When you start homeschooling you are stepping into a whole new world. Knowing what to expect your first year of homeschooling can be the difference between becoming the heroess who slays the villain and the one who runs away from the story.
If you are homeschooling for the first time this year, there are a few things you need to know. Understanding that all of these things are normal, they are part of a process of creating a new culture for yourself and your children, will save you from feeling like a failure. Which brings us to number one.
Here are 13 Things to Expect Your First Year of Homeschooling
1.You will feel like a failure, but you aren’t.
This point is very important to understand. I am writing all of this to try and help save you from the fate of feeling like a failure. Yet I know I will fail. Saving you from feeling like a failure is an impossible task. Yet I know how that feeling can suck all the life out of you.
You wake up every morning with dread instead of joy. We don’t want that. No home can survive with dread as it’s under current emotion. You need joy in that place. And this is the most important thing to focus on. Joy takes work. Bliss doesn’t happen without a lot of backbreaking, sweat-dripping soul work.
Every homeschool mom has different things that make them feel like a failure. Many of those things will be specifically explored as we go down this list. But I want you to just stop expecting to do everything right. You are on a journey, exploring new territory, you cannot predict every turn in the road.
Give yourself space to learn what your child needs. Space to figure out how to fit this new part of your life into your already full life. Space to fail, every day. Because you will fail, sometimes it will just be little failures, like forgetting to start making dinner before everyone is so hungry that your entire family (yourself included) has turned into the Hangry Horror’s. Other times your mistakes will be big.
But failures are just part of being human. And our kids don’t need perfect parents. They need parents who know how to love. Parents who love them when they fail. And parents who know how to get back up and get busy fixing it when they fail. Parents who can teach them how to fail gracefully.
Don’t feel like a failure when you fail. Failing is just something people do, it is not something we are. Succumbing to the dirge of dreading each day isn’t good for you or your kid. You are doing something hard. It is worth doing.And for every failure, big or small, you have had a thousand successes, you just forget to celebrate them.
Practical Tip: Celebrating your wins can transform your fails into learning experiences instead of self loathing. At the end of each day reflect on something you got done, or did well, and smile.
2. You will think something is wrong with your child.
Okay, take a deep breath. If you have never had this feeling, you probably think I am a horrible person for thinking any good mom could let such a notion enter their heads.
And if you have already been so lucky as to have this feeling, you probably squashed the thought as deep down inside you as possible so that you would not have to face it.
In fact, feeling this way may make you feel like a BIG FAILURE OF A MOTHER. 🙁
Let me assure you, something IS wrong with your kid. They are human. They fail. They are kids; they make poor decisions. Sometimes they are lazy, sometimes they are brats, sometimes they are manipulative, rude, and obnoxious. This doesn’t mean they are a failure of a kid. It means they are normal kids. This doesn’t mean you are a failure as a mom, it means you are a normal mom with normal kids. I am always telling people normalcy is overrated, it does not equate to picture perfect life.
The thing is, sometimes something is wrong with your kid. But most of the time, your kid is just being a kid. And that doesn’t mean we accept bad behavior. It just means we need to deal with it in a grown-up, unemotional, matter-of-fact way. Nothing allows character issues to come out of the woodwork of our lives like being around each other. All day long. Every Single day.
You may also be wondering if your child has something wrong with their brain. You may start to suspect dyslexia, ADD, anxiety, or any number of learning problems. In other words, you worry your child isn’t normal. The important thing to understand is that you may be right. Parents have very strong intuition when it comes to their kids. Listen to your instincts and follow any rabbit trails you need to in order to understand your child and what they need you to do to help them learn.
One thing that will not help them learn is stress. So try to take their struggles in stride, don’t freak out or panic when they don’t learn skills or content at the pace you think they should be able to. Accept where they are on their own learning journey and accept the pace they need to learn at. This will help keep them calm and keep the anxiety, that so often plagues children with learning differences, at bay.
Practical Tip: Go ahead and get evaluations and tests done if you think your child may have a learning challenge.
3. You will worry about things that don’t matter.
You will worry about learning gaps, if your child can multiply as fast as the kid next door, what they will tell strangers who ask them if they have friends, and many more things that are not worth the emotional energy you spend on them. You will worry about getting into college, even if your oldest is four.
But I have news for you. Most of these things are not unique worries. All parents worry about most of these same things. And just because other parents don’t rehearse what to say when quizzed about socialization, doesn’t mean that you have to either. Cue music. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.
4. You will forget to do things that do matter.
One thing about needless worries that makes it such a pernicious habit is that they distract you from the daily nurturing that need doing. It steals the moments you should be having with your kids. You need to be connecting with your kids, feeding them nutritious food, getting them outside, moving around with them, and teaching them the academic stuff.
