What I Have Learned my First Year of Homeschooling

Written by Misha Thompson of The Offense of Joy

What have you learned this school year?

I am in the final month of finishing up our very first year of homeschooling and I am asking a lot of questions: What have I learned? What would I change? How did the kids do? How will I do it differently next year?

In the midst of all this, two ladies in particular have been helping me think through some pretty big queries in my life. Neither of them were homeschoolers (that I know of), but both were parents, authors, wives and women whose choices have challenged me.

These writers have helped summarize what I have learned.

1. Be myself.

Madeleine L’Engle is well-known for her famous book A Wrinkle in Time, and for her many other books that children love and grown-ups love to discuss. She married a famous stage actor, Hugh Franklin, and together they raised three children. In the midst of bringing up young ones, her husband’s career and her own “calling” to write, she worked endlessly to find a way to be true to who she was.

In her book Circle of Quiet Madeleine tells a beautiful story of an old lady at her church who everyone called Grandma. Grandma was an organist at the church where Madeleine was the choir director.

“In a sense Grandma was the organ, and the organ was Grandma…” she writes. Grandma was also the caretaker of her precious husband, Grandpa. Eventually he passed away and Grandma wanted to play the organ for her beloved’s funeral. The people in the church were very concerned about this. Madeleine’s response was “You can’t take the organ away from Grandma, today of all days. Let her do whatever she wants to do.”

Some time passed and Madeleine herself was involved in a very painful situation. Some horrible gossip was spread about her, her husband and three other couples in her church. The rumors were vicious and deeply wounding. Although all the malice was lacking in veracity, the eight friends eventually decided it was best to offer their resignation from their various jobs at the church. They waited for the church’s response–in the meantime Madeleine went to her choir’s rehearsal.

“The story,” she writes, “in various versions, was, of course, all over town. When I walked into the church Grandma was there to meet me; she had to talk to me before we started rehearsal. Now, I was quite certain that Grandma would have heard the whole sorry tale from a great many people who would like to see us put down. I loved Grandma, and I thought Grandma loved me, but I doubted her.

Grandma said to me, “Madeleine, I just want you to know that if you go, I go, too.”

Grandma was offering to give up the organ. Grandma was giving me herself. That absolute gesture of love is what remains with me.

The deacons tore up the resignation. The gossip blew over – though, after all these years, there are still a few people with whom I feel very tentative. But only a few.

Grandma gave me herself, and so helped to give me myself.”

If I can summarize the single most important thing I have learned as a homeschooler, it is that I have to give of myself to help give others themselves.

2. Live it to Give it.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was perhaps best known for her book Gift From The Sea. She was married to Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviation pioneer. I am reading her journals, novels, biographies and the books her youngest daughter, Reeve Lindbergh, wrote as her mother was fading with Alzheimers.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes in Gift From The Sea about the ever widening circles we relate to that continue to expand and reach far beyond our capacity to manage and carry them:

“Faced with this dilemma what can we do? … Because we cannot deal with the complexity of the present, we often over-ride it and live in a simplified dream of the future. Because we cannot solve our own problems right here at home, we talk about problems out there in the world. An escape process goes on from the intolerable burden we have placed upon ourselves.

Can one make the future a substitute for the present? And what guarantee have we that the future will be any better if we neglect the present? Can we solve world problems when one is unable to solve one’s own? … Have we been successful, working at the periphery of the circle and not at the center?”

I have learned this year that I have to live life from the center. I cannot give what I don’t live. My inward life and outward life have to be at one.

If I live a life of joy and inner truth, of being loyal to my talents and alive in my passions, then that is the very best that I can teach my children.

The pressure of raising and teaching kids exposes any lack of authenticity in me. It shows any area where I am hiding or inconsistent, any areas of fear that bind and lay hold of me – my kids will sniff them out and by sheer virtue of their zest and genuineness, they will pressure them out to the surface for me to either deal with or be exposed by.

This year I have embraced that. I have stopped substituting future hopes for present reality. I have incorporated the fact that enjoyment – here and now – is catalytic.

