With Memorial Day come and gone, summer vacation is officially upon us! And for some homeschool families out there, that means… absolutely nothing.
“What is summer vacation? We homeschool. We don’t do that here.”
Personally, I remember three or four years growing up where my homeschooled sister and I didn’t take summer vacation at all. I finished seventh grade on Friday and started eighth grade on Monday. We weren’t a super competitive homeschool family or anything. It was just a period of time when we needed to take the summer to finish up … multiple years in a row. Around that time, my mother had a new baby, we moved across country and then between a few houses, my dad started a new job, and there were many days when I was simply too much of a middle schooler to function properly, let alone write an essay. Life happened, and school didn’t fit neatly between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
Flexibility and following individual family and student rhythms is one of the benefits of homeschooling! Yet, when homeschool moms and dads start looking around to see how their schooling compares to the public or private school, they may feel insecure or even inadequate.
Today I want to slap a big fat NOPE on that negative comparison! You probably know not to compare yourself to others, but I know that even the strongest among us need encouragement.
I spoke with several homeschool mom friends of mine, asking them what encouragement they have for other homeschool parents or what they wish someone had said to them. These moms collectively have a range of homeschooled kids from preschoolers to high schoolers. I took note of how what they said overlapped and would like to pass it on to you all.
1) The kid comes first, not the work.
As a homeschool parent, your job is not just to teach your kid math or grammar. Your job is to raise the child!
That includes academics, but some days, the pencils have to be put away and you need to put off doing school to take care of the child’s mental health, help them deal with their emotional immaturity, or just make sure that they know they are valued even though they’re crazy right now! That may look like a four-day school week and a thirteen-month school year. It may look like taking off the entire month of December for the holidays. (My family did that growing up, and it was the best.) It may look like putting away the math books until tomorrow again because your kid did the assignment wrong for the fourth time, but they are NOT in the headspace to try again anytime soon.
Your child is worth the time you invest into who they are as human beings, not just how they perform academically.
2) You are enough, both with what you do know and what you don’t know.
You don’t have to be an expert in every field to effectively homeschool your child. It’s unreasonable to expect that! And it’s dumb when people say, “If you’re not a teacher, you shouldn’t teach your children.”
First, if you don’t know something about a subject, you will teach your kids how to learn by learning the subject yourself! This shows them how to learn, not just how to know.
Second, OUTSOURCE! Homeschooling does not mean kids are kept in a shed in Kansas with no electricity and everything is taught on a chalkboard from 1889! There are plenty of resources out there these days to help you educate your children at home for ANY subject you or your child struggle with. Search for them and use them! Science, math, history, reading, writing—by the way, I know of a GREAT writing curriculum that also offers a scoring service for middle and high school compositions—there are plenty of resources available for you and your student. Search until you find what fits you and your family.
You. Are. Enough.
3) You don’t have to be perfect to be good.
Each and every mom I spoke to said something to this effect. One mother in particular has a nine year old girl and a three year old boy, and they just started homeschooling this year. She said she was so excited and had been waiting to be able to do this for forever and she just knew it was going to be so great and they were going to love it—and it took exactly one meltdown to understand that things were not going to be bright and rosy for the rest of her life.
(By the way, she didn’t specify who had the meltdown: the three-year-old, the nine-year-old, or herself.)
Although you are enough, you are not perfect. Although your child is important, your child is not perfect. You may think that the perfect homeschool family has a pristine, set-apart schoolroom with postered walls and intricate record keeping and sharp #2 pencils and kids who are super enthusiastic for every subject they take—yeah, those people don’t exist. And if you are thinking of someone who has a life like that—yeah, they’re lying to you. Lying.
Everyone has meltdowns. Every student has a subject they are “behind” in and makes the parent think, “Oh no, I’m a failure because my twelve-year-old can’t write a complete sentence!” or something. Every family has a day, week, month, or year where things just don’t work smoothly at all. (Or a couple of years. Heyyyyy, middle school!)
You don’t have to have the perfect homeschool with the perfect students and the perfect teacher. Remember: you’re raising a child to be a holistic human being, and school is only a part of that. It’s okay if it’s a bit rocky.
I was watching an old episode of Frasier the other day in which the dad and (grown) son were bickering and not getting along in spite of all their efforts. When the son wanted to give up, the dad said, “Look, you want us to form some great father-son relationship, to make some connection? Well, that kind of thing takes a couple of years, not a couple of days!”
Remember: what you’re doing as a homeschool parent takes a couple of years, not a couple of days. Bear it out. Your child is worth it, and you are enough.
I hope this lifted your head today and as you continue on your homeschool journey.
What are some things that have encouraged you over the years, or what encouragement can you share with other homeschool parents?
By Athena Lester
Head of Curriculum and Scoring