By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
Welcome to my world! For various reasons, many of us are staring down our first year of homeschooling. In the past, it seemed people homeschooled for religious or academic reasons. Now, many of us are homeschooling because of new pressures and conditions that make homeschooling a viable and necessary option.
I’m a unique anomaly in that I was homeschooled during my entire elementary and high school education. I am also the parent who swore and vowed that I would never, ever homeschool. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with it, but because I simply don’t want to be a teacher. The irony that I’m even writing this article is not lost on me.
I’m faced with a new world, so now, I’m staring down a start date with my search engine opened to copious amounts of resources and sites aimed to provide homeschooling curriculum, syllabi, and resources. Preparing for homeschooling is daunting at the least and depressing at the most. I have visions of my children running around the house in their underwear, with streaks of mud on their faces, screaming and throwing paper wads, while blasting music and laughing at me as I lay stretched out on the floor, willing and ready to die on the hill of homeschooling. It may be an extreme vision, but the fact of the matter is, my kids do need to learn, and I’ll need to control it.
So how do we prepare for Year 1 as rookies?
1. Be flexible.
One of the bonuses of homeschooling is that some of the rigidity can be tossed out the window. That is not to say you eliminate schedules and plans and don’t try to accomplish anything specific. But that does mean if the day you want to kick off school needs to be pushed back a day or two because you’re still getting ready—it’s okay! Or, if an opportunity comes up to take the kids to see Grandma on a Tuesday when they would typically be in school and miss the chance, take it!
The great thing about homeschooling is that flexibility allows for a certain level of stress to dissipate. Instead of the morning rush and chaos getting kids up for school, lunches made, bags hauled to the car, you can focus on personal growth like morning devotions, a healthy breakfast, and a steady but peaceful start to the day. And, if you have to switch that up, no worries! Classes can be adjusted to suit the kid with a cold who needs an extra hour of sleep.
2. Be forgiving.
You’re going to make mistakes. Or maybe errors in judgment is a better way to term it. Homeschooling takes a bit of a trial by error, and you’re not going to ease into your home classroom on Day 1 with a perfect plan of action. Expect that argument with your child. Anticipate that you won’t have two hours of time to do your own bookwork because you’ll probably be interrupted by a child who doesn’t know how to do something every two minutes.
So be forgiving—to them and yourself. Go easy on your guilt trip when you lose your patience with your kid. Relax with your child when they just can’t seem to get it even though you’ve explained it in about thirty different ways. Be forgiving when the day implodes around you and realize, as Anne of Green Gables was told: “tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it.” (and I always add “yet”).
3. Know your limits.
Homeschooling will test your temper. How do I know this? Well, I was a student on the receiving end of a fierce woman who had a short fuse some days. Did she love me? Like a warrior. Did I try her patience? Like a persistent mosquito sucking the life out of her. I vividly recall tears, some yelling, the flying of papers across the room - let’s be honest, even a saint can lose it on a bad day.
So know your limits. Is the subject at hand pushing your buttons to the point where an explosion is inevitable? Is your child under your skin and grating on every raw nerve? There are no rules with homeschooling. You don’t have to wait until 10:35 am for break time. Maybe you need to bump that up. Walk away. Take a breather. Let your kid run around outside for ten minutes. This goes back to the being flexible part too. Sometimes, your limits run out - so take time to rebuild before you tear down something far more valuable, like your child.
4. Craft a hotline list.
I have compiled a hotline list. What is that, you say? It’s my go-to backup in case of emergency. And not the medical care type of emergency. Or even the house-on-fire type of emergency. I’m talking about that emergency when my kid brings their work to me and asks me to explain something, and I’m at a loss as to what it even is! Or when their math is too complex for my own brain, let alone teaching theirs. Or when art class overwhelms me because, well, I hate art.
I’ve already cleared it with my list of hotlines. For example, Gwen knows if we get stuck in math, she’s on my speed dial. She could do trigonometry in her sleep, hanging upside down by her toes, with a rusty nail for a writing utensil. If I can’t explain it, she can, and she can take calls at work, so she’s fully expecting to bail both my child and me out of mathematics at some point.
5. Plan to drink a lot of coffee.
Or tea. Or water. Whatever trips your trigger. Allow your kids to have hydration at their desks. People underestimate the need for proper hydration, and while coffee may not land under the term “proper,” it does have water in it, so there’s that. And, keep in mind, the science behind a well-hydrated person means there’s more oxygen getting to the brain, which in turn enhances the brain’s ability to process. It sounds silly. But my daughter had the most challenging time in school when she could only drink water in small sips for fear she’d constantly need to go to the bathroom. She moderated her water intake, which led to tiredness, anxiety, and even a poor attitude. Once she started drinking at least a liter of water during school, she was visibly happier, her schoolwork was done more efficiently, and she wasn’t so weary. Be sure to build in hydration as a regular part of your school day and make allowance for as many bathroom trips as necessary.
The school year is almost upon us homeschool rookies. It’s probably wise to find someone experienced to take you under their wing, but if you don’t have anyone, look for online Facebook groups or a local church with a homeschool co-op. Regardless, remember this: you’re doing this for your kids. So enjoy them. Above all, enjoy this time with them and be thankful for the opportunity to invest in their future. You have a lot to offer, and they have a lot to learn.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Manuel Tauber-Romieri
Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. The Christy Award-Winning author of “The House on Foster Hill”, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful mysteries stained with history's secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!