Homeschooling Expectations vs Reality
So you’ve decided to homeschool, congrats!
You are about to embark on a wild new journey, my friend!
When we started our first year of homeschooling I was worried I was going to mess up and decided to set out on this new voyage with perfection as my main goal.
First, I set up traditional school desks full of all the school supplies.
Then, I covered the walls with bright and festive school-themed posters.
Finally, I created what I considered to be a foolproof schedule.
My expectations were over the top and I was trying to recreate public school in the basement of my home.
Do you know what happened, you guys?
The stuff on the desks became a complete distraction, the wall posters were never utilized, and that first schedule? Yeah, it wasn’t exactly foolproof.
The first obstacle I had to overcome as a new homeschool mom was to realize that homeschooling isn’t public school and all those ridiculous expectations I had were exactly that, ridiculous.
I seriously went into this whole homeschooling thing thinking that if I created a school-like environment for my kids, the rest would eventually fall into place.
The expectations you have for your first homeschool year likely won’t line up with reality either, you guys!
The Homeschool Comparison Trap
While accepting that your first-year expectations may not become reality is an important first step to a great homeschool year, recognizing the danger of falling into the homeschool comparison trap is just as essential.
This is why the next thing you need to come to terms with before starting your first homeschool year is to remember and accept that you are the only you!
When homeschooling first entered the picture, I thought I needed to have the skills, mindset, and appearance of a homeschool mom.
I thought there was a homeschool mom mold and it was crucial to my children’s success that I fit into it.
That said, this wasn’t a first for me.
I had fallen into these crazy comparison traps in every other season and area of my life.
From trying to be the perfect Pinterest mom to trying to fit in with the private school moms.
It wasn’t healthy and it was killing my ability to be the mom my kids needed me to be.
However, I still dove into homeschooling with this crazy notion that all homeschool moms were complete superheroes and I needed to be one too.
This meant doing all the things they did and somehow still managing the house and getting dinner on the table just like I did before.
Then, and only then, would I be a successful homeschool mom.
I tried so hard to be that superhero that I experienced extreme burnout and felt like throwing in the towel. Every. Single. Day.
It was hard stuff, you guys!
While it personally took me years to fall out of this comparison trap, I’ve finally learned that I am not supposed to be like other homeschool moms.
I’m supposed to be me.
For me, this means skipping the traditional co-op activities, homeschooling only 3 days each week, and leaning on the side of simplicity whenever I can without the guilt!
Leaving comparison behind and focusing on your and your child’s individual needs is one of the most crucial steps to having a successful first homeschool year.
What to Expect Your First Homeschool Year
With the ridiculous public school expectations and the comparison traps behind you, that first homeschool year will still be a challenge, you guys!
While I want to say ditching those things will make it completely smooth right off the bat, I simply can’t.
There will be challenges to overcome.
The first homeschool year is a rollercoaster ride and learning process for everyone involved.
However, once you do make it through that first year I can assure you that if you take what you’ve learned and apply the changes needed, things will get easier.
While never perfect or effortless, homeschooling can be a tremendous blessing for any family.
When you first start homeschooling, the multitude of curriculum options out there can leave you feeling completely overwhelmed!
Even with hours of research under your belt, you won’t know if something works until you have tried it out firsthand.
Also, the likelihood that you will find the right curriculum for each of your children the very first time will be extremely slim, you guys!
All that said, there are a few ways to make this process slightly less painful.
If you’ve done your research and if your budget allows, you can try out the full curriculum of your choice and go from there.
Then, if something doesn’t work you simply toss it and move on to something else.
While this may be the easiest solution, it’s definitely not the cheapest.
This method can get extremely costly, especially if you have children who struggle to find their perfect fit.
If your homeschool budget is tight, consider using these options for trying new curricula instead.
Buy Used Curriculum
By purchasing a used curriculum at a discounted rate, you can simply test it things out with little to no regret.
Then, when you find something that works you can plan to purchase new the following year.
Sell Lightly Used Curriculum Online.
Trying something that doesn’t work for your family doesn’t mean you have to lose a ton of money.
Selling used (or barely used) curriculum online is a great option for putting a little curriculum cash back into your pocket for future use!
Use Free Curriculum.
If buying an expensive homeschool curriculum isn’t a realistic option for your family, utilizing free educational resources may be the best and only solution.
One of my favorite options for budget-conscious homeschoolers is this free homeschool curriculum in PDF form!
All that said, it’s also important to remember that when trying out a new curriculum, there will be a learning curve!
