Written by Kara Anderson
The first time I tried to read Robin Hood to my kids, they were 1 and 4.
A relative had given us a set of beautiful, bound classics from the 50s – books her own children read, and I was determined to share them all with my kids.
Of course, I thought, I should definitely start as soon as possible. And so we began with Robin Hood one early September.
We (well, I) were very into Waldorf Education then, and so I decided to incorporate Robin Hood right after Circle Time – right after we blew out our Circle Time Candle, which I always placed on the floor, because I saw someone do that once.
So to recap, I was preparing to read a one-pound, 1950s-era version of Robin Hood to my two children – one a baby, still fitfully nursing in my lap, and the other a precocious boy who just really wanted to climb the furniture.
And I had a lit candle, on my rug.
Just to recap.
Looking back, I had fallen into a familiar trap, that of wanting to Make Homeschool Real with my tiny people.
I figured I was teaching my kids valuable things, but by mid-year I was so burned out that we sent our son to a very fancy preschool that had a tree growing in the library.
I needed a minute.
Eight years later, my missteps are obvious. I tried to do too much, too soon, with people who were way too small.
I put too much pressure on myself, and I let people on the internet boss me around, making me into some kind of inexperienced homeschool method purist.
But my intentions? My intentions were good.
I was eager and excited. I was committed. I was willing to pushpushpush to make homeschooling work.
I see this now amongst moms I meet – moms with tiny people. Moms of toddlers share stories about trying to balance schoolwork with potty training, and I want to hug them, and tell them for goodness sake, stop trying so darn hard.
But I get it. I do. Because I was that mom.
So here is what I recommend to parents wanting to get started with homeschooling their little ones:
The absolute No. 1 thing I would recommend is to read good books together. You can begin with Robin Hood if you all are really into it, but I would maybe start a little more simply.
Go to the library and pick out bags of books. Don’t worry too much what you grab at first – the good ones will keep coming home somehow.
Let your kids play. Let them climb and splash and make great towns out of animals and blocks and Lego. Let them dress up, and wear capes to the supermarket and make clothes for their stuffed friends.
Play with them, or if playing is hard for you, try one of these ideas and don’t feel bad about it.
Do “life” with your kids
One of my mistakes early on was to separate “school” from “life,” when of course one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is that the two are intertwined.
It initially seemed like a lot of extra work to let my kids “help” with things like laundry or cooking. When I relaxed about those things, though, and began to see them as valuable learning experiences, I found we all suddenly had a lot more time.
I can’t emphasize this strongly enough – you do not have to do crafts to be a good homeschool mom.
But if you like artsy stuff, and if you have a high tolerance for mess, go for it. Make art supplies available, and occasionally make a batch of play dough or paint some T-shirts.
But only if it’s fun and everyone enjoys it.
Repeat after me: Crafts should not be stressful.
But again. Only if it isn’t stressful. I have never been so relieved as when a friend of mine told me that she didn’t go to the science museum with her kids because it stressed her out.
Sometimes, “fun stuff,” doesn’t work in a certain stage of motherhood.
So I am telling you now – go to the park, the science museum, the library, but only if it works. If not, it will work eventually, I promise.
Consider a simple curriculum
For preschool, I love Five in a Row. But don’t feel like you have to do all the crafts or read every book.
It takes most homeschool moms years to learn this, so here’s an insider tip I had to learn the hard way: Curriculum is not the boss. You are. Make it work for you, not the other way around.
Make everyday moments count
Talk to your kids. Answer their questions, and when you don’t know the answer, look it up together.
Look for community
Begin to look for a group that can offer some support and friendship.
But don’t settle.
If the vibe feels off, it probably is. Trust yourself! You will find a group eventually, even if it’s just a small group of close friends.
In fact, to sum up all of this advice, I would say the following:
You don’t have to force things. You don’t have to push. You don’t have to decide or declare anything yet.
Just enjoy these years with your kids. Get to know them: their hearts, their passions and their questions.
And then wake up tomorrow and do it again.
Before you know it, it will feel very real and important, and most valuable of all, you will know that you are capable of homeschooling–because you’ve been doing it all along.
What advice would you give to a parent really eager to start homeschooling?