Beat the “But”
In the wake of COVID, we have had a massive influx of parents and children that are considering alternatives to public and private school for the first time. Many parents and children want to homeschool, BUT it’s easy to get caught up in our reasons and excuses as to why we think we can’t. As peaceful parents, the only “butt” we beat is the B-U-T. So, let’s confront some of the biggest “BUTS” when it comes to homeschooling.
I want to homeschool, but…
- I don’t know how to teach
- I don’t know if I can teach them ___________.
- I cannot afford it.
- I don’t want my kids to miss out.
- I want my kids to socialize.
- I feel overwhelmed.
- I love my career.
- I may go crazy sitting at home all day.
- I need a break from my children.
- I’m a single parent.
1. I don’t know how to teach
As a teacher, I spent 6 years in undergraduate and graduate school studying how to be the best teacher I could be. Even after 6 years of training, I still remember the first day that I stepped into my classroom thinking, “I have no clue what I’m doing! I do not know how to be a teacher!”
…I was right. No amount of schooling, studying, training, researching, reading, writing, theorizing, planning, and preparing will ever prepare you to be a teacher.
You have to just jump in and do it and trust that you will learn all that you need as you go.
So, I have spent the last 11 years working as a teacher for public school, private school, and homeschool students. And I still am learning strategies that I can implement to help me become a better teacher.
The truth is being a better teacher is much like being a better parent because the heart behind both is the desire to be a better person.
We all start our journey as parents in a similar way. I remember holding my daughter for the first time thinking, “I have no idea how to be a mom!” Even though I had spent hours studying, training, researching, reading, writing, theorizing, planning, and preparing for that moment. When the moment finally arrived, I did not feel ready.
But it did not matter how I felt. I was a mom. And no matter how you may feel in this moment, you are a teacher. Every day you teach your children. You teach them to sit up, to walk, to talk, to tie their shoes, to brush their teeth, to get dressed, to wash the dishes, to clean up their toys, to know their colors and letters and numbers.
You also teach your children skills that are infinitely more valuable:
- How to be kind
- How to be patient
- How to cultivate peace
- How to be a good friend
- How to make wise choices
- How to love other people
- How to serve other people
- How to care for others and yourself
- How to handle anger in a healthy way
Rest assured, parent, you do know how to teach your children. You have been doing it since the moment they were born. And you’re doing a great job!
2. I don’t know if I can teach them (blank).
Math. That was my answer for this “fill-in-the-blank.” I love to read and write, but math was always a subject that I struggled with in school.
You can imagine my surprise when I was assigned to support special education students in an Algebra 2 class.
To be fair, I had not used Algebra 2 since I was in Algebra 2 as a high school student over 15 years earlier. But there were a few things I learned from teaching a class that I was totally unfamiliar with:
- Anyone can learn anything if they are motivated. This is just as much true for yourself as it is for your children. I had to master Algebra 2 because I was tasked with teaching it to my students. Ironically, I started to really enjoy math for the first time. It became almost like a puzzle or a game for me. And my students often said that I was able to explain the content in a way that they could understand probably precisely because I was not a “math teacher.”
- Most of the stuff that we are required to learn in school is utterly useless in real life for most people. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you had to graph a quadratic function? And the truth is, if it’s not necessary or useful for our real lives, then it’s probably not necessary or useful for us to learn it anyway.
- If there is something you need to learn, and you can’t figure it out on your own, ask for help. Asking for help is one of the most valuable skills that we can teach our children. You do not and will not know everything that there is to know in this world. This is precisely why people hire medical doctors and mechanics. It’s okay to not know everything about every subject. If you don’t know the answer, then ask for help from someone who does. In the age of the Internet, we literally have access to a whole world of information. There are YouTube videos and online classes covering just about any subject you could possibly imagine. So if you are not sure how to help your child pass their Calculus class, you can help them develop the skill of asking for help from someone who can help them.
3. I can’t afford to homeschool.
As discussed in an previous post, public school is NOT free. The truth is homeschooling isn’t free either. However, “if there’s a will, there’s a way.” And there is definitely a way to homeschool your children that will cost far less than any school. I would recommend that when you first start homeschooling, do not spend a penny on any curriculum. Instead, invest your money and your time in doing something you love. Take some time to deschool (usually one month for every year you or your child has been in school). Get to know yourself and your children before investing money in a bunch of supplies or curricula that you may never use. Do not let money be the reason that you don’t do what you love.
4. I don’t want my kids to miss out.
Miss out on what? Some parents are worried that if their kids do not go to school, then they will “miss out” on something. Make a list of the things that you are worried that they would “miss out” on.
Learning from great teachers?
Participating in sports?
Attending homecoming or prom?
All of those things are able to be done outside of the school system. You may need to get a little bit creative, but you don’t have to homeschool in a bubble.
Instead of sending your children away to a place where they can make friends with kids you may never even meet, you have the privilege of being a part of the process of making friendships. You never know… you may make a friend or two as well!
Instead of sending your children to be taught by adults that you do not know, you have the privilege of making sure that the adults in your children’s lives share similar morals, values, and beliefs.
