8 Things I Wish I’d Known When We Started Homeschooling

homeschooling

When we started homeschooling seven years ago, the only other homeschoolers I knew lived five thousand miles away.

My instinct had told me that public school was the wrong environment for my son (who at four years old was already known as ‘the naughtiest boy in the class’) and my intense daughter (six), who needed much more downtime than a busy school + extracurriculars schedule could provide.

I knew nothing of his twice-exceptionality or her giftedness, so even after  we met other local homeschoolers, I felt out of my depth and many times wondered what I was doing wrong.

To help matters, my kids’ grandparents were vehemently opposed to my decision and even my husband thought I was crazy. I was riddled with anxiety and second-guessed myself at every turn.

Here’s what I wish I’d known back then when we first started homeschooling …

1. Homeschooling works!

Oh how I wish I could time-travel my younger self forward to today and show her how well homeschooling’s working out for us.

I’d show the younger me my daughter (now 13) happily composing songs with friends, figuring out maths problems for fun, looking forward to taking her first GCSE (physics) in a few months, and speaking fluent Spanish.

My younger self would be so happy to see that Cordie has more passions than ever, but also has time to sit and listen to music, to hang out with friends, to draw, and to recharge  by sleeping till her teenage brain feels ready to wake up.

The younger me would also love to see how Jasper (12) is learning to take care of his needs so that he’s not triggered in everyday situations – and that he’s never thought of himself as naughty.

I’d show her how his dysgraphia and dyslexia don’t hold him back at all, as he speedily touch-types the magical stories he dreams up and makes his way through dozens of audiobooks each month.

2. Be confident about your choice

Shortly after I removed my son from school I bumped into a school-mum acquaintance. ‘Where’s Jasper been lately?’ she asked. ‘ I’ve decided to homeschool him ,’ I mumbled.

I had to repeat myself four times before the woman could understand my reply! I was so unsure – ashamed? – of my radical decision, I couldn’t bring myself to say the words  out loud.

A few months later on my daughter’s last day at school, I happened to be standing outside her classroom before lessons began . I saw the teacher write a puzzle on the whiteboard and Cordie – oblivious to the other children still chattering away – eagerly copying it down and getting to work.  Panic seized me. How was I going to provide the intellectual stimulation my bright child was evidently getting here, all day long? (I managed. ;))

As for my kids’ grandparents, who all but staged an intervention when they heard I’d removed my son from school … I did what I could to gently reassure them, and remembered the advice of every homeschooler I knew who assured me that my family would come around. They did.

3. Relax while you de-school

I knew how important it is to allow a period of ‘de-schooling’ after kids leave public school (a month for every term they attended, is one guideline). The idea is for everyone to recover from the stress of school and to let go of the rigid public school mindset.

De-schooling is probably even more important for the homeschooling parent than the child. We need to let go of our ideas of what school should look like (writing in workbooks from 9-3.30) and spend time quietly noticing what our children enjoy doing and how much they learn naturally.

While I did allow us a de-schooling period, if I had my time again I’d relax and enjoy it wa-a-ay more, and not have a panic attack every time a friend mentioned what her kids were learning at school.

You just can’t compare homeschooling with public school on a day to day – or even a year by year – basis. Your kids aren’t going to learn the very same material in exactly the same way they would have at school. That’s the point!

4. They’ll have plenty of friends. Or just one. And that’s okay

I’m lucky enough to have one highly extroverted child and one who is very introverted.

Why lucky? Firstly, I’m not sure where we’d find the time to meet the needs of two children as busy and social as my extrovert. But more importantly, I know that each of my kids has had the same opportunities to make friends and get involved with social activities, so I don’t blame myself for the fact that my son has just one close friend whom he meets every few weeks. I don’t even see it as a bad thing.

I know that Jasper’s happiest at home, mixing with family and his beloved pets. He gets on fine ( mostly ) at his couple of extracurricular classes, and he gets plenty of exercise flipping on our trampoline and walking the dogs.

In our extrovert-centric western society, it’s easy to panic about the S( ocialisation ) word when you start homeschooling. Don’t. Follow your child’s lead, and they – and you – will be happy.

5. You’re the expert on your child

When we’ve been to public school ourselves, it’s scary to question the system.

‘Everyone’ goes to school. Surely it must be the best path for our kids?

Not necessarily. Not when you consider that schools have been around for a tiny fraction of human history, and were designed to meet the needs of the industrial revolution (childcare, which in turned produced the next generation of compliant workers).

Teachers – even the good ones – have to work within a system that was designed over a century ago to meet the needs of the average student.

Parents raising kids at the edges of the bell curve need to trust that we know our child’s needs best.

