Often times when we read about what is necessary to begin homeschooling, much of the focus is on school supplies, school room set-up's, curriculum choices and the like. While those things are important, I'd thought I'd approach this topic from the mental prep side. How can you mentally prepare for starting a homeschool?
1. Vision for Homeschool
This is something you'll want to talk with your husband about, that you flesh out together. Maybe even include your children if they're old enough. And, above all, prayer is key. Pray over and for your homeschool. Ask God to show you what He wants you to do as a family. Ask Him for help along the way as your journey unfolds. Remember: the Holy Spirit works in homeschools, too!
A good friend once told me to ask myself, "Why do I want to homeschool?" The vision for your homeschool will stem from your answers to this question. Once you look at your answers and see what is important to your family, you can then put it in statement form for the family to refer to throughout the school year. Remember, though, overtime your needs may change as your family changes, so updating your vision and goals is completely reasonable. It may even be wise to revisit your vision each year to see if your family is on track.
If you were educated in public school or any traditional school setting, you've got to let go of the idea that your home MUST mirror that environment. Of course you'll have pencils, paper, and a few teacher's manuals, but the whole set-up is unnecessary. Your kids don't have to line up everywhere, ask to go to the restroom or sit in assigned seats. You can start your day with prayer or jumping-jacks or a song. It is up to you to decide.
The reality is that you will be instructing your children at home, and home life never stops. Noses need wiping, dishes still pile up, telemarketers still call, and all of that will happen while you're teaching Math and rocking a sleepy baby. What you should know is that you are mom first and what you'll begin to learn is that homeschooling really is a natural extension of parenting, as parents are children's first teachers anyway. You will see the beauty of teaching your own children in every aspect. Educating your whole child--spiritually, emotionally, physically, academically--is best done in a loving environment at home.
3. Don't Join the Comparison Game
Yep. Unfortunately, it's seen amongst homeschoolers, too. There are parents trying "out-do" each other, competing about curriculum choices and whose child is further ahead, or comparing school room set-ups and who has the latest furniture from IKEA. Remember, your kid is not someone else's, and your home life is different from the next person's. Don't fall into the "grass is greener" trap. Comparing what you're doing to what another mom is doing all the time, point-by-point can be dangerous, making you feel pressured to implement things that aren't a fit for your family. These are your kids, this is your home. Walk confidently in what you're doing.
Also, if you're pulling your children from a public/traditional school setting, you may be used to comparing how your child is fairing against his classmates, and you're probably used to the teacher giving you stats on what percentile your child is in compared to average kids his age, and so forth.
Here's the reality: each of your children is likely to be the only one in his/her grade in your home. So, you have to develop a sense of confidence in the progress your child is making. Setting a standard for each child, for each level is great idea. That way, you have a course to follow and a sense of where things are and where you want your child to be. Additionally, checking out what another mom is doing every once in a while can be so helpful and can give you fresh ideas and a new perspective. Just never let comparing dictate what you choose.
4. Bad Days Happen, and So Do Really Good Ones
Just let that settle nicely in your brain. There will be days when things will run so smoothly and so according to plan, that you'll feel like homeschooling is a breeze. Then there will be days when you'll want to press the "do-over" button about every 10 minutes, or the other alternative: just sit in the middle of the floor and cry. But this is the reality of life--good days and bad days--no matter where we find ourselves. It'd be true if we were at the office working from 9 to 5 each day. It is also true of school teachers, too.
News flash: the "experts" don't always have it all pulled together. Of course, they want you to think they do, otherwise you might not be so comfortable leaving your children with them. But guess what? They feel overwhelmed and behind schedule sometimes, too. There are days when they feel like all they did was try to gain order in the classroom or couldn't cover what they'd planned in the allotted time.
We are all human, and no one ever has perfect days all the time. For some reason homeschool moms exclude themselves from this certainty and place an unbearable burden on themselves to have a perfectly smooth good day every day. Rest in the fact that normal is a healthy balance of good days with some bad ones mixed in. Remember, God is faithful and He grants new mercies every day. (Lamentations 3:22-23). Follow His example for yourself and your homeschool.
What are some other ways new homeschooling families can mentally prepare to begin their homeschooling journey?