Linda asked homeschooling parents what they wish they'd known when they started homeschooling. Here are the "top" ten replies.
- Before I started homeschooling, would any words put forth by others have conveyed the depth and breadth of the experience about to unfold? Ha. How could mere words do that? Words could not have made me understand because I was not yet capable of thinking outside of the box. I was still confusing "schooling" with "education," which prevented my thinking from flying toward a new place, a place where education transcends the schedule, organization, and methods of others so that its possessor may lay full claim to it. The ability to think outside the box develops over time, a result of study, observation, thought, and a valuable collection of failures and successes. Only your attention can give you the tools you need; only your time can sharpen and hone them.
- I wish I'd realized how much I'd love spending so much time with my children, enjoying them as people, not just as my offspring. I love it that I was with my son when his first tooth fell out - and knowing that no matter what time of day it happened - I wouldn't have missed it. I love it when they wake up and come into my bed in the morning and go back to sleep after my husband leaves for work. If I'd known all this sooner, if society didn't make us believe that the "normal" thing to do is let someone else share all these joys with our children - if only I could help more parents see the joy in these simple moments in our lives. This is what I would try to tell those who are starting to homeschool, and that I wish someone had helped me to understand years ago.
- I wish someone had told me that it is better to jump in, get started, and learn from your mistakes than to sit worrying and trying to decide what to do, and how to do it perfectly.
- The homeschooling experience changed us all individually...it also greatly changed our family dynamic. Maybe the best first year advice would have been, "Hold on to your hat; you won't believe who you are next year!"
- I wish someone had warned me not to compare myself to other homeschooling families. It is so easy to imagine that the people on those glossy magazine covers are oh-so-well organized, have all their laundry folded and that their children never misbehave! This can lead to a sense of failure when my family doesn't measure up.
- If someone had said. "What you do does not matter as much as the spirit in which you do it," I would have saved time and energy. Rather than trying to out-school the schools in my daughter's first grade year, I would have spent more time laughing and playing with her, like we do now.
- I wish I'd known homeschooling is much more like parenting than it is like teaching school, and that your child changes constantly. What worked on Tuesday won't work on Friday. What works with the first won't work with the second. What you think homeschooling will be like has as little resemblance to real homeschooling as that fantasy of nursing your newborn in a rocking chair has to colicky screaming at 3:00 a.m. Don't start that first year thinking you know what homeschooling is because you have a friend who homeschools. Learn everything you can and, as with parenting, let love take care of the unknown.
- I wish someone had told me that it was okay to start the year with a list of about 1000 interesting homeschooling plans and ideas and to:
- :: Start some of them, but not finish them because everyone loses interest in the subject,
- :: Never start some of them because the kids think the projects are stupid,
- :: Never start some of them because you realize they are just too much work,
- :: Lose interest in topics everyone thought were so fascinating only months before,
- :: Run out of time before you make another list of 1000 things to do next year.
- I would have spent a lot less time and energy being anxious about other people's perceptions of my choices. My husband and I know that what we are doing is socially and academically best for our kids, and we need no other assurance about that. I would still have reassured the grandparents, explained our choices to concerned family members. But I would have spent a lot less energy being defensive, trying to justify myself, or attempting to get validation from others. The health and well being of my kids is at stake; no other justification is necessary. And life is good.
- I get ideas from the Internet, cheap workbooks at Costco, and television shows like Little Bear and The Magic School Bus. I'm overwhelmed with excellent catalogs, curriculum fairs, newsletters, and support groups. I am welcomed into businesses and functions for field trips and have received unflagging support from my family. If I had known all of this a few years ago, my husband wouldn't have had to try so hard to talk me into homeschooling.
© 2004 Linda Dobson, reprinted with kind permission
Linda Dobson (Parent at the Helm) is a homeschool mom turned grandma turned full-time advocate for intellectually freeing children from the confines of government (public) schooling. Her family began their homeschooling journey in 1985 and were having so much fun together that Linda wanted to share news of this educational approach with as many other families as possible. In addition to founding a local homeschooling support group, coordinating the New York (State) Home Educators' Network, and working as the first public relations advisor for the National Home Education Network, she wrote for Home Education Magazine for close to 10 years. She's written several well-loved books about homeschooling and is currently continuing her support to parents via her website.