Of course I’m not saying don’t consult professionals. We’ve seen some excellent ones over the years (and some less good ones). But when it comes to how your child learns and thrives, you’re the one who’s had thousands of hours of experience. Not the local school, not your teacher neighbour, and not your mother-in-law.

6. Don’t be afraid to mix and match homeschooling styles

The first home education book I read was written by unschooling pioneer, John Holt. Then, being the intense type I am, I set about reading everything else I could get my hands on.

Soon my head was spinning as I discovered classical homeschooling, Charlotte Mason, project-based homeschooling, and Brave Writer (to name just a few). Each philosophy has online communities buzzing with devoted fans who, despite their extremely good intentions, tap right into our insecurities and make us feel like we’re letting our children down if we don’t follow their methods to the letter.

There’s nothing wrong with learning about the different styles and trying out activities that appeal to you. Our own ‘us-schooling’ style combines aspects of several different homeschooling philosophies. Just remember that the single most important factor in successful homeschooling is the parent-child relationship. Don’t put that in jeopardy by forcing them to follow a homeschooling methodology they hate, no matter how well it works for the family you read about online.

7. Homeschooling is not a panacea

I confess, I used to hear about issues other people were having with their kids and secretly think, ‘That would never happen to us, because we homeschool.’

I should have known better, given all the judgement and misunderstanding my 2e son faces from people who have no idea how he experiences the world.

Without going into details,  I now realise that even homeschoolers experience bumps in the road every now and then, especially as children get older. Navigating these bumps has humbled me and given me a new level of empathy and compassion for other families.

I’ve also been grateful, during the tough moments, for the flexibility and family time homeschooling provides when life does get stressful.

8. ‘This too shall pass’

Minecraft? Nail art? Phineas and Ferb? Creepy crawlies? When intense kids get into something, they really get into it. No half measures.

As a homeschooling parent responsible their development and education, you see your child gripped by their latest fad passion and wonder if they’re ever going to broaden their horizons. Funnily enough we get especially anxious about the less academic obsessions.

I only really got this recently, when my daughter switched her intense focus from gymnastics to music. As we pushed aside the foam mats to make room for amplifiers and guitars, I desperately wanted to go back and reassure my younger self who wished fervently for her tall and strong (but unbendy) daughter to find a passion she was better suited to.

One thing I’ve realised throughout all my kids’ passions, though, is to trust that – even when my daughter spent six months watching Disney Channel sitcoms in every spare moment –  they’re learning what they need to learn .

Sometimes the best character training comes from the unlikeliest activities.

homeschooling

More about homeschooling

Navigating By Joy – My homeschooling blog, filled with fun educational activities and our homeschooling story over the last seven years.

5 Reasons I’m Glad My Sensitive, Intense Kids Aren’t Going Back To School Next Week

The 5 Best Homeschooling Decisions We’ve Made

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Do you homeschool? What do you wish you’d known when your kids first left school?

If you’re considering homeschooling, what are you most anxious about?

I’d love to hear from you!

To subscribe to my regular posts about life in an intense and sensitive family, leave your email in the Follow By Email box below. You can also follow Laugh Love Learn on Facebook.

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To read more posts about transitioning between public school and homeschool, visit these great GHF bloggers.

Gifted Children - Transitioning Between Public School & Homeschool - 8 Things I wish I'd Known When We Started Homeschooling - Laugh Love Learn

I’m appreciatively linking up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers‘ Weekly Wrap-Up.

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30 thoughts on “8 Things I Wish I’d Known When We Started Homeschooling

  1. Well said Lucinda. We are right there with you “us-schooling”! I’ve been inspired by you over these past couple years and appreciate your insight and suggested resources! Angie

    1. Hi Angie – it’s always lovely to hear from you! Thank you for your kind words – I appreciate your inspiration too – birthday banners are now a family tradition, and they always make me think of you. 🙂

  2. Great to hear this reassurance from someone further down the road. Thank you for sharing your hard earned wisdom!

    1. Thanks for reading and for commenting, Kirsty. I really enjoyed writing this one. It almost felt as if I was writing to my younger self, and that I did get reassured by my words. Quantum universes and all that. I just hope there’s a future me sending back some reassurance about how to enjoy the teen years!😂

  3. Lucinda, this is a great post; going to share it amongst some of the h/s groups I belong to! I have watched your changing styles, probably more finding your flow and often felt and done similar along the way. Sometimes with all the knowledge and experience that I have gained over the years that I could go back and ‘do it right’ from the start. You share your wisdom with other people and I just know they still go through and make the same mistakes as we did panicking and worrying. You rock and Cordie and Jasper are so fortunate you followed your instincts to homeschool them.

