As a homeschooling mom, teacher and educational consultant, one of the hardest things I ever had to do was pull my children from school. “Why would that be a difficult thing for you?” a lot of people have asked and as I have lived this joruney and reflect daily on the steps I have taken to get to this point, I am able to share my reasons truthfully at this point in my homeschooling journey. Homeschooling, though a beautiful choice for many, can still be very stressful at any point no matter when the decision is made to embark upon this experience.
When you pull your kids home from school, no matter what age, they have already been exposed to an excessive amount of outside the home exposure to different teachers and children. Along with that exposure came expectations both inside and outside of the classroom which your free spirited children learned to assimilate to, whether they were actually wanting to or not because let’s face it, school is about a number fo things and teaching children to follow rules is one of those things. With that being said, when I pulled my children home at the end of 1st and 3rd grade, I found of course, yes, that they were my children, but a large part of them still were back in school mentally. It did not help that I was a teacher, so I too was still back in the classroom mentally on top having my own ways of doing things as a human and as their mother so my expectations, beliefs and what I wanted to happen in our homeschool would start with all the best intentions and then go out the door, which I have learned is okay. So deep breaths on that one right there and I will bold this one for us: IT IS FINE IF THINGS DO NOT GO AS PLANNED.
I have learned through my experience that homeschooling, after having your children in school, will unfold in phases. Like losing something or someone dear to you, there are phases of grief and loss that may accompany children leaving school, esepcially if they have been in a brick and mortar environment for some time. The same is true if you have left your job to homeschool your children so you and your children are having an adjustment period. Think on this, both you and your children are grieving and trying to start a successful homeschooling experience. Just for effect, here are the 5 stages of grief and loss: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them, and this idea of stages, which I call phases, is the same with homeschooling your children after them being in school. Likewise, the different phases that accompany homeschooling after pulling your children school may not occur in some particular order, but they will occur.
Being honest with myself having left my profession of twenty years having performed educational driven duties for all of my adult life, and then stop abruptly to homeschool was very challenging. I brought all of what I was trained to know and in turn believed to be “Best Practices” home to my children who had also been indoctrinated into believing much of what I was actually teaching other students, just not my own children for 6-8 hours a day. This was a disaster! I was struggling with internal dialogue that sounded similar to “Why did I do this?”, “Was this the best option for them?”, “Am I ruining their life?” “Will they learn enough?”, “What philosophy will I adopt and tell people when they ask?”, “I have to put them into every class available for them.” and the list went on and on. I would soon drive myself crazy and my kids in the process if I didn’t slow down, stop the insanity and listen to that small still voice telling me, “It is not your way or your will, by MY way and MY will”. I had to stop and look at who these unique beings were in front of me that I had been chosen to birth and raise on loan for a short time, to ensure they were equipped to fully live out their purpose and passsion for this world. I had to listen to THEM! I had to observe THEM. I did. It was hard to let go and let nature take its course, but I did it. Everyday is different and brings new joys and challenges, but being okay in the present, living in the moment and celebrating small victories make the experience more enjoyable.
Before I came to this realization, I can remember scouring the internet for hours on end, buying every local museum membership, seeking out all educational discounts, researching curriculum, joining social media and local homeschooling groups if I could find them, starting my own homeschool co-op (waiting lists galore and limited to no diversity in most of the co-ops I found, so I started my own), trying to co-homeschooling with other family members and asking other homeschooling moms what they were doing, how they were doing it and even how to do it. It was a hot mess! I was here, there and everywhere all in one breath. I had one mom in particular do me the hugest favor ever as she got me off my ledge one day at our local library. As she stood over me while I metaphorically puked my homeschool teaching insecurities all over her, she quietly asked had I read some book about teaching from rest. I was like “nope!” She then told me she would give it to me when she saw me next and that she did. To this day, that had to be the single most beneficial and kindest gesture another homeschool mom has ever done for me because it was SOOOOO what I needed to get me off my ledge. I had to keep my mind in check, my intentions pure and with purpose, and homeschool in authenticity peace and truth.
