May 28, 2015

If I had only known then what I know now....

We've all uttered those words in moments of reflection.  Six years ago I was preparing to quit my job and stay home with The Boy.  Hubby and I prayed about this homeschooling thing for a year before taking the plunge, but it didn't become a reality until I turned in my notice.   
Advice new homeschool reflections

When I quit my job, we didn't know any homeschoolers personally. I didn't even have online support.  Although the online homeschool community is an amazing support system now, it was much smaller at the time.  My only experience with homeschoolers was through books I read for research purposes.

To say that things have changed would be a huge understatement.  If I had only known then what I know now! 

What would I tell myself about homeschool if I could go back? 

 1.  Homeschool Isn't School at Home. 

That saying is common now, but I wasn't aware of it when we started this journey.  Sure, I didn't know any homeschoolers when we started, but I knew lots of public and private school teachers.  Even though I read several books on homeschool methods and researched curriculum options before starting, I still thought homeschool, even on the preschool level, needed to mimic schools. 

homeschool school home reflections advice
Even after learning about Charlotte Mason and being drawn to her method before we started, I still gave The Boy worksheet after worksheet.  Other than workbooks, we watched educational videos and did crafts that lined up with holidays.  It didn't scar him, but it wasn't what I wanted and all because I thought homeschool had to be similar to the preschools I knew.

Six years later, I'd tell myself that homeschooling is a lifestyle and it's not about recreating what our kids can get somewhere else (click to tweet).  Homeschooling is different and beautiful (and loud and messy at times) and doesn't fit any mold out there.  Maybe that's what I love most about it. 

2.  Comparisons Will Get You Nowhere

Theodore Roosevelt once said that comparison is the thief of joy.  He nailed it, didn't he?  In the beginning, I couldn't shake the need to compare our homeschool to other schools.  Keeping up with the Joneses, or the public schools in this instance, takes a toll on a homeschool family rather quickly.  Since homeschool isn't school at home, it's absurd that there's so much pressure to measure up to something so different.  It's possible that this comparison trap is what kept me from implementing the things I love most about homeschooling in The Boy's younger years. 

homeschool comparisons advice new reflections
The comparisons have changed over time.  I don't think twice about homeschool versus public or private school comparisons now.  Now that we know other homeschoolers, there's still temptation to compare ourselves to others.  Whether it's discussion about the latest and greatest curriculum, standardized test results, or areas of giftedness, it's important to remember that no two homeschools are alike.  Each one has different parents, different kids, different circumstances.

Now, I'd tell myself that this is our race.  No one else can run it and we can't run another family's race (click to tweet).  We're going to do what we do best and not worry about what everyone else does. 

3.  Some Don't Understand and They Never Will. 

Some folks will never understand homeschooling and that's okay.  They never say it to my face, but most of our family and plenty of our friends think we're nuts for homeschooling, even after all this time.  Maybe they have preconceived notions about homeschooling. Maybe they loved school and can't understand why we'd want our kids to, ahem, miss out on it.  Maybe they simply don't want to support it because it goes against the grain.  Whatever the instance, all we can do is be ambassadors for homeschooling. 
homeschool critics reflections advice

There are critics, too, and they're not always quiet.  I've had too many people tell me that they think our homeschool isn't the norm and that most homeschoolers do nothing at all.  The assumption that there's no educating happening in most homes is insulting.  However, the critic I'll never forget showed up in the line at our local soup kitchen.  As The Boy served her dinner, a lady asked him where he attended school.  When he told her that we homeschool, her response was surprising.  She looked over at me and proceeded to share with us both that he should be "in a real school" and that it wasn't fair for him to miss out on socialization.  We all know how much homeschoolers love to talk about socialization, right?  Since this lady didn't make the connection that he was "socialized" enough to be there serving at seven years-old, it's doubtful that she'll ever be a homeschool advocate.  Once again, all we can do is be ambassadors. 

If I could go back, I'd give myself some warning that everyone won't be supportive of our homeschooling (click to tweet).  I'd also say that it doesn't matter what others think about what we're doing.  All we can do is follow God's call for our family and leave the rest to Him. 

What advice would you give yourself if you could turn back time?  Stop by iHomeschool Network's Advice to My Younger Self and see what other homeschoolers would say if they had the chance.   

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