Editor’s note: read the full series here.
“If I do it exactly like school, I can’t mess it up!”
So, I dressed my girls in matching outfits that I had allotted as their uniform, packed their bookbags, took them to my bakery, and sat them each at a coffee shop style table.
I plugged in their bright blue laptops, signed them onto their online portals, and gave them clear instructions on how to proceed. I felt good! It looked right—anyone who would pass by the shop would peer into the window and not question whether I was doing the right thing or not. I mean, I obviously was.
But still, my inner doubt gave me an anxiety that attempted to rear its ugly head every other minute. So, I kept checking on them, making sure they were understanding, making sure they didn’t feel neglected, and trying to make myself feel okay.
That afternoon, I took them school supply shopping. We bought matching notebooks, pencils, art supplies, and anything else I could think would be in a traditional school supply list. And we started to create a place in our home that closely resembled school, chalkboard and all. And every morning I would dress them, get them situated, and sit next to them to get their school day going.
This lasted maybe a week; then, they started getting bored.
They started skipping over assignments. The program started malfunctioning. The Wi-Fi came in and out. The computer ran out of power. The units they had done did not show up as finished. They kept asking for a break, or snack, or play, or anything else that was not “school-like.” Every request added to my hidden anxiety. I felt it bubbling under the surface. I completely took their dislike to heart and started to doubt my decision.
We needed a change, so we decided to join a coop that would meet every Tuesday, in hopes they would learn the “right way” there. We walked into the building all nervous, feeling completely out of place and out of sorts. Like if we had just stepped into a speakeasy during prohibition, and we were going to be found out. We heard laughter coming out of one of the rooms, and as we stepped in, saw several moms with big, welcoming smiles, directing us to take a seat. I looked around the room with casual seating, homey layout, and unpretentious décor, and my fear started to change to curiosity. What am I doing? What am I getting myself into? What the hell is homeschooling?
As I was lost in thought, one of the moms approached me and introduced herself. I couldn’t help to notice her glow, beautiful black curls, and embracing smile. As we started to talk, I put my best school face forward and gave her a description of how perfectly I had created school at home for my girls, and about the curriculum I had chosen in hopes she would see and acknowledge that I was doing the “right” thing.
Her smile faded, I cringed, and then she asked…
“But why?” with a slightly raspy tone, followed by the sweetest laughter. “This is homeschooling, you don’t need any of that!”
I felt my face frown in the fear of having ruined my kid’s life—for a second.
But then I felt relief! My body let go and her energy readjusted mine. As she gave me a rundown of expectations versus reality, my mindset shifted, and I realized I had created a homeschooling experience based on “shoulds” and a lifestyle I was trying to get away from. And this mindset shift opened my world up to new possibilities.
Now, several years later, as I coach moms going through the same thing, I always start with mindset.
Mindset sometimes will make us try to stick a square peg into a round hole because of past experiences or the “shoulds” we have learned throughout our lifetime. This needs to be reset before we can be the best facilitators for our children.
Your mindset going into the new school year will provide a solid foundation for how things go.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is life—you are not creating a school at home, you are instead living your life and incorporating learning, in whichever way you choose, into your day. So, be flexible with your schedule, to-do list, activities, and, most importantly, expectations. Life is not perfect. Things come up randomly, and it’s okay to adjust the to-do list to fit in an unexpected event, a roadblock, or emotional need.
Also, this is not a solo journey—keep the lines of communication open, as you and your child are teammates. Our kids are ever-changing, the world is ever-changing, and we are ever-changing. What worked the first week or month might not work the rest of the semester. This is where flexibility is imperative. You will need to assess the plan regularly to make sure it is still working for everyone. My daughters and I have family meetings every couple of weeks at coffee shops to discuss how we are feeling about their learning, our travels, their emotions, and how we want to proceed. Having a voice helps them feel empowered and has taught them to assess their mental and emotional state regularly.
And last, check in with yourself. You will be triggered in ways you might have never imagined. All past programming that was created during your schooling experience will resurface, recreating emotions or expectations that might not be applicable to the present moment. Be gentle with yourself, give yourself time to process and work through the emotion before addressing your child’s needs.
Most importantly, know that you got this! And when you feel otherwise, reach out! There are plenty of us seasoned homeschoolers who have chosen to give back and help other parents during this transition.