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My Best Lessons from our First Year Homeschooling

Homeschooling is more than just teaching school at home. Even after 17 years teaching public high school, I had so much to learn this first year of homeschooling.(Last Updated On: March 13, 2017)

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Homeschooling is more than just teaching school at home. Even after 17 years teaching public high school, I had so much to learn this first year of homeschooling.

Last summer, we decided homeschooling was our best option and love the flexibility for scheduling and curriculum choices, and the joy of learning together. Homeschooling has brought our family much closer.

I knew homeschooling would be educational – I didn’t realize all I would learn as the teacher.
1. The most important lessons aren’t always in the curriculum.

I learned that teaching one child I love is very different from teaching a beloved subject to 100 children. Structuring lessons around her meals, moods, and skills, I’ve gained a new appreciation for how many factors affect learning.

I knew homeschooling would be educational - I didn't know all I would learn, as the teacher. Click To Tweet

She had to learn about school. We had to address everything from paying attention to holding pencils to following directions.

When I focused on the goal of raising a learner, not just the math or reading concept, I was able see skills as building a foundation for her future.

To start, I had to teach her to fail.

When something wasn’t immediately clear, she would freeze and melt down rather than make a mistake.

I had to teach her it’s okay to fail:

  • mistakes are how we learn
  • doing your best doesn’t mean perfection
  • not having all the answers is a permanent condition (unfortunately)

Homeschooling is more than just teaching school at home. Even after 17 years teaching public high school, I had so much to learn this first year of homeschooling.

Then I had to teach her how to learn.

More than reading or math, I had to teach her how to tackle problems.

For example, my kid can skim through books using context clues and often guess unfamiliar words, but sounding out words is her kryptonite.

If you’ve ever sat with a six year old repeating, “sound it out; sound . . .  it . . . out; make the sounds with your mouth . . .” Welcome to my world.

Instead of losing my mind, I began calling her a “Word Detective” and showing her all the tricks of word detection, like the silent E that gives magic to any vowel within one consonant of its maniacal reach. . . mwahaha, and makes it say its name, but if two consonants stand in the way, they block the magic from changing that vowel sound!

Somehow, being a detective transformed her desire to problem solve. Eventually, I heard her using those terms in her self-talk. She was able to slow down and work it out.

2. Character education was our most important subject.

Building a foundation for the rest of her education means teaching her character and citizenship: diligence, perseverance, and the fruit of the Spirit.

We practiced doing our best, not racing to finish. Page protectors let us do an activity several times with dry erase markers.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

We practiced how we show kindness and respect despite rough emotions and difficult days. And we LIVED the lessons from our daily devotions and scripture reading, which taught us both about being more Christlike.

3. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be AT home.

We could use the world to learn. Reading lessons could be a menu or nutritional label for informational text.

Homeschool doesn't have to be at home. Heaven Not Harvard
Here we’re learning what school was like in Laura Ingalls’ day at Old World Wisconsin.

We learned by going to museums, zoos, aquariums, and historical sites. Going fishing could be science class as she watched the clouds or the water, poked at bugs, or noticed the different characteristics of fish.

A trip was geography come to life. This spring she traveled to or through Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, and California.

Phew! No wonder I’m tired.

4. Homeschooling doesn’t have to look like school.

Almost anything can be school.

When I voted, I explained the basic principles of U.S. government. Going to the doctor and dentist, we learned about community helpers.

We could study nutrition at the grocery store, use math to calculate the cost of something, fractions cutting her sandwich, or division to share the last of the cookies.

Spending a week at my father’s nursing home, she learned to care for people of all ages, to ignore their infirmities and just see people to love and befriend.

5. Balance is the key.

The beauty of homeschool is the freedom, but we both need some structure to function in the world. Teaching her to follow a schedule was balanced by lazy mornings snuggling and discussing her dream from last night.

A field trip day was balanced by using books and worksheets to reinforce what she learned.

Being together was balanced by teaching her to complete a task alone before we’d review it, building her attention span and confidence minute by minute.

6. Homeschooling is a job.

I had to learn to approach it with professionalism or we’d end up procrastinating and getting side-tracked.

Half my day is cooking and cleaning, so I have to be a master multi-tasker, and accept some things just don’t get done. I have to dedicate several hours per day to school.

7. I learned that sometimes things that seem obvious to me are totally foreign concepts.

My poor girl was grumbling over a math worksheet last fall, skills she had been doing for months, so I didn’t understand what was wrong, only to realize she had never seen a numbered worksheet before.