If you or your children want to participate in team sports, there are plenty of sports clubs and teams outside of the school system. And if there isn’t one, you can start one! Many homeschooling groups have low cost or even free sports teams for the kids to participate in.
While many homeschoolers say that they do not care about missing out on a homecoming or prom event, there are many homeschoolers that get together and make a large event on their own.
Your children never have to “miss out” on anything.
5. I want my kids to socialize.
This “but” never made much sense to me. If you were to step foot inside of most classrooms, you would find teachers repeatedly saying, “Stop talking! Sit down and do your work. This is not time to socialize!”
Schools are not for socialization. And even when kids do have the chance to socialize, they are often confronted with bullying, peer pressure, and other negative social influences.
Children who are not confined to a classroom have the freedom to socialize with people of all ages in various settings: the grocery store, the bank, the mall, the neighborhood, etc. Which do you believe better prepares children for the “real world”?
6. I feel overwhelmed.
When I first started to homeschool, I felt absolutely FREE! However, that freedom can also feel extremely overwhelming. We want to make the best choices for our kids, but once you are free from the requirements and the restraints of the school system, you realize the whole world is open to you! It is an amazing and terrifying realization.
What homeschool style is best for my kids and for me?
What curriculum should I choose?
Should I go through the county or an umbrella?
Should we homeschool temporarily or permanently?
Which resources should I buy?
Which co-op should we join?
How many hours a day should we homeschool?
With so many different choices, it is no wonder that parents feel overwhelmed.
It is important to remember that whatever homeschooling style, curriculum, resource, group, etc. that you choose for yourself and your family, you are not stuck. If something is not (or no longer) working for you or your children, you are also free to change it and do something different.
Give yourself the grace and the time to figure out what works best for you and for your little ones. And remember that what may work in one season of life may not work in a different season of life, and that is totally fine.
You not only have the freedom to choose, you have the freedom to change.
7. I love my career.
Some parents may think that choosing to homeschool will require them to give up or delay a career that they love. While each family’s situation will look different, there is no reason why you cannot pursue a career that you love while also homeschooling.
The important thing to remember is that you can have it all. You may need to think outside the box, but you can have it all. You can absolutely pursue your career while pursuing your passions and encouraging your children to pursue their passions.
8. I may go crazy sitting at home all day.
When the COVID lockdowns first started in March 2020, my introverted self was more than happy to have an excuse to stay at home. I loved being able to work from home with my kids playing in the room next to mine. I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing at home and cuddling on the couch while reading a book or watching a movie with no pressure to be or go anywhere else.
However, after a few months of being at home, we all needed to get out. The kids were going stir crazy, and so was I. We made a habit of leaving the house at least once a day.
This practice made all the difference in the world!
We would walk around the neighborhood, play in the backyard, explore the forest behind our house, or just take a long drive to have a change of scenery.
Humans are social beings. We are not meant to stay home all day every day. It is important to make a habit of going outside regularly. Breathing fresh air and being in nature is good for the body, mind, and soul.
It may be harder than usual to find things to do outside of the home, but it is so important to make the effort to do so.
Join a local mom group. Start to grow your “village.” Become a tourist of your home town. You’ll find that there is so much to see and do and explore.
(If you live in the Washington, DC area, please join our Facebook group. We plan trips every Wednesday to local playgrounds, parks, museums and more!)
9. I need a break from my children.
I love my children more than anything and anyone else in this world, but every now and then, I need a break. It’s important and healthy for parents to take time to care for themselves.
You may be worried that if you’re homeschooling, then you will never be able to have time away from the kids.
Parents usually choose to homeschool because they want to spend more time with their children, but even the best mom or dad can benefit from time away.
So whether you hire a babysitter for a “date night” or trade childcare with a friend, it’s important to make sure that you are spending quality time with your kids and quality time without them too.
10. I’m a single parent.
Even though I am a public school teacher, I always wanted to homeschool my own children. The thought of sending them into a system to be taught by someone else just seemed odd to me. I wanted to be the one to teach them to read and write, and I wanted to be the one to observe them discovering the world around us.
However, when I became a single mom, I thought that I would have to give up on my dream of homeschooling my children. How could I possibly homeschool while working a full-time job and multiple side jobs?
I reluctantly signed my daughter up for our public Pre-K program. I figured, “How much damage could they do in just 2.5 hours?” Well, I was wrong. When my daughter came home with marks on her wrist from her teacher dragging her to time out, I knew that was enough.
I wasn’t sure how, but I was never going to let my daughter go back to such a toxic environment.
I hired a nanny to care for my daughter during the day, and I took a teaching job at a school that ended the school day at 2:30 PM so that I could still have some daytime hours with her. I did my other side-jobs after my children went to bed at night, and I made sure to spend my money and my time wisely.
Life is not always easy, but it’s never been so good!
Whatever your “but” is, I encourage you to “beat the but” by living based on your convictions and not your convenience. Make choices based on your commitments and not your comfort. And take the leap to homeschool full of faith and not fear.