Homeschooling, Motherhood

What I’ve Learned From Homeschooling (+ Why We’re Calling It Quits)

I’ve officially been homeschooling my oldest (who’s in kindergarten) for more than one school term (almost a trimester at this point!), and I’ve gotta say, I’ve learned a LOT.

By and large, it’s been a very positive experience for both me and for my daughter Raven, but we have officially decided to call it quits at the end of this month / beginning of December and enroll her in the public school.

Here’s why:

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  1. She has requested that we enroll her in the “big school” rather than continue on with homeschool.

One day last month, I took her with me to the local elementary school to meet with a kindergarten teacher I know personally with the hopes that I could make sure we were on track with what I was teaching her and such. Upon leaving, Raven turned to me and said, “Mom, I think I’ve made a big mistake. I want to go to the big school with the other kids! I don’t mind if I have to wear a mask all day!”

Something that made our decision to temporarily homeschool much easier was the fact that Raven was really on board with it—she was reluctant to have to wear a mask all day, and she was excited about the prospect of so much one-on-one time with Mom.

Sure, I’m positive part of the reaction after we went to the school was just plain ol’ FOMO, but to be honest, I was a bit relieved–the original plan had NEVER included me homeschooling her for ANY part of her education, so a small part of me was a bit worried that she would be reluctant to go to the public school at all after we’d tried homeschooling.

Also, while I know plenty of homeschooling parents manage to help their children have many rich and varied social experiences, with the unique circumstances of this year coupled with the fact that my daughter has always been a definite extrovert, I think she is really missing the social connection with other kids her age, and school is one of the few ways she can really even get that right now.

Honestly, I think she will completely thrive in the public school system, and I just hope that she doesn’t resent that we waited so long to put her in!

2. Despite my best time and behavior management efforts, it has still been beyond hard to try and do super focused homeschooling time every day with the two younger kids being around.

If we had a long-term homeschooling plan (meaning, that we planned to homeschool all our kids throughout their educational careers), I wouldn’t worry about how haphazard many of our days are due to the constant needs of the younger two siblings. However, because we have always planned to enroll her in the public school system at some point in the not-too-distant future, there has definitely been a stress on my shoulders about making sure she’s keeping up with what the other kindergartners are doing in class.

I also feel that it’s a bit unfair to her to have our days and schedule be so all over the place, especially with us recently closing on our new home and getting everything ready for our big move at the end of the month. There will definitely be a great feeling of relief knowing that each day, she’s at least getting some focused educational time that isn’t constantly being interrupted.

3. The plan was always to evaluate the current schooling situation once we moved to our new school district and then decide from there.

Homeschooling made much more sense during this short season that we were between houses and living with family—it didn’t make much sense to enroll her in the local school here for an indeterminate length of time, especially once you took into account that the first two weeks are entirely spent individually testing each student anyway.

Now that we know exactly when we’re moving to our new home (at the end of November), we have a definite timeline we can go by. We also made sure to research the current schooling situation in our new county, and we were pleased to find out that it’s in-person five times a week for kindergarten.

When the school year originally started, it was only twice a week in-person and three times a week online, which would have driven me bonkers — I knew I would much rather come up with my own curriculum and have us do our own things rather than have to worry about doing remote learning on someone else’s schedule. But with every day being an in-person day at the school, I feel much better about sending her. (And, because I know people will be curious—as of now, we are not too worried about sending her with the current pandemic situation. The county we are moving to is very rural and the case count is relatively low in that part of the state, with there being no reported cases on the elementary level, as far as I’m aware. Obviously, if things drastically change in the coming months, we’ll reevaluate.)

So there you go—a very in-depth summary of why we’ve decided to go ahead and enroll her in the public school system as soon as we’ve moved down.

Now on to what we’ve learned from this grand experiment!

Lessons Learned From Homeschooling

Homeschooling is time-intensive!

I don’t know why this was such a revelation for me, but it was. Perhaps because I was comparing it to my previous experience teaching 7th graders (and because I HAD previous teaching experience and therefore maybe was a bit overconfident at the beginning), I was somehow getting it into my head that since I wouldn’t be having 150 essays and tests to grade on a weekly basis and three different subjects/classes to prepare for, the prep and execution would be fairly easy and require minimal prep/outside work on my part.