No two curriculum options are exactly alike, so make sure you always allow extra time for easing into new material before giving up and moving on to something else.
If I could only point you to one thing on this entire list, it would be this.
As a to-do list-making, priority-setting, goal-oriented mom, this one still defeats me sometimes!
When I was completely new to the homeschooling game I had this insane notion that I would be able to sit down and teach a lesson in a single setting.
Boy was I wrong.
I never actually took into account all the tiny interruptions that happen in daily life.
I mean, when my children were in school and the UPS guy rang the doorbell, it wasn’t an issue.
At most, I was folding laundry or starting dinner, which was something I could easily get right back to because I was the only one involved.
There was little to no stress involved and it didn’t wreak havoc on the rest of my day
However, when the doorbell rings in the middle of a language arts lesson, all heck breaks loose!
Every single child in my house flies out of their seat to see who could possibly be standing behind that door.
Followed up with the question “What’s in the box, Mom?”.
Finally, we open the box and I attempt to move on with our day by corralling the kids back into the kitchen for lessons.
Before I even realize it 10 or 20 minutes have passed and I find myself asking “How in the world does it take so long to answer the door?”
This will forever be my biggest homeschool challenge!
That said, this one falls into the same category of letting go of unrealistic expectations in your homeschool.
There will likely never be that perfect homeschool day with zero interruptions, you guys!
The kids will bicker, UPS will arrive in the middle of a project, and snacks will be needed for the toddler halfway through a math lesson.
The key is to let these little interruptions roll off your back, turning your focus from the interruption back to the task at hand and gently guiding your children to do the same.
Or, when getting back on track simply isn’t happening because the day was simply too full of interruptions, distractions, and situations out of your control, learn to lean on the side of flexibility instead and ditch formal learning for the day (or at least for a few hours) — because tomorrow you get a fresh start, you guys!
Accepting early on that distractions will come and learning to embrace the chaos will be one of the best decisions you could ever make for your homeschool.
Let’s be real, you guys. Becoming overwhelmed will happen to every human at least once in their lifetime (and if we’re completely honest with ourselves, it will happen a lot more than just once).
That said, unless you truly are a super-human, becoming overwhelmed will happen at some point during that first year of homeschooling.
Between homeschooling the kids, catching up on the laundry, running all the errands, and figuring out what to feed the family for dinner, homeschool moms sure wear a lot of hats, you guys!
To be completely honest, it’s overwhelming to think about sometimes, let alone actually live it!
Homeschool mom life truly is a full-time job.
Then, there are the extras you have to find the time to fit in like out-of-the-home events and extended family obligations.
Even as a veteran homeschool mom, this truly is something I will always struggle with.
I’m a huge introvert, I suffer from anxiety, and I tend to stress out over the smallest of things.
The only way I could conquer the constant feeling of overwhelm that I experienced during my first 2.5 years of homeschooling was by skipping the unnecessary things and eventually asking for help when I needed it!
One of the ways I tackled my own overwhelm was by adding a chore routine to our daily homeschool schedule.
Not only did this help the house look more presentable, but it also kept my kiddos in check by encouraging them to help Mom out from time to time.
Not asking for help has always been a huge struggle of mine because honestly, I thought I was supposed to do it all!
With that said, stress will always come with the territory when children or relationships are involved.
It’s important to find little ways to prioritize your to-dos, learn to lean on others for help, and skip unnecessary homeschool extras (like extensive experiments) altogether when need be!
Not only can this help alleviate daily stress, but it can create a much smoother first homeschool year.
Ok, feeling overwhelmed and having overloaded emotions go hand in hand, you guys!
When you feel overwhelmed, you will get emotional.
With that said, emotions can run strong during that first homeschool year for a multitude of reasons.
When you first start homeschooling, everyone in the house is learning, including you!
As a new homeschool mom, you will be learning how to practice proper time management while juggling the extra task of teaching homeschool lessons and your kiddos will be learning through those lessons.
When this much new learning happens in a home, emotions tend to get put into overdrive.
For example, when a child is learning new material and the lesson takes longer than expected because they are struggling with the concept or focus, they can become overwhelmed and frustrated.
Meltdowns and tears will likely follow.
Then, because the child’s emotions are high, Mom will soon feel overwhelmed with this new venture and possibly even feel like giving up.
The homeschool emotions are real, you guys!
I’ve got to be brutally honest here, tears will most likely be a part of your first homeschool year.
Just know this, tears, frustrations, and meltdowns do not equal failure!
Homeschooling is hard stuff when you’re a newbie and there is a huge learning curve that happens that first year.
