I am a homeschooling mom of four kids, and at the time of this writing, we are entering our seventh official year of learning together at home.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
There was a time when I was planning on being a public school music teacher- and I thought that homeschoolers were isolated and maybe a little backwards.
I went to school for sacred music, then went back to get my music education certification, then went back to get my masters in education. I started teaching in a tiny private school, in a preschool, and at a music academy that specialized in private lessons.
And then I got pregnant.
I was a young first time mom, just a little over a year into our marriage when I learned that the baby was on his way. And once he arrived, I knew I couldn’t send him off to someone else and return to working the way I was before.
So, I became a mostly stay-at-home mom, with just a little part time private teaching to keep my foot in the door.
When my son was old enough for preschool, I kept him home. “I already taught at a preschool before,” I thought. “Why pay for someone else to do it when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself?”
I slowly began to take my child’s education into my own hands. Enabled by some of my homeschooling friends, I read books on homeschool and alternative educational methods. I found myself more and more convinced by homeschooling ideology. Pretty soon, I even started to preach the benefits of home education to others. I guess I didn’t think homeschoolers were so backwards anymore.
By the time my son was ready for kindergarten, I didn’t want to send him off for conventional schooling.
You see, I wanted his education to be alive. I didn’t want him to go through the motions of learning, all the while hating school and groaning over homework.
I also wanted my son’s social experience to be positive. My own memories of public school are overwhelmingly dominated by the bullying I experienced, the embarrassment I felt daily, and the tears I cried regularly.
And to have time with him… oh, precious time.
Are we ever really ready to give up our kids? No, I don’t think so, not even in the best of circumstances. But I was also teaching more private lessons again. Sending my son to school meant that I would be leaving for work right as he was getting home, severely limiting the amount of time I would see him in a day. I wasn’t okay with that being our reality.
So, we started homeschooling.
By that point, I had three kids. I thought homeschooling would be relatively easy since I already had a background in education and several years of teaching experience.
But, I was wrong.
As it turns out, all my classes in pedagogy and classroom management were largely irrelevant to homeschooling. The challenges of home education are just different from those of public school.
I thought I could just put on my “teacher hat” and my kids would sit quietly and attentively through lessons that I lovingly prepared and delivered. Laugh if you want, but that was the image I had in my mind.
The reality? The kids didn’t really like this new interruption to our day, during which I made them sit still and listen to me. I was still mom to them, and this mom-acting-like-a-teacher-thing was weird and undesirable. They wanted to keep playing, reading, and going outside as usual.
These challenges were compounded by having a 2 year old and a nursing infant, and the fact that I was still working about 20 hours a week. It was chaotic, to say the least.
As it turns out, homeschooling wasn’t immediately easy, and it definitely wasn’t perfect. I was a slow learner, but I eventually figured out that I had to change my expectations and my mindset.
I wish I had known at the beginning that homeschooling is just different from conventional education. Homeschooling means learning alongside your kids, not talking at them. It means lots of extra snacks and extended bathroom breaks. It includes accepting all the quirks of your family members, and embracing the fact that you’re together most of the time. Homeschooling means learning outside, on the couch, at the coffee shop, wherever-- in fact, learning happens whether you ever crack open a curriculum or not.
Over the years, we’ve grown and adjusted, and eventually found a routine that works pretty well for us. We do our academic time in the morning when the kids are alert, then move to more of an unstructured afternoon, when there’s time for outside play, tablet time, quiet reading, or- let’s get real- a good round of sibling bickering.
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned over my years of homeschooling is that it’s a process. Just like parenting, you can prepare, but you won’t know all the answers. You will make mistakes, but you will also have opportunities to problem solve and start fresh. What works one year won’t work another year, and you’ll need to switch things up. The ideology or methods that you fell in love with at the beginning of homeschooling may not stick all the way through.
And you know what? That’s good. It’s good to be dynamic, changing, and learning. It’s part of being human.
Homeschooling has been one of the most-life changing, challenging, and beautiful experiences that we’ve had as a family. I’m grateful for it.
As we continue our homeschooling journey, we give ourselves permission to make things look however we need them to look. We give ourselves permission to err, to forgive, to try again.
We’ll learn and and we’ll grow- in academics, in relationships, in life. And we’ll do it together.
Abigail Zieger is a former education major turned homeschooling mom of four kids. When she’s not learning alongside her little ones, she’s performing as a professional singer, tending to her backyard chickens, or writing resources for homestead and homeschool families.
You can find Abi online at They’re Not Our Goats and Woven Homeschool. New to homeschooling and feeling overwhelmed? Grab How to Start Homeschooling, Abi’s affordable, self-paced course that helps new homeschool families get off to a strong start.
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