While our first year of homeschooling isn’t quite complete, I’ve been thinking a lot about how far we’ve come in this journey. What an adventure it’s been! Throughout the year I’ve been jotting down things that I wish I could go back to tell my new to homeschooling self with the hope that they would one day be an encouragement to another mama. Today I’m excited to share 10 Things I’ve Learned in Our First Year of Homeschooling.
I’ll be the first to admit that homeschooling hasn’t been the easiest thing for me. There have been plenty of days where I’ve fallen flat on my face and wondered why in the world we were led to this wild adventure of home educating. Thank goodness I wrote down our WHY, because I have visited and revisited that piece of paper pep talk many times throughout the year. While there have no doubt been hard moments, there have been plenty of beautiful ones as well. Isn’t that life, though? I often find myself saying, “I can’t believe we get to do this!” This year my love for learning has been rekindled and it’s been such a joy to learn alongside the girls. Let’s just say that I didn’t know Math could be so much fun!
We don’t like imperfect starts, do we? We want perfect right out of the gate. But all plants grow through the dirt, and so do we.” [Lara Casey]
This year has been far from perfect, but just like plants we have grown so much through the dirt. Ready to dive in?
Here’s 10 Things I’ve Learned in Our First Year of Homeschooling:
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1. Relationship over to do list
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that I am mama first. The relationships cultivated with my kiddos in our home are more important than any academic accomplishment. Sometimes that has meant closing the lesson and choosing to nurture our relationship rather than pushing through a reading lesson at all costs.
“Connect to your children. The academics matter, but they follow. Your children’s happiness and safe, supportive relationship with you come first. Believe it or not, your children are happiest when they believe you are delighted by them.” [Julie Bogart, The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life]
2. Some of the best learning can’t be proven or measured
Life is learning and learning is life. Sometimes learning looks like reading aloud on the front porch, playing games, cooking together in the kitchen, and delivering cards to neighbors who are sick. If there’s one thing I have seen in full force this year it’s that kids are full of wonder and curiosity! Learning is completely natural to them and it’s happening all the time if we just pause long enough to recognize it. Some of our best learning has come from unplanned moments of exploration and most (if not all) of those things don’t have a worksheet to prove that learning happened.
3. A deep love of learning is more important than cramming in as much information as I can
I think we would all agree that the aim of education is to create a love of learning, not just stuff our kids full of information. But goodness! In our society it’s not always easy to break free from the mindset that we have to be cramming our days with all. the.things. rather than going deep and cultivating a life-long love of learning.
4. Time and space to explore interests and curiosities is an incredible gift
I am so often quick to rush and hurry, but homeschooling has really taught me the gift of slowing down and giving the gift of time and space to pursue interests.
5. Keep it simple — this isn’t a race
There are so many resources available and it’s easy to get lost in the sea of it all. There aren’t enough hours in a day (or a lifetime, really!) to teach your kiddos everything or use every single resource that’s out there. I think that it’s important to decide what really matters to your family and let go of the rest.
6. I’m not trying to reproduce the classroom at home
First of all, our homeschool days don’t last as long as a traditional school day. This was so hard for me to get used to! But as I’ve thought about it longer, it makes sense. With fewer children we can move through our lessons quicker and we don’t have as many built in transitions as there are in a classroom.
Also, we don’t always do our lessons at the table. As a child who loved to play school at home, this one was a bit harder for me to embrace fully. But once I did it has been a game changer! I love this quote that so eloquently describes what homeschool can look like once letting go of trying to recreate the classroom at home,
“Break the mold. Let the world become your classroom. Fling open the windows. Swing wide the doors. Let your curiosities spill out into the streets, the fields and forests, where your children can pursue their passions and make the most of their one wild and precious life. Chuck the chalkboard. Ditch the desks. Throw the puzzles on the floor and play games together. Read great books not within four walls but upon a blanket spread across a meadow or a mountain, where their authors probably imagined their stories in the first place. Let them play, pretend, and imagine. Give them opportunities to build, create, and take things apart.” [Ainsley Arment, The Call of the Wild and Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education}
7. Play is an essential part of our days
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” [Fred Rogers]
Enough said. Let them play!
8. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes
As Richard Louv so succinctly puts it, “Nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.” Fresh air is a gift that just keeps on giving. So much so that my motto this year has become, when in doubt go outside. I find myself asking more and more (especially as the weather is warming up), “What do we do inside that can be brought outside?” I’ve been pleasantly surprised that most things we do on a daily basis can be done outside.
9. Create a flexible framework and rhythm vs. scheduling every second
Learn from my mistake and refrain from searching ‘homeschool schedules’ on Pinterest. Maybe you’re really good at keeping things on track hour by hour, but one thing I quickly learned about 1.2 days into our homeschooling journey is that an hour by hour schedule stresses me out. But I’ve also learned that creating a daily framework and consistent rhythms helps our days and weeks go smoother, especially since kids thrive when they know what to expect.
One rhythm we have established this year is our morning “High 5”, which consists of five things the girls need to do each morning. Our High 5 includes: Make Bed, Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Brush Hair, Brush Teeth. Once they have completed the five things they need to do they come up to me and I give them an actual high five. This might seem silly, but it’s become an anchor in our day and a playful way to make sure they accomplish these things before we begin our day.
Rhythms will look different for every family and that’s awesome because your family is unique! Some things that we have found helpful are using a morning basket, weekly tea times, time in nature, and following a similar flow to the day (ex: math first, then language arts, then reading aloud on the couch after lunch, etc.). My best advice with this is trial and error. Don’t be afraid to change things around if what you’re currently doing isn’t working!
10. Don’t be so serious. Let it go and dive into learning right alongside your kids.
I have to tell myself this often! This year has taught me a lot about letting go and giving up my desire for control. It’s way more fun and life-giving to make learning enjoyable. This year I’ve tried to practice what I preach and lead by example that learning is life-long! Like I said at the beginning, I’ve been so amazed this year how fun and exciting math can be.
Bonus: When all else fails, a change of scenery does wonders
Curl up on the couch, go outside, move to a different room, head to the park. You don’t have to learn only a table or desk. One of the best parts of homeschooling is that you can change up the scenery, especially when everyone is starting to feel a bit restless. Trust me, it will happen. 😉
While I could probably write pages and pages full of things I’ve learned this past year, these are my top 10. I hope that as you read through these lessons I’ve learned, you feel encouraged and inspired!
I’ll end with one of my favorite homeschooling quote,
“At the end of our lives, He is going to look into hearts. What is it He will find there, I wonder? Will he find that we used the geography lesson, the dreaded math test, the teetering laundry pile and the boiling-over pot of soup to draw closer to Him? Did we use these gifts to teach our children to lift their eyes heavenward? Were the tedious details of a homeschooling day offered up as a way for us to love Him, or were they merely gotten through, checked off and accomplished? Did we even realize that every Monday, every Thursday, we were standing on holy ground? No task is too trivial, no assignment too small. Educating our children is an offering of love we make to the God who was so gracious to bestow them upon us in the first place. Every moment of the daily grind in raising and teaching and loving on them is hallowed, because we do it for Him and because there would be no point of doing it without Him.” [Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace]
If you’re looking for encouraging and inspiring books about homeschooling, you can find my favorites right here.