Beginning Homeschooling: Things I Wish I’d Known and Questions I Wish I’d Asked

If you’re just starting this homeschool gig, you probably have a million different questions about it. A few months ago, I was approached by someone thinking about homeschooling. Instead of asking me the usual questions she had thought of, she asked me two things: what I wish I’d known going into it, and questions I wish I had asked. Honestly, I think it’s the best way any beginning homeschooler has ever approached me to talk about homeschooling! Here are the answers I gave her.

Things I wish I’d known:

It’s hard. You have to make your own rewards because you are your own manager. You have to find your own friends, because you won’t naturally have all those friends with kids in the same school. At the same time… less drama!!

Everyone will ask you “why.” No one asks public school kids this, but even strangers will often ask why we homeschool. I’ve learned to let these questions skim off me, but at first it was difficult. Everyone seems to think they get to tell you that you’re ruining your kids if you’re homeschooling.

It’s awesome and amazing. I went into it because my son couldn’t manage half an hour in a classroom, but he was incredibly curious and intelligent at home. My kids are 11 and 9 now, and starting to hit adolescence. And I am so glad for the time I’ve had with them. It’s been so much fun. I didn’t miss anything.

It’s a lifestyle, not a part-time gig. It’s easy in the beginning to think it’s just “this little thing” you’re doing. Then you start researching. Pretty soon you’re addicted to it. Not just homeschooling, but the issues surrounding homeschooling and education. I see a lot of homeschoolers doing this. We all have our fingers on the pulse of education, what’s changing, what’s required, how they do it in other countries. We’re learning all the time about how to learn. Which means we might be doing things differently than our friends.

Questions I wish I’d asked:

Is there a better way to do this? When I started, I did what everyone else did — I bought a bunch of school supplies, bought curriculum, made schedules and lists, and “did school” with my kids. It took me a few years (and a lot of books on education) to realize that there were much better ways to do it, especially in one-on-one situations.

Is there a less expensive way to do this? Seriously, you start out buying that all-in-one curriculum that costs half as much as a private school tuition. Why? Libraries are free. And there is SO much great information online. I do almost everything for free now.

What does socialization mean? This is the most common argument against homeschooling, that our kids will be unsocialized. But what does it mean to be socialized? I think most people are thinking “standardized” or “normalized.” The ability to be a social human doesn’t mean sitting in a room with 30 people exactly the same age and one much older person. Real life socialization (like you’d see in a job situation) means you need to be able to communicate with people from many different age groups and backgrounds. Homeschoolers often have an advantage here, since our community groups are diverse and we have lots of opportunities to be with all sorts of different people. We also work hard to give our kids social opportunities — outside activities, neighborhood service, talking with people from different backgrounds.

How are homeschool and public school different? It’s easy to think, “education is the same in all situations.” I started out treating my son’s schooling the same way my public schooling was done: textbooks, worksheets, memorization, drills. But when my daughter hit school age, she had a totally different learning style. I had to change everything for her. And it made me wonder how many kids are slipping through the school system, just because they’re not good at “school.” One-on-one education is more like tutoring or mentoring. You don’t have to control the behavior of a classroom. You have a lot more freedom to teach how one child wants to learn. So knowing that those are entirely different situations will help you avoid some of the mistakes I made in the beginning.

Bonus advice for those considering education at home:

The decision you make right now is NOT forever. You can homeschool for a year, and then decide it doesn’t work. You can send your child to public school for a few years, and then pull him out to homeschool. If your kid is in school, you can still “afterschool” and teach more things at home. Don’t feel like the weight of your kid’s future is on your shoulders. There’s plenty of time to decide again. I decide again every year. My son might actually go to public school for high school, and I’m okay with that.

If you’re looking for more advice about how homeschooling might work for you, feel free to contact me. I’m always available to chat with people who have questions. Or feel free to read my book Blueprint Homeschooling: How to Plan a Year of Home Education That Fits the Reality of Your Life to get an idea of what a year might look like for you.

If you’re a veteran homeschooler, what would you have added to my list? What questions do you wish you had asked?

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