I used to be a homeschool failure. I tried two years in a row to homeschool my children and had them in school by October, both years. It had always been on my heart to educate my children at home, but it was so hard for me those first two years. I wanted to try again last fall and my husband had the following to say about it: “Emily, this is it. If you get too stressed or overwhelmed, or I come home to you crying regularly homeschool just isn’t going to work for us. This is your last attempt.” Thankfully I thrive under pressure. :)

We ended up having a fantastic year and as we are gearing up for another year I have been reflecting a lot on what made this past year so successful. So here are the top 5 reasons this year went so well and the previous years didn’t.

1. I Learned that Community is Everything

As a former teacher, when I started out I thought I had everything I needed. I was so very wrong. Homeschooling is absolutely nothing like teaching a classroom full of children (who just happen to be about the same age). You can not homeschool without a support system in place. We joined a Classical Conversations group this past school year, and it was a lifesaver for me and the kids. Putting all academic benefits aside here (which there are a TON, but that is for another post) this group is the main reason we had such a great year. Getting together with moms once a week who have children my age and are teaching their children the same things was such a help. Plus, the groups goes all the way through high school, so those of us who are new to homeschooling have constant encouragement from those who are veterans. Some of the moms have become my very best friends. We have babysitters for doctors appointments, meals for when our husband is out of work for months due to a work injury, and friends to hang out with who don’t think we are crazy to keep our kids home all day. If you homeschool get in a community. I love CC (as we lovingly call it), but there are other communities out there to join and be a part of. Don’t hesitate. It is worth the cost, commitment, and travel. You won’t regret it.

CC Mom's Night Out

CC Mom’s Night Out

2. I Stuck to the Basics with My Littles

My first two years I was over-prepared. I had classroom like visions of all my children sitting in my beautiful homeschool classroom for hours of the day while I taught them with all the pieces of the extremely expensive preschool and pre-kindergarten curriculum I bought them. They got bored with all the worksheets and I was so tired of trying to force them to do them. This year, we spent a maximum of 20-40 minutes per child sitting at the kitchen table doing math and reading. The rest was all play and field trips and play dates. And somehow they magically learned everything they needed to know and then some.

Playing for math with some linking cubes

Playing for math with some linking cubes

 

3. I Discovered They Needed More as They Got Older

Towards the end of the year this year I noticed my oldest child was getting a little bored by the end of the day. He was getting through his seatwork quickly and acting out a little bit in the afternoon. As they get older I have found that they start needing more to keep them busy. 5 year olds and under learn well while playing with toys and exploring life, but I watched my oldest begin to want more of a challenge. I added a more in-depth reading curriculum by the end of the year and noticed a big difference. This coming year we will be adding in even more for him and being more structured with what he has to accomplish each day. I have found that when I relaxed this year and let him learn as he liked, he let me know when it was time for something more.

Mom caught a smile during seatwork

Mom caught a smile during seat work

4. A Schedule Helps, Actually it Really Helps

I am not a schedule kind of girl. I don’t like routine and I crave adventure and change. That has not been helpful to me as a homeschooling mom, at all. This was a tough lesson for me to learn, and I am still learning it. It seems that the older they get the more important it is to have a regular school schedule at home. I found that if I didn’t get up and get school done in the morning no one (myself included) felt like doing it in the afternoon and thus someone ended up frustrated and in tears. When I figured out that if schooling first was the routine there was a whole lot less revolt from everyone involved.

What my table needs to look like BEFORE lunch to have a successful day.

What my table needs to look like BEFORE lunch to have a successful day.

5. Sometimes I Need to Say No

I like to be busy, but I tend to overcommit myself. Volunteer at church? Sure! Volunteer to help organize an event? Sure! Speak at a conference? Why not? Babysit for a friend over their spring break? Sure! Swim lessons, Karate, Piano lessons, and field trips? Yes, of course! Do I want to join a homeschool co-op? Ye… Wait… when am I supposed to sleep or eat exactly?

I soon found myself involved in so many activities and involving my children in so many activities that we were all exhausted. This is still something I am working on, but as a homeschool mom, school has to be my absolute top priority accomplishment everyday otherwise I am going to feel like a failure and we will lose the routine of school first, play and extras second. The good news is that socialization is never an issue for our family, the bad news is that over-socialization is. So I have to really figure out what is most important for us to participate in.

Rainy day zoo trip

Rainy day zoo trip

My final thought is don’t give up if you had a bad year. I had two, but I am so glad I gave it one more shot. Homeschooling has been such an amazing thing for our family and I am so thankful for the life it lets us live. Not to mention the friends we all have made through the process. It may never be easy, but what part of parenting is? I am hopeful for another great year followed by at least 5 more reasons I had another successful year.

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I got one of those calls again this week. This time from an expectant mother. As her voice began to break she shared how she was feeling overwhelmed, underprepared, and stressed. How is she going to do it all? How is she going to know what to do or how to organize her time? Or how to breastfeed? Or how to use the right cloth diaper?

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You are enough, you have everything you need to be a wonderful mother. Do I need to say it again?

You are enough, you have everything you need. You are enough, you have everything you need.

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You don’t need to read a million parenting books or watch every documentary ever created on parenting or birth or breastfeeding. You don’t need every item on your baby registry or that new thing all the parenting experts are raving about. You don’t need to read every blog on the world wide web trying to decipher whose opinion is the right opinion.

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All your baby needs is you. Your voice, you smile, your songs, your scent, your snuggles, your love. Just you. You are enough.

Out of all the women in the world, you were chosen to be mother of your child. No one is better equipped or more prepared to raise your child than you are.

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There will be difficult times and sleepless nights and illnesses. There will be heartbreaks and uncertainties and unknowns. In the middle of all that I pray that you will hear the still small voice whispering to you that you have everything you need to be this child’s mommy. You were chosen just for them.

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So breathe new mama and trust your God given instincts that will come when your baby is born. Enjoy every second of those first few months because they will be gone in an instant. Breathe your little one in and believe that you are enough and you have everything your new baby needs. Your baby just needs you.
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