We survived our first year of homeschooling! As I sit here preparing for year two, I had the idea to recap what we learned during our first year. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you already know our reasons for choosing to homeschool. I promised myself to remain open to all options. I would even be open to trying public school in the future if it seems like the right fit at any point.
Being a parent is hard, and making parenting decisions is really hard. It’s hard to know if you are making the right choice for your children in every situation. All we can do is use the information we can gather to make the best decision for each different child at a given time, and then be open to changing course later if a different option becomes a better fit. For us that means that for the coming school year, Kai will continue homeschool and Alana will finish out preschool at an amazing school that we love. We will be making some changes, however, and you’ll learn about what those are below.
What We Learned During Our First Year of Homeschooling
1. The time commitment is not what you think it is.
While I already knew from being homeschooled when we lived overseas during my childhood that homeschooling doesn’t take all day, I still wasn’t sure what the time commitment was going to look like for us. Having never homeschooled a child before, I really didn’t know anything. I think it’s safe to say that the daily time commitment is always going to vary depending on several factors. Those factors include what you’re working on that day, what grade the child is in, if you’re homeschooling multiple children, and if they take an idea and run with it.
What I can say about our first year of homeschooling is that our actual sit-down-schoolwork part of the day took equal or less time than some of my friends spent in the school pick up car line each day.
2. Having drop-off programs is important to us.
I knew before we started homeschooling that I wanted to have Kai attend some drop-off programs. We didn’t choose to homeschool so we can shelter our children. We want them to have experiences separate and away from us. It’s important to me that our children stay comfortable and confident being places without us and become independent human beings. Because they both have gone to preschool, that’s no problem for them, but I want to keep it that way.
Thankfully, our community has so many options available for homeschoolers. I was able to enroll Kai in a drop-off physical education program where he stayed for three hours every Friday and learned a ton of different sports.
Was it enough? For us, no. For more than one reason, which I’ll address as we go through this list, we decided we need more drop-off programs going into year two of homeschooling. I have found some wonderful options that we are excited about.
3. We love the ability to move ahead, or stay behind.
Because Kai had an amazing Pre-K teacher, he was already reading, writing, and doing math before we began homeschooling for Kindergarten. He quickly excelled in math, while he was not as enthusiastic about reading. I had purchased a Kindergarten curriculum that was complete with all daily lesson plans for the entire year. However, he was just bored with the math. He had already done it and wasn’t being challenged.
After talking with some more experience homeschool friends, I realized I could just move him ahead in math and we ended up quickly moving into first grade math. I love the flexibility of using a curriculum as a guide, but not feeling stuck in it. In a school setting, most students have to stay right around the same place and move ahead as a group. A perk to homeschooling is that you have the flexibility to spend longer in areas they may struggle, not rushing them to figure it out, and speed ahead in the things that easily click for them.
4. Homeschooled children have no issues being “social”.
As homeschooling becomes more and more popular, a lot of the stigmas are falling away. However, there are still people who believe that homeschooled children are anti-social and “weird”. I have a confession to make: In the back of my mind, I was a little worried my kids might become a bit anti-social or “weird” myself. What I have learned is quite the opposite. Through joining so many homeschool programs and communities, I have been able to meet tons of homeschooled children of all ages. They are some of the most out-going, confident, friendly and easy-going kids I have ever met. Just like there is no one “type” of kid in public school, there isn’t a “type” of homeschooled kid.
5. I still need time for me.
As you might imagine since you are reading a blog post on my website, I am a work-at-home mom. I run this blog, and have other jobs as well. While a lot of my work can be done here and there throughout the day, even some from my phone, I do need focused computer time without interruptions.
I also really love to exercise and need that to be a part of my daily life. It makes me a better wife and mother all around. During our first year of homeschooling, it was a struggle to work or exercise. Now, full disclaimer, I wasn’t exercising most of the year because of our surprise pregnancy, emergency appendectomy while pregnant, and then baby Koa’s birth. However, as I am getting back into it I want to be sure that I consider that when making our schedule.
I would say this was my biggest struggle during our first year of homeschooling, was not having any time for myself, not even time to work. For the coming year, I have taken this into consideration and we’re making adjustments accordingly. This is another factor in knowing I wanted more drop-off options, because that gives Kai more time for special programs, outside teacher influence, socializing time with other kids, and time for me to work and exercise.
Outside of drop-off programs, I have also talked to friends who are starting to homeschool about swapping days with the kids. We have talked about having a set day each week that we each take the others’ kids for a few hours and let them do something educational together, and have play time together. This would be helping each other out to give us each some time for ourselves, and give the kids a sort of study partner.
6. It’s easy to catch up.
Our first year of homeschooling certainly did not go as I envisioned when I was dreaming it up in my head early last summer. When we first decided to homeschool we were not planning on having any more children, my husband had two week-days off each week, and my freelance business was doing well.
