We started homeschooling when she was 6 and in 1st grade. She had attended nursery school and public kindergarten, but we found that it wasn't a good fit for us for several reasons.
I was fairly anti-homeschool at the time, and thought it was just odd to keep your kids at home and that it would make them weird.
While my kids are all quite weird, I doubt homeschooling them made them that way.
I realized that education doesn't have to look the same for everyone, and that I needed to make the best choice for my kids and my family.
I want to celebrate our last 12 years, and share some of the thoughts I've had over this time.
Thought #1... What works for one student might not work for another
Be flexible and look at the needs of the learner. Sometimes you have to look at how you are presenting the information as well. This will take your time, energy, focus and possibly money.
I will not even say how many algebra programs I have right now, mainly because it would be depressing and I'd have to go count them all.
I do appreciate books like The Well-Trained Mind that give a synopsis of different curriculum choices so that you know the strengths and weaknesses of different programs and can help determine what might be best for your learner. Just because a program isn't the best for your family, doesn't mean it isn't great for another. Don't allow yourself to be a slave to a certain program just because. I like to think of the program as I would an employee. It is there to serve its purpose, if it doesn't, then I need to replace it. It is a bigger waste to keep trying to make something work, when it doesn't, than to move to something else.
Thought #2... Know your goals
I established my main goals when we started homeschooling. I wanted to put my children the position to do and be whatever they wanted in life, to equip and prepare them. I didn't want their education to hold them back or limit their choices. My purpose was and is to teach my children how to think and learn on their own so that they will be able to achieve their dreams on their own.
Thought #3... Sometimes doing laundry is school, but sometimes it isn't
The whole "school is doing laundry" was a big catch phrase when I started homeschooling, and honestly, it always bugged me. I never considered laundry to be school. As much as I have 'hippie herbalists' tendencies per my oldest and love what some styles represent, I just can't wrap myself around immersion in nature and home so completely.
I personally want my kids to know how to run a household and to do their own laundry, but school, to me, is more than learning to sort and discuss observations. I'd also take responsibility for not being one who functions well at making everyday things into school.
I do believe that there are seasons, and school doesn't always look the same from year to year. Families have illness and birth and life changes. Sometimes school and learning does involve just making it through the day. This is actually what I consider one of the strengths of homeschooling. It gives you time to bond as a family in difficult times. It teaches life lessons. There have been many days, weeks, where we just forgot books and got through life together and called it learning.
Just don't forget that your kids do need to have other skills as well to function in the educational world of today.
Thought #4... Methods don't matter, but you need to have a plan
I have always used the framework of Classical education models for my homeschool. I find that it offers the structure I need while offering flexibility in choices. It gives a framework that fits my overall goal, but allows me to fit it into my lifestyle.
If you are an unschooler, great! Just be an immersed unschooler.
I feel that what ever you decide to do, don't do it halfway. Commit and know how you're going to make it happen. Wishing for things to turn out isn't realistic. And don't worry about the label. Most of us are more than one thing. We have layers and that is what makes us who we are. You don't need an educational style to define who you are.
Thought #5... Know when to back off
I'd be lying if I said school never ended in screaming or tears. The hard thing when you homeschool is that you know these kids so well. You know how to get to them and hurt them.
This is also the good thing about homeschooling. You know your kids so well that you know what hurts and can back off before you do.
Parenting makes you tired. I also have always worked outside the home and that has often left me exhausted. Give your kids your best, apologize when you need to, and remember that words hurt and aren't easily forgotten.
Remember that they need to hear words of praise. It's easy to forget when you are together so much.
Thought #6... Structure
I found that my time became more limited as my kids got older. I worked, and while homeschool groups are fun, I had to limit them around middle school usually. I live in a more rural area and to be involved takes a large chunk of our day.
I would give my kids a schedule so that they know their expectations and what they should be accomplishing weekly and daily. It doesn't have to be written, unless they are the type who likes to see things crossed off a list.
Because I'm used to getting up for work, I like to have a set time to get up and get going. No, it doesn't have to be rigid, but I think that it has helped my kids realize that we all have things to do each day and work needs to be done before play.
I also find that different kids need more parental involvement, but with homeschooling you will always be a part of the team. I keep hoping I've relearned geometry for the last time, but the fact is, as long as I'm the homeschooling parent, I still work through the problems with my kids. They need to know that I'm not expecting anything from them that I'm not willing to do.
Thought #7... Homeschooling isn't a moral decision, or you won't go to hell for sending your kids to school and they might just be okay as well
There has been a trend for parents to pull their kids out of school because of their religious views only to discover that homeschooling is often not for you or your child. Don't let others' views of families determine what yours looks like.
Thought #8... Enjoy the flexibility, travel and see the world
You have to start real life usually at some point. I found this out the hard way when our Graduate started a joint enrollment program at a local college this last year. You can't vacation during off season anymore when there are college deadlines and classes to attend. Enjoy it and do as much as you can while life is flexible.
Thought #9... Remember why you homeschool, remember your inspiration
I found that for many years, I'd become frustrated and beg my kids to go to 'regular' school at intervals throughout the year. Yes, I was really committed to homeschool until graduation, but some days are challenging. I would want them to 'get' concepts I taught and some days it was harder than others.
Then I would get out a curriculum catalog or one of my favorite homeschool books and would be instantly inspired. The first few years that I homeschooled, I'd re-read The Well-Trained Mind and Teaching the Trivium several times each year just to stay focused and to remember why I was doing this. This helped, and still helps, me to remember my goals. It helps to keep me mentally motivated.
Let your kids inspire you with their awesomeness. I realize that my graduate would probably laugh at me for this sentence as you know you can't let them think that they are too awesome regularly as kids, I do find that spending time together with my kids or reading a paper or story they wrote makes me excited for who they are and who they will potentially be.
Thought #10...Don't quit learning yourself!
There is too much in the world to discover for anyone to quit learning. Show your kids that you are interested in growing and continued education. It really is the best way to inspire them and create an atmosphere where learning is a part of life. Growth and education provide an opportunity to show that you aren't afraid of making mistakes and that everyone has to start somewhere with learning.
Chances are all these thoughts will be thrown out the window with my youngest child as he is pretty well determined to make me rethink and relearn everything I thought I knew about life.
If nothing else, I have 12 years down, only 14 more to go!