Learn to be patient with yourself and your kiddos during this transition, taking breaks to regroup as often as you need! You’ve got this Momma!
Ready for some more of that honesty stuff? Well, here we go!
Unless you have a Ph.D. or Master’s Degree in all things education, were an expert teacher in your former (pre-homeschool) life, or simply have the confidence of a fictional character who doesn’t exist, you will likely face insecurities about teaching your children at some point during your first homeschool year!
If I’m being completely honest, for me, these insecurities started well before our first year of homeschooling though.
Growing up in a low-income family and failing at school myself, I always struggled with not feeling smart enough.
This is why I was incredibly thankful to have inlaws who helped provide a wonderful private education for my two older boys.
That said, when my oldest son was in the 5th grade he asked me to homeschool him, point blank.
I wish I could have seen my own face at that moment because I’m pretty sure it was a nice shade of white, you guys!
Then, I shared his feelings with my husband and we prayed a lot.
While I eventually decided I would attempt this for my son, I was still overwhelmed with those feelings of self-doubt and not being smart enough to provide him with a proper home education.
Honestly, I didn’t think I could pull it off but my son was desperate to escape the constant bullying at school and he simply wasn’t flourishing.
First, we attempted online schooling which didn’t involve too much teaching on my part so I was able to hide those insecurities and push through.
It wasn’t until our first full year of homeschooling completely on our own that I had to tackle these feelings head-on.
You know what though? I pushed through. I learned alongside my children and I got better at this homeschool mom gig.
So, when you’ve been hit by your first-year (or pre-first-year) insecurities, take a moment and breathe!
Remember who you are.
Don’t let fear creep in and tell you that your kiddos will be missing out on traditional school things or that you are going to screw it up because you aren’t smart enough.
You are their mom and you are enough!
Being Behind Your First Homeschool Year
If you take anything to heart from this article, let it be this!
Whether you start your first homeschool year behind public school standards, or your child falls behind during that first year, know that you aren’t alone and you are not a failure.
While homeschooling a child below grade level standards may sound like a big deal, it truly isn’t as bad as most parents believe it to be.
Truth be told, many children in the public school system will get pushed through to the next grade even when they aren’t performing at a level that qualifies them for the following grade!
I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
When I pulled my son from his private school (per his request) it didn’t take me long to realize he was behind.
Then, our experience with online school set him back even worse!
I watched these public school teachers push my kid through the system without him fully understanding major math concepts that were essential for his new grade.
While I knew this was a problem, it wasn’t until we switched to a traditional homeschool curriculum and he took the grade-level assessments that I realized just how behind he truly was.
This kiddo who had been in both private school and online public school was over 2 whole years behind in math.
Since math isn’t my strong suit and I had to depend on my husband who worked outside of the home to get our son back on track, we simply chose to extend his learning time by 1 year instead of overwhelming his learning experience.
While yes, this means he will graduate a year later than most of his friends, it also means he will be able to learn at his own pace.
That said, homeschooling allows so much flexibility that he could attempt an accelerated pace if he decided to mix things up down the road.
In the end though, when a child levels up or graduates truly doesn’t matter.
While it took me a long time to figure this out, every single child is different and they all deserve to learn at their own pace.
School standards simply do not matter.
Homeschooling allows children to learn using non-traditional methods and focus on their unique interests and it’s okay if they finish their schooling in a different time frame than suggested by your local public school!
Learn to let them flourish where they are.
Starting Your First Homeschool Year
Embrace the journey, my friend!
While this homeschooling thing isn’t for the faint of heart, it truly can be a wonderful blessing.
Choosing to homeschool means you get to do life with your kids, every single day!
You aren’t holding them back and they aren’t missing out.
Just remember, when you finally make it through this first year of homeschooling, you still might not have it all down and that’s ok!
More than likely, you will finish the year off with insecurities that you still have to conquer.
You might be unsure if you should continue homeschooling the following year because you’re rethinking everything you did that first year.
Or, you may need to find a new curriculum solution.
Either way, this homeschool thing takes time to figure out, you guys!
To be completely honest, it took me about 2.5 years to find our flow and actually feel like I had a handle on this whole homeschool thing.
Finally, I have a good idea of what works best for all 3 of my kiddos, we have an awesome curriculum lineup, and we make it through most of our lessons on time.
That said, we still encounter hiccups along the way and I’ve learned to accept that.
More Tips for the First Homeschool Year
If you are preparing to homeschool for the very first time and are at a loss for how to prep, I encourage you to head over to the planning and prep page here on Life + Homeschool for additional resources!