Lately, I have been following a few blogs that bring up homeschooling from a “been there, done that” perspective.  These are great Catholic Moms who tried homeschooling for a while and decided it wasn’t for them, and that’s fine.  My mother also sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal about a book called The Year of Learning Dangerously written by a mom who homeschooled her daughter for a year, that it was a good year, and that she’d never do it again.

That brings me to my topic.  Homeschooling is hard, especially if you have a big family or babies or preschoolers or you’re taking children out of school after a few years of being used to having a few hours of peace and quiet or you’re going from 2 incomes to 1 in order to do it.  So when is it not hard, you may ask?  But then, almost everything worth doing is challenging, isn’t it?

I am not saying that homeschooling is the only way to provide a good education for your children.  Not at all.  It is the way my husband and I (and the older kids too at this point) have chosen, but there are lots of other reasonable options out there.  Of course, I wouldn’t have this website if I weren’t biased toward homeschooling as a very good option and, at least some of the time, the best option.

Lots of really great people out there talk about making the decision to homeschool a year at a time, and I think that’s a good idea overall.  However, what I really want to point out is that the first year of homeschooling is the hardest by far.  Here’s why:

  1. You have to get used to having your children around you 24/7.
  2. You lose a lot of time that used to be available for other things.
  3. You discover that you often have to decide which is more important at the moment–spelling or doing a load of laundry.  The answer varies day by day.
  4. The kids never leave (except for the 15 or so outside activities each week), so their toys/books/art supplies/science experiments are always there.
  5. If your kids were in school before you started homeschooling and unless you have already won their respect at a level far beyond the average parent in today’s society, you may find they don’t take you very seriously as a teacher.  After all, you’re Mom (or Dad), and in our society that carries less weight than the real teacher in a real school.

These are real problems, but it does get easier, or maybe–and better still–we get stronger.  We as parents grow in virtue and organization and die to self as we go about this homeschooling adventure.  We have to, and that’s good.  Look back at your own life and ask if you could have handled whatever your toughest challenge is now when you were 10 years younger.  I bet most people who read this will say that there are things they do or put up with now that, while not easy, are possible now through God’s grace and their own efforts as well.

For that reason, I suggest that instead of giving it a year the first year you homeschool, commit to homeschooling for two years instead and then revisit the decision every year after that.  This is, of course, assuming no enormous change happens in your life in the intervening time.  I think you will find that the second year of homeschooling is so much easier than the first.

If you’re just starting out, you may find this hard to believe, but by the 2nd year, you will probably find that:

  1. You have to get used to having your children around you 24/7. You are enjoying your children’s company, and they are enjoying yours at least a lot of the time.
  2. You lose a lot of time that used to be available for other things.  That other stuff you used to have time to do (like write something for your homeschool website regularly–ha, ha) doesn’t seem as important as it used to.
  3. You discover that you often have to decide which is more important at the moment–spelling or doing a load of laundry.  The answer varies day by day.  The children are capable of helping a lot more than you knew before, and that it’s good for them, and also that the house really doesn’t have to be perfect.
  4. The kids never leave, so their toys/books/art supplies/science experiments are always there.  Yep, but see #3.
  5. If your kids were in school before you started homeschooling and unless you have already won their respect at a level far beyond the average parent in today’s society, you may find they don’t take you very seriously as a teacher.  After all, you’re Mom (or Dad), and in our society that carries less weight than the real teacher in a real school.   By halfway through the second year, your 7-year-old will probably stop saying, “But Mom, Mrs. Johnson said….”  Also, you will have figured out that obedience is actually a really important virtue for them to learn, and they will have started learning that Mom (or Dad) really means what she says even when she isn’t yelling.

May your homeschooling adventure be full of the peace that surpasses understanding.  Really.

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