    1. Hello Lisa, it’s great to hear from you. Thank you for leaving such a kind comment! You’re so right – words don’t really teach, only life experience does. I just hope posts like this can make a teeny bit of difference, as other people’s reassurance has done to me over the years. 🙂 Plus they help those of us who are through those early days realise how far we’ve come!

  4. What a great post Lucinda! We really do put ourselves through the ringer at the start, don’t we? All those naysayers need to know that WE are our greatest critic and they can’t possibly come up with an issue we haven’t already thought about and worried about. It’s only as they get older you realise the ultimate truth – which is that home schooling works! Regardless of method or philosophy, if a parent is attentive and wanting to do right by their child, they can not fail. It is our love and our relationship which makes it work 🙂

    1. Oh what perfect words, Claire! You’re so right. It’s loving attention and heartfelt intentions that really get us there, isn’t it? I’m so enjoying seeing how much you’re enjoying homeschooling your younger girls, while your older ones are obviously thriving. (Even if you are stretched a bit thin right now!) It’s been so lovely homeschooling alongside you – in our very different styles – all these years. I’m so glad you connected after our respective visits to Butser Farm. 🙂

  5. Thanks for this great article. I’d love to homeschool my two boys because they don’t seem to get much from school except stress! But I’d have to give up my job and then we wouldn’t have any money 🙁 I’d love to know how other people manage financially when they homeschool….

    1. Thank you for reading, Emma! I know what you mean, it’s a tricky one for many families. I have one local friend who homeschools while both she and her husband work full time. Their children are 2, 6 and 8 and have never been to school, and my friend and her husband have always worked. I think they do some juggling with their hours and have an au pair. I’m sure she’d be happy to have a chat if you wanted me to connect you.

  6. Hi Lucinda,
    “The single most important factor in successful homeschooling is the parent-child relationship” It was what I needed to read today. Thank you! I tend to worry too much. I forget that our relationship with each other is the first thing I need to work on. If I know my children well, if we trust each other, if we value and respect our choices, everything else will fall into place.
    Happy Mother’s Day!

    1. Happy Mother’s Day to you, too, Silvana! It’s always lovely to hear from you. Yes, the relationship mantra is one I need to repeat to myself every day, too. 🙂

  7. I love this. I often think about home schooling (as you know) and it’s still an option/plan/possibility……
    It’s mainly money that holds us back. And I have, this week, had moments at work when I realise the value of what I do.
    Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll take the plunge. We’re mostly likely to do it because we want to travel….. We all need dreams! Haha!

    1. Hannah, those moments of realising the value you’re giving must be so satisfying. And it sounds like your children are doing pretty well at school.

      Travelling … wow, what an education that would be! I know two sets of local friends who took a year out to travel with their families when their kids were about 8-10. They had an amazing time and when they got back their kids returned to school and really quickly caught up with the academics they’d missed.

      I’m definitely at the point with my two of realising how quickly they grow up and how important it is to make the most of these last few years together.

    2. So neat to find your blog! I recently completed my Montessori Elementary certificate – as a mid-life ‘career change’…hoping to earn while my daughter would learn :)… Though for now anyway – the employment opportunities haven’t really come together since they are few and far between. So we are living with one foot in both worlds, as we enrolled her in first grade at the public school…but are now planning to bring her home for Math and Science in the afternoons…letting them work with her on Language arts.
      But oh boy – I have a lot to learn about homeschooling our only daughter – very fiesty, strong willed… and lacking in some degree of confidence with math facts…though she is a dilignet ‘worker’. I truly have to humble myself completely and peacefully put patience first. Lately she’s been shrieking A LOT about the math works we’ve started…and she seems to get very overly excited….I’m beside myself since I generally an (an intense) but quiet person – except when I’m not ;\ ….I hope to create a fun-loving but peacefully quiet learning environment and at least for this week it seems almost the opporsite. (Need to review schoolhouse rules).

      I will look forward to following and digging into your archives. I’m grateful to have found a fellow traveller who knows this new terrain 😉
      best!

      1. Ha ha your daughter sounds a bit like my kids, Margit! Mine have taught me so much about homeschooling as the years have gone by. In the face of their seemingly miniscule boredom threshholds, I used to despair they’d ever learn their maths facts, but it seems to have somehow happened despite point blank resistance to ‘drill and kill’ methods.

