“What if the Catholic school in your area was just phenomenal?” a friend recently asked me. “Wouldn’t you prefer someone else to do all that work?”
Her question surprised me, and I was grateful to have the chance to reflect. “No,” I answered, “Not at all.” The truth, I realized, was that there was nothing our local parish school needed to do better to lure us back. For us, homeschooling isn’t about running away from a bad school system. It’s about what we’re running to. For parents who are feeling drawn to homeschooling, here are seven tips for making your choice.
Find your why.
If you want to homeschool, it is essential to find your why. Is it more family time? Freedom to travel? The ability to customize your child’s education? It is absolutely essential for you and your spouse to find your reasons and write them down. Make a mission statement for your family that can serve to bolster your convictions during hard times and serve as a litmus test when considering how a particular curriculum or activity serves to further (or detract) from that mission.
Explore options and find inspiration.
When I was curious about homeschooling, I was blessed to attend a local retreat for Catholic homeschooling moms. Hearing their stories was transformative; it helped me understand concretely the beauty, blessings, and struggles I could expect if our family made this shift. If you can, find other families nearby who can help paint a realistic picture of what homeschooling can look like.
Kirk Cameron’s The Homeschool Awakening is a must for all families currently homeschooling or in the process of discerning making that change, but it is especially helpful for those of us with little prior exposure to homeschooling to expand our imaginations as to the many forms this educational alternative can take.
It is not good for man to be alone. The same is true for the homeschool mom. We are made for community, and we need to walk with others along whichever road it is we choose to travel. Our family has been blessed to be a part of two different co-op communities, and have grown so much through those friendships.
As a new homeschooling mom, I found encouragement and connection. I learned so much from experienced moms about the practicals of homeschooling: how it looks at different stages, which curriculum to choose, how to set up our day, and how to conquer little setbacks and pivot when strategies aren’t working. I continue to find essential support from their wisdom and example.
Prioritize and customize.
One of the ways homeschooling really shines is the ability to tailor a child’s education. One of the less widely understood gifts is the ability to select your responsibilities as a teacher. You can outsource responsibilities via online classes, co-ops, art centers, sports, tutors, and even the YMCA or your local city parks and rec department. You can let go of the feeling that you have to “do it all” because 1) you probably can’t, and 2) you don’t have to!
Prep for the bad days.
Not every day brings sunshine. There will be storms, and occasionally a hurricane or two. As a homeschool parent, you don’t have to trudge on in the middle of a deluge. The schedule is your call. Flu running rampant? School can mean cuddling and read alouds on the cough. Kids are crying and mom is impatient? Time for a dance party. School kids get snow days; our family has spring “sun days” when the weather finally warms enough to enjoy being outside. Lean into the flexibility of managing your own schedule.
Embrace the gaps.
One of the common fears about homeschooling is the “gaps.” For the most part, parents are not trained as educators. What if we miss something?
Think of your own schooling experience. There will be “gaps” in every education. (It really isn’t even possible to learn everything). Families who school at home are generally less concerned with gaps in discrete knowledge and subject-specific skills and more concerned with the gaps of conventional schooling: critical thinking, character education, and love of learning. These are areas that the conventional schooling model struggles to address, and that individualized attention from a homeschool parent is primed to focus.
Just do it.
I like to call this piece of advice discerning by doing. Sometimes, we can get so caught up in the fear of making the wrong decision that we end up making no decision at all (despite the fact that that, in itself, becomes our decision by default). If you are stuck on repeat, make the leap.
Trying it out doesn’t need to mean a permanent commitment. We have novitiates and engagements for a reason; sometimes we need to live a commitment (or near to it as we can get) before we can really understand what it is we are undertaking. The reality may be very different than we’ve imagined.
For us, homeschooling has been more fruitful, more freeing, more joyful, and much, much less difficult than we’d pictured. It has required a lot of adaptation and flexibility. But we never would have known any of it unless we tried.
This article originally appeared on CatholicMom.com and is reprinted with permission.