Confidence is contagious. Life is infectious. And I have the power through my choices to give that to my children.

Who do you admire? Who do you long to be like? Whose blogs do you read? Who would you want to be friends with?

I want to be that person for my kids. I want to play, run, laugh, fail, dream, hope and love in such a way that they want all those things and so much more. I want to live the life I want them to have. I want to be who I teach them to be.

That is what I have learned this year.

“And what I must learn is to love with all of me, giving all of me, and yet remaining whole in myself. Any other kind of love is too demanding of the other; it takes, rather than gives. … To love wholly, generously, and yet retain the core that makes you you. ” ~ L’Engle

What have you learned from homeschooling this year?

About Misha

Misha is a writer and teacher on the subjects of pain and joy. She loves paddle boarding, dutch salty licorice, and she really, really loves sunshine. (She lives in the Pacific Northwest.) She also loves her kids who still give her grace after all her screw ups as a mom. She writes at The Offense of Joy.


  1. this is so good! thanks for sharing these thoughts. we will begin year one this fall, but i will share next year this time. 🙂 and i look forward to hearing what others share here.

    (oh and staying in the now rather than for a hoped for future is such a valuable practice!)

  2. This was really helpful! We just finished our first full year of homeschooling, and it really was a year of experimenting and eventually determining that everyone has a different approach. Being yourself and leading by example is what teaching at home is all about. Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a great post – I am such a slow learner… that after se7en years, this is our eight year I am still learning and wondering and changing my home schooling thinking. And yet at each step and at each year I have been certain we finally “had it right”… a summer of mulling things over always reminds me to focus on what works and to drop the rest!!! Someone should write a book: “The evolution of the Homeschool thinker.” We definitely started off a whole lot more “Scholarly” lets do school and then have fun. School took all day and we didn’t have heaps of fun. We have moved further and further from workbooks and worksheets – it took me a while to get confident…. this year I have focused on doing the fun stuff first – cooking and arting and crafting and wandering and walking and all the “school stuff” has been done by supper anyway. Who cares if we take all day – we are having a lot of fun doing school all day!!!
    .-= se7en’s last blog: Saturday Spot: The Autumn Table and Se7en Million Autumn Crafts… =-.

  4. Wow, I haven’t given much thought yet to what I’ve learned this year. I wrap up our school year in August. But whatever it was I’d learned doesn’t seem quite as profound as this post.

    This is great stuff misha. I was rather spellbound reading the stories of these women and how they related to your life.

    I can’t agree with you more about the pressure cooker of homeschooling (at least how it pressures our weaknesses) and how children will find out who we really are in the face of that pressure.

    I am learning more and more how important it is to fill my own well, most recently I’ve been focusing on my personal spiritual well being and health. And seeking friends and spending time to cultivate relationships that will help me in this regard.

    This is taking time out of our schedule and sometimes it’s hard for me to justify it. “Shouldn’t I be doing A,B & C instead of sitting here being encouraged by a friend.” Um. no.

    Well. I could talk more and more about this. Wish we could do tea. Oh well. Thanks for the great read.

    • Ditto Renee’s thoughts!! Profound and spellbinding for sure. I am inspired to sit down and really think through what it is that I have learned this year…so many times I focus on what I think they have learned in a year but not what I have been taught through the experience!
      .-= Aimee’s last blog: Why I Don’t Like Couponing =-.

  5. GREAT article Misha! As I read I kept thinking of this work of art called among the ruins by a painter from the netherlands named Sir lawrence Alma-Tedma (http://artrenewal.org/pages/artwork.php?artworkid=31816&size=large)….in the painting a greecian lady is bending over to pick some irises in a pile of ruined greecian building stones…it is a lovely picture of new life after death. Except a kernal of wheat falls into the ground and die, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. from the bible; John 12:24 GRINS!

