When you've been doing something for a long time, you have the gift or perspective. You have the gift of looking back to see what worked, and what didn't, and, if you're lucky, you can share what you learned with others.
My oldest is entering his last year of high school. I often feel like we just started this homeschool journey, but here we are. I've made oodles of mistakes and missteps. I've questioned our choices on more than one occasion, especially during challenging seasons of life. But if I'm being honest, I wouldn't change anything. Well, almost anything.
I'm sharing three things I learned about homeschooling the hard way in hopes I can shine some light and encourage others who are either starting out with homeschooling or perhaps right in the thick of it.
It's not about you.
Just because something might work for you and how you'd like to learn doesn't mean it will work for your child.
I've been pretty open about my family's homeschooling journey, both in blog posts the last several years, during podcast interviews, Instagram posts, and in conference presentations that I've done over the last several years. I often joke that my oldest child is my polar opposite. I mean, we look very much alike and I couldn't deny he was mine if I tried. But goodness we have very different ways of learning. I am a book learner and love to read and take notes. Overall, I loved school and college and thrived in a more traditional setting. My son? The survey said, "NO!"
I taught him to read while he bounced on a ball. He would take apart things just for fun and watch any DVD he could find about trucks, firefighters, community workers, and garbage that we could find. He spent hours using his imagination. He loved audiobooks, running around outside, and letting me know (and anyone who would listen) what he liked and what he didn't.
Spoiler alert–he hasn't changed.
As I became more in tune with how he learned best and also how I could present information in ways that worked for my personality as well (also important), we managed to find strike a balance. He spoke up a few years ago when he was struggling with math (and I was struggling to teach it too). We "hired " grandma (a former high school math teacher), and she taught him math for four years.
He has volunteered or worked since he was 11. He loves to be out in the real world experiencing life. He parlayed his interests in paramedics and community service into a career path.
Would he have been able to do all of these things in a traditional school setting? I'm not so sure.
Would have been able to do all of these things had I insisted he homeschooled in a certain way that looked more "school-y "? Possibly, but I do know there would have been a lot more resistance, pushback, and relationship issues.
Homeschool burnout is real.
And it can be really challenging.
Let's acknowledge that there isn't a clearcut definition of homeschool burnout. But when you experience it, you know it. It might sneak up on you or it might come rushing through the front door on a random Thursday.
For me, homeschool burnout has happened a few times over the last decade. It's often paired with other difficult life situations such as health issues or moving. But not always. When I speak with other homeschooling parents about this type of burnout, it's often related to spending so much time just homeschooling.
Hear me out, friend. You've got to have outside hobbies, interests, and time spent away from all things homeschooling. Even if you love, love, love homeschooling, your brain, body, and heart need to be nurtured in other ways. If you're planning to homeschool for a long time, you've got to pace yourself and recognize the burnout symptoms. Can you outsource some classes (I always recommend this when possible)? Take a week or three off? Get away by yourself for a night? Check-in with yourself. Check-in with your family. Don't ignore the signs and seek support.
There are no homeschool guarantees.
Homeschooling can't guarantee anything, so let's not put that pressure on ourselves (or our children).
I hesitated to include this last one. I am clearly a vocal proponent of home education. I write about, speak about it, and share about it nearly every day.
But here's the thing: homeschooling isn't perfect and the purpose of homeschooling isn't to crank out perfect kids. It doesn't completely shield our kids from hurt, bullying, and a host of other life situations that can be difficult to navigate. Homeschooling doesn't guarantee full scholarships to ivy league schools, straight As, the "best' job (whatever that means), or that our kids (especially our teens) won't struggle at all.
But neither does public school. There are no guarantees for any type of eduction.
When we view home education as a perfect or only solution to raising and educating our kids, it feels like throwing all of our eggs into one handmade homeschool craft basket. I certainly don't need (or want) that kind of pressure.
Did I have certain expectations for what my kids would be doing after they graduate? You bet. But here's the thing—it's not my life to live.
Our oldest son is pursuing a completely different path that (for now) doesn't include attending a four-year college. 5-years-ago me might have freaked out a bit (okay, a lot). I might have seen it as a letdown on the homeschool front—as if I didn't do enough or push enough. What it actually shows is that he's had time and space to grow and explore and focus on his interests so that he can create a life that he loves and that lights him up.
So while I'm still nervous about him being this close to being in the next phase of his life, I'm also proud, relieved, overjoyed, and amazed.
It's a whole new world being on this side of the homeschool experience, friends. And even though we still have a few more years left with our younger two, our journey is coming to an end sooner than later. Learning things the hard way always brings forth important lessons and growth. And for that, I'm grateful.