So we’ve been homeschooling for a little over a year now and it’s been quite a journey.
A journey that has left me thinking, “what am I doing, why am I doing this?” a few times. It has been tough and magnificent at the same time.
I love that I can spend all this time with my kids, it’s not something a lot of mamas are able to do due to having to work and other circumstances. It’s amazing to watch them grow, learn and develop in their own ways. It’s great to be able to watch their personalities blossom and get to know them as individuals in the different stages of their lives.
As great as all this is, it’s hard. It tries you. It challenges you. It exhausts you. Some days are fine, and they pass with few hiccups, and then there are the days when you wonder if you’re built for all the tears and the tantrums, and being surrounded by this all the time.
While the year has left us with many new memories and experiences, many other factors contributed to these experiences.
We had the big move which was a big change for the kids. We took a short break from school as I needed to unpack and get us settled in. This little break caused the boys to feel a little out of routine and it was a mission to get everyone back into the school routine and get them interested in sitting still and concentrating again.
Not long after that, we found out that I was pregnant again, and even though we didn’t tell the boys until I reached the second trimester, the boys reacted the news very differently.
Monster wasn’t really thrilled about the news, and we had kind of expected it because we remember his reaction when we had Gremlin. Gremlin showed his enthusiasm through and through, even if he didn’t fully understand what was happening.
With Monster acting out, it made some days with homeschooling difficult as he would cry or run away, or throw his things around and refused to do any of the work. Finally, at some point, it leveled out and we were able to continue with our routine with less hiccups.
Just as the boys had to get used to not going to a school anymore and having school at home instead, I found myself at a loss a few times as well. Many times I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing, or if I was giving them the proper attention and the education that they needed.
Yet, we all survived the first year and upon reflecting back, I found that I had learned quite a bit surrounding the bigger picture, as well as about myself.
Here are the things I’ve learned in our first year of homeschooling.
Weeks, not just days, were hard.
When we first started homeschooling, the first week was pretty easy. It was something new for the boys and their interests were high. But by week three, things started to fall apart as the boys started wanting to do their own things. I thought it would last just a couple of days, until they adjusted a little more and began to enjoy the experience. That wasn’t the case, the hard days lasted a couple of weeks and there were many days that left me exhausted and crying.
Everything others do won’t work for you.
Before we started our 2017 year, I did a lot of research on what we should do, what we shouldn’t do. This took me to studying what other parents were doing with their kids and trying to implement those ways, activities and routines in our own home. Many of the ideas didn’t work out for us at all, some I changed around a bit to adjust to the boys and some actually stuck well with us.
You don’t need a classroom style space.
You don’t need to replicate a school classroom in your home to make it work. I thought I needed to purchase all kinds of posters and classroom based materials to be able to properly homeschool. I’m glad I didn’t go down that idea path because that wasn’t the case at all. I wanted to create an enjoyable yet educational environment for the boys, and overloading their study space would’ve been distracting and possibly overwhelming.
It doesn’t take all day.
One of the first thoughts I had about homeschooling was that I needed to keep the boys busy all day just like they would’ve been if they were still attending school. I was wrong. If they grasped the lesson within the time period allocated to it, we moved on to the next thing. If more time was needed on the subject, I’d work it into our week so that we could focus more on it. Once we were done with our lessons for the day, and they completed some of their chores, they were free to roam around and play, leaving me to have a few minutes of peace and quiet. There was no need to sit and overstimulate them with extra worksheets and repetition in one day, because I realised that it frustrated them more and then the concentration levels just dropped.
You will feel like a failure, and not just once or twice.
There will be many times when days will seem never ending or the lesson you’re teaching might not be sinking in, and you’ll be left thinking what the heck are you doing wrong here?? I’ve learned to accept that some days will be more successful than others, and on the days that I feel overwhelmed, I take a deep breath and I tell myself, that tomorrow we would try again. That doesn’t mean my feelings of failure ever went away, I just learned to deal with them in a different way to not constantly feel guilt and tire myself out.
