Uh-oh. I know that face.
You’ve decided to homeschool... and now you are completely overwhelmed.
Breathe, mama. Come here and have a seat. We’ll have coffee and I’ll tell you what I wish someone had told me when I first started down this path.
The hardest part is actually making the decision.
It’s hard to veer from a traditional path, even if your gut is screaming at you to do so. Research what you need to do, legally, to homeschool in your state and then do that. Send the letter. Call your parents. Tell your friends. Start a blog so you can’t backpedal. Do whatever you need to do to make it official and then breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that you’ve already done the hardest thing.
If you’ve been in public school, take some time to deschool.
If your child is transitioning from a brick and mortar school, take a break. Do not attempt to jump into a new version of school at home. If your child has been misunderstood in school, deschooling may take longer and that’s okay. Give your child space to heal.
Don’t go overboard buying curriculum.
You do not need every imaginable school supply, every book, every teacher’s guide. Start small and see what works and what doesn’t. Build your bookshelves over time.
Things will change. And then they will change again.
The first year of homeschooling is an evolution. You might start out homeschooling with a schedule in a school room and, three months later, you might find that unschooling works better for your child. Homeschooling is a journey. You will learn more about your child, and about yourself, than you ever thought possible.
There will be doubt.
You will second guess yourself, especially during the first year. Please know that doubt is normal. When you are in the throes of doubt, grab a book and read aloud. By reading aloud, you can cover any academic subject. Are you worried about math right now? Grab a stack of math storybooks and snuggle up on the couch together.
Find a tribe...
Don’t do this alone. Find other homeschoolers in your area. Visit a co-op, attend a meet-up, have someone over for coffee. If you can’t find local homeschoolers, find kindred spirits online. Everything is easier when you have a homeschooling sister or two by your side.
...but steer clear of the comparison trap.
When you seek out homeschoolers online, please remember that you are seeing their best. No one is posting about the dinner they burned to a crisp or the unit study that left the whole family in tears. You are seeing the successes, and no one is successful all the time. Balance is for the birds, even if it doesn’t seem that way on Pinterest.
You do not need to know everything.
I repeat: You do not need to know everything. So, stop silently freaking out that you can’t remember what an isosceles triangle is, or the current status of Pluto as a planet, or when the French and Indian War started. You can re-learn it all together.
The public school mindset is tough to shake.
The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that it is flexible. You can school early in the morning or school in the afternoon. You can have a four-day week, or work through the weekend. You can homeschool year round or take vacations. If the holidays are crazy, you can take the entire month of December off and then school extra in July. Your kids can learn about Shakespeare or explore chemistry in elementary school if that is what they are interested in. When the stress level rises, it can be tough to remember that you are in the driver’s seat. Sometimes that public school mindset tries to sneak back in. Don’t let it. You have no one to answer to but yourself.
There will be days you think about that big yellow bus...
Some days will be hard. In fact, some days will be so hard that you will wonder if things would be easier if your child attended a brick and mortar school. In a weak moment, you may even threaten to send them back on the big yellow bus. It’s important for you to remember that there would be bad days in public school, too. No one is immune to ugly moments.
..but there will also be amazing days.
There will be happiness and love and success and wonder. You will feel so incredibly thankful that you are able to do this, that you are witnessing these amazing little souls grow into kind, intelligent, amazing humans.
Try to be mindful and enjoy the ride.
Homeschooling can be overwhelming... if you let it. Do not worry about next week or next month or next year. Focus on today. Try to be mindful and present as a parent. Motherhood is a beautiful gift and while the days may feel long, we all know these days will be gone in a blink.
Above all remember this: You’ve got this.
In your worst moments of doubt and worry, I want you to remember this: You were your child’s first teacher. You taught him to eat, to use the restroom, to tie his shoes, to ride a bike. You know him better than any other person on this planet. No one in the world cares more about this child and his education than you do. You are fit for this job.
You’ve got this.
A version of this article was originally published on My Little Poppies.
Cait is a school psychologist, mom to three amazing children, and an unexpected homeschooler. She loves nature, good books, board games, strong coffee, and dancing in her kitchen. She blogs about the journey at My Little Poppies. Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is a co-founder of Raising Poppies, an online community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is a contributing writer at Simple Homeschool and GeekMom. Her work has been featured on The Mighty and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and G+.