Homeschool is not the boss of me

Homeschool is not the boss of me

Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.

I love this season.

Getting ready for the start of a new school year means I get to do all the things I naturally love.

Planning our homeschool calendar.

Typing up our daily schedule.

Researching and (even better) ordering and unpacking new books and curriculum options.

Buying new pens and pencils that we don’t need, but look how pretty they are. (Really, this applies to any office supply – I texted my friends from the store the other day asking if they would help me justify buying a golden stapler. I have issues.)

It all feels so refreshing to me – a new year, a fresh start, a lovely golden stapler.

Then the actual learning begins.

It takes a few weeks, but eventually, I know the newness will fade. The crisp, new books will have coffee spilled on them. A few of the darling pencils will be broken by my ten-year-old in frustration during his phonics lessons. The schedule will mock me. And the curriculum will move too fast for either of my boys, and their learning differences.

It is just part of homeschooling these children.

So this year, I am committed to one goal, and only one:

Homeschooling will not be the boss of me

Better still, my idea of homeschooling will not be the boss of me.

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As we begin our sixth year learning at home, I am aware of my tendency to want to cling to the curriculum planner, the daily schedule, all the fun activities on Pinterest, and what other moms have shared about how they are homeschooling this year.

The truth is, this never serves me or my children well.

This time around, I am instead being as intentional as possible about letting go of homeschooling the way I want it to be, and instead focusing on what my children need it to be.

How I modify our curriculum

I still use many traditional curriculum programs. I find that it is easier to modify an existing, really detailed plan, than to create my own from scratch.

The caveat is that any program I am using must have one key element to make it doable for us. The curriculum must have some sort of activity or hands-on option for each lesson. I can manage around any traditional “book work” as long as I know there is an already planned, more kinesthetic option for the planned learning.

If I see that the curriculum has this, I am likely to buy it – I know it will give us some structure, but still work with our unique needs. Examples of what works well for us include All About Reading, Oak Meadow, and my new favorite, History Mysteries.

Building in scheduling flexibility

This is so much more important than I have acknowledged in previous years. I used to make the ideal schedule, and then modify it over and over again as it failed, over and over again.

Now, I build a set of routines that have a ton of blank space to allow for life to happen. I have a loose morning routine, an afternoon routine, and an evening routine. I have also learned to create a general plan for the week, including a day completely at home, a day where we are open for play dates, and field trip Fridays (because nothing is more deserted than a museum on a Friday afternoon).

Every one one of these plans is written in pencil, and completely subject to change.

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Reminding myself that our homeschool may be different, but it is not less

This is my greatest struggle and lesson in homeschooling. Our homeschool necessarily looks different. My children have unique needs that require it. For too long, I have felt like different somehow meant less than what I see my friends doing with their kids.

I have felt like our reality is less than my idea of how homeschooling should be.

I am beginning to understand that just because it is different, doesn’t mean there is less learning.

Different does not mean less. It means individualized and special. It means appropriate and learner-centric. It means learning will actually happen.

I will not let homeschool be the boss of me. I will not let the curriculum, the schedule, or unrealistic expectations dictate how I help my boys learn.

No matter what your children’s needs, I don’t think you should either.

Now, let’s get back to the good stuff about this time of year. The school supply section at the store is waiting.

Special Education at Home (2)

A note from Jamie: If you’re homeschooling children with special needs, you simply must take a look at Shawna’s wonderful new book: Special Education at Home. Her voice is caring, guilt free, and full of both practical advice and inspiration. I highly recommend it!

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!


About Shawna Wingert

Shawna Wingert is the creator of Not The Former Things, a blog dedicated to homeschooling children with learning differences and special needs. She loves finding out-of-the-box ways for out-of-the-box learners to thrive. She is the author of two books, Special Education at Home and Everyday Autism. You can follow Shawna and Not The Former Things on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.


  1. I always felt like a square peg in a round hole, trying to get curriculum to fit us. Curriculum itself is what never really worked for us. I’d buy something new only to give up weeks or even just days later. All the wasted money! For us reading aloud was huge, doing really super casual unit studies (with lots of impromptu rabbit trails), strewing lots of materials and experiences, working through a particular resource as the need or spirit struck us (“Hey, look at this book on sentence diagramming! Let’s try it.” Diagram for a few weeks, drop it and then come back to it a year or two later. “Hey remember that time we learned to diagram sentences? Let’s do some more!) – that was way more realistic for what turned out to be our style of homeschooling. Until the kids hit high school age, then everything tightened up because we are always thinking about the possibility of college. But it was the kids (mostly!) themselves who wanted to tighten things up.

  2. Yes! I often feel like the approach we take for my 16 yr old’s learning is ‘not enough.’ Not because he doesn’t do anything, mind you, but because it is different. I often get stuck in the trap of comparing his routine to that of other homeschoolers, or even my other children, and I begin to get stressed out and start adding things that are never going to meet his needs but are just there to make me feel better. Thank you for this. I really needed it. 🙂
    Shelly’s latest post: How To Get Your Kids To Beg You To Do Spelling

    • Oh Shelly, you are speaking my language. The ‘not enough’ feeling makes me crazy. I also find myself asking, “Does this count as school?” Agh!
      Thank you so much for sharing your experience too. It’s such a good reminder than I am not the only one, and neither are you!
      Shawna Wingert’s latest post: Starting The School Year Off Right

  3. I will be homeschooling my three girls this year. We have yet to begin. Mainly because we are still getting all the necessary stuff together to sign up under an umbrella school. I am going the “unschooling” way. For two years, we did online public school for my daughter Ashleigh but she is just completely burnt out on doing work on the computer. I do have an Erin Condren teacher planner and on the lesson planning pages, I am pretty much writing out what I want to accomplish for each day. It might be wrote in pen but, I can always put a sticker over it if we did something different that day. We treat any day that we have to go out and do errands and a learning experience. Good luck this year with schooling your boys!

  4. I love this, Shawna! I completely relate to everything you said (oh the thrill of brand new office supplies!), and your voice of wisdom is lovely. Thanks!

  5. I really respect those with great sense of commitment to take up home schooling. Believe me, I would end up getting frustrated along the way. Wishing everybody a great school year.

  6. I love this and needed to hear it today. We year-round homeschool and are just ending our year as everyone is going back to school. But we’ll only take a few weeks off before jumping in again, so I’m about to start all the fun planning (aka, my favorite part). I have learned the hard way about making a strict schedule, but still struggle with letting go of the guilt of a less busy schedule. Thank you for your post!

    • I love the way you said that – letting go of the guilt of a less busy schedule. Yes! Somehow, it just feels like I am not doing enough and failing, if we are calm and enjoying life. Bleh!
      Thank you for sharing your experience and enjoy your few weeks off. (Happy Planning!)
      Shawna Wingert’s latest post: Starting The School Year Off Right

  7. “Our homeschooling may be different, but it is not less.”

    I love this entire post, but this line is so beautiful. <3

  8. “My idea of homeschooling will not be the boss of me” Yes!! Your post was so timely and I couldn’t agree more!

  9. You should check out the science curriculum and activities I have been creating at home! Everything is super hands on and there are lots of add on activities to engage all types of learners while they learn science!

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