What Homeschooling Moms Want You to Know

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Anyone can homeschool.
There is nothing special about people who homeschool. I often hear, “I just couldn’t homeschool.” In every case, if they wanted to, I have no doubt they could and would be great at it. Homeschooling does take dedication and a lot of time. This is true. But especially nowadays with so many curriculum options, it’s easy to put together an excellent, well rounded education for any age student.

We’re not all superwomen.
Let’s face it. All moms have to juggle where kids need to be when. Homeschooling moms just keep their kids home and do a few hours of school while moms of public schoolers get their kids to and from school, help with or direct homework, volunteer, and do all sorts of other things related to their kids’ schooling, too.

We’re not all ridiculously creative.
I have two friends who are seriously creative. The first puts on these elaborate parties for her girls every holiday complete with themed food and decorations. The other made these incredible t-shirts for her kids to wear when they went to Disney World recently. Every craft she makes turns out amazing. The first friend is a homeschooler. The second is not. Just like some moms of public schoolers are ridiculously creative, some moms of homeschoolers are. And some moms are not creative, and others are everywhere in between. As far as creativity goes, homeschooling doesn’t make us any different from other moms.

We worry about our kids’ education like crazy.
While the proliferation of curriculum choices makes it easier to homeschool, it also makes it easier to second guess what we are using and feel paralyzed about making the “right” choice. We worry that we’re not covering everything and that we’re leaving huge gaps. We worry that the choices we make for curriculum aren’t the best ones for our kids, or if homeschooling at all is the right choice. When it comes right down to it, if something is missed or goes wrong, it is our fault. There is no one else to blame. There’s a lot to worry involved when you’re completely in charge of your kids’ education.

Sometimes we get burned out.
Sometimes we wish that big yellow bus would stop and pick up our kids. Sometimes we are tired of the worry and time homeschooling takes. For some reason the most common time for this to happen is February, but burn out can happen at any time. Burn out, though, does not automatically mean the kids should be put in public school. What it means is a little break or switching to doing something fun (like a unit study) for a few days is needed and usually we’re ready to get back to it when the break is over.

We don’t think you sending your kids to public school is bad.
Just because we homeschool, it doesn’t mean we are judging you for sending your kids to public school. Yes, we think homeschooling is the right choice for our own family. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be doing it. It does not mean we think it is bad or wrong that homeschooling is not the right choice for your family. I’ve been homeschooled/homeschooling for a lot of years and I’ve only encountered a handful of truly anti-public school, all people should homeschool are terrible if they don’t, type people. They are definitely the extreme (albeit often vocal) minority.

We are not all super organized.
Like creativity, this is another one that varies. You will find incredibly organized homeschooling moms who have their schedule planned for the whole year before the year even starts (that would be me) all the way to moms who fly by the seat of their pants. A couple homeschooling mom friends of mine were looking at my “brain” (bullet journal) and weren’t sure whether to be horrified or impressed. When they saw I have days off school pre-planned months ahead of time they decided horrified was probably the right response. The thing is, pre-planning like that works for me and I’d go crazy if I didn’t. Other homeschooling moms would go crazy being so completely planned out. But, no matter how organized (or not) the moms are, the kids still get a good education.

Not all homeschooled kids are super high achieving geniuses.
Some are. That is true. And some are behind or have learning disabilities (actually, that’s a big reason people pull their kids out of school to homeschool them). Most are average, just like in the general population. Because they can go at their own pace and one-on-one schooling takes less time than educating a whole classroom of kids, however, many average homeschooled kids do end up above grade level in one subject or another.

Homeschoolers are a pretty diverse group.
When my parents started homeschooling me, most homeschoolers were whitem middle to upper class, conservative Christian families. It’s not that way anymore. You’ll find all races, classes, and religions (or lack thereof) homeschooling. You’ll find some who believe the earth is 6,000 years old and some who think it’s several billion years old (never, ever engage a group of homeschoolers in an “old earth/young earth” debate! – just trust me on this one) and some who aren’t sure. Some are conservative, some are liberal, some are moderate. Pretty much, when it comes right down to it, we’re just regular people who choose to educate our children at home (and the reasons for that choice vary widely, too!).