        Your mid-life career change sounds very exciting, and it sounds like your daughter is getting the best of both worlds. Flexibility is definitely a skill OE families need, in my experience. I hope you’re finding your balance. 🙂

  8. Amen to #6–well, to all of them, but especially #6. We do a little of this and a little of that, and not one of my kids has died because I didn’t teach them according to the letter of the Charlotte Mason/Classical/Sonlight/unschooling/etc. law. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Anne. I sometimes think homeschooling’s a constant balancing exercise trying to find the right ‘recipe’ for our families. And just when we think we’ve found what works, our children go and change right before us! 😉 Seriously though, that’s what keeps homeschooling interesting, for me. All that detective work’s pretty fun!

  9. With your knowledge of education theories and experience of homeschooling, do you think democratic schools like Summerhill or Sands would work for your children, or gifted children in general?

    In the mid-80s I saw a documentary about metals that included malachite being smelted into copper at Butser Ancient Farm. I became obsessed with metalworking and got to do it for real. Unfortunately the farm was too far away to visit. Is it as good as it looks?

    Also, the comments aren’t remembering me and I have to re-type my details every time.

    1. Good question. I think my daughter would love a democratic school, though as someone who is driven to join in (and be the best at) everything around her, her challenge would be to carve out downtime for herself. She said she’d love to attend a school like the one in Allis Wade’s novels (me too!). I’m not sure about my more introverted son. What are you thoughts on democratic schools with regard to the the gifted? Would you have liked to attend one?

      Butser Farm was fascinating. I loved how hands-on it was for the kids. I’ll have to look it up on YouTube.

      Sorry about the login hassle and thanks for letting me know – I’ll ask my techie husband to look into it.

  10. Democratic school was like the promised land to me. When I was fourteen or fifteen I found out about democratic schools (program about Summerhill, I think), saw the episode of The Simpsons where Bart scams his way into a gifted school (first I heard of such a thing), and read a pamphlet called Education Under Capitalism and Socialism. It described what happens in schools during revolutions. In the Portugese Revolution students had taken over their school but their neighbour was a fascist artist who supported the old regime. So they called the Portugese Army (who had started the revolution as a military coup, but then everyone else decided they wanted to play too). The army sent a crack unit who threw the fascist out and the students took over his studio. By this point I was practically foaming at the mouth. Democratic education was the solution to all problems.

    I still think they are a massive improvement over anything else, but now doubts are creeping in. The nightmare scenario is the 1992 Cutting Edge ‘Summerhill at 70’ which is a cross between Lord of the Flies and a Dickensian underclass rotting in riotous splendour. Even if we assume democratic schools are not that bad, and even live up to most of the hype, there is still the question of gifted children. They may fit in just fine, and a lot probably do, but they are surrounded by neurotypical children with a lot more power than usual. The others could easily isolate the gifted child and vote against every proposal they made, and be within their rights to do it.

    Democratic schools have a disturbing streak of Thatcherite individualism where you’re on your own. The founder of Sudbury Valley said they make no accomodations for special needs, so 2e are probably out. There is nothing for those who prefer or would benefit from more structure, or even just like learning from an expert. I don’t know where I would have stood as I am a strange combination of driven and lethargic. Somebody really needs to do a full research program on gifted children in democratic schools.

    I am torn between the idea of being left to your own devices, and the idea of most ambitious education program imaginable, which willingly sacrifices personal freedom, comfort, and possibly sanity, in return for becoming everything you can possibly be. In this environment students would be respected and their opinions valued, but they could also benefit from training methods that have decades and lifetimes of experience behind them. There is a reason ‘training from hell’ is such a popular trope in fiction, and especially among the gifted.

    I think one possibility is democratic schools specifically for the gifted. You could do a bit of reverse psychology here as people have a similar resistance to democratic schools as they have to gifted programs. They would resist democratic schools for all children but if you advocate them just for gifted children then they change to “That’s elitist! All children should have a democratic education!” And then we can be like “Well if you insist…” 😉

    Then you could have a school within school arrangement. A normal democratic school for the gifted (whatever ‘normal’ would mean in this context) where they could know freedom and peace, and within it the advanced training institute for those who would pay any price to know everything, to be able to do anything. A good name for the second would be HOG – human optimisation for the gifted. Maybe include some options between the two extremes as well and this is probably as close as gifted children will get to paradise. I would have been happy there. (I once had a dream about a facility that was both a naval training base and a holiday resort. There were people doing pushups in the sand right next to people lounging in deckchairs. I see this as looking similar and allowing people to satisfy equally varied goals.) 🙂

    I need to read the Allis Wade books, but the covers don’t impress me – my high school looked almost exactly like that! It has got me thinking about what would be good architecture for a gifted school… As long as it’s not like Oasis Academy Brislington, which from above looks like an American supermax prison. 🙂

    1. Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to your comment; I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts. I resonate with what you say about being ‘a strange combination of driven and lethargic’. As someone who’s relatively new to the gifted conversation, I wonder if this is a common feeling? I think my daughter would also relate.