She was trying to add in the number of the problem, reading –

  1. 2+3 =   as  1 + 2 + 3 and once she got past adding to ten, she was so frustrated.

Poor girl. Sometimes, even us seasoned teacher mommies forget how to start from the beginning.

From that lesson, I learned to ask more questions about what is happening in her head and the importance of clear communication from us both.

Homeschooling is more than just teaching school at home. Even after 17 years teaching school, I had so much to learn this first year of homeschooling.

8. Lastly, I learned I LOVE homeschooling!

We get to explore our world together, making memories everyday, and building a relationship closer than most parents will ever have. Her father and I get to share our different gifts and skills with her. We have just had the most fun learning how to do this together and can’t wait to see what next year brings.

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25 thoughts on “My Best Lessons from our First Year Homeschooling

  1. I am considering homeschooling, but just don’t know if I have it on me. Right now, y kids are four and two, and that is a tough age for me. One is super independent and sassy, and the two year old is a typical headstrong toddler that falls down a lot and needs lots and lots of kisses. I actually get tired of it, lol. Or at least the crying part of it. 🙂 I am hoping if that is the path for me to take, it becomes clear, and God gives me the strength to get through it! Having been homeschooled myself, I am quite the public school snob, but I see the benefits as well.

    1. In the end, I couldn’t imagine being apart from her for 8 hours a day and learning things that were drastically different than our values.

  2. Sounds like you’re off to a great start with homeschooling! We just finished our second year and I love it too although I still feel very much like a fish out of water. After reading your post though I felt like I could exhale again. I’m doing the right thing, just because our class time averages an hour a day doesn’t mean that they only learn during that hour. We do so much more throughout the day. Constantly learning in play and in our every day living. Great post, as always!

    1. We certainly had days that we’re all day, and says that were quick. But overall, I think that we did pretty good. And we have lots to learn.

  3. Thank you for this great post. I’m considering homeschooling my kids, and I’ve been wondering how to approach it. I know with my daughter, we are very unstructured and I try to teach her things throughout the day. I really love the information you provided because it really helps shed light on what homeschooling is like.

    1. The best part is it is flexible, so you can find what works and toss what doesn’t. We prefer unschooling, but do some traditional activities too.

  4. You got it! It can sometimes take years for a mom to fully grasp why she is homeschooling, but you did it in a year. That is wonderful. You know your why and now everything makes sense. You why, character building, is what will keep you going during the hard days. This will be my 15th year homeschooling this fall and it took me half that time to get to where you are.

    1. It probably took longer than that! We never sent her to preschool, so we were really always homeschooling and just made it official for kindergarten.

  5. These are things I’ll need to keep in mind as the time comes that I’ll be homeschooling my son. He’s 19 months now, but my mom brought it up this evening and I know it’ll be here before I know it. Love the advice so much!

    1. Looking back, I really started from birth. Reading, stories, educational entertainment, building blocks for school started before she could even talk. And I suspect you’ve already started too

  6. That’s great that your first year of homeschooling went well! I just heard from another mom who just graduated her first homeschooler, and she could barely keep it together emotionally. It’s such a blessed and rewarding thing to be able to homeschool our children.

    1. It really is. There are bad days and tough moments, but so much joy.

  7. I really enjoyed reading your list of the lessons you learned this past year! There are so many things to love about homeschooling. 🙂 I think our first year was actually more for me to learn than for my children. Some of the best things homeschooling affords us is an opportunity to grow close as a family, and make special memories we wouldn’t otherwise have if my kids were at school all day. I loved how you said you are living out the biblical principles you read about together and showing your daughter a faith in action, which is more important than anything she can learn in a textbook.

    1. Exactly! She will pick up most of the early stuff easily enough, but I can’t go back and relive these years with her.

  8. I am so glad you learned that you loved homeschooling, that is so important! It’s nice to treasure as much time as possible with our children.

    1. I can’t imagine sending her to school all day. I would miss her so much.

  9. Thank you, thank you , thank you! I needed this to remember why we are homeschooling. Everything you said is so true and what we love about this journey.

    1. I am so glad you were encouraged by it. I had so much to say and felt like I had to cut so much to keep it reasonable length!

  10. This is great! I am planning to homeschool, thank you for this great read.

    1. I hope it was encouraging! It wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be.

  11. Thanks for sharing! I was homeschooled and loved it!

    1. Do you have any suggestions?

  12. You are amazing!! You are making such a difference and yes it is a job. You are rocking at it too!

    1. I don’t feel amazing, but thank you! We are certainly loving the journey.

  13. As long as God is with you in this 🙂

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