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5 Lessons Every First Year Homeschooler Needs to Know

I was just sitting here, thinking back to last New Year’s Eve. I realized, at this time last year, I was frantically scrambling trying to make a decision about pulling Hanna out of school to homeschool. She was so unhappy, and the new year in public school brings testing… lots and lots of testing.

5 lessons every first year homeschooler needs to know. Lessons I've learned as we've worked our way through our first year of homeschool. I knew homeschooling was the right choice for us, but I wasn’t quite ready mentally. I didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know if we would get along. I didn’t know if I could be a good “teacher”. I really didn’t know how I was going to tell everyone the decision we’d made, or how I would deal with their reactions. I also didn’t want to somehow hurt her teacher’s feelings. She was an excellent teacher (she retired at the end of the year), and Hanna really liked her, it was school she was completely over.

So, I let the opportunity pass and she stayed in school, but she knew homeschool was our plan for the fall. I asked her not to talk about it with her friends, but, well, she was 9. News got out and when I went in for parent teacher conferences I got a little more than the typical “Oh, Hanna’s an awesome student”. Though I felt like her teachers didn’t really support my decision they seemed to understand why I was doing it.

I spent the rest of the school year and the summer researching, learning, trying to understand what our homeschool would look, and create a plan of action.

The last month of the summer, I filled out our homeschool paperwork, and notified the school, (terrifying), and we were off and running.

We started school on August 15th, two weeks before public school started. We were so excited, we just couldn’t wait. I had all these grand plans. I’d bought curriculum. We sat down and started and the wheels of the train came to a grinding halt. She looked at me and pretty much said, uh huh, no, forget it. All my carefully constructed plans. All my delusions of homeschool grandeur smashed in an instant. All by Thursday of the first week. 🙂

Luckily I had some homeschooling mom friends I could turn to. They were kind and filled with tips and comforting words. The best advice I got though…

Calm the fuck down.

This doesn’t have to look like school. Learning happens all.the.time.

So that’s what I did. I put away the curriculum. I put away the books. I put away the expectations and we just started doing stuff.

We went to the science museum.

We went camping.

We went fishing (a lot).

We went and dug crystals in the Oklahoma salt flats.

We started getting subscriptions boxes and testing them out.

We made video reviews of them.

We watched a lot of documentaries.

We started listening to audio books.

We started reading picture books. Which led to learning grammar and sometimes full cultural unit studies.

We started baking and cooking.

We took a trip to the new Pioneer Woman Mercantile, and stopped to see her wild mustangs on the way home.

I picked up some books that looked at learning in different ways, like this one and this one.

We also started a huge remodeling project in our house which has been a nightmare and the most enlightening experience I’ve had yet when it comes to homeschool. It’s been a fantastic concrete example of learning in the “real world”. I can’t wait for it to be OVER lol, but we are learning so much in the process.

We tested things and tried them on. We kept some, and threw others out as fast as we could.

Our winter break is almost over. Monday we go back to “school”. (ha ha, don’t tell her she’s been learning all kinds of things the last two weeks please!) It will be our 83rd official day of homeschool. 7 days away from the half way point. I’m really quite excited about this second half of our year. My favorite season is coming up… spring! There are so many hands on, fun things we can start doing when the weather (and the ground) starts to warm up.

Hanna’s got big plans for the garden and a vegetable/craft stand at the local farmer’s market.

So… on this New Year’s Eve I’m thinking about last year at this time, and looking back over the first half of our first homeschool year, and I’m so happy.

Yes, I could have pulled her out after winter break last year, but in the end, I think it turned out for the best. I think being a successful homeschooler is probably 90% mental, the rest you can figure out along the way. So if you’re struggling with your homeschool year, especially if you’re a first timer, here are 5 of my favorite things I’ve learned along the way (so far):

5 Lessons Every First Year Homeschooler Needs to Know

Find some homeschool moms you like and can connect with.

It’s taken me quite a bit to find local homeschool moms I like, however, I found quite a few wonderful folks online. In particular, I found some other working homeschool moms that I have come to really lean on. You can come meet us if you want!

Calm the fuck down. 

Learning happens no matter what, even if they’re watching what seems to be a dumb TV show, or unboxing video on YouTube (yeah, I know nothing about that lol). If you are actively engaging with your kids, and giving them opportunities to interact with life and the world, you’ll be fine. You are not ruining your kids. You are not failing them. You are ok (and so are they).

There’s plenty of time.

You don’t have to teach them everything this week (year). There’s plenty of time. Take it easy, and especially the first year, let them set the pace. You can always add things as you go along.

Learning is everywhere. All the time.

It’s easy to get sucked into the public school mentality that learning only happens when you’ve got a book open, and you’re sitting at a desk. It’s just not true. We learned just as  much on the lake fishing as we do with a book open. We’ve actually found learning is deeper and waaaaay more fun when it comes naturally through doing things you love. (Ask Hanna about catfish… she can tell you just about everything, habitat, breeding habits, life cycle, feeding cycle and, and, and, lol)

Stop comparing. 

There are literally a MILLION different ways to homeschool. Your way is just as good as someone else’s way. Please, please, please stop comparing. It leads to nothing good, and tons of feeling bad. I have friends who are classical homeschoolers, I have “school at home” friends, I have unschooler friends, I have Charlotte Mason friends, and I have a ton of eclectic friends (and none of their homeschools look like mine, even though we wear the same label.) Do what’s right, best, and feels good for you and your kiddos. There’s always time to adapt, tweak, veer another way.

You can do it! Homeschool is really, nothing like I thought it would be… it’s a million times better. <3 Your homeschool is yours, make it what you want, read, and learn and take what works for you, leave the rest. Just because some famous, long time homeschooler with 15 kids does things one way… doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for you.

You be you. You’ll be all right. 🙂

 

 

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