How to Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling

Photo circa 2011. It’s time to start recycling old photos. This might be fun.

It’s not always helpful to tell parents “don’t worry” and “you’ve got this.” For some parents, it comes natural to take the relaxed approach to homeschooling, but at some point, every parent wants to see the positive results of homeschooling. If they relax too much, will they see results?

It truly depends on what your goals are for your family and your kids. As you begin homeschooling, I would have a serious talk with your partner or spouse about what you hope the end goal is for your kids. In other words, what are you preparing them for?

Are you preparing them to attend the local high school? Or maybe you just want to homeschool for the elementary years? If so, homeschooling may look different for you than for the kids who are going to homeschool K-12. Do you want them to find what fulfills them? Do you want them to be capable of finding a full-time job and supporting themselves? Do you want them to attend college? A local college or a top university? Is your main goal to foster kind, generous, productive citizens? Preparing them for one thing doesn’t mean you won’t be preparing them for all these other things, but it will give you a kind of compass when you sit down to make your homeschool plans. Also, you can be flexible as your kids grow and they begin to form their own ideas about what they want.

Frankly, I don’t think any goal is wrong as long as it’s not too rigid and the expectations aren’t too high or too low. Different parents have very different opinions about what they want for their kids. Some push their kids to succeed in a lucrative field and don’t offer any other choice. Other parents think that’s a terrible way to parent. I’ve met enough families to realize that all parents hope their kids will be happy even if they don’t believe that should be the end goal. Depending on culture and personal history, pushy parents have their reasons. Sometimes it’s the not-so-pushy parents who had pushy parents themselves, so now they are more of a I-just-want-you-to-be-happy kind of parent, but then they end up not giving their kids much guidance or practical skills.

I think there’s always a middle way. And to save your sanity, you need to take the middle way while homeschooling. Don’t stress out watching what other parents are doing and knock yourself out trying to do those things too. Don’t buy the curriculums that look good but are not a good fit for your child. Don’t join every activity or worry about trying to make a dozen friends for your homeschooled kids. If you feel overwhelmed, relax for awhile and enjoy this extra time with them.

Then you can think about what your “hope for” goals are. Observe your kids and think about what skills could benefit them in the long-term, and if they show interest in something, start to think about what you could do to support that. Maybe you can find some other kids with similar interests. But don’t go overboard. You can let things unfold naturally, but doing some research and keeping a folder of opportunities for the future isn’t a bad idea either. [When your kid does participate in activities, projects and great field trips, keep good records because you never know what your kid might want to apply for someday.]

As for figuring out how to teach the school subjects, take your time researching one subject at a time. What seems like a good resource for your kid? If they are already reading all the science books from the juvenile section of the library on their own, maybe you don’t have to worry about teaching science yet. What do they struggle with? That’s the area you want to focus on. Spend time researching and trying out different curricula, but be prepared to put aside what doesn’t work. If your child is young, maybe all they need is to wait a year or two before you try again. If they are in high school, maybe it’s time to hire a tutor, so you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself.

There are so many more resources available to homeschoolers now than when I started homeschooling, and some of them are extremely affordable. A lot of kids excel in one or two subjects and don’t do as well in another, so finding that right balance for your kid is essential. You shouldn’t feel like you have to teach every subject, especially if you don’t feel confident in that area, or your child struggles in it. You can also lower your expectations. Maybe they will never be a math whiz, but they are great writers. Support that. As for math, find out how much math they’ll need for whatever their goals are and don’t expect them to go beyond that. (Assessing this is easier in high school.)

You may not be able to achieve what that other family is doing, but you will be able to achieve your own family’s goals, if you are sensible and, yes, you relax! It may sound contradictory, but by taking the time to think about your goals, your kids’ goals, and the resources available, you will feel more relaxed. Make a yearly ritual of reevaluating your goals, such as spending a few days each summer thinking things through and discussing the year ahead with your family. Then you can relax and do what is most important: spend quality time with your kids. Ultimately, homeschooling is about fostering good relationships with your kids, and when kids have good relationships, they are more likely to succeed in life. I don’t know what parent wouldn’t be happy with that.