Things Homeschoolers Say That Aren’t True

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Just back off if your child is struggling to read. They’ll get it eventually.
Okay, if the kid is 5 or 6, yes. But if the kid is 9, 10, 11, or even older and especially if there are other warning signs for a learning disability, definitely not. Early intervention is important in the case of a learning disability. Always assuring a concerned mom that the kid will pick it up eventually is not helpful. Better advice would be saying that sometimes just backing off works, but if the mom feels like something is wrong in her gut, go with that feeling and dig deeper.

If you leave them alone kids will eventually learn everything they need to know.
Generally this comes from unschoolers, particularly the extreme unschoolers who eschew anything that looks remotely schooly. It’s just plain not true and I’ve seen results of this way of thinking and it’s seldom pretty. It’s usually rather disastrous (think kids, with no learning disabilities, unable to multiply single digits at 13 years old because they never found a reason to learn how). Sure, some kids will indeed learn everything they need to know. Some kids are just driven. The majority are not.

All public schools are horrible.
Nope. As much as some homeschoolers hate to admit it, there really are positives to public school, even public schools that aren’t highly rated amazing ones. There are things that can be done in a public school setting that are difficult to do at home, such as high school lab sciences (which is part of the reason so many homeschoolers do those things in co-ops – sometimes set up quite like public school classrooms – or pay for other outside classes). Is there room for improvement in public schools? Most definitely. But room for improvement does not equal completely bad.

Even if your kid is just reading books all day, they are getting a better education than they would in public school.
Or, the similar statement, The worst day of school at home is better than the best day of school in public school.
Just… no. Kids learn lots in public school. Yes, you hear about the horror stories, but there’s a reason you hear about them: they are unusual and so they are noteworthy. These things are usually said to make moms who mostly are not schooling feel better. This does a disservice, particularly since neither statement is true.

Socialization doesn’t matter.
Homeschool long enough (and by long enough I mean 5 minutes) and someone will say, “What about socialization.” Most homeschoolers brush it off. The thing is, it’s not true that socialization doesn’t matter. What doesn’t matter is the fake socialization imposed by public schools. School is the only time when you’ll be in a room of 30 other kids born within about 12 months of you, being instructed by an adult, told to be quiet and not talk to your neighbor, and maybe even get punished for talking too much by not being allow to talk even during lunch (i.e. no socialization allowed!). What does matter is the real life socialization that most homeschoolers are very careful to expose their kids to. Situations with multiple ages, kids and adults. Yes, there are unsocialized homeschoolers. You know, the stereotypical awkward kid who can’t hold a normal conversation with others. But, you’ll also find awkward kids who can’t hold a normal conversation in public school, too. For some reason, though, the ones in public school are deemed quirky or odd while the homeschooled ones, well, it must be caused by where they are educated.

X curriculum/homeschooling method works for every single child.
I’ve heard this from many people about various curricula or methods, but I’ve heard it most from people who do Thomas Jefferson Education. I am very glad each person has found what works so well for them and their child. That is wonderful. However, just because something works for one person, does not mean it will work for another. Plus, if one thing worked for every kid, the public schools should be clued in because I’m sure they’d be thrilled to find a one size fits all approach to education (spoiler alert: it simply doesn’t exist).

Everything is awesome!
Sometimes everything truly is awesome. Sometimes everything is going great. And sometimes it just isn’t. Unfortunately, as soon as a homeschooling mom talks about her hard days, whether they have to do with education choice or not, or feeling a little burned out, invariably someone will come along and say, “Just put your kids in [public] school, then.” For some of us, homeschooling is actually the thing that brings stability and normalcy to our lives. It’s not something we want to give up, even on the worst days. It’s okay for homeschooling moms to have hard days, weeks, months, or years. We’re moms first and foremost, for goodness sake! We shouldn’t have to pretend everything is perfect just because advice to make things better always seems to focus on the way our kids are educated even when the problems have absolutely nothing to do with it.

