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The First Year

Dear Beginning of the School Year Melanie,

You think you’re ready. You’ve prepped yourself by reading homeschool blogs, talking to homeschool moms, buying subscriptions to online education sites, printables sites, buying enough books and curriculum to serve an entire classroom of children, more than enough for the four you have. You have organized bins, arranged folders, assigned daily chores, figured out a schedule.

I’m here to give you the good news – you survived.

But, the reality check is this: it is not going to be pretty.  It is not going to be like Little House on the Prairie, where the children are always respectful and you never need to raise your voice, the chores are always done and the smallness of the house creates a sense of family and home.

Nope.

It’s going to be like Little Chaos in the Trailer Park. Just go ahead and assume that complete cleanliness is not going to happen (ever), and pants on your three year old might not either.

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(On the plus side, your blogging regularity will increase, as it is cheaper than therapy and has a lower caloric impact than chocolate.)

Here are a few things to be ready for:

You will be frustrated.

You will be annoyed with your children.

Elementary school age humor is just not funny, and feigning laughter over the same (nonsensical) chicken joke will drive you insane. No hyperbole there, you will be nutterbutters before Christmas.

Being with your kids all the time is going to feel like…being with your kids All. The. Time.

But, it only actually counts as being with them, if you are with them, meaning without the computer on or the phone in your hand. The most rewarding times of the school year, will come when you are not distracted and are fully focused – most rewarding for you, most rewarding for them. I promise.

And there will be rewarding moments.

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Every time your child grasps a new concept, you are going to feel like a hero. You’ll probably post a status about it, or at the very least, call someone and humblebrag. He just taught himself, really. I have no idea where he gets it. Guess we’ll have to start the next grade up’s curriculum…

And…every time your child fails to grasp a new concept, you are going to be convinced that she is slow, or behind, or falling back, behind her public school peers. There are gaping holes in her knowledge that only you could have prevented, but you didn’t. You will lose sleep, probably post a status about it, or blog about all the ways that because she forgot that a nickle was worth five cents, you now need to seriously reconsider your entire homeschool curriculum or your plans for the next year.

But, the truth is, you are not a hero and you are not a loser. You are a guide, a mentor, a parent, a role model, but most importantly, a witness. In homeschooling, you are given the gift of witnessing your child grow and learn, and that sometimes means watching them forget easy answers that make you wince, but it also means seeing them ace tests on things that you don’t even remember teaching (because you might not have actively tried to at all.)

You can’t learn for them, and you can’t teach them to love learning by drilling things into their heads with meaningless repetition and shaming when they fail.

And the same goes for you. You’re not failing.

You’re learning too.

1404621_10151770233947029_197878428_oEvery day will start to feel like a school day, and every day will not feel like a school day at all.

When you begin a life of homeschooling, you are choosing to bring the education process home – whether that means sitting around a table with workbooks and organized cubby spaces, or if it means choosing to let the kids do math, sitting in their pajamas, upside down on the couch. It means you are going to begin to approaching every mundane, routine day, with new eyes and ears. You are going to begin to see learning happen, and you are going to like it, thus, you are going to find ways to incorporate it everyday and everywhere. At the Dollar Store. At the dentist. On long car rides when one question leads to another and another, you’ll find yourself discussing the rotation of the earth and how night and day happen, how gravity works, and how…there are so many things that we can go home and look up on the internet, because these questions don’t get any easier.

There is no bell, there aren’t any walls. Life is learning.

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You will need to learn to say yes more, to your children who want finish just one more chapter or one more LEGO structure, before starting math – but also to your friends who want to go out once in awhile and laugh and talk and see that you’re all still in this together.

Community is so important.

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You will need to say no more, to negative voices in your head, to incoming work inquiries, to filling every “free” moment with busyness…to the very same schedule that you worked so hard to organize in September.

You will learn to embrace the calm, the quiet mornings when so much imagination is happening that actual work won’t start until after lunch. You will.

You will forget Foodie Fridays, only to be reminded (repeatedly) by your son.

You will let chores go to the wayside, no energy left for the battle.

You will learn let a lazy day be just that.

And you will look back on a warm June evening and consider how far your children have come.

And then, you’ll be more surprised by how far you have, too.

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You still hear the questioning voices, nudging at you while you try to sleep. Have you done enough? Are your children keeping up with their peers? Is everyone doing okay, emotionally, academically, spiritually? 

But, Mom tells me that she still lays awake at night, wondering how her children are doing, praying over us all. So, you can be sure those voices aren’t homeschool-specific. They are the still-of-the-night cacophony of motherhood, and they will linger until forever, probably.

Motherhood is like life, like how you are beginning to understand this whole homeschool thing, one year down.

You’re never failing, you’re just learning as you go.

Take heart in that.

Sincerely,

Exhausted (but Kind of a Little Proud of her Kids and Herself) End of the School Year Melanie

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Melanie,
    This was my first year of homeschooling too. I have 5 sons, ages 7, 6, 4, 2 1/2 and 15 months. You so beautifully captured what I have felt too. The joy & laughter living in the space as frustration & worry. As a friend told “beginning of the year Danielle”, “It will be the most beautiful hard you’ve ever done.”. That about sums it up.

    • Oh, I love that. Beautiful hard, what a perfect description.

      Thanks for sharing (and congrats to you on surviving your first year as well!)

  2. Love the picture where your child imagines heaven…the heart, mind, and soul of a child is so profound…I love the depth found there.

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