It takes courage to be a homeschooler. Whether you excitedly chose to homeschool or were shoved into it due to life circumstances, it takes a strong person to be willing to take the road less travelled. Even with fourteen years of homeschooling under my belt and two functioning young adults who have graduated into the world, I still deal with self-doubt. It is easy to wonder if I am doing this right, if I should be making different choices, if I am making a huge mess of things and ruining my children’s lives in the process (or if not completely ruining them, failing to have them become what God wanted them to be).
This time of year can be especially difficult. The school year is winding down (for most of us) and people are starting to make plans for next year. Conversations among homeschoolers naturally turn to curriculum choices, extra-curricular plans, co-op opportunities, etc. Then there are those who, for whatever reason, choose to return to traditional schooling. It can feel like there are a dizzying number of options.
Homeschoolers also frequently have strong personalities and/or strong opinions. (I think that this goes along with the fact that it takes great courage to be a homeschooler. You have to be willing to go off of the established path and to defend your decision to those who question it.) There are many who are one-hundred-percent convinced that what they are doing is the one right path and that those who are doing something else are wrong. If you happen to be unsure in your own decisions, it is easy to feel that you should be taking one of those paths that others believe is guaranteed to provide success.
Homeschooling is a year-by-year proposition. Each year provides the opportunity to reevaluate, change, and make adjustments. In many ways, this is a blessing. Each year, your family changes and your children grow and change. What works one year might not work the next. Your children’s interests may change. You may be adjusting to life with a new child or without a child (when one moves on to traditional high school or college or living on one’s own). Your or your spouse’s work situation may have changed. Opportunities you may have taken advantage of (co-ops or extra-curriculars) may stop being offered. There are many reasons to make changes to your homeschool each year, but how do you discern what changes you should make? What do you do when everyone seems to have an opinion on what you should be doing?
- Pray – I always recommend people pray for their children and their schooling. God has called us to homeschool and He can help us figure it out. Unfortunately, God doesn’t send detailed emails with corresponding lesson plans, but He can help direct us to the resources we need for our particular children. God can also help us discern when we have a number of good choices to choose from. Prayer also helps us feel more confident in what we are doing.
- Remember your reason for homeschooling – Think back to why you began homeschooling. Was it because you wanted a close family unit? Did you want to better accommodate your child’s unique needs? Did you want to provide a classical education? A relaxed education? An unschooling lifestyle? Does your reason for homeschooling still have value for you or has it changed? If you can figure out why you homeschool, it will help lead you in the right direction in homeschool planning. It can also help alleviate some of the self-doubt.
- Evaluate your options – If you are trying to choose among several different curricula and activities, are there some you can immediately rule out? What attracts you to some more than others? Are there aspects of various curricula that you can combine? What is your time availability like in your homeschool? Are you homeschooling one or many children? Do you need to balance work and homeschooling? What has or has not worked in the past? The more factors you can list, the better your understanding will be of what you and your children need to have a successful homeschool experience. It doesn’t matter what someone else is doing, no matter how strongly they may advocate for it. You need to determine what is best for you and your children.
- Know that plans can be adjusted – Inevitably, something I think will be a wonderful resource for my children falls flat by the second week of September. At that point I have the choice of either plowing through or choosing to replace it with something else. I am inevitably tweaking our homeschool throughout the year. The plans you are making now for next year are not set in stone.
God gave you your children for a reason. He called you to homeschool for a reason. As you make plans for the new academic year, trust that God will help you to discern what is best for your family, and then take it day by day. With God’s help, you’ve got this!