Stop the Overwhelm: Tips for Starting to Homeschool
Excitement and then OVERWHELM!
When my husband and I decided to homeschool our kids, it seemed like a good choice. We were both content with the decision. And then the overwhelm hit.
First I had to pick out which curriculum to use. But wait! Before I could decide on a curriculum, I discovered there were so many types of homeschool philosophy: Charlotte Mason, unschool, unit studies, workbook based, Classical, etc.
Even for a research-loving nerd like myself, it was a LOT to take in.
On top of that, I felt the weight of “getting it right.” This was my child’s education we were talking about! I couldn’t just randomly pick a curriculum, right? I wanted it to fit our needs and prepare my child for life.
Oh. My. Goodness. The PRESSURE!
Can you relate?
Our First Few Months
I’m happy to say that after my initial freakout right before my first sons started kindergarten, I learned a lot. Notice that I did not say it went awesome and all was well. Nope. Actually, it was a tough year.
My eldest son is very smart. He was advanced in many areas by the time he was starting kindergarten. He could build anything from Lego. He knew his letters and numbers. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake.
We ended up taking a couple months off of “school” because my pressure for perfect days was killing my son’s love of learning. He was getting frustrated. (And a frustrated brain cannot learn.) We read a lot of books and played. And he learned through life.
Lessons From Experienced Homeschoolers
During that time, I reached out to moms who were a little farther on their homeschooling journey than I was. They taught me:
- that homeschooling is not like traditional schooling.
- to be flexible.
- that kids (especially boys) need to be ACTIVE while working hard mentally.
kids will learn on their own schedule.
- just because the child knows their letters and sounds doesn’t mean the brain is ready to take the next step into reading.
- learning will happen. Sometimes learning happens best through play.
- to relax.
- the brain cannot learn when it’s frustrated. (Again: relax!)
So here I am, nine-years into my homeschooling journey. I’ve now done kindergarten with all four of my boys. (And they’ve all been totally different!) I’ve navigated school while pregnant, with an infant, with a toddler (who earned and retained the name “Mr. Destructo,”) with kids who didn’t want to be in school, and with those who wanted more work and attention than I could give.
Perhaps I’m a step further on my homeschooling journey than you are. I’d like to offer one piece of advice.
Make your goals first
Make some goals and let those determine your year. This keeps you on track and less likely to get sidetracked with all the amazing Pinterest ideas and enticing curricula.
For each of my kids I try to come up with four goals for each year: general, faith, health, and life skill.
For example, one of my kids does everything very quickly. One of his biggest strengths in life is finding fast ways to do things. He can look at a situation or problem and get to the end quickly. Of course, our biggest strengths are also our biggest weaknesses. He sacrifices quality for that speed. So this year he will be working on quality while retaining his speed.
In practical terms this means that his science grading rubric will not look typical. His weekly grade includes points for completeness, neatness, and asking for help as needed.
Last year, my youngest had a goal of learning to read. My curriculum choices and school priorities ensured that he’d have every chance to meet that goal. If he didn’t care about history that day, I didn’t make a big deal about it. He was in kindergarten after all.
One of my kids sneaks sweets in the morning because his breakfast isn’t filling enough. (My kids make their own breakfasts.) His life skill goal for the year is to learn stove safety so he can make his own scrambled eggs for breakfast. (He’s super excited about this!)
Some of their faith goals are to build a stronger relationship in prayer. For this, we will be reading several books about prayer and putting it into practice each morning.
Goals First, Then Tools
Once you know your goals for the year, it is easier to find the tools to make them happen. If you start looking at curriculum first, it’s easy to get lost in overwhelm. Don’t let Pinterest and Instagram pull you down rabbit-trails and heap “shoulds” on your shoulders. Nope. Figure out what needs to happen this year and go from there.
Grab my Customizable DIY Homeschool Planner to help you out in this. Inside the file you will find sheets for goals, curriculum planning, inspirational quotes, and over six styles of daily and weekly planning pages for your kids.