3 Lessons Learned for the Beginner Homeschooler

Written by Simple Homeschool contributor Renee Tougas of FIMBY.

Eleven years ago our family started this home education journey with the birth of our oldest child. We never did try a public or private school option. Homeschooling is all we know.

Our family’s experience is limited to elementary aged education. So I’m certainly no expert on the subject of homeschooling, but I have learned a few lessons of my own along the way. Perhaps these are even more important than what my children have learned.

We’re all learning together and that’s one of the amazing benefits of home education.

These “lessons learned,” and still being learned, have come out of my insecurities and the question, “Am I doing this right?”

I hope what I’ve learned will be an encouragement if you’re just starting out or like me, have been at this a few years.

1. Follow your own time line.

Each family is unique and individuals even more so. My family’s journey in homeschooling will not be the same as yours. Even if our overall philosophies are similar the daily practice could look very different.

Likewise, your children will learn things at a their own pace and their individual interests may vary greatly. If you’re using a curriculum, don’t let it box you in. If your grade two student is interested in Japan but the curriculum says to study pioneer America you may miss out on a fantastic learning opportunity.

Freedom to be, grow, and learn according on our own schedule. This is why we homeschool.

Boy at creekPhoto by Renee Tougas

Don’t feel the need to fit into anyone else’s learning timeline.

Yes, the school district might be teaching polynomials in grade 1 (unlikely) but in most cases that doesn’t mean you need to. Your homeschool co-op friends might take the whole summer off for gardening and beach bumming, but you might prefer to take breaks at Christmas or in February.

Even things like assessments and evaluations (if you go that route) can often be planned according to your family’s schedule. We do our year end portfolio review in August because that works better for our family’s year round schooling/learning perspective.

Don’t be afraid to do things on your own time line.

2. The goal is relationship, not socialization.

If you have friends and family who are unfamiliar with homeschooling you may have heard this most annoying of questions, “But what about socialization?”

The goal of growing up is not to become socialized (what does that mean anyway?) but to have healthy relationships with people. People of all ages, not just your peer group.

I rarely get this question anymore, in fact I don’t remember the last time someone asked me this. That must be because they are usually too busy chatting with my children who are not afraid to strike up conversations with people (regardless of age) about books they are reading, an interesting hike we did, the insect they are studying, and so on.

monarch caterpillarPhoto by Renee Tougas

Speaking as a mother with a very social nine-year-old, family can and should be the predominant influence in a young child’s life. Yes there are many avenues for homeschoolers to play and meet other children: soccer, church, scouts, 4-H. Be involved for the fun of it and to be active as a family together, but don’t feel pressured to socialize your children.

There is a time and place for lots of community and peer relationships once children have a firm foundation in family relationships and values.

3. Be inspired or let it go.

Over the past years I have tried out various learning tools only to stop doing them after a couple months.

A few examples are reading instruction programs, spelling curriculums and classical artist study timelines. There was nothing wrong with the material itself, in fact it all came highly recommended by other homeschooling families. But it just didn’t work for us because when it came right down to it we didn’t find it inspiring.

child with e-readerPhoto by Renee Tougas

Everyone wants to be inspired. I want to be inspired about my daily activities with the children and they want to be inspired about what they are learning.

I have found that if I am enthused about a math activity, a book, a visit to a local museum then my children catch my enthusiasm. If I cannot be enthusiastic and motivated about what we are doing how can I expect my children to embrace that activity or learning task?

Likewise my children’s interest to study topics I wouldn’t necessarily choose has broadened my own learning. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

Just can’t get into that book you are reading together? Drop it. Find your math practice to be a bore day after day? Find an alternative that works for your family instead.

Keeping interests alive and curiosity intact is more important than completing a curriculum or slogging through a program that isn’t working for you family.

Of course I’ve learned a few more things than just these three. But I’ve been reflecting on these lately, and they’re definitely near the top of my list of “things I want to share with new homeschoolers.”

What lessons learned would you share with a beginner homeschooler?

About Renee

Renee is a creative homemaker and homeschooling mama of three. She loves to write, take pretty photos, and be in nature with her family. Her mission is to nourish, encourage, and teach; build relationship and create beauty. FIMBY is where she tells that story. Drawing from her years of experience and training, Renee also offers individual and personalized Homeschool Coaching.


