Something I love as a homeschool blogger is the ability to help people. Especially my tribe in the special needs community. Newbies and even experienced homeschoolers still have tons of questions and we are all, always on the lookout for that perfect curriculum that will work for our kids. With so much out there and new being created everyday and the vast differences in kids even among siblings makes this an almost never ending journey.
I am still relatively new to homeschooling, but I've had mistakes and breakthroughs I love to share in the hopes of saving at least one person what I've had to go through. So here is some of the best advice I can give to someone new just starting out, or even a veteran who is feeling burnt out as you all start and continue your journeys through this wonderful adventure.
1. Plan Less Than You Think You Can Accomplish In A Day/Week
This was a hard lesson for me. I started with very lofty goals. I got art sets, critical thinking games, typing games, and music lessons. I was sure we were going to be learning sign language as we casually hung out around the table after learning piano and played some amazing games. Let me tell you I dropped that dream very quickly. I became burnout and dreaded each school day. It's very normal to want to do everything, everyday. It's new and exciting and there are just so many options of things to try and do. Go easy on yourself. Not everyday or week needs to be spectacular or Pinterest worthy. No one can do everything and you shouldn't expect that of you or your kids. Homeschool can really be a time of growing and learning together if you learn not to overload yourself.
2. Don't Compare Yourself Or Your Journey To Anything Else
This is something I have to say to myself weekly, sometimes daily when the doubts start to creep in. It's hard especially being the parent to a special needs child that you don't compare them to their peers and then feel like a total failure. I have to remind myself why we chose this journey. The public school wasn't able to teach my child. Children are not robots, and they learn best in their own time and their own pace. I chose this journey so my child could learn what he needs to be able to function as an adult, not to be the best and brightest at everything. Social media has amplified this need to compete or "keep up with the joneses." It's hard not to feel less when it bombards your newsfeed that Susie's kid won the spelling bee, and Mark's kid is the team MVP. All the while your child still can't tie a shoe. You know what though, they make shoes without laces and my child can recite books and movies word for word after seeing them once. His attention to detail is unmatched.
Comparison does nothing productive in your life. As long as your child is learning, feeling loved, and growing you are doing it right. Just like fingerprints no child is the same even siblings. What works for one may be awful for the other. Find what works for you and tackle it one step at a time. Your journey is your journey, and no one could do it better than you.
3. Time Moves Fast Appreciate What Time You Have.
It's easy as a homeschool mom for you to get lost in the teacher aspect and forget you are a parent first. It is easy to become anxious and be consumed by that. Now, not only are you raising your tiny human to be a functional member of society, which is a job in itself. You and no one else is 100% responsible for their education, that's a lot of pressure. Our time for our children to be children is so small. In a blink they seem to age by years not seconds. With this journey you gain back all those hours you'd usually be apart over their schooling career. 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 36 weeks a year for 13 years adds up quickly. Your child is in school about 16,380 hours of their life. That is over 4 years worth of time. Think about all the lasting memories you could create in that time frame. We really only have a limited amount of time that they still want us around. Soon, we become embarrassing and friends are the preferred choice for spending time. Cherish the small moments before they are gone.
4. Children Are Unique So Stop Expecting The Same Thing To Work For Each Child.
Children are as unique as fingerprints. No two children, even siblings are just alike. So we can't expect everything to work the same for our children. What is amazing for one could be horrible for the other. Always be prepared to pivot.
I did all of those personality tests for the types of learners my kids are, the type of family we are, and the type of teacher I am. I researched until my eyes were strained from staring at the computer. I thought I had found the perfect mix. It turns out my kids are much different learning from me, than what they were in school. Then some of the curriculum I thought was perfect turned out to be horrible. It was a hard pill to swallow. It is made harder knowing how much money was spent and now essentially wasted on something I couldn't use.
There is however, lots of Facebook sites to sell used curriculum and while I didn't recover all of my money it made the sting a bit easier. Once you find what works, things do get easier. Don't get discouraged you will find that thing so it finally all just clicks.
5. Always Be Honest With Your Kids.
Now I'm not saying you have to key them into all the adult issues of the household. Honesty doesn't mean not having a filter. It does mean treating your children like the young humans they are. Lead by example and if your having a bad day, be honest about it. Let them see that it is ok to have emotions and be moody sometimes. Apologize if your bad day is being projected onto your kids unfairly. Teach them strategies on how to handle their emotions and get through the task at hand. Teach them how to function in the adult world.
Be honest if you don't know the answer and need to look it up. It's ok to NOT know everything. As you model the reality that lifelong learning is a great goal to have, your children will maintain their natural curiosity. "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is a phrase we need to erase from our vocabulary. You are never to old to learn new things.
6. Let Your Hair Down And Just Have Some Fun.
Homeschooling can and should be so much fun! You are taking back approximately 16,380 hours or almost 2 years of your child's life over the 13 years they would have been in the public education system. That may not seem at first glance such a large amount, but when you really stop to consider how fast and fleeting childhood is, it's a staggering amount of time.
Is homeschooling all sunshine and rainbows? No, often it can be exhausting, overwhelming, and scary. You just have to remember that childhood is fleeting. Embrace the crazy that can come with each new day. Carpe Diem every chance you get. So much can be learned out in the real world that no book could ever teach you. You never know when a simple question will start an entire lesson, a new adventure, or a passion for a subject not yet discovered. The world is a grand adventure, full of interesting facts and lessons just waiting to be discovered.
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