It’s harder, much harder than I expected.
I went into this thinking, I know my kids, I know how they think, and act, and what they like and don’t. Which didn’t make anything easier. In fact, I was wrong on a lot of levels. There’s a big difference between spending all weekend with your kids and then sending them to school while you’re at work, and spending all your time together. All parties need to get used to the new setting and environment. Here your kids are used to having ‘free reign’ with you when everyone is home, and now the whole concept changes because, everyone is now home but things aren’t going to be exactly the same as before. Besides this, keeping to a routine is difficult. I’m not a very big ‘sticking to the routine’ person but I realised how important it was to keep to one or else our days were chaotic and nothing would work on the day. Tried and tested, guys, it just doesn’t work. Routine is an important part of your homeschool structure.
I’m not as patient as I thought.
I want to say I’m one of those dream mamas who never loses her cool and never raises her voice at her kids (wait, do people like that exist??) but I’m not. Not even close. I used to consider myself a fairly patient person, one able to stay relatively calm in situations and deal with whatever came my way in an orderly fashion. My kids proved me wrong, so many times in the last year. With times that I wanted to give up, times where I actually believed that going back to work full-time would be easier, times where I thought I’m just not cut out for this lifestyle. The quote, ‘Patience is a virtue’, is very much fitting here. I needed to train myself to not react and think in the moment, because that’s when these thoughts crept into my head and planted doubts.
Setting goals for everyone.
The kids were getting assessment reports at the end of each quarter to show HB and I how they were progressing and if there were any concerns to be addressed. I didn’t set any of those up at home once we started our school year and I realised that I need to track their progress, not just for their sake but for me to know if there are areas that I needed to place more focus on with each kid and how to encourage them to improve in them. So I decided to set up monthly goals for each of them, as well as myself. Goals that I made sure I worked on with each of them to help them improve in certain aspects and help them progress and grow without completely overwhelming them. My goals, you ask? Well, mostly they consisted of being patient, being focused and sticking to a routine, and those three goals stuck me with throughout the whole year, because every day was a day in working.
You need a break.
I’m not talking about a school break where you take a week off every few months to give everyone a short recharge before diving back into education again. I’m talking about you, the mama. I’m also not talking about taking it when everyone else is taking it. I’m talking about taking time out, even just once a month, to do something you want to do to relax. Whether it’s something like making time to read a chapter of your book a night, or waking up earlier to doodle or journal, or even going out on a Saturday morning, alone, and having a cup of coffee in peace. I know it’s easier said than done, and I struggle to always make time for myself. I usually left this for the last moment; meaning I was already exhausted and burnt out by the time I decided I needed a break. I realised it was the wrong approach; it wasn’t about waiting until you were at your breaking point, it was about implement it so you never reached it.
You will always be judged.
I don’t think it matters how long you’ve been homeschooling for, and how you do it and why you do it, people will always judge, even the ones closest to you. There will always be questions and even accusations of how you’re doing more harm than good by educating your kids at home. I thought I’d eventually get used to the questions and the remarks, but unfortunately, I didn’t. Even though I knew that I didn’t need to justify or explain our choice of lifestyle, it seemed to happen anyway. But what I saw as trying to explain what homeschooling is about and how it works, people saw me as being defensive and trying to justify our ‘bad’ decision. So many people I’ve spoken to have no idea what homeschooling actually is, and the assumptions I’ve been dealt about the lifestyle have been funny, and some a little heartbreaking. But no matter how much you explain, and how much you try and help someone understand, it won’t always be the case. People will judge, and it’s your choice to either fight it, or love your lifestyle choices and not feel discouraged about them because others don’t understand.
We’ve just started off our second year and so far, it’s still been rocky. The kids are out of routine with the festive season and sitting still without any arguments is proving harder than the previous year, but I’m ready.
I’m ready to see what the new year brings; what new memories we’ll be making and the adventures we’ll be having together.
Bonding, learning, growing.