I was chatting with a friend last week about all the things she felt bad about not accomplishing, six weeks into the new school year. Like me, she homeschools. Like me, she struggles to feel a sense of progress and success.
My kids are still not in a routine.
I haven’t lesson planned on Saturdays like I thought I would.
I haven’t graded their math work for two weeks.
As she spoke, it occurred to me that she was beating herself up for things that, when I was teaching in a classroom, we all accepted was just a part of teaching.
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When I shared this with her, she was stunned. Having never wanted to teach prior to homeschooling her children, she had no idea that other moms, much less other teachers, might struggle with the same thing.
Sometimes, we can be a little too focused on what happens in a traditional classroom.
For example, when my family first started homeschooling, I made the mistake of trying to replicate the very same school experience that was not working for my boys, because it was what I knew. (Ya’ll, I even rang a little bell when it was time to start or break for recess.)
While it’s important for us to lean into what is more flexible and different about homeschooling, I believe there are also some things we can learn from teachers who somehow manage a classroom of thirty smelly, sweet little ones without losing their minds.
5 Homeschool Reminders From A Former Classroom Teacher
Thinking back on my time in the classroom, and knowing how hard we are on ourselves as homeschool moms, here are five things I think can help as we consider our progress this school year.
A classroom teacher will tell you, these are just a part of the job:
1. It takes weeks to establish any real learning routine.
I read an entire book as part of my education program about this one. Cait and Kara also talked about this on a recent episode of The Homeschool Sisters Podcast. Cait said based on her experience in schools, it takes about six weeks for everyone to settle in and actually begin real learning.
Moreover, much of the initial learning is review of last year’s concepts anyway. If you are beating yourself up and already feeling behind because your September got off to a rocky start, please know, not only is this normal, but you are likely still ahead of most traditional classrooms.
2. Not every day is an academic one.
When my son was experiencing extreme school refusal his last year in public school, I distinctly remember a school day of his at the end of May.
After what felt like trauma just getting him to school, complete with meltdowns and tears on both our parts, I learned when I picked him up that they ended up watching The Lion King for most of the day because the teacher wanted to reward the kids after standardized testing.
The Lion King.
Not every day in school is an academic one. Not every day in homeschool needs to be either.
3. The holidays are nuts.
Every year, from Halloween to Winter Break, classroom teachers do what they can to keep their classrooms functional with the influx of sugar highs, family travel, returning from Thanksgiving Break and the overall sense that everyone (teacher and student alike) is just crossing off the days until Christmas.
It’s okay for your homeschool to get a little nuts as the holidays approach.
In fact, I think this is one of the sweetest parts of homeschooling our children. The holidays can become a month-long celebration of family, coziness and fun.
4. A six hour school day is not six hours of learning.
I know you have probably heard this by now, but please allow me to say it again. Just because the classroom school day begins at 8:00 AM and ends at 2:00 PM, does not mean that learning is happening for six hours each day.
It doesn’t even mean that learning is happening for four hours. Most teachers agree, actual learning time is somewhere around 2.5 hours per day. (This teacher breaks down where all the time actually goes very well.)
If you are beating yourself up for not getting in as much time learning each day as you believe you “should,” please know, that standard is not based on what the majority of students experience on a daily basis.
5. One on one time is almost impossible.
While the learning time in a classroom is approximately 2.5 hours, the amount of time spent in one on one learning is virtually nonexistent. (Incidentally, this is what caused me to leave the classroom. I could see all the needs and wanted to spend time with each child to really help, but found it impossible.)
As homeschoolers, we have the luxury of individualizing our approach. Even if you have a large family and are worried that you cannot spend enough time one on one with each of your children, you are spending much more focused, valuable and individualized time by the sheer fact that they are home with you.
The benefits of this cannot be overstated. Children learn faster and in a much more child-centric manner when they are not lost in the shuffle of a large classroom of kids.
Please know, in sharing these reminders, I am not suggesting that the traditional school model should necessarily be our reference for establishing goals in our homeschools.
The truth is, many of us homeschool because we want better for our children and wouldn’t want a classroom to be our standard anyway.
But the truth is, we are hard on ourselves, and for good reason. We want the very best for our kiddos and take seriously the responsibility of being their teacher.
It is my hope that on the days when it feels like you are behind or not doing this well, you will take heart – it may not be perfect, but your homeschool is making a significant difference for your child.