Sunday, March 8, 2015

Lessons Learned in My First Year of Homeschooling

In January, we passed the 1 year mark of homeschooling. I can't believe how fast it went by!  I definitely feel much more comfortable now, but I am, by no means, an expert, and I'm sure I will be continuing to learn as we continue.These are some of the lessons I have learned this first year:

1. There is no ONE single BEST curriculum.

I pored over reviews and scoured the internet reading forum discussions trying to decide what to use. I'm not saying thorough research is wrong, it's just ridiculously time consuming if I'm going to try to determine which one is "the best" before I buy, because what is best for one child or family is not going to be best for another.  There's really no way to know until we try it, after making an educated guess as to what looks like a good option.  I was worried that if I bought something, I'd have spent the money and locked us in. However, in the course of the past year, I realized that if it doesn't work out, we can just sell it used and recoup at least part of the money spent.

2. Trial and error is not a waste of time.

The idea of just trying things out to see if they work out was scary for me, as a Type A planner. I didn't want to waste time on things that weren't going to work out. What I realized is even if it doesn't work out, it doesn't mean "nothing was learned." It may not have been the best method or most efficient, but at the very least, I learned what does NOT work, and hopefully at least some of the material sunk in.

3. We have a lot less "free" time than I envisioned.

Don't get me wrong, we certainly have a lot more time than we did when Monkey was in public school and doing hours of homework each night, but it is still less than I than I thought we would have. Partly, that may be due to Monkey's ADD, but even beyond that, between the academic work and the extracurriculars, plus the many great opportunities for field trips, get-togethers, homeschool classes, play dates,  service opportunities, I'm finding that we have to be deliberate in not over-scheduling.

4. I need to plan to have my own time alone. 

Being an introvert, having someone around all day,  24/7, is completely draining for me.  I didn't realize how bad until 2 weeks into homeschooling, I was melting down because I didn't have time to myself. After the kids were in bed, my husband was around, and I'm not a night owl, nor a morning person, so pretty much at any waking hour, I had someone around me, and it drove me a little batty.

5. If I want to find homeschool connections, I have to put in the effort.

Since there were not many homeschoolers in my social circle, I have to go out of my way to make homeschool connections.  I find most homeschoolers that I meet welcoming and friendly, but that doesn't mean it will be easy (especially as an introvert) for me to develop close relationships with other homeschoolers.  I found it difficult to enter into established groups as a new member, or joining homeschool field trips where it's open to anyone, and then feeling lonely because everyone else knows each other.  That doesn't mean I should give up trying though, it's just an uncomfortable feeling that I have to deal with if I really want to make these connections.

6. I don't have to do every subject, every day. 

Maybe this is obvious to veteran homeschoolers, but as a newbie, I thought teaching meant doing the 3Rs every day, at the very least.  I had to re-train my thinking to not think the way traditional schools work.  It frees me up to try different schedule variations, to concentrate on a few subjects for a few days or weeks and then switch, or to alternate days. I love this freedom!

7. Falling into a rhythm will not happen overnight.

....or even over a month, or a half a year, or a year. We are still 'figuring out our rhythm', and it's not a bad thing. We try things, they don't work, we try something else.  I think I expected to have a certain schedule and then just stick with it. Easy-peasy! Didn't happen. Sometimes we get in a good groove, but that may not be our 'rhythm' forever, so enjoy it while it lasts, but don't expect it to be the same forever. Life changes, schedules change, activities change...

8. Look at the big picture.

Rather than getting all worked up if we didn't accomplish everything we set out to for the week, I learned to let go and realize that in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter if we finish everything listed on our agenda. I don't have to stress out about having gaps in his education, because EVERYONE has gaps in their education! No one person knows everything about every subject. If he doesn't learn something at the expected age, that doesn't mean he will never learn it.