Today’s guest post is coming to you from my pal Laura from The Crazy Book Lady. Laura is one of the first homeschoolers I met when we moved to Germany, and we were all new and excited and hopeful about our big, bright, homeschooling future.
Now that I have been doing it a while, I can totally relate to Laura and what she wanted to share with you today. Sometimes, your best laid plans are just NOT going to pan out in your homeschool, and that’s okay. Luckily for you, Laura tells it much better than I do (and with a good dose of humor!) so check out her post, and please leave her some love!
There are mugs, posters, and T-shirts for teachers that use the “Keep Calm” design and say, “Keep Calm, and Pretend it’s on the Lesson Plan.” As a homeschool Mom, I can totally relate.
I began our homeschool journey with such wide-eyed innocence. After seeing how our daughter was becoming stressed-out, miserable, and even physically ill on school days, we decided to pull her from public school just before Christmas break of her third grade year. (Her teacher was actually a wonderful person. It was more a question of little things adding up, until we all just needed a break.) I did my research, we ordered curriculum, and I made detailed plans. I was so excited! Our daughter could now reach her full potential! She would be fluent in Latin, advanced in Math, an incredible writer, and exposed to all the cultural and historical things that living in Europe had to offer! My custom curriculum would be tailored to her strengths and supportive of her weaknesses, we would do projects together, and we would leave my immaculate house and skip off hand-in-hand into the sunset, Mother and Daughter bonding through her tween years and into a golden age of teen togetherness.
AAAannnnnddddd … cue reality.
Our first day rolled around, and I have to say that it went really well. We had our desk set up for school, supplies ready to go, and I was armed with my schedules, plans, and lists. Beans was really happy because we were done with everything hours before “regular school” would have been finished, and I was, quite honestly, feeling pretty cocky about how I was rockin this whole homeschool thing. Really, what were people so stressed out about???
Our second day went something like this: “We’re doing school again? We just did it yesterday!”, which of course escalated into arguing, sighs, and eye-rolling (on both sides, I admit!) and ended with the thing I swore I’d never say: “Do you want to go back to public school? I can call them right now!”, until we finally settled down and finished the day. Days became weeks, and soon our first month had passed, and I realized that every single day nothing had gone the way it was laid out on my schedules and plans.
By the second month, all my grand ambitions were out the window. We discovered that B didn’t even know her basic math facts at this point. She had been getting rave reviews from her teachers and great marks in math, so we never suspected. This meant we were starting math about a year behind her grade level. At the same time, a family member was battling a serious medical issue, and this required me to be at various appointments, take on extra household responsibilities, and be strong during times of great stress. All of this disrupted any schedule we had left, and quite frankly, there were days when I felt I had nothing left to give to school, and it became, “Well, Minecraft utilizes spatial awareness, planning, critical thinking, and math skills!” AMIRIGHT? And Latin? Physics? HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Really, we’re lucky that we got dressed (nearly) every day, and the house wasn’t condemned.
But somehow, we made it through the third grade! Contrary to my constant self-recrimination, Beans is way above grade level in reading and writing, literate in basic science and history concepts, and math? Well, that’s a work in progress. Also, after talking as a family, we have switched to a more structured curriculum so that I don’t have to spend so much time planning things out by myself. I know now that I get bogged down in all the options and details, which overwhelms me and really adds to my stress level. We also found an economical learning style assessment for B, and based on the results, this new curriculum works much better for her. Turns out all the hands on stuff stressed her out, and she is much happier with a textbook and workbook. I would have never guessed that, because my own learning style is much different.
The whole experience has taught me so many things: That it’s OK to veer off the plan. That we don’t have to “do school at home” in order to learn at home, and that there is a big picture to homeschooling. It’s not just all or nothing for one grade level, it is a flexible, adaptable, lifetime process of learning—and the worst day of homeschooling is still better than B’s best day of public school. Having her home has done more for her self-confidence, excitement about learning, and general happiness, that it’s like having a whole different child. Of course, having some kind of plan is important. Even if it’s just setting a goal to do some math and read every day, if you don’t have some kind of guide you will be chasing your tail and stuck in chaos. Luckily too, there are tons of free planners and how-to guides out there, including some great ones right here at Only Passionate Curiosity. Just remember though that as you plan, you are not carving things into stone. There will be times when the plans just can’t or won’t get followed—Life Happens!—and you will be OK! When you look at the big picture, you will realize that all those little moments of informal learning—all the reading together, playing outside in nature, and random questions you answer hundreds of times a day—add up to real knowledge. When things settle down, you can pull out the plans again and fill in any gaps relatively quickly. If they don’t know all the planets in third grade, they can learn them in fourth grade and still be on track educationally.
Kids grow up so fast! Enjoy your time with them, and roll with the changes life throws at you as best you can, and know that it is OK to pitch the planner, prioritize your family and take care of whatever crisis comes up, and not beat yourself up over it. If things really get crazy, it is also OK to ask for help from your local homeschool group. I live in an area that doesn’t require portfolios or testing, but if you don’t, your local group can help you so you know what you need to do to remain compliant. That “Homeschool Super Mom”? She doesn’t exist. We may know one person who is a great planner, one person who keeps an immaculate home, and one person who has a math genius, but nobody does everything perfectly all the time. If you are doing your best, that is good enough. You’ve got this!