Without further adue, here are the phases of homeschooling you may experience after pulling your children from school that I have identified in my own experience. You may be able to even add more based upon your own experience, but these areas pretty much sum it up for me to date.
Sara’s 8 Phases of Homeschooling for the School To Homeschool Family
Need I say more? This phase is the one that will drive you the most crazy hands down because all you do is question which leads to all of the others listed below. This one right here…..it is the Queen Bee of Mental Yuckdom!
Well, well…Halloween is only once a year yet this Fear thing sets up shop as a legal holiday in the minds of many year round. We give it way too much fuel and then we feed it because we actually entertain it. It is super demonic and a huge liar. Do any of these things sound familiar?
(Fear of: Failure, questions from others, others thoughts, destroying your children and their future, not doing enough, not doing it correctly, etc.)
STOP IT!!!!!! Release fear ASAP and tell it to go back to hell when it tries to return again. It has no place in the minds and hearts of healthy, whole and well functioning home educating families. Fear causes physical unrest and upset, anxiety, depression and self-destructive thought patterns and behaviors which then causes a never-ending cycle. I used to live in a state of constant fear and panic for two years and I know the damage it can do. Your mind is racing a million miles an hour, you’re sleeping horribly if at all, then you’re angry and frustrated and afraid simultaneously and have the audacity to try and be the best you can for your children when you aren’t even your best for yourself. You think they don’t see it, but it’s oozing from every orifice in your body, so fess up. You’ve got a problem, we all have a problem and this is how you intend to fix it. Kids would much rather see you work through something in honesty and with bold or even humble declaration than see you pretending. It’s a much better life lesson to show them how to navgiate through real life.
If not, before too long, you and your family will be zombies calling yourselves homeschooling yet doing it in the most unhealthy way possible. Let it go, relax, believe, affirm, and know that you are more than enough, you can do this and so can your children. This is not a mission, it is a calling with a purpose and YOU CAN DO THIS.
As a parent who was once a single teenage mom raising a child without the help of an earthly father, I found that I became the queen of overcompensation. I was that mom who went overboard and created the birthday parties and Christmas’ for one child that was overindulgent and pointless. We are hard pressed to find any of the toys or balloons that were purchased for the birthday parties nor mauch of what was purhcased for many a merry Christmas. I wanted to try to fill in the gap in the presence of an asbsent father and make my kid happy everyday but especially on those special days. Fast forward to homeschooling and you’ll find a little more of the same with the exception that I was spending way too mauch time driving across town and all over the place to get them to classes I thought they would enjoy and purchasing curriculum that was “grade level appropriate”. Beware of the need to overcompsensate. As one friend told me who is also in this journey, “Sara, all they really need is you to be present.” That was a serious wake up all. They wanted to sit with me and read together, talk, ask questions, watch fun documentaries, create together, explore and learn together minus the stress of what I THOUGHT was going to yield the best scholarly achievement possible.
Denial and Self-Doubt
Denying that I believed that I doubted that I could actually homeschool my own children, even though I had actually taught hundreds of children and adults throughout my teaching career. As embarassing as it may be, this realization was truly a wake up call. I had to get my mind right and start believing in my ability, ackowledging my talents and being open to not bringing my old school teaching mentality to my kitchen table to teach my children. It was important that the denial turned into destiny and self-doubt truned into self-determination. I was destined and determined to provide my children with a positive homeschooling experience, so I did, I do and I will.
Stay off of Instagram and any social media searches that will lead you to looking at what other families are doing in their homeschooling lives. If you need to seek out ideas, be prepared to see representations that will blow your mind! Parents are out there setting up the most beautiful classrooms in their homes and staging things to look super organized and beautiful and that’s fine, but when you first start out, you need to see what’s real. Honestly, you need to see what’s real at all times! Be careful of comparing yourself with other parents you talk to and buying into the belief that everyone else is doing it right and are doing it perfectly and you aren’t. It’s false. No one homeschools and never loses their temper, or always has a clean home or never questions anything homeschool related. It’s a lie and if they say otherwise, then ta-da….it’s a lie. Just saying… Your homeschool is unique to your family. Period.