You probably won’t forget the academic stuff. But you might forget that humans are made to move and if we don’t it stunts brain development. You might forget that listening to your child’s rambling retelling of Charlotte’s Web with full, rapt, attention, is more important than how you will respond to a fictitious assault by a stranger you haven’t met yet about why you chose to homeschool your kids.
Cue Music? Let it go. Let it go so you have the space in between your two arms and two ears, and two eyes, to fully embrace your child. Because that matters more than anything you will teach them this year. It matters more than how you answer strangers. It matters more than learning gaps.
Practical Tip: Don’t forget the four most important things to include in your homeschool plans.
5. You will suffer from decision fatigue.
Parents have a million choices to make when it comes to how they will raise their kids. This only multiplies when you decide to homeschool. No matter what method or materials you choose to use, the burden of those decisions rests squarely on your shoulders.
And no one else shares it with you. You step into freedom and immediately feel the full weight of the responsibility attached to that freedom. Every choice takes on a huge significance. And you overthink every decision because you want to provide the perfect education for your child.
The decisions don’t go away. Sometimes, after years of homeschooling, you will have fewer decisions. But there will always be new ones popping up. I find the best way to combat decision fatigue is threefold.
- First, understand yourself and your vision; focus on only exploring options that are in alignment with that vision.
- Second, expect to be tired when you have a lot of decisions to make. Researching curriculum is enough to make anyone’s head spin. It’s okay if you need a nap afterwards. 🙂
- Third, learn how to shut off the temptation to constantly second guess the decisions you already made. Trust yourself.
Yes, sometimes things are not working and we need to re-decide, but that must be done only when needed. Otherwise re-deciding can become a terrible habit that steals your moments with your kids, just like needless worry.
6. You will find out you are a perfectionist.
I mean, even if you are the most laid back mom in the world, their is still an ugly dragon that awakens when you decide to be the conductor of your child’s education. That dragon is Ms. Perfectly Peachy Penelope. She will point out every mistake you make. She will make you defensive when others, strangers or family, ask innocent questions, she will keep you awake at night. She will steal your joy.
It is time for you to be the heroine. You must slay her. It will take bravery. She dresses up in shiny scales and pretends that she is leading you to her den of gold. But if you follow her, you will find nothing but the dust and ashes of those who have followed her before. She will destroy your life and eat you for dinner.
So find the chink in her armour. Believe your kids want you as their mother, not a perfect mom, just a good mom who is doing the best she can and works everyday to nurture growth, both in herself and her children.
And let go. Let go of all the things you can’t do. Let go of being a perfect Pinterest mom. Let go of what is not perfect in your home. Let go of your imperfections. So you can hold on tight to your child.
Because your child does not care about your imperfections. Go ahead, grow. Just remember, that while Perfectly Peachy Penelope tells you a story about how she will help you grow. It is just another one of her lies. Her mission is to fill her belly by leading you to her lair and then destroying you in secret. So she can go fool the next desperate mom.
She will ruin your relationship with your kids by distracting you from connecting with them. You will be so busy becoming trying to be perfect that you forget your first goal of everyday is to simply love your kids by connecting with them. No matter how imperfect the moment is, what a mess you are, or how much they are driving you nuts.
You are good enough. Your love is enough for your child. You don’t need to do it all, because you are blessed with an entire family that can help you get all the things done. Accept your limitations and you will find the dragon’s weak spot. Now all you have to do is strike.
7. You will realize that novelty isn’t novel once it’s old hat.
Novelty is good for the brain. It helps capture attention. It makes learning fun. But after the 10th assignment your curriculum has that involves a baking soda and vinegar volcano, you will start to realize that things that used to be fun and novel have become boring.
You can’t make every learning moment exciting for your child. Yes, you do need to wake them up, but the level of novelty the brain needs to come to attention is not very high. And if you are always chasing after huge, exciting projects, well, your kids might just get bored of those projects.
The good news is that learning itself is novel, because there are always more new things to learn. But much of modern curriculum, even in the homeschool world, runs on a continuous loop of not-newness. Repetition has been taken to the extreme, and the world has been shrunk down to fit in a neat little box.
This is one of the reasons kids get bored. It is one of the reasons that even moms tend to get bored teaching. Because we did that last year. In a world of so many things to learn, there is enough to keep your kids engaged. It just takes a little courage to climb out of the box and into the great, big, bright world.
Practical Tip: If your kids are getting bored they may not need exciting projects, they may just need a new topic, or a more in-depth study of the topic. This can be achieved by adding simple supplements such as documentaries or nonfiction books.
8. You will find out you aren’t Superwoman.
I am not saying you thought you were superwoman before. But if you did, you will suddenly realize you aern’t. But guess what? Neither are all the homeschool moms around you that have been doing this gig for years. Really. We are just flawed dragon slayers. And you will feel better once you get out of your dragon’s shadow.
Realizing you aren’t superwoman does not mean you aren’t cut out for this homeschool gig. It just means you are growing up. You can do it. But you can’t do it perfectly. But your imperfect means more to your child than someone else’s perfect ever will.
