10+ years into this home/life/school gig and the layers keep being peeled back and priorities shift and change. We now have three homeschooled high schoolers. I knew this day was coming but I am continually amazed that we've made it to this season of homeschooling. When we began, I had three-year-old twins and a highly energetic five-year-old. I was a deeply enthusiastic new homeschooling mama and had all the books, research, and Yahoo Groups (remember those?) to prove it.
Like most new homeschooling parents, we mainly focused on the three Rs and made sure we checked the socialization boxes because that's always the topic people ask about when you're first starting your homeschool journey.
Our 5 Core Values
As the years went by and my kids got older, our lives took several twists and turns. But homeschooling always remained our anchor. As I came into my own as a homeschooling parent, I realized that academics—while important—were not the main focus of our days.
Instead, the following areas have become our core values.
I know this seems obvious because when you homeschool you're choosing to spend MORE time with your people. And that probably means you have more time to work on your relationships.
As a home educator, I've had a front seat to each child's development, their learning styles, their strengths, and their weaknesses. I've been able to catch things that might have been missed had they been in a traditional school. I've been able to tailor our days and months based on what was happening in our lives.
With all the togetherness, it has been critical that my kids (based on their personalities) get breaks from each other. Every family approaches things differently, and the most important thing I've learned over the years is that there has to be growth, trust, and healthy boundaries when it comes to relationships.
2- Mental and Emotional Health
This area has always been important to me but it's not something that was discussed in the homeschooling circles I was involved in at the beginning. Yes, there were discussions about how parents can't pour from an empty cup, etc. but true mental health seemed to be something you didn't bring up at the weekly park day.
I know there can also be a (false) feeling that when you homeschool, your kids are in a bubble. This bubble protects them from ALL the worries and concerns that other parents might have like bullying, depressions, friendship issues, and more.
Could we pop this bubble? Could we please remove the stigma that homeschooling your kids 100% protects them from all the bad things? And how about we remove the pressure for homeschooling parents to do and be all the things to all the people all the time at the expense of our own mental health?
When we push mental health to the back burner, not only do academics suffer, but relationships do. If you or your child needs help, don't be afraid to ask for it. Tell a partner, tell a good friend, talk to your medical professional or a family member.
3- Physical Health and Wellness
Raise your hand if you have a kid who simply can not sit still? Yup. Me too.
I taught my oldest to read and count by tens as he bounced on a huge rubber ball all around the living room. Most days, my kids played outside or around the house, then they did seatwork.
As they moved through middle school and high school, we've added competitive sports, EMT cadet training, camp counseling, working at a farm, and always encouraging them to JUST GO OUTSIDE—YOU'LL FEEL BETTER, I PROMISE!
Our family has also dealt with a variety of health issues over the last 10-15 years, so physical health and wellness have been priorities for us. I've been able to spend time preparing healing foods for meals and visit doctors and specialists without fear of missing too much school.
As a homeschool parent, my kids see me, on a daily basis, taking care of myself. We've had many discussions about the importance of doing this and it's something I am passionate about helping other mothers do as well.
4- Life Skills
My truth? I'd rather my three teens know how to cook, take care of themselves, and have a handle on life skills over academics. From an early age, my kids have been in the kitchen with me, or at the grocery store, or the farmers market.
Keeping our house (mostly) clean, doing laundry, fixing things around the house, having bank accounts, and earning money are all things we've focused on over the years. Don't be afraid to spend as much time on these skills as needed. Weave them into your everyday life.
If you have little ones, point out why you're doing things and how they can help. As kids get older, back away and let them step up to tackle things on their own. Let your kids take the lead. You don't have to do IT ALL, friend. Show them, ask for help, accept the help, and thank me later.
5- Community Service
There are so many ways you and your family can serve the community and I recommend making it a part of your homeschool adventure. There are things you can do from home, things you can do in your local community, and also ways you can serve the world beyond your own city or state.
My oldest has volunteered at our local library for three years. He then progressed to a volunteer camp counselor (he's now on staff and getting paid!). We've done local service projects (my twins have done these via their homeschool basketball team).
When my children were younger, we collected food for our church's food bank each month. They've also raised money for various charities, and more. When we can help our children understand the world beyond the walls of our home, we're serving them well.
My oldest, now 16, is training to be an Emergency Medical Technician and wants to be in public service. It's been amazing to watch him grown and bloom over the years.
Keeping Connected to Core Values
I’m not saying that we’ve got everything figured out. Not even by a long shot. When things feel challenging or overwhelming, I try to come back to these core values. My connection with these core values, as a homeschool parent, is of utmost importance.
If I can model for my teens the importance of taking care of themselves, learning life skills, and supporting our community, then all the other things can be the cherries on top.
What are your core values? How do you incorporate them into your home/school days?