  6. My goodness Misha, that was beautiful. If I were to write an article about the things I learned over the last year (my first also) of homeschooling, it would probably read:

    1) Drink More Coffee
    2) Have a Secret Stash of Chocolate

    And yes, I think nothing exposes our flaws like our children. Truly, they make me want to be a better person.
    .-= Deb’s last blog: By Myself =-.

  7. Wonderful words, Misha!

    After 9 years (has it really been that long?) of homeschooling, this quote says it best:

    The mother’s heart is the child’s school-room. ~Henry Ward Beecher

    I have learned to tend the garden of my own heart so there is always something worth learning in the “schoolroom”.

    Catherine 🙂
    .-= Catherine’s last blog: Please Stop By … =-.

  8. This was simply beautiful, Misha. You write with such passion, genuine openness and honesty. Very refreshing.
    One thing I genuinely appreciate is your constant emphasis on beginning with yourself and examining how things are “going on the homefront” based on your personal growth. This is a novel concept to so many; in that the focus in home education tends to be on “the students” with less on ” the teacher!” We’re all BOTH. The more you look at, evaluate, and learn YOURSELF, the more you will have to give openly and freely to others.
    Thank you again for this post.
    .-= Teri’s last blog: Is Anyone Taking a Poll? =-.

  9. Thanks, Misha. I appreciate your insights, your courage to be yourself, your passion for life. (And I, too, love M. L’Engle.)
    .-= Jennifer Jo’s last blog: Nothing is lost on the breath of God =-.

  10. Thank you so much for this post. My two boys and I will embark on our first year of homeschooling in just a couple of months. What you share is so similar to what I carry in my heart, what I wish for us in our homeschooling experience. I’m very aware of the way that genuine parenting (and lots of together time!) exposes those weak spots, and I’m taking on the challenge of finding better ways. I enjoy your blog so much. You’re ahead of me on this path, and I take encouragement and ideas from your post – thank you!
    .-= hi kooky’s last blog: to the arboretum =-.

  11. Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts. We love hearing from you!
    .-= Misha@ beautyandjoy’s last blog: What I Have Learned My First Year Of Homeschooling =-.

  12. misha, this was fabulous. we’re about to begin our homeschooling journey “for real” in the fall when my oldest son begins kindergarten, and i’ve been having some of these same kinds of thoughts as i’ve dreamed of what i want our homeschool to be like and what i hope to be as a teacher. thanks for this–it gave me the inspiration i needed.
    .-= Julia’s last blog: {this moment} =-.

  13. I loved reading this. I have loved that you have been willing to share your stories of this first year of homeschooling. I love how your kids *shine* and how that when I first saw you, before I even hugged you in person, I teared up…because you are so radiant…and I thought how truly beautiful it is that we reflect those nearest and dearest to us…especially in our joy.
    .-= Chelle’s last blog: { we have a winner…} =-.

  14. I just finished our first year of homeschool and was suprised to learn that all the lessons I learned though the year were about me: what balance looks like in my life, what the quality and content of a true servant heart are, and how to be the person God desires so my kids can want that for themselves.
    But also the mundane has proven instructive: I need guidance, friends, and an organized house to feel supportd and successful.
    And coffee, lots of coffee!
    Thanks for thoughtful remarks.

  15. Awesome! I am BEGINNING my first year of homeschooling on June 28th-yeeps! How encouraging to read your post!

  16. I have learned to not care what others are doing in their home schools because it only distracts me from what we need to be doing. And, to drink a full (it’s important that I empty the mug) cup of tea before I start school each morning. Then, I’m good to go! My creative juices are flowing and I’m ready for the day. : )

  17. Thank you. I have bookmarked this page… to wander back to & think about. I’m still in the transition-to-homeschooling phase & greatly appreciate your wisdom. x
    Amber’s latest post: The Getty Museum: Art Cards and Resources

  18. Mandy Lanier says:

    The main thing my family has learned during our first year of homeschooling is to simply slow down. When we are always going we miss details that I don’t want the kids to lose – a butterfly fluttering by or being able to say “yes” to something we truly want to do because we are not committed to too many things.

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