NOT SO.

The few weeks where I tried to get by on minimal prep work on my part, the homeschooling went TERRRRRRRIBLY — transitions from one subject to the next were messy (which invited distraction and interrupted concentration), I was constantly running back and forth between the computer to print stuff out and our homeschooling area, and on the rare occasion when we actually got uninterrupted time to really focus, I realized quickly that the bare-bones amount I’d prepped lasted us maybe 20 minutes.

So I quickly realized that I was actually going to have to, you know, put some solid effort into this.

On top of the prep taking longer than I’d planned on, the execution of it often took a lot longer than expected as well, mostly just because I am constantly dealing with my younger two children needing or demanding my time and attention. On the days we’re able to have undivided focus and I’ve prepped really well, our homeschooling takes around an hour to an hour and a half. Most of the time, though? It takes more like three hours all spread out throughout various points of the day, basically whenever I can squeeze it in.

So, like most worthwhile things in life, plan on it taking longer than you think it will.

Having younger-than-school-age kids around is TOUGH for homeschooling

I realize that having multiple school-age children to homeschool would come with its own challenges, but I think I would infinitely prefer that scenario to our current one, which is where the two younger siblings are really too young for ANY kind of formal schooling. Sure, my two-year-old can color and participate in some of the fun, and we can include the baby with us as we read books aloud together, but by and large, it’s just really, really hard to try and juggle the demands of the younger children with the demands of homeschooling my oldest.

The Better You Plan, The Better the Week

This goes along with what I was saying at the beginning, but I learned pretty quickly that if I tried to rush through and do a bare-minimum effort to plan the week, things really just didn’t go well. For an effective homeschool week, I have to put in at least a couple hours of focused prep time, which includes planning out a daily lesson in each subject, printing out all the necessary pages, gathering materials, etc.

Once I realized how much prep work I was going to have each week and how much time I was spending trying to find free resources, I finally gave in and bought a few more things to supplement the $160 homeschool “starter kit” I purchased in August. It just got to the point when it wasn’t worth my time to be spending hours every week trying to find the resources I needed, so I purchased a few more books through Evan-Moor (science, handwriting, geography, seasonal activities, and phonics).

Themed Weeks are the Way to Go

Now, I didn’t do this EVERY week (even weeks when I planned really well!), but the weeks when I took the extra time and initiative to plan all the lessons and subjects around a theme were just plain FUN. Take our pumpkin week, for example—we did the easy pumpkin patch painting I mentioned in this post, we checked out a huge stack of pumpkin-themed picture books from the library, my mom made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with the kids, and we did pumpkin-themed math activities. All in all, themed weeks usually don’t take *that* much more effort, but they make the process much more exciting for both of us!

Expect Hiccups, and Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Here’s the thing — even though I’ve read from multiple homeschooling mamas that some days, you just need to call it when it’s not working or to just give yourself grace if there are some days when homeschooling just doesn’t happen, that doesn’t make it an easy thing to put into practice. There have been several days (about one every two weeks) when we just haven’t been able to do any homeschooling, either because of closing on the new house or getting ready to move, or someone being sick, etc., and I’ve always felt a bit guilty over it. As a little more time has gone on, I’ve gotten better about just accepting that some days don’t go as planned and going with the flow, and I figured that as long as we are generally consistent 90% of the time, there’s room for some misses every now and then.

When It Goes Well, It’s Pretty Darn Magical πŸ™‚

There’s a reason I went into teaching for my undergraduate degree, but often, that magic and that thrill of seeing someone learn something new for the first time was eclipsed by all the other things that got in the way (prep, grading, paperwork, frustrating faculty meetings, etc.). However, when it’s just you and the students (or in this case, me and my daughter) and you’re both in the zone and concepts start to click, it. is. MAGIC.

It’s because of those magical moments that a part of me will be a little sad to send her off to “The Big School”– I’ll miss the pleasure of knowing that it was ME who taught her this or that, or ME that got to see the connection made for the first time.

However, I’m also excited for this next adventure for our big girl — she’s growing up so darn fast, but I know that she’s ready for this. And in the long run, I think it will be for the best all around.