art supplies, books, math manipulatives, listening to music, time outside, and casual playdates with friends. Anything else that was added would have simply been a bonus.
Keep the cleaning, homeschooling prep, chores, meals, and errands as simple as you possibly can.
Believe me, keeping things simple is going to help you avoid burnout.
2. Focus on What You Enjoy Doing With Your Kids
What do you enjoy doing with your kids?
I don’t want you listing activities you think you SHOULD enjoy, but rather the activities you legitimately enjoy. If for example, you feel like you SHOULD like doing legos alongside your children but you actually don’t, do not under any circumstance, include this activity! But if this is something you truly enjoy, include it.
Now, please understand the distinction between the things you love to do ALONE vs the things you love to do WITH your kids. Example: I love to paint. And while there have been plenty of times in my parenting adventure that we have busted out the paints and gotten messy and creative together, this is usually NOT a go-to activity that I love doing WITH my kiddos.
I want my solo painting time to be free from distractions and the concern of others around me. Turns out that what I actually love doing WITH my kiddos includes reading books aloud, discussing various topics, watching movies, being in nature, field trips, and travel adventures.
We are all happier when we’re engaged in these activities together so we try to incorporate these activities on a regular basis.
3. Play to Your Strengths
What are some of your specific strengths?
In what areas do you feel a sense of confidence as well as enjoyment?
Do you love baking? Enjoy gardening? Are you really organized? Good at curating music playlists? Do you love having people over last minute?
Identify what areas in your life bring you joy, comfort, and confidence and incorporate these as much as possible!
4. Ask For Help
Moment of truth, this is a tough one for me!
I’ve always struggled with asking for help. But I am slowly getting better at it, especially because I see how beneficial it is not only for me but for my entire family.
So for goodness sake, when help is offered, DO NOT turn it down! I promise I’ll keep working on this while you do too, OK?
When you need help, please reach out!
5. Outsourcing is Your Friend
While on the topic of asking for help, trying to do everything required of homeschooling completely on your own is a recipe for disaster. Ask me how I know!
DON’T DO IT!
Don’t think that because you are homeschooling, this means you have to teach your kids EVERYTHING, be in charge of EVERYTHING, and coordinate EVERYTHING.
I promise you, outsourcing will keep you from burning out and will enhance your homeschooling experience and quality of life.
So embrace opportunities to outsource!
6. You Don’t Have to Belong to a Homeschooling Group or Co-op
Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, right? Well, sometimes you have to try out a bunch of homeschooling groups or co-ops before you find the right fit. Other times there simply is no right fit.
This does not mean that something is wrong with you!
Finding “Your Tribe” often takes awhile. But your people are out there, they really are. Do your best to stay patient and know that things will fall into place.
Don’t feel pressure to belong to a homeschooling group or co-op unless you find a good fit!
7. It’s Common to Want to Quit in the Winter
I’m telling you, there is something so brutal about getting back into your homeschooling rhythm after the holiday season. January and February often feel incredibly challenging. This is usually exacerbated by difficult weather conditions for those living in a cold climate.
Please, please, please know that this is normal!
In fact, I can’t think of one homeschooling mama who hasn’t wanted to quit at some point in the winter.
Remember that this too shall pass.
It’s also important to note that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. My friends who teach at local public and private schools often express their feelings of exhaustion and burn out during this time of year too.
So please, know that you’re not alone.
Known that it’s completely normal to want to quit homeschooling during the winter months.
8. Take a Break Before You Decide to Quit
Piggybacking on how it’s common to want to quit in the winter, make sure to take a break when you need to. If you wake up every morning feeling like you want to throw in the towel, it’s definitely time for a break!
Take the week off. Practice more consistent self-care. String up twinkle lights around the house and light a few candles. Keep meals simple and watch more movies.
Take a little time to reflect on why you decided to homeschool in the first place.
9. You Are Going to Make Mistakes
You will inevitably choose a curriculum that ends up being a dud. Or follow detailed instructions for a science experiment that doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to. Push your child a little too hard in one area and regret not offering more encouragement in another. There will likely be tears along the way and plenty of frustration.
But mostly these mistakes are a good thing!
While it might not feel like it at the moment, I promise you that these “mistakes” hold great potential for reflection and growth. You have an amazing opportunity to learn alongside your children. You both get to discover, plan, learn, grow, and yes, even make mistakes and “fail” together. What an amazing opportunity to practice a growth mindset while demonstrating grit, determination, creativity, and self-reflection.
To the best of your ability, embrace the mistakes.
10. There are many different ways to homeschool
This is fantastic news! This means that you are never stuck!
Have you tried a Classical approach to homeschooling but find you are more drawn to a Montessori method? Or maybe you thought that Unschooling would be the best fit for your family but find that you need a more traditional approach.
If you feel like what you are currently doing isn’t working, you may just need to tweak the way that you’re homeschooling.
Often times, if something doesn’t appear to be working, we think the solution is to quit altogether. But what if the solution is simply to reevaluate and make little changes to what we’re currently doing?
Homeschooling is not a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. So play around with different approaches and see what works best for you.
I hope that this list of 10 things I wish I’d known about homeschooling provides some encouragement and practical tips to help you. Let me know if you have any questions!