We just finished our first year of homeschooling, and I have for sure learned some things this year! Are you thinking of homeschooling next year? Or are you already a homeschool mama? Keep reading to see how our first year of homeschooling went, 10 lessons I learned this year, and tips for you if you’re new to homeschool or are considering it.
I was actually a full-time elementary teacher for ten years before resigning a few years ago to stay home with my kids. Best decision ever! I’ve been able to spend much more time with them, work on my stress and health issues, and put more time into my growing blogging/YouTube business. I still sent my oldest son, Jackson, to school last year while I stayed home with my youngest son, Jase. But this year we decided to start homeschooling both our boys. It was a great first year, and I’m excited for what’s to come in our homeschooling journey!
10 Lessons I Learned My First Year of Homeschooling + Tips for Beginner Homeschool Moms
1. Social interaction is not a big concern.
When we were deciding whether to homeschool or not, one of my biggest concerns was the whole social interaction aspect. Our kids would only have each other to play with and be “classmates” with. How would they make friends and work on social skills? Would they be able to play sports or have a normal graduation (if we decide to keep homeschooling them until they graduate)? All these thoughts were running through my head.
Then we got some advice from some friends that informed us we should be more worried about having TOO MUCH to do and having to say “no” to things than having no social interaction. And we found that to be true!
This year was definitely different than most years probably will be because of COVID. A lot of things were still closed down at the beginning of the school year. But, we joined a homeschool co-op that we go to each week. The boys were able to make friends there and be in other classes that we don’t do at home.
Besides that, we go to church, and the boys are able to play and learn with other kids there. And both the boys started karate where they’re able to make more friends and work on skills like memory, flexibility, discipline, and self-confidence. It’s been so good for them! So, we have plenty to do to keep us busy and have social interaction.
If you’re considering homeschooling, I’d definitely get them in some sort of a homeschool group or set up field trips with other homeschool families in your area.
2. It doesn’t have to take all day.
Another thing I worried about was that homeschooling would be super time-consuming and it’d take all day long. I thought I’d be in the same boat I was when I was teaching full time. I’d be stressed out, develop health issues, have no time to rest, and have no other quality time with my family other than teaching them. But, I quickly realized, that’s not the case at all.
Of course, it takes more time out of your day than if your kids go to school, but not much extra time. By the time you get your kids all ready, get them to school, wait through the pick-up line at the end of the day, get home, and help them with their homework, that time adds up.
It takes us about 3 hours to do all our homeschool work for the day, some days a little more or less, depending on what we’re doing in those subjects.
Of course, your school time could be longer or shorter, depending on how many kids you have and what their ages are. If they’re younger, they’re not going to be doing as much each day with their short attention spans. But in the time that they are schooling, you’ll need to be more involved and helping them the majority of the time. As they get older, they’ll have more school work to do each day, but they’ll be more independent with it.
Even so, homeschool does not need to take all day long. A regular school day is about 7 hours long, but a lot of that time is transitions and busy work. They go take bathroom breaks, go to lunch, and have different resources like PE and art. They have a lot of extra things that you don’t necessarily need to make a part of your homeschool. In our three hours, we do the things that are essential.
Here’s our schedule:
- Bible: 30 minutes
- English Language Arts: 1 hour
- Math: 30 minutes
- Social Studies: 30 minutes
- Science: 30 minutes
Then, in the afternoon the boys have free time to run around and play – PE! and/or do art projects – ART!
So, if you’re a work-from-home mom like me, rest assured. Homeschooling does take time, but it does not have to take TONS of extra time. Especially for us moms that are great at multi-tasking.
3. God will provide wisdom to do what is best for your kids.
Deciding whether homeschool is for you or not is a big decision! I remember trying to decide if homeschooling would be best for our family, if I could handle it, and if I would do my kids justice with teaching them. But, if you are a Christian like I am, you know that God knows everything. And all we have to do is ask when we need wisdom.
Whether you’re trying to decide if homeschooling is for you, what curriculum to use, what homeschool co-op to join, or whatever – we can pray to God and ask for wisdom.
