On finding your homeschool groove

On finding your homeschool groove

On finding your homeschool groove

Our homeschool year is off to a fantastic start, and it’s enough to stop me in my tracks several times a day with thankfulness and joy.

I’m not telling you this to gloat; I’m telling you because it wasn’t that long ago that we seriously considered other options and almost threw in the towel altogether.

Sean and I knew we were going to homeschool from the very beginning of our relationship. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was 16 (when my parents pulled me out of the private Christian school I attended in favor of a home correspondence program), and Sean has been on board since we began dating shortly after that.

When our oldest turned 3, I began experimenting with various preschool programs — Five in a Row, Sonlight, my own curriculum, etc.

And time and time again, my efforts turned to frustration. I’m great at lesson planning, but not so great at execution. As a busy work-at-home mom of three under three and then four under five, there were just never enough hours in the day and our lessons would get put off, shoved aside or end in frustration.

On finding your homeschool groove

When our oldest was 7 and still not reading fluently, I felt an extreme amount of guilt because I was sure I was failing her.

Looking back, I think it was really a combination of my inconsistency and her own brain development (and now, at 10 years old, she can read anything you put in front of her and has devoured hundreds of books in the last few years), but it was the wake-up call I needed to really find a solution.

That was the beginning of our journey into independent work, which has literally transformed our homeschool.

While I am still very much involved in their schoolwork (especially now that we have four students, a fact that I still can’t quite wrap my head around), I am able to assign and oversee, helping when they get stuck or keeping them on track throughout the day, rather than teaching all day every day. That has allowed me to juggle work and homeschooling without feeling like they’re getting the short end of the stick.

On finding your homeschool groove

And it’s worked. That first summer after I made that decision, we started with just the basics, adding in subjects as they got the hang of working independently.

While we’ve had hard days along the way and had to make adjustments to our curriculum, we’re all really enjoying homeschooling now. Our girls wake up and come downstairs ready to dive into their school day, knowing what’s expected of them and challenging themselves to get it done quickly (but knowing Mom will be checking quality).

There is still occasional whining, I’m still trying to find a routine that leaves me time to concentrate on work without a million interruptions, and we need to figure out how to get them the alone time they need since school now extends into the afternoon, but our first two weeks have been really amazing, especially when compared to that spring 3 years ago when I felt like a complete failure.

On finding your homeschool groove

What I realized was two-fold:

1. Just because “school” is hard with preschoolers and kindergarteners doesn’t mean it will always be a struggle. It’s okay to take a step back and just enjoy stories and real life learning experiences, even if you don’t plan to unschool the whole way through. Our girls all excel in language arts, and I don’t think it’s because of anything I’ve done other than provide dozens and dozens of audiobooks for them to listen to every day. Our younger girls have all been ready to jump into their kindergarten year without any academic preparation at all just because we count and talk and explore together all day.

2. If what you’re doing isn’t working, sometimes you need to buckle down and practice discipline…and sometimes you need to change what you’re doing. I’m so thankful for the wake-up call that Susan Wise Bauer gave me three years ago that made me take a hard look at our homeschooling methods and put new ones in place. I was trying to white-knuckle my way through with a strategy that wasn’t working for any of us, and my girls were beginning to dislike school and fall behind because of it.

On finding your homeschool groove

No one I knew was talking about independent work for young students when we moved to this method; we “invented” it for ourselves out of necessity. But while it felt like a risk, it’s turned out to be the best decision we’ve ever made.

To be clear, I’m not saying the way we do it is the right way for everyone or the best way overall.

What I am saying is it’s important to figure out the best solutions for your family. Because once you figure it out, it’s a whole new experience.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. I agree. Homeschooling is wonderful and difficult at the same time. It takes awhile to get into the groove. I have teenagers that I have homeschooled since the beginning. There have been great years and challenging years. We focus on the basics and enjoy the extras. When something isn’t working, we do try to change it to make it work for us. Sometimes, like you said, you just need to buckle down and get through it. Probably the thing that has helped the most is learning to stop comparing. Like you said, find what works for your family. If you aren’t doing something they are, it doesn’t mean you are missing out. You are just doing something different. Thanks for the encouraging post, Mandi.

  2. I’ve started doing this, too, out of necessity (first trimester!). It has been great….and I remain convinced that every year will look different as our family continues to grow and change.

    1. Ah, the first trimester — here’s hoping you’re through it soon!

      And I think you’re right: the only constant is that it will continue to change and evolve!

  3. It’s so wonderful when homeschool moms share their real life struggles. Thank you, Mandi! The expectations we put on ourselves can be smothering. After fifteen years of home educating, I’ve come to the strong conviction that our homeschool exists to serve and enrich our family life and not the other way around. For me that keeps it in perspective and tames the “monster”. Our family life is anything but static, so our methods have changed drastically over the years. The truth that stays the same is that God has given our family these children for this season and has promised to equip us with all we need (Heb 13:20-21; 2 Pet 1:3).

  4. I love how real you are about the journey. Homeschooling is such an individual thing– and by that, I mean for each *student* as well as each *family*! I have grown and stretched so much over the years as I’ve gone from just schooling littles, to littles and middles, to now the whole spectrum. It’s an organic, living thing. Just like family. Just like LIFE.

  5. Oh yes! We are in a spot now where I think I need to change some things. I’m not sure why I am being so stubborn about it though! This week was lousy and I think I have identified the root of it all, now I just have to switch up some things. Here’s to a better week next week 🙂

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