Well, we did it. My 7-year old son and I started our homeschool journey this past week and we survived it! Ha! I don’t know what’s brought you to my blog today. Maybe you’re getting ready to also start your first year of homeschool and you’re looking for advice. Or perhaps you’re a homeschool guru and you’re looking to see how badly this rookie messed up.
But whatever your reasons, I thought I’d post about our first week ever as a homeschool family right after we did it so that everything-the memories, the thoughts, the experiences, and the emotions-are fresh and raw. We’re only just beginning, but I’ve already learned so much and I’m here to share that with you in the hopes that if you’re starting this journey as well, you can be encouraged and motivated, and can learn from my mistakes.
1. Start slow.
When talking with friends and others who have experience homeschooling, many of them suggested a “soft start” to the school year. They suggested that rather than trying to do every school subject the first few days of school, that I start with one or two and gradually work our way up to the full schedule. I took this advice to heart and did try to start slow. The week before we officially started our year, we started working on Scripture memorization and Spanish lessons. But when our first homeschool week arrived, I added everything else. I think I justified doing this because my son was so excited to get started, but once he realized that not everything is totally fun in homeschool, I realized I should have started slower. Next year (hopefully), I will adhere to a much softer start and I’d strongly suggest you do, too.
2. Have realistic expectations.
Our first week was a pretty good week, I think, but it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Now I am a very idealistic individual. I’m a dreamer and I love that, but it can also get me in trouble when I have grand expectations of perfection. If I’m not careful, I’ll build up some upcoming event like a family vacation so high in my mind, imagining all the wonderful things we’re going to do and see, that when my 2-year old throws a tantrum mimicing an exorcism on our 1.5-hour “family bonding” hike up a mountain because I let her skip her nap that day, it can feel like a complete and utter failure. Because in my excessive planning to make this trip “The best family vacation ever!” I choose to avoid the realities of our situation, like the fact that 2-year olds need naps, even on vacation. I know this about myself, so I worked really hard when planning our homeschool year, to dream about all the potential, but to also go into this with realistic expectations by talking with homeschool veterans, researching, and reading blogs like this one.
So when my kiddo wasn’t enjoying absolutely everything about his first week of homeschool, because I’d prepared for this reality, the struggles didn’t devastate me or render me completely discouraged. Reality is going to look different for every family, but go into your homeschool year with the understanding of your individual realities so you’re emotionally better prepared when you hit a stumbling block.
3. Be understanding of your child’s emotions.
When we discussed the possibility of homeschooling with my son earlier this year, he was all for it. He hadn’t had any really bad experiences in the public school system and was actually doing quite well there. But he wasn’t super attached to his school experiences yet, and there were many components of homeschool that really attracted him to the idea. However, even change that we’re excited about is still change, and change is usually hard, especially for children.
My son spent Kindergarten and 1st grade in the public school system and he’s used to being in school til 3:30pm during the week. While I thought a 7-year old boy would be thrilled to be done with school by 12pm or 1pm every day, that’s actually been a struggle for my son. He hasn’t loved that like I thought he would because he says, “It’s different.” There have been several other things he’s found hard to adjust to as we’ve started our year and he even shed some tears about it this week.
My initial reaction was to be discouraged and frustrated with that, especially since I’m nervous about all this! But God really guided me through this this week and reminded me that my son is nervous, too. Even all the great perks of homeschool can feel uncomfortable for my kiddo because “it’s different” than what he’s used to.
So keeping this in mind, I made checking-in with my son a priority each day. I’d ask him how he was feeling about everything, what did he like about the day, what did he not like about the day, and even asked him for his suggestions on what we could do to make things better. I think my son, though he couldn’t necessarily communicate this verbally, really appreciated that I wasn’t mad at him for not liking everything about homeschool and that I wanted his input. Be understanding and it will make for a much better week.
4. Be flexible.
I tried my best to be diligent in preparing for the school year. I went through my chosen curriculum’s instructor guide, mapped out different things on my calendar each week, gathered all the material and supplies, and tried to get everything organized. I don’t regret that planning at all, but I also recognize that not everything is going to go as planned. The sooner we can accept that fact, the better our homeschool year (and just life in general!) will be.
Even this first week, I had to be flexible and willing to adjust things. For example, I had planned to follow my instructor guide for math this week, but once we got started, I realized my son already had a solid understanding of some of the concepts we were supposed to cover this week. Rather than bore him to tears by strictly sticking to what I had scheduled for math this week, I ended up skipping some of the lessons I had planned and covering something new instead. Similarly, we spent more time covering nouns and adjectives than I had planned for because I felt my son needed more practice.
One of the beauties of homeschool is being able to be this flexible and really tailor your child’s education. It’s one of the things I am most excited about with homeschool and I can’t stress its importance enough.
5. Celebrate the victories.
Our first week of homeschool may have had its share of struggles and hiccups, but it also had some great victories! Two of our biggest goals for the homeschool year are to 1) Focus on teaching my son the Bible and 2) Improve my son’s Spanish. I am so excited that through our focus this week, my son can now recite Colossians 3:23 by heart in both English AND Spanish. Not only that, but we were really able to talk about and understand what that verse really means when doing school work and chores. Also, my husband even noticed that my son’s Spanish pronunciation has improved sooo much in just this 1st week and it’s got me that much more excited about working on this goal!
Other victories might not seem as grand, but to me they were just as important, like being able to listen to Christian music while we worked on a school craft or squeezing in some one-on-one time with my son doing school work while his little brother and sister were still sleeping in the mornings. To me, these things are priceless and I am trying to be very intentional in cherishing every good moment.
No, our first week wasn’t perfect-far from it. But while we’re trying to learn from the mistakes and set-backs, I think it’s incredibly important to also bask in the good moments, no matter how small they may seem.