Well, we did it: we completed our first year of homeschooling. When we started down this road, we didn’t really know what to expect: would the kids take to it? Would they turn into potatoes? Would we face the silent (or not so silent) judging of public schooling friends, family, and strangers?
These questions weighed pretty heavily as we started the year. But thankfully, it went better than I anticipated, even if there were a few hiccups along the way. Here are nine things I learned during our first year of homeschooling:
1. Kids’ books help me learn, too! Children’s books are more likely to give you the “big beats” of a subject that you maybe should have learned the first time around. Take history, for example: I want our kids to see that history is important. But in trying to teach this, I realized I didn’t pick up a particularly robust understanding of Canadian history in public school. So during our library and bookstore trips, I’d often grab a few books for myself. Among the things I learned? For one month, William Lyon Mackenzie was President of the Republic of Canada.
2. I loved seeing so many milestones firsthand. It was really cool to see Abigail learning to carry numbers, start to understand fractions, and begin memorizing her multiplication tables. Hannah was able to repeat back what she’d learned from our study on the ear. Hudson knows most of his letters and numbers, and points them out whenever he sees them. I would hate having missed all of this.
3. I realized my expectations were unrealistic (sometimes). Sometimes I picked work that I thought was going to be easy, but was not appropriate for the kids’ age levels. I had to apologize to Abigail for giving her a spelling list that was way too advanced for her. I also had to scale back my expectations of Hannah, who currently can really only do about an hour (tops) of concentrated schoolwork. I also had to deal with the disappointment of Hannah not liking the McGuffey Primer we purchased. (Sorry, she didn’t not like it—she hated it.)
4. Bible time was not a given. We know it’s important to teach our kids the Bible, but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me that Bible time was something that should be a part of our regular school routine. (Maybe we can blame that on my public school upbringing.) It was really helpful when Aaron brought home a copy of XTB, a daily Bible reading and activity book for kids ages 7-11 from The Good Book Company. Abigail’s really enjoying it so far, and we’re going to stick with it into the new school year.
5. Finding the right curriculum is challenging—but not for a lack of options. When I started researching homeschooling, one mom told me, “Don’t go to a homeschool convention. You will cry. I did.”
I’m glad I listened to her advice. There are literally millions of options out there—some good, some not so much. For example, I was super-excited about a zoology curriculum that was story-based. It had great reviews and the samples looked promising. But as we started working through it, I saw the story was poorly written, they had some major geography fails (seriously, they put Quebec in Manitoba on a map!), and the data sheets were a chore. My kids learned more from watching Wild Kratts on Netflix (don’t judge).
We ended up going with a hodge-podge of different resources, and it worked out pretty well for us. We had the Complete Canadian Curriculum as our foundation and supplemented with a bunch of other resources, including SpellingCity.com and Khan Academy. We even started doing Latin together, using Visual Latin as our curriculum (it’s super fun!).
6. Belonging to a co-op is helpful, but it is also a job. As first time homeschoolers, it was helpful for my children to be able to meet other home-educated kids and for me to get to know other parents. What I didn’t expect was how much work would be involved in teaching courses (parents are expected to teach three per year in our group)! By the end, I was pretty stressed as I taught our yearbook course which wound up having a lot of coordinating, following up and generally chasing people to get their work done. So there’s that.
7. No one is judging me. Really. No one cares when we get on the bus and go to the library on a weekday (with a stop at Starbucks on the way). No one freaks out about me setting up a beach cabana at the park on a Wednesday morning so the kids can eat raisins in the shade. I’ve had people come and ask questions before, but no one has ever accosted me. So, hurray!
8. I could take more breaks. There were days when the best thing to do when the kids were being super-whiny (“My hands are too tired to do school!”) or passive aggressive that we should have closed the books and went for a nature walk. Sometimes we did. But I probably could have done it more often.
9. When you’re done, it’s okay to be done. We ended up finishing our work before public school officially ended, and I was fretting because I didn’t know what to do. Aaron said, “Emily, you’re done. You can stop now.”
“Really? But there’s a week left before the public schools let out.”
“Who cares? You taught the material you wanted to cover, and then some. You can seriously stop now.” So I did and we transitioned into a more relaxed daily routine for the summer, with reading and Bible time, and educational computer games. After all, we don’t want to be rusty for the fall, right?
So that was our first year of homeschooling. I was really nervous going in—I worried that I would turn our kids into potatoes; that they wouldn’t learn anything and that they’d hate it. Thankfully I was wrong. Abigail loved her first year in our new set up. Hannah liked it more than she lets on (I hope). And Hudson’s just happy to be here.
Onward to year two!