Reflection (Will repeat often especially if you want to examine “growth” measures both academically and socially-and that is normal IF that is what you want to do. It is normal if that is NOT what you want to do. There is no NORMAL in homeschooling.)
This is the one phase that most parents do daily both consciously and subsconciously no matter whether you do formal assessments at home (test your kids with pencil/paper testing), standardized testing or have them create their own way of demonstrating they’ve learned something “well” or not so well to you, reflection is always there. Many children reflect because it is natural to do this. That is why they question constantly, because they are thinking constantly. They want to know the answers to things and so do we as adults. They ask aloud and will seek answers. As adults, we sometimes we will keep our questions inside and beat ourselves up about the problem or issue that is pressing us, especially any questions we have about homeschooling.
Sometimes we should ask our children the question to some of the questions we have like “How do you like homeschooling so far?” We just don’t really want to know the answer because we are afraid they will tell us “It sucks and so do you for homeschooling me!” The truth is that the family unit is often strengthened and children grow in all aspects of human existence through home eudcating whether they wanted to or not, realize it or not. At the end of the day you are their parent for a reason and the positive decisions you make for the benefit of your children are divinely downloaded. Trust in the process be patient and celebrate the journey. It may only be for a season and in nature, seasons do not last long so take deep breaths, know that your family is able to do this even if for a season and all will be better for it. Better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.
Another huge part of reflecting takes place by reflecting on your “why”! When you reflect on your why, you are better able to repel the naysayers and all other negativity. Your why is your truth and the truth will set you free. Your why makes sense in midst of everything else because it is light in a place of darkness and confusion. Knowing that you are waging a war that is not your own but that you have a Heavenly Father who can rescue and protect you from the fiery darts of life makes the pill easier to swallow, the knowing that you are never homeschooling alone. I have asked God to help me to know what to teach my kids, to show me what they need and HE did. Since that doesn’t happen very often, it’s best to heed the call immediately and do exactly what you are instructed or I say “divinely inspired” to do. *Disclaimer…yep, you may find I go off on a spiritual tangent for Jesus-God from time to time. Be forewarned people! *
Acceptance: Keeping your mind right on thoughts that which is true and pure.
Voice your victories! State out loud the victories with your family and all that you can do and have done as a result of homeschooling. Journaling them out, putting one small victory in a jar each day and reading them at the end of the week can be such an uplifter! You can do and all things through Christ who strengthens you. You are victorious through Christ Jesus and so it is that you are able and wonderfully made able to live authentically in your purpose with passion and perseverance. Does this mean perfection? Absolutely NOT! Do this thing called life and do it well to thebet of your ability. Your children will be better for it because they observe you modeling how to live authentically and they will do the same even if in pockets of time, your life and homeschooling will not return void. Accept that you can home educate and that it will not be easy or hard. It will be what you declare it to be and that is how it will unfold before you daily. You are the creator of your homeschool destiny and the mindset you place upon it will dictate the outcome. Speak life over your homeschooling experience and do what you can. When you need help, ask for it, look for it, help is there. Never doubt that this can be a success. It can be and it will be. That is what you say and accept.
Living it Out
Live your homeschool journey with pride, perseverance, purpose and passion. Be bold and brave, fearless and hopeful. As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life and your homeschooling choice is one that can work well for you and your family. Stay true to your “why” and know that your effort will not return void.
These phases are not unique, but may exhibit themselves differently for each family. Work hard to concentrate on things that bring you and your family happiness throughout the homeschool experience. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your children and welcome each new day as a day to try again unapologetically knowing you are doing and giving the best you can.