Beginning Your Homeschooling Journey

Karen M. Gibson

When the Beginning Isn’t At The Beginning

I wish I had home educated our children right from the very beginning. I’m almost envious of those parents who knew, even before their children were born, that homeschooling was their education choice. But I didn’t know about homeschooling way back then. And even if I had, I’m not sure I would have been ready. It seems as though you have to be at a certain place in your life before you are open to seemingly wild and crazy ideas.

Just Who Did I Think I Was?

Once I begin to consider the possibility of home education, the world seemed to explode with so many choices. The information available to homeschoolers is overwhelming: learning styles, curriculums, textbooks, home education methods, distance learning programs, online curricula, and so on. How does one begin to make sense of it all?

In our first year of homeschooling, it felt like I was running in deep water. It was all I could do to keep one step ahead of my children while trying to remember to breathe! That first morning we started, I was sure I was making the biggest mistake ever. What was I doing, thinking I could teach better than the teachers could? Who was I to think I could guide my children without “expert” help? My children were in the first, third and sixth grade. Wasn’t I crazy to think that I could start out teaching all of them at the same time? Those questions echoed in my mind, questions that well-meaning friends and family had asked me.

A Teacher!

I knew nothing about learning styles. I didn’t know anything about homeschool methods. I re-created school at home. We studied the same subject at the same time each day, using textbooks and following an orderly progression through them. We even had recess and snack time! We followed the same school hours that we knew from years in the public school system. The only thing I did that I thought was really novel was studying history with all three children at the same time using books from the library rather than a textbook.

Not a Teacher.

We managed along for a few months this way, but I could tell this wasn’t going to work long term. We still had major stress from the schedule kept, which was one reason I had always hated public school. The schedule I thought necessary was ruling us. The textbooks were ruling us.

I can’t count the number of times we would be reading together and something would spur a question about another topic. I never felt we could take the time to follow up because I was worried we’d get behind in our “required” work. The children were still bored with all the “required” textbook review. And they weren’t getting the time to study the things that they wanted to, even though I tried to incorporate some of their desires into our schedule. It was time to regroup.

Christmas… Holiday?

I declared a holiday after Christmas, with no formal schoolwork to be done, and I spent the month of January reading more about different homeschooling methods. I joined some email lists and talked with other homeschoolers. I read homeschooling books and websites and anything else I could get my hands on. I discovered there were as many ways to homeschool as there were homeschool families.

My biggest discovery, though, was realizing that while my children were on “holiday” and I was not requiring any formal schoolwork from them, they were still learning! They were following their own interests and learning all on their own. They didn’t need me to do all the directing. And I realized that just maybe all my “teaching” was actually hindering their learning experience. That was such a revelation to me!

Learning Never Ends

As parents new to home education, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. There’s so much new information to seek out and process. And you thought it was your children that would be doing all the learning! I certainly didn’t expect that I’d be learning as much as my children! The good news is, homeschooling does get easier. You gradually figure things out and settle into a routine. And, in the meantime, consider this – you are modeling excellent life skills for your children!

Copyright February 2000, 2021

Note: Originally published in March/April 2000 issue of HELM (Home Education Learning Magazine) as an introduction to a regular column entitled “Beginning Your Journey.”

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