I’m available for one-on-one chats and more through Patreon and my store. I hope you’ll reach out, if you would like someone to talk to about the possibility of homeschooling.

P.S. Thank you to my first patron: Lou Rahman!

Thank You, First Patron!

On my Patreon, I have promised to thank all my patrons in my public blog posts, but I think my very first patron deserves a post of her own!

Thank you Lou Rahman for signing up to be my first patron! Your support means so much to me because being a stay-at-home mom can be a wee bit lonely, and I love connecting directly with other moms who are interested in homeschooling in a similar way. ❤️

Looking forward to chatting with you more about this homeschooling journey and project-based homeschooling in video chats and online.

You can follow Lou on Instagram @lou_rahman. She lives in the U.K., and she’s got the sweetest four-year-old.

I’ll be putting together some classes for Lou, which is part of the benefits she signed up for. These will also be offered à la carte in my store, so I’ll let you know when they are available.

November 2022

Happy Month of Thanksgiving! I want to say a heartfelt thanks to anyone who has been reading my blog long-term. I don’t know who you are, and maybe there’s only two of you, but for anyone who has stuck with me, I greatly appreciate it. I am also indebted to those of you who have reached out and sent me an email or message on social media. I appreciate your friendship so much.

I am not sure what compels me to keep writing on this blog. It’s just something I do to stay sane, I guess. But knowing it’s helpful to a few people means a lot, so thank you.

You may have noticed I’ve been blogging more lately. I’m trying something new as I reflect back on these years of homeschooling. I am writing posts that I might have liked to have read when I first started homeschooling. I hope that they can be encouraging to new homeschoolers. I don’t know how many posts I have in me, but we’ll see. And stay tuned because even though I hate my recorded voice, but I may try to do a few videos too. (Maybe.) Wish me luck!

I’m going to record more current, personal nitty gritty on my Patreon page, and I’m always happy to share more information with people via video chat too. I’m putting this behind a paywall partly for privacy and to make sure I connect with those who truly appreciate the information. I don’t want cost to  be a barrier, however, so email me, if it is. I will add a few links below to some of the work my boys and I have been doing on other sites.

As I have been writing this, my son spotted a young hawk outside my window, and then I had the privilege of watching it for about fifteen minutes. I saw it dive down into the leaf litter and catch a red-bellied snake and eat it! Then I saw it go up into the trees again, fluffing up its feathers because it’s cold outside. It was always looking around, looking for prey, I imagine. A very nervous squirrel sat in a tree nearby and sent out warning sounds. I never saw another bird while the hawk was in our yard. The animals in our yard work well together when they need to, don’t they?

It was a good reminder to me to slow down and remember why I’m doing everything I’m doing even when it seems pointless. The fruits of our labor don’t always show up in tangible ways. I hope someday I will look back on this life and see that homeschooling and all the sacrifices we’ve made were worth it. I hope I’ll feel that I’ve done well by sharing my tips on this blog too. But I imagine it will be a lot like my nature encounters: The time I’ve spent savoring them will add up to time well spent, though only in my mind and heart. I can live with that.

My Patreon Posts:

What I Wish I Had Done Differently
Homeschool Parents: Keep Good Records!

(NOTE: I have a $1 tier for anyone who would like to support my blog and read my posts on Patreon, but you don’t need the support group.)

My pianist’s Patreon Posts:

Practice Video #1: Ginastera Piano Sonata No. 1, 4th Mov.
Chopin Etude Op. 10 No. 5
Music Notes: October 2022 (monthly newsletter of activities)

As for my 13-year-old, he’s thrilled to have almost 100 subscribers on his YouTube channel, and he’s working on a celebratory video for when he reaches that milestone. If you haven’t seen any of his videos yet, here’s one:

3 Reasons Why I Know You Can Homeschool

I