Several years ago, I read a wonderful article by Amy over at Raising Arrows, and it has been a source of encouragement ever since. Hop on over and check it out:
Homeschooling and the Three Year Learning Curve
"'The first three years are the learning curve. Give yourself a break.' Those are the words a veteran homeschool mom spoke to me my first year homeschooling. Those words gave me permission to mess up, regroup, and try again. Those words are now the ones I give to every new homeschooling mother I come in contact with. They are priceless."
We are now nearing the end of our fourth year of home education, and I can attest to the truth of those words. Things really started to fall into place at the end of the third year. While I have not "arrived," and most likely never will, I no longer feel that I am floundering hopelessly in a foreign universe.
I have found my homeschooling feet.
|Just starting on the journey.|
In my (brief) time in the homeschooling world, I have seen many mothers give up on home education within their first couple of years. They give it a try, but end up calling it quits a year or two in. (I did it too!) In any conversation that I now have with struggling mothers, I always reference this "law of homeschooling." If you're serious about homeschooling but don't think you're making it, purpose not to give up before you've completed three full years. Most likely, you'll be okay by then.
What does it look like "on the other side" of three years?
Here's what it looks like for me (some of these are elaborations on Amy's points in the original article):
I have learned about myself
I have learned so many things about myself - things that are vital to shaping our family's homeschool environment. For example, I have learned that I am not a super-crafty person. Continual large messes pretty much make me lose my sanity. I need to have the house reasonably clean to be able to think clearly (or even be civil). That may seem basic, but learning things like that about myself is also part of learning about how home education will look in our family. It's different for each family, and every mother has to figure out her own style and how homeschooling needs to work to be successful for her unique family and situation.
I have learned about my child
Had I put my child in school, the 8yo and I would now be complete strangers to each other. We are very, very different and tend to butt heads often. But being together around the clock has forced us to learn to work together and to become closer rather than growing further apart. I am so thankful that God led me to home education, because otherwise this child and I would already be well on the way to total estrangement from each other. As it is, I have been able to learn more and more about him while growing closer to him.
|Homeschool science experiments.|
I have faced harsh realities
The harsh reality about home education is that it all comes down to parenting. If I'm not willing to tackle my parenting weaknesses and really enforce cheerful obedience, respect, responsibility, etc., then home education will not work - or will be a nightmare for the mother who has to suffer through it. This has been an awesome reality check for me, and it has helped me greatly in my parenting journey. Like it or not, the basis of successful home education is first producing teachable children, and that involves being willing to face my parenting weaknesses - and deal with them.
I have learned about home education
Attending my first homeschool convention was one of the most inspiring events of my life. It was also one of the most frightening, intimidating, and completely overwhelming events of my life. In fact, my decision to stop homeschooling was due to that feeling of being completely out of my element and overwhelmed with too much information. I couldn't handle it, and I turned tail and ran.
Since then, I have learned so much. I have learned the terminology and the lingo. I have learned the authors, the books, the key personalities in the homeschool community, the curriculum options, the educational styles. I have spent the past years reading (and reading and reading) about home education - on blogs, in books, on websites - and listening to talks, lectures, and convention break-out sessions. Finally, at some unknown point, it stopped being overwhelming. I started recognizing terms and curriculum names. I could talk the talk. I no longer had to sit there looking like a soon-to-be-flattened deer in the headlights.
I don't have it all together. In fact, on the average, I would still rate myself as rather behind rather than ahead when it comes to home education knowledge and abilities. But I am now at home (rather than completely at sea!) in the home education world. Conventions are no longer overwhelming, but a delight. I can handle the information without bursting into tears of frustration.
Dear homeschooling mother, if you are still in the "I'm so overwhelmed and I don't know what to do!" stage, don't despair. Just hold on, keep breathing, and keep reading (and reading and reading). Sooner or later, it will start to make sense, and the feeling of being overwhelmed will fade.
|Homeschool craft time.|
I have learned about homeschool curriculum
Thirty years ago, curriculum selection was super-simple because there were simply so few options. Today, even a mother who has been homeschooling for twenty years hasn't seen all of the available curriculum choices. There are hundreds (thousands!) out there. However, I have finally made it to where I know the major names, the major styles, and the major options - and that's a huge relief. I can now "talk the talk" and know what my major options are in different subjects, even if there are still hundreds of options that I haven't yet seen.
I have found the local homeschool community
Discovering and getting to know your local homeschool community is incredibly important! Here are some of the things that I've learned about my local community:
- Local support groups - I've found two that work for me, and know of countless others (and where to find them!) if I ever need them.
- Resources - Testing locations, homeschool stores, etc.
- Classes, groups, and co-ops - Whether it's theatre, archery, speech and debate, science co-ops, homeschool P.E. - I know where to find the homeschool groups and classes (and we have many!).
- Homeschool days - Many museums, etc., have annual homeschool days when homeschoolers can get reduced admission fees. Knowing these by memory is a huge blessing and a big stress-reliever as well.
- Annual field trip schedule - In addition to homeschool days, there are local events that occur annually, and I now know these by heart as well (our city's Jazz Festival, the Christmas parade, etc.). Having these in my memory saves me so much time scrambling for field trips.
- People - Getting to know people in the community, making friends, letting your children make friends - it's a big part of feeling connected rather than lost and floating. Also, getting to know various persons' strengths and interests means that I know where to go when I need help or information on a certain topic.
When we first started out, feeling alone was one of the biggest obstacles. Now that I've gotten to know the community, I feel much more settled and at home. If you're just starting out, I do recommend finding a few support groups! They can be intimidating at first, but after a year or two of getting to know people, they're priceless.
I have learned lots about what doesn't work
We've spent lots of money on curriculum that was shelved in the end. I've tried schedules that didn't work, ideas that didn't work, discipline techniques that didn't work. You name it, I've tried it. And most of it doesn't work. But for the odd 5% that does work, it's worth it. Each time I try something, I learn something - even if it's how to go back to the drawing board start again.
I have learned about the practical side of home education
There is so much more to home education than just "doing school." Let's see - my short list would include home management, teaching chores, time management, marriage, parenting, blogging, cooking, meal planning, laundry - and biggest of all, putting all of that together into a doable package on a daily basis. This is a sharp, steep learning curve, and it is not easy. However, I have come a long way, and I'm learning more and more every day.
I have learned the faithfulness of God
A year or two back, I heard a veteran homeschooling mom say the following (paraphrased):
"Do I have regrets? No, I don't have any regrets. God has been faithful. Every day I asked Him to show me what His will was for our home education journey. He did, and I followed His leading. I have no regrets."
At the time, I was a bit baffled. What did she mean, she had no regrets? Didn't she know how many mistakes I make on a daily basis? How could she make such lofty claims of perfection for herself?
But over time, I realized the difference between regrets and mistakes. All of us make mistakes. But we press forward to the goal, and we can do so in spite of our mistakes - and we can do so with no regrets. God is faithful. And if He has called us to the journey of home education, then we can trust Him and lean on His leading to get where we need to go.
God is faithful.
Veteran homeschoolers, I would love to hear your input. When did you feel that you passed the initial learning curve and found your homeschooling stride? I'd love to hear your story.