      Your reverse psychology idea made me smile. Oh yes, I can see that happening! Your dream about the naval base/holiday resort also made me smile.

      Do you write articles anywhere online? I’d love to read more of your thoughts.

      And do please come back and share your opinion on Allis Wade books, if you ever read them. She’s created an interesting model.

      After reading about the OE accommodations in Wade’s fictional school, Cordie asked if she could make a request. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what she was going to ask for.

      ‘Would you mind buying me a bar of soap, please?’ she said. ‘I really like the feel of a bar of soap instead of the liquid pumps we usually have.’

      Well, that was a nice quick win!

      1. I’ve been in a state of lethargy myself these last few weeks but it did give me chance to read the Allis Wade books. I had a mixed reaction to them. On one hand there was so much that was familiar it was like she tapped into some gifted collective unconcious. I had an idea for a fictional school where a lot was the same, except mine was set just after a war so everything was run-down and grimey, and manual trades and combat training were much more prominent. I even had children who had spent their whole education there but I called them ‘lifers’ rather than ‘originals’.

        But a lot of it sat wrong with me. I think part of it is a risk when you try to make a work of fiction didactic it skews plot and character development. I’ve read American ‘militia porn’ novels which are about the collapse of society but also try to teach you to be a survivalist. The plot can get derailed by the discussion about what are the best kind of waterproof cases to store your guns and ammo (it’s Pelican and Underwater Kinetics, in case you were wondering).

        There were also moral and logical discontinuities. When the characters are being bullies by the originals and complain the teachers know about it, the teachers act all hurt. But they know everything else about the students including what they do in their leisure time, and they have robots with them at all times, so why was it unreasonable for the children to think the teachers knew about it and were looking the other way?

        Then when the originals switch to more subtle bullying and the girl tells the others, it is implied she is in the wrong for getting angry when they deny and minimise what is happening. That is the abuser and apologist triad – deny, minimise, blame. And they only didn’t get a chance to blame because she flew into a rage first.

        I think the question it most stirred up in me is whether any kind of authoritarian education, no matter how seemingly awesome, could ever really cope with the variety and unpredictability of gifted children. On the other hand, to go back to the idea of driven and lethargic, I would want an education that recognised the things I would do by myself and leave me to it, and those I would enjoy and be good at, but only if I was somehow made to do it. It’s a balance between free will and not being left at the mercy of your lethargy.

        Obviously a more autoritarian model is needed for complex, systematic, long term training. No child, no matter how gifted, could independently invent a complete physical education system while still young enough to take advantage of it.

        After reading Wade’s books I am still convinced that the best story about a gifted school and gifted children (and probably the best story ever) is the webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court. Although the gifts mentioned in the plot are primarily supernatural, pretty much the entire cast is obviously conventionally gifted as well.

        I haven’t written any articles and so far mostly limited myself to the comments on Crushing Tall Poppies, CounterNarration and 4thWaveNow (where I really stirred things up by suggesting a link between gifted and transgender). I am interested that you’re doing talks now but I asssume that’s just down south. Do you know if there is any real-world gifted community up north? Also, am I the only one who thinks PowerWood sounds like a neo-Nazi American prison gang? 🙂

        1. Hi and sorry for setting a new record in delayed comment acknowledgement.🙄 My tardiness is no reflection on how much I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the Allis Wade books, gifted education and waterproof gun and ammo cases (thanks, I’ll bear it in mind).
          Ah yes, that balance between free will and lethargy. My own approach is to focus on my emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing and then take inspired action from that place. Something I’m trying to teach my children, but of course they have their own ideas, haha what a surprise!
          Thank you for the link to Gunnerkrigg Court – we’re enjoying it. 🙂

  11. I love the post Lucinda. What I wish I’d known is that my kids and I learn from everywhere, everyone, and everything not just from sitting and doing busy work, or just reading about it in a book. As an ex-teacher, it took me a while to not feel guilty about my kids running around in a creek while their neighbors were at school. There is so much learning in exploring, traveling, and sharing with other people.

    1. Thank you, Silvana. Yes, I think we all start out that way, don’t we? Even those of us who aren’t teachers mostly went through the school system. It takes a while to make the paradigm shift. The convincer, maybe, is in the way we begin to see our children blossoming as they learn everything they need/want to learn in the most delightful and natural ways (which might include them deciding to take more formal courses as my daughter is doing now). You certainly show your children the world – I love reading about your explorations. 🙂

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