  1. What a great post!!! I love that as homeschoolers we learn and adjust along the route of homeschooling… What I thought we would set out and do forever actually changes constantly. It is really only a couple of things that remain the same: Opening up the world with books (we never run out!!!); seeking the fun and losing the humdrum!!!
    se7en’s latest post: Se7en Things I wish I had Known About Homeschooling…

  2. Thank you for posting this! It give me a lot to think about and to keep in mind as we start our first full year!
    jeana’s latest post: Doing What Im Called to Do

  3. I am a pre-beginner really. My children are attending a pre-school out of the home in the fall, but I planning to start homeschooling my oldest in a year starting with Kindergarten.

    It really boosted my confidence in this choice to read this article. We’ve been asked these questions by friends and family…what about this, what about that? And the reasons we’ve decided that homeschooling is the route we’d like to pursue are the same reasons you note above. The learning at your own pace, not according to what someone else thinks. The child lead learning, following inspiration and letting go of what is not. And finally one of the reasons most at the top of my list, the opportunity to learn about real life relationships. I think this is so important.

    Thank you so much for this affirmation! And wish us luck!

  4. Thanks! This will be our 5th year homeschooling but I sure needed to hear this today. What you ‘ve said is so very true. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Mother of Pearl says:

    One lesson that I learned along the way was not to try to find the “best” curriculum. How are you supposed to choose from 40 spelling (or whatever) curriculum choices? You just pick one and if it works for you great! If it doesn’t, then try something else, but don’t get caught up in trying to find the one that is the “best” one. You might find one that you absolutely love, but if you don’t, finding one that works is good enough.

    • This is such a good point. There is no “best” in this sense. I’ve learned also that what works with one, doesn’t work with another. So although reading program A was best for my first child it isn’t for my second and so on.

  6. I enjoyed reading this. We’ve always had our children at home but haven’t really been doing school until recently. We’re trying to keep things very relaxed still leaving lots of time for play and relationship building. Although I totally agree with the fact that relationships are more important than the socialization aspect I have been worried lately that my children won’t meet a special friend or two to share their lives with. We’re a family of 4, not sure if we’ll have more, and we live in South Africa where hsing is a much smaller community than in the US. Reading your encouragement has helped a little to ease this worry, thanks!

  7. What a refreshing post! Thank you for your insight. I love the way children do learn on their own schedules, my boys seem to be pretty regular with their schedules of immersion in projects, then suddenly onto anything with numbers, then they can’t get enough of reading…which morphs into writing their own books..which magically turns into poetry! Always they are into building, inventing, investigating and LOVING this world we inhabit!

  8. I heartily agree. No two homeschooling families look alike. Don’t be afraid to find your own path that works for your family.

  9. Excellent post! I was talking to my mom yesterday about our future plans to homeschool. She asked if I intended to sit them down at the age of 5 and strictly follow a curriculum. I enthusiastically answered, NO! And she sighed in relief :0)
    Naomi’s latest post: Free Range Children

  10. I enjoyed this post very much. My husband and I pulled our nine-year-old out of school this year to homeschool him. One of the main reasons was the relationship issue. I felt like I never saw him and he had no time to be involved in anything fun. But so far, it sure has been challenging! Our first-grader is still in school (she just started this week – I also have a preschooler at home, although he’ll be attending preschool) and since my son has been used to a very regimented approach and being told what to learn, we’re struggling with boredom at the moment. Fortunately, he loves to read, so that’s mostly what he’s doing at the moment (although he is taking art through his old school – the teacher is amazing!). I’m not quite sure where to begin! I’m reading books and blogs. I do feel like I should know more what to do, since I was home schooled myself. But it’s totally different being on the parent side! I’m not following a curriculum since I want to give my son a chance to learn things he’s interested in. I just know that I need to keep my priorities straight – he’s ahead of the game in most areas, so I need to remind myself that academics are not my first priority. I’m not very high-energy, so I want my son to learn to be self-directed. This is a huge change for our family and I’m having a hard time not feeling totally overwhelmed! Thanks for reminding me what’s important!

  11. You pretty much summed up my homeschool philosophy. 🙂
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  12. I’m not a beginning homeschooler, but I found this post just as refreshing and inspiring to read. Sometimes anyone needs a good reminder! Thanks Renee!
    Hannah’s latest post: The Smoothie Debacle

  13. Well said. I’ll be linking on Facebook. Thanks.
    Kimara’s latest post: Nooks and Crannies The Murphy Bed

  14. Set your own life easier get the credit loans and all you need.

  15. “The goal is relationship, not socialization”.

    Love that 🙂
    Thank you.

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