Now, God doesn’t say the answer out loud to us! But He will provide His answer in other ways – whether that’s through His Word, through someone else, or by just giving you a feeling of peace about a certain decision. I definitely experienced this when making decisions about our first year of homeschooling. After talking to friends and hearing their stories about homeschool, I had a feeling of peace and knew that that’s what we needed to do. That’s God!
Commit your homeschool to the Lord, pray daily and ask for wisdom, and He will provide it!
4. Be flexible! Lean into the freedom!
One thing that I’ve absolutely loved about homeschooling is the flexibility and freedom it provides. But, being flexible is something I’ve had to learn! I am a very Type A person and an Enneagram Type 1 – the Perfectionist. I like schedules, order, and checking things off my to-do list. However, with my health issues, I’ve had to work on just relaxing and going with the flow more.
I don’t need to rush around and stick to my schedule all the time. Sometimes it’s more important to cuddle with my boys longer, or sleep in a little if I got a rough night of sleep, or take a nap if I’m feeling fatigued. I’ve learned to let go a little and enjoy this awesome opportunity we have to homeschool.
My parents recently got a cabin in the mountains and we try to get up there once a month. So, when we know we’re going to be going that weekend, we’ll do a little extra school work each day that week and take school off on Friday. We could bring our school work with us and do homeschool at the cabin, but honestly, I don’t want to. I want going to the cabin to be a relaxing and a fun time. I want to be able to hike, go on four-wheeler rides, and play in the creeks, without rushing to get back and finish our school work.
So, if you’re homeschooling too, be flexible. Take off every once in a while and get away for the weekend, go on field trips, or whatever. Enjoy this awesome opportunity you have!
5. Take breaks when needed.
This kind of goes along with the last lesson. Part of being flexible is taking breaks when you need to during the day. The nice thing about homeschool is that you don’t have to stick to a strict schedule. Schedules are nice. Kids thrive on structure and routines. But, sometimes they need breaks.
You don’t necessarily have to teach Math from 10-10:30 each day. If your child is struggling and frustrated, take a break and come back to it later. I learned this one mainly from Jackson. He’s somewhat of a perfectionist too, and he already gets stressed out at times (He’s so much like me, it’s crazy!). When something is hard for him gets mad and shuts down. Sometimes there’s tears. So, when that happens, we stop. There’s no point pushing him and pushing him when he’s already frustrated. It would just make things worse.
So, he goes to his room to calm down and take some deep breaths. I know some people think deep breathing is “woo woo” and it doesn’t actually do anything. But, I’m here to tell you, it does. Taking a minute or two to focus on your breathing and nothing else calms you almost instantly. It works for me and Jackson both. And then he’s usually ready to get right back to the thing he was struggling with.
Sometimes the boys are just wound up and having trouble focusing, and in that case we take breaks too. I’ll have them go outside, run around, and get some of that energy out. What better way to get back to focusing on school than letting some energy out?
So, listen to your kids’ needs and take breaks when they, or you, need them!
6. Adjust based on your kids’ individual needs.
Another thing I love about homeschool is that you get to teach your very own children. You don’t just get the quarterly report card to see how your kids are doing in school. You get to see it daily! And, your kids get more 1-on-1 focused attention than they would get in a school.
So, pay attention to how your kids are doing in each subject. If they’re struggling with something, go back and reteach the basics or review that concept more. If they’re doing above and beyond what is expected of them, make it more challenging for them.
Jackson does really well with 2-and 3-digit addition and subtraction problems. But he struggles with math problems that involve more critical thinking – ones where they don’t just lay out the problem for you. So, we’re going to be switching our math curriculum that we’re using next year to one that is more focused on critical thinking (Singapore Math).
Jase was in Pre-K this year, and just didn’t have the motivation to do much towards the beginning of the year. So, honestly, I didn’t make him do tons of work at the beginning of the year. I tried to incorporate more art projects and fun things. Throughout the year he’s been wanting to do more and more. So we picked up the pace and finished his curriculum early. He was so excited about doing his schoolwork each day; so we jumped right into some of his Kindergarten curriculum.
So, when you see your kids are struggling with something or excelling in an area, make adjustments. Switch curriculums, add more manipulatives, add more challenging problems, or whatever your child needs.