FAILURES This School Year

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On Tuesday I listed the big wins from this school year. Now for the failures.

Beast Academy and Art of Problem Solving – No matter how popular they are, they just didn’t work for us. Frustrating for parents and students alike.
Math Mammoth – Another wildly popular math curriculum. A definite “not a match” for us.
While it wasn’t a complete failure, I picked way too many vocabulary words for Fritz when he read some chapters (particularly in Five Children and It). Looking up words in his personal dictionary was great. Having more than 6 or 8 at a time was too much for him.

Honorable (Dishonorable?) Mention goes to Discover the Latter-day Prophets mainly because of misspellings (Woodruf instead of Woodruff, for example) and Hands-on Church History because their website still says volume 2 is expected late 2014 but still isn’t out. I even e-mailed at the beginning of the year to be sure the remaining two volumes would come out and be usable during the school year. I was assured that would be the case. Here we are 6 weeks from the end of the school year and still only volume 1 is available. I had to change my plans for religion partway into the school year because of that.

WINS This School Year

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We’re on the downward slide at the end of the school year. We can see our three month break looming just a few weeks away. I’ve been thinking about what we used this year and what worked best. So, the 2014-15 school year big wins are:

Writing With Skill – Hands-down the number 1 winner for the year
Writing With Ease – I love how I can see this leading to Writing With Skill (though we are sad that we’ve moved on from the copywork and do all dictations and narrations now)
Math-U-See – All three boys are loving their math finally!

Pandia Press REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry and Early Modern History get honorable mentions. We don’t LOVE them, but they are both very good and we’ve learned a lot.

Cameron’s Digestion Composition

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Digestion

Digestion is a strange process which some people may not know about like what happens once your food gets in your intestines.

Your small intestine is around 20 feet long. It removes the nutrients from the mash of food that comes from your stomach. It does this by slowly passing over ridges that extract the nutrients from the sludge.

Your food gets into your stomach through your throat. It doesn’t fall straight down into your stomach. It is pushed down through your throat into your stomach, which digests the food into a mash that is mixed with bile from the liver and other fluids. It is then passed to your small intestine which takes the nutrients from the sludge into the bloodstream where it is brought to wherever it is needed.

This may sound gross, but it is an important thing and without it you would DIE. This process happens to everything you eat.

It amazes me how much his writing has improved since he started Writing With Skill!

Young Women Scripture Reading Chart

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A few weeks ago during young women, Ani decided scripture study needed to be more of a priority among the girls in our ward. She had a giant brainstorm about making a poster to keep track of the total number of days scriptures are read in our ward’s young women organization.

Young Women Scripture Reading Chart
(Click on the image to see it bigger.)

She made the poster so the names can be moved or changed as girls move to other classes, move away, or move on to Relief Society. It’s on a foam core board. The names are on strips cut from 3×5 cards with holes punched on either end. They are attached to the board using brads threaded through holes cut in the board using a sharp knife. She made sure to include the leaders so we get to participate, too!

There is a dry erase marker attached so every week as the girls arrive in the young women room, they can write down the number of days they read at least one scripture that week. They can count assigned reading for seminary, reading for completing Personal Progress value experiences, or any other personal scripture reading they do.

Every month Ani will tally up the number of days the young women read scriptures and write it in the Last Month section. She’ll also keep a running tally for the number of days over the previous year they read their scriptures. The girls want a treat after they reach a certain number of days read as a group. We haven’t decided on what that magic number or what the treat will be.

At the bottom of one side, she put a pocket that she is planning to keep filled with little slips of paper with seven scripture passage references, usually ones that apply to value experiences, and they can read one passage per day during the week. She printed the Young Women torch from lds.org and a quote from Elder Scott’s fall 2014 conference address.

Young Women Scripture Reading Chart

Ani presented her poster to the girls on Sunday and explained what to do and how to record the number of days they read each week. While she explained, I handed out wallet size cards we had had printed at Costco with Elder Scott’s quote on them:

Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!