When we started homeschooling our first grader last year, I had planned out an amazing curriculum, and planned to bond and cultivate a great relationship with my son along the way.
We decided to homeschool because we wanted a better education for our kids than we thought the underfunded California public schools could offer. We wanted autonomy over our time and the ways our children learn, and as two resourceful and educated adults, we felt confident that we could teach the basics.
What we discovered was, of course, nothing like we had expected…
A parent is not always the best teacher
For a month or two, everything seemed to go well. Then the struggles began.
The whining and crying when we sat down to do schoolwork brought out the worst in me as a mom with mornings of shouting and crying leaving us both feeling awful. I began to resent having given up my time to teach. By December, I told my husband that it was time for him to go back to school.
To my surprise, he had a different opinion. Despite the schoolwork struggles, my husband and son were spending lots of time together – working on projects like building a heliostat (a computerized sun-tracking device) and mastering chess. Because there wasn't the pressure of late night homework, they had time to explore random ideas and interests and research them online.
“I'm really still inspired and excited by homeschooling,” my husband declared.
But with my evident failure as a teacher in this phase of my son's education combined with my husband's full-time job – we needed to think outside the box.
So we hired a tutor.
Of course, I couldn't blog about hiring a tutor for homeschooling because this was clearly a failure. I mean, wasn't the whole point of homeschooling that the parents are supposed to spend the time to educate their kids?
As the early weeks of the year rolled along, our new arrangement seemed to find a nice pace and flow. While my seven year old boy still squirmed quite a bit during his hour and a half of daily lessons, he did much better with an outside authority figure (not mom or dad) guiding him through his lessons.
While he showed an affinity for math at an early age, his reading skills were finally starting to take off and I breathed a sigh of relief. Now our evening reading time was less strained and more enjoyable.
Socialization is awkward
Midway through the spring, we encountered our next big hurdle: socialization.
Now this is one of those common arguments you hear about why not to homeschool, but we had started off the year confident that this would not be a problem. My son had made great friends in our community, and we had him involved in daily after school activities with other kids. Plus, we weren't convinced that the type of socializing that school provides is particularly healthy anyway.
But after six months of solo tutoring and failed attempts at connecting with the allegedly thriving local homeschool community, we were concerned that our young homeschooler was becoming too insular. Playdates seemed to go sour too often and he was receiving less and less invitations to parties and events with old friends.
This struck a nerve with both me and my husband who didn't want to be personally responsible for our son feeling alone and rejected.
We made up our minds, and called the school to enroll him.
They apologized, but the first grade classes were full.
Our simple solution foiled, we talked with our son, went out of our way to organize get-togethers with other boys his age, and decided he would just start back to school in the fall.
To our surprise, over the next few months, he found his way. He learned to communicate better with his friends, reconnected with some buddies, and found more peace in solo time.
Despite our need to line up a perfect experience with friends, we were reminded that socializing is an evolving experience. Sometimes you have tons of great friends and sometimes you're on your own. Neither is right or wrong, it's how you move through that counts.
There is no one way to homeschool
By the time this summer rolled around, we were back to appreciating homeschooling.
We decided to have our son tested to get an idea of how he's faring from an academic perspective. Despite our struggles, we were pleased to find out that he is ‘on track' and above for the reading, writing, and math for a second grader.
This year we plan to continue laying the foundations of learning with a strong emphasis on reading, writing, spelling, and math. I've scheduled some homeschool days at the science center and my husband will continue to dream up interesting projects and exploring my son's interests.
A typical day for our homeschooling second grader feels relaxed and balanced now. After a hearty breakfast he has an hour and a half with his tutor. He'll then have some free time which he typically spends working on a building project or imaginative play on his own.
Then he'll dive into some homework before heading out to an art class, violin, tennis, Spanish, nature explorer group, or free ranging in the neighborhood with a gaggle of friends who have just gotten out of school.
Most evenings are spent reading aloud to mom or dad then listening to some classics read aloud or reading on his own.
While we still have days of homework meltdowns, for the most part, the homeschool life seems to suit us, and our homeschooler has no interest in heading back to school.
As such, we head off into our second year of homeschooling – this time carrying less expectation, a dash more patience, and a well-weathered sense of adventure for whatever may come.
Do you homeschool (or are thinking about it)? What surprises have you encountered along the way?