By the time it actually came time to start our first year of homeschool, everything had changed. I was in morning sickness mode with our surprise baby brewing. On top of that, my husband’s schedule had changed so he only had one week-day off each week, which gave me less help. To top it off, my freelance work had slowed. This caused me to need to find more jobs to keep up the same amount of income. Then came an emergency appendectomy. I was forced to take time off from everything, and that put a short pause on homeschool.
Fast forward a few months later and baby Koa joined our family, putting another pause to homeschool studies. But guess what? It was all totally fine. Kai kept up with reading and writing practice each day, and the rest we caught up on. Truthfully, it was a blessing for Kai to be able to just process the transition of a new baby in the house without having to worry about his schoolwork for a couple of weeks. We adjusted and regrouped.
We ended up finishing our curriculum for the year earlier than expected, even with all of that chaos! It was actually fun to sit with Kai and show him what we had left to work through, and set a target date to finish it all. Some days when we didn’t have any other plans, we doubled up on work to get it done. He decided he wanted to finish before Alana finished preschool that year. We had fun with it, and it was all perfectly fine. I learned that I love the flexibility of homeschooling.
7. Having a community is key.
If I hadn’t joined a co-op, I may not be homeschooling still. I truly believe that having that community made all the difference. When you join a co-op you meet so many other homeschool moms who are in all different stages. Some will be brand new like I was, and some have been doing this for a long time. Having that community to learn from and be encouraged by was key to our success. Our co-op is one thing we will stick with for sure.
Outside of your local community, reading books by other homeschool moms is a great way to find encouragement and inspiration. Here are some great reads that every homeschool mom should know about.
8. I am watching my child become a creative thinker.
I didn’t realize this would happen so soon or so easily, and maybe part of it is just who he is, but I have loved to watch Kai become such a creative thinker this year. I have seen him take lessons that I teach him and run with them, spending the rest of the day creating things to go along with it.
One example: We were learning about weight and balance. Once he understood the concept I was explaining to him, he got excited about an idea he had. He then created his own balance scale using a clothes hanger, two empty Pringles cans and hemp rope. I love that homeschooling allows for time to take a topic and run with it, and come back to the rest later.
9. Know your requirements ahead of time.
Each state has different requirements for homeschooled children. In fact, each county can differ as well. In our particular county, we have to file an intent to homeschool. Then, each year before the anniversary date of the day we filed, we have to turn in an evaluation form. The form has to be filled out by a certified teacher who has evaluated your work for the year. Alternatively, you can have your child take a test for the evaluation.
10. Field trips galore.
We love a good field trip. If I hadn’t been in the middle of a rough pregnancy during our first year of homeschooling we would have done more. We did visit a dairy farm, make our own brick oven pizza, and pick fruit and flowers at a local produce farm. I knew that I wanted to make fun experiences part of our homeschooling before we started. However, one thing I did not realize was how many groups do field trips together. This not only makes it more fun for the kids, but it gets you special group tours and discounts. If you aren’t part of a local co-op, join local homeschool Facebook groups in your area and find out who is organizing field trips!
11. Seasons matter.
Here in Florida, it’s so hot during the summers that we actually spend less time outside. Winter is our favorite time, and we practically live outdoors all winter. It never dawned on me until another homeschool mom mentioned it, but as a homeschooler you are free to choose what time of year you do your schoolwork. Some families choose to do less sit-down school work during the winter here, so they have more time for outdoor adventures. They do more “book work” in the summer months when they’re stuck inside trying to beat the heat.
Because we are revolving our “school year” around a co-op and other activities that run during the public school year, we are still on the traditional summer schedule. However, in the coming years as we try to reach our goal of traveling more, this is a good point to remember.
12. We need the right balance of structure and free time.
Every family is different, and that is true for homeschool families as well. Some families choose very relaxed, child-led learning with almost no structure. Some are very regimented, almost exactly as if they were in public school. There is no right or wrong, only what works best for each family. We fall somewhere in the middle.
I believe that every year we continue to homeschool, our “style” will change and evolve. However, I learned during our first year of homeschooling that, for now at least, we need a better balance of structure and free time. This goes back to having more drop off programs as I mentioned previously.
For the coming year, we found a program that we think is going to give us a better balance. Kai will go to school on Mondays for a full day of school, and then the rest of his school work will be done at home the rest of the week. He will still do co-op on Thursdays, his PE program, and everything else we normally do.
We hope that this new program gives me more of the time I need, him more time with a class of students and outside teacher, and also a healthy dose of positive peer pressure to stay motivated to do his work the rest of the week.
Our first year of homeschooling was a learning experience, just like it would have been if it had been our first year in public school. We loved it, struggled at times, had a lot of fun, and learned a lot along the way. I am really excited for our second year of homeschooling and to see what the future holds!
Do you have questions about homeschooling? I would be happy to try to answer them, just leave a comment below. If you found this post helpful, please pin it to Pinterest and share on social media!
Hi, I’m Jessica! I am wife to Chris, and mom to Kaiper, Alana and Koa. I am a graphic designer, website developer and aspiring author. In this space, I share about everything from parenting, working from home, food we cook, and lots of things for kids! Learn more about me here.