What’s It Really Like To Homeschool?

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Our Homeschool Journey

There’s too much to tell in one post but I can summarize. We never planned to homeschool. (That is the confession of many homeschoolers.) When we got married my husband told me that he wanted our children to go to private school like he did. That sounded pretty good to me considering my 12 years in public school.

When our oldest child was about three years old we had a neighbor who homeschooled her children. I could not figure out why her kids were home all day. I finally asked. To that point, I had never even heard the term “homeschool”. Though I thought it was a strange thing, I was fascinated by the idea. I asked Andrew what he thought of me trying to homeschool our kids.

After our conversation about education he decided I could give it a try. Of course, if it seemed that the kids weren’t learning, we would be done. And…. either way, he figured that by third grade we would need to enroll them in formal education. By the time we made it to third grade, we were hooked!

Real life homeschooling

Though right now a lot of people are talking about curriculum, I want to prepare you for the lifestyle. Though choosing the specific courses and publishers are important, I feel that is only a small part of home education. Homeschool, in a way is “life school”.

So heads up, life will be different. Different doesn’t mean bad or wrong. It just means that the lifestyle you had before will now be changing. But hey, it’s 2020 and we are starting to get used to changes! So buckle up, here we go!

It doesn’t take as long as you think

You may begin by thinking that your academic day must take as long as the traditional school model. Think again. It doesn’t. Of course, the older your child is, the longer it will take. Consider though, the things that take time during a day AT school. Waiting in line, waiting for the teacher to answer your question, waiting for the room to get quiet. Lining up for the bathroom, the lunchroom or to sharpen your pencil. The list goes on.

Homeschooling is so efficient! There is no commute time. Bathroom breaks are done as needed. You can combine family movie night with a history lesson. Thank you notes, shopping lists, and composing your family Christmas letter can all be part of the lesson plan. Even when sitting down to work on a specific homework assignment, consider it more like a tutoring lesson. Your child can work at their pace and process the information at a speed that best aids in retention.

You can google for a time estimate per age but, the book work can be accomplished pretty quickly. When your children realize that the more focused they are, the more free time they get they will be motivated.

Supplies

Though you will purchase some sort of curriculum as a base (most call it a spine), much of your homeschooling will be done with common household supplies. You don’t need fancy math manipulatives though you could purchase some. Young children can count with beans, Legos or feathers. I understand that there are times for formal writing but don’t discount the value of writing in simple ways. How about Madlibs? Writing on dry erase boards and tracing letters in sand is fun. There is no end to what is possible. Use what you have. Tap into the imagination of your children.

When homeschooling, the school supplies are often just the family supplies. You won’t need to stock the classroom with tissues or glue sticks. Just purchase what you think your family will use. The same printer you use for your personal office will be sufficient for printing lessons. Just make sure you keep the ink stocked up! No need for each child to have individual supplies though, they sure could. Just create an art bin and a place for the pencils you will use every day.

Life skills

Between the core academics, there is plenty of time to learn life skills. Your homeschooled child will launch well into adulthood if you use these years to train for their future. There is no “lunch lady” in our house! The children and I take turns or work together to get meals on the table. The same is true for dishes. Since they will be home all day, you can teach each child to start a load of laundry and switch it to the dryer as time allows.

Of course the skills that you train will be age appropriate. I haven’t had to change a lightbulb in years. Basic home maintenance can be part of the unwritten but very useful lesson plan. Turning off the incoming water to an overflowing toilet is something everyone should know before they launch on their own. Simply think through the things you encounter while “adulting” or, the things you wish you had known before becoming an adult. Take that list and then, take the hand of your child and do it together.

Prepare your house for impact

The truth is, kids are messy. Though you may be used to the house staying tidy while the kids are away at school, this is not the case for the homeschooler. Your house will just be a bit more disheveled than you may like it to be. Often though, these messy days will be the days that your child learns the most as they are fully invested in their interests. So make cardboard sculptures, paint, mix up some salt dough. Creating a desire to learn is worth the clean up time.

Kids are not only messy, they are always hungry. Access to the kitchen all day long can be a distraction from learning. You will have to figure out what works best for you but establishing set times for meals and snacks may keep you from being a constant slave in the kitchen. Older students may like to sip on a hot drink while they do their school but for a younger one it may create a bigger mess than you want to take the time for. (pro-tip… too many sweet hot drinks while doing that math lesson will add up at the dentist if you catch my drift. Ask me how I know!)

Remember, though your children may be home making messes more than they have in other years, they also have more time to help clean them up. See above section about life skills. You don’t have to do this alone.

Alone time

There is no teachers lounge, there is no prep period. So, you are going to have to improvise. This is no different than normal motherhood though. When you feel overwhelmed and need a break, it’s ok. By stepping away for a few minutes, or an hour, you will come back refreshed.

So how do you get that break when there is no substitute?

  • Turn on an educational movie
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes and everyone looks at books
  • Get out bubbles and head to the yard
  • Keep some special toys reserved for play only during mom’s break
  • Pull out those Amazon boxes, tape, markers and build a vehicle
  • Make playdough (even older children will often play)
  • Teach a board game that can be done in your absence
  • Check out my post here for more ideas!
  • When I just need some quiet time to myself, I put on my “ear-muffins” and listen to the sound of silence or a podcast. In fact, if you want to be encouraged, check out my podcast, “The Mom Next Door, Stories of Faith”.
This is my other pro-tip for a mom “time out” when you need a break. No need to even be listening to anything… when the headphones are on, no one interrupts mom.

Two final tips

I find that my day is fully anchored when I start it out by reading the Bible. Giving myself and my children a slow start makes for peace in the home. Unless there is an appointment on the calendar or a class to attend, our homeschool day starts after I have spent some time in prayer and sipped my cup of coffee.

If you are interested in a course that walks you through homeschooling step by step, check out this (affiliate link) resource from my friend Tricia Goyer! She is a homeschooling mom of 10 with decades of experience. I am so glad that she put together this course to help you get started. There are 10 video modules as well as a workbook!

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