Check out this video if you’d rather hear me share my 10 lessons from my first year of homeschooling and tips for you too!
7. Don’t focus on your child’s age when choosing curriculum – focus on their ability and needs.
Along with that, when you choose their curriculum, focus on their ability and their needs. Age is just a number. And another great thing about homeschool is that you are in charge. You can choose curriculum that your child needs – whether that’s two grades above their grade or two grades below their age-based grade.
And you don’t need to make a big deal about it or make your child feel less than. I remember having to tell parents that their kids would need to be held back when I taught and the devastation that some parents felt. If your kid does need a lower level, there’s no reason to feel devastated. Keep in mind that that’s what’s best for your child and you’re doing him/her a disservice if you’re teaching a level that your child can’t handle yet. They need to have the foundation down pat before they can build on it.
So, for Jackson, we’re switching our spelling curriculum. He’s not super low in spelling. But it’s definitely something we need to work on more. We used Masterbooks curriculum our first year of homeschooling, and I loved a lot of things about its. But it just wasn’t enough for spelling. So, we’re switching to Spelling You See next year, which I’ve heard wonderful things about. Thankfully, a lot of curriculum companies have placement tests and readiness guides to help you decide what level your child should start on. I had Jackson take the Spelling You See placement test, and he tested at a level below what I thought he would be at for his age. So that’s the curriculum I ordered. It’s not a big deal. I just got him the level that is best for him and that he needs practice in before moving on to harder words.
8. Make everything a learning opportunity.
Have you heard of unschooling? That’s when the kid is in charge of their learning, and they pick what they want to learn about based on their interests. You don’t have a set curriculum. You might just go explore nature and learn about the different things you find outside. If your child likes bugs, then your learning would center around bugs. We have a set curriculum that we do each day, or most days, but I also try to follow the unschooling concept a little and teach the boys other things that they show interest in or ask about.
Kids ask a bajillion question. And that’s great! It can be annoying at times. But it’s so great that they’re curious about the world and actually want to know more about it. So, I’ve tried this year to work more on answering the questions they ask with real answers, instead of “hmmm…I don’t know” if I don’t know the answer and leaving it at that. We’ll look up the answers together on the computer. And we get books about the things that they’re interested in. Jackson reads to Jase each day, and he gets to pick the book he wants to read that day. So usually it’s about dinosaurs or other animals.
9. Anyone can be a homeschool parent!
So, you may have wondered if you can be a homeschool mom even if you’ve never been a teacher. And I’m here to tell you, YES! Anyone can be a homeschool parent if they want to and feel like that is best for their family.
To be a homeschool mom, you definitely don’t have to know everything. Be a step ahead of your kids, and you’re good to go. You need to know what they’re going to be learning to be able to help your child. But if they’re in high school and are learning physics, you can look over their book the night before. It’s been 15ish years since I learned Physics; so, I know I’ll be lost unless I look over their lesson ahead of time.
You also need to care about your kids and what’s best for them. But if you’re a mom, I’m sure you’re set there!
If you don’t know where to start with choosing the curriculum or making your homeschool schedule, there are plenty of resources out there to help you. Look up YouTube videos, read blog, read the reviews on curriculum, or ask friends who homeschool. You don’t have to take everything you hear and apply it to your homeschool. But get ideas from others and make your homeschool yours. Adjust to fit your family’s need.
10. Don’t compare yourself to others
This can be so hard in today’s age with social media. We see perfect-looking homeschool families on Instagram or YouTube. Or your friend tells you about all the wonderful things she’s doing in her homeschool. Sometimes you just have to let things go in one ear and out the other or just scroll on by some things online. Focus on what your family needs, not what others are doing.
So those are some lessons I’ve learned from my first year of homeschooling and some things that I’ll continue to be working on next year. If you’re considering homeschool, hopefully these lessons are thing you can apply to your homeschool journey as well.
If you’re just starting homeschool next year, congratulations! I hope you love it! Enjoy that time with your family and make the most of it! Let me know if you have any questions or any other tips to share for new homeschool moms!