9. And then you will find out, you really ARE Superwoman.
I know, now I am going to upset everyone for contradicting myself, and right in my subheadings, no less! What can I say? I’m not perfect. 😉 And I’m done trying. But I have learned to celebrate all the things I do. I do a lot of things every day. And when I reflect on all that I have done, I feel like I really am superwoman.
Who has more power than those who carefully sculpt the hearts and souls of the next generation? No one. My power is big, and so is yours. And we are the hero’s, the superwoman, in our child’s everyday lives. And I just can’t think of anything more powerful than that.
Maybe I’m not changing the world. Or maybe I am, by raising awesome people to be a part of the next generation. It’s the most important thing that no one talks about. Suppressed stay at home mom? No, we are the brave adventurers, the superwomen, come to slay villains by creating an army of heros.
10. Your house will be a mess.
Enough with the metaphors. Time to get down to the real nitty-gritty of this glorious lifestyle. Your house will be a mess. Like, all the time. You know why? Because people are living in it, like, all the time! Whatever your definition of ‘clean enough’ is, this homeschool thing will have you feeling like a chronic underachiever. Either that, or you will exhaust yourself, picking up all day long, and feeling, at the end of the day, like you got nothing done. Because it still won’t be perfect.
All I can really say is that you have to create systems to keep more time for cleaning in your day than you did when your kids weren’t home all day. And you need to train them all to help. And you need to empower yourself with the ability to turn off your eyes to the mess, or you will be cleaning more than you are connecting with your kids.
Be creative, but also realize your expectations may not be rooted in reality, and be willing to let go of a perfectly curated home. Those houses in magazines? It takes a whole crew to get them ready for a photo shoot! That’s not what they look like while people are in the process of living in them.
Practical Tip: Jot down all the cleaning tasks for your home, sorting them into 3 categories, daily, weekly, and monthly. Write down all the monthly tasks and put them in a Magic Irresponsibility Machine, when your kids purposely shirk their duties, have them draw a card and complete the task. Then divide the remaining daily and weekly tasks among your entire family according to age and ability. Next, create time on your daily and weekly schedules for everyone to attend to those cleaning tasks.
11. Your carefully curated routines will dissolve into chaos, at least some days.
I just want you to know that this is normal. It happens. It is normal. It does not mean you did something wrong. It does not mean your plans suck. It does not mean you suck. It does not mean your curriculum sucks. It does not mean something is wrong with your kid.
It takes a tremendous amount of energy to create new routines, new normals. And this is what the first year of homeschooling is all about. There are a lot of different things that can throw your plan off the rails. And it takes practice to figure out how to write a plan that fits into your day, instead of the plan that Perfectly Peachy Penelope is whispering into your ear as soon as you pick up that notebook and pen.
But before you do anything about it. Go to bed. Sleep on it. Wake up the next day as if everything went perfectly the day before and try again. Because it may have just been a bad day. If you have bad days every day, then it is time to analyze what is out of balance and figure out what changes you need to make. But don’t throw in the towel and decide you just aren’t cut out for this homeschool thing.
Routines can fall apart no matter where your child does their learning. You just aren’t used to seeing it.
12. Your child will cry over school work.
Yes, they will. Maybe not if they are high schoolers, but still, even then, it happens sometimes. Just because humans are driven to learn, does not mean it is always easy. We often keep working, or keep pushing our child to work, beyond the point of frustration. And then tears happen. Some kid’s cry before they even try, because their Perfect Dragons are right there, whispering into their ears, too. They are afraid to try anything unless they are 110% sure that they know what they are doing.
It’s okay to take a break for tears. Give your child the tools to calm down. Then bring them back to the work when they are in a better mood.
13. You will cry over your child’s schoolwork.
You might cry because they are crying. You might cry because they are only in 3rd grade and you don’t know the answer and that is just humiliating. You might cry because you were up with a baby or sick child 4 times during the night and the utter exhaustion just overcomes you. You might cry because none of the assignments make sense, you hate the curriculum, and you feel foolish for spending a thousand dollars on something that looked so good on Pinterest.
It’s okay. Get it out. Use those tools you just taught your child yesterday to calm down. Take a 10 minute break. After you rest and reset, you can think about whether you need to change anything. And if you do need a change, how to go about it. Maybe you need an alternate school plan for days when you were up all night. Maybe you need a simpler curriculum, or to just use this one for the good parts and skip the confusing questions.
Practical Tip: Maybe you just need another cup of coffee. 🙂
That’s What You Can Expect Your First Year of Homeschooling! Enjoy 🙂
And that’s the end. Because if you can accept the tears. The endless decisions. The mess. The crazy. Then you can be an awesome heroess in your child’s story. The one that taught them how to slay dragons, not just by making them study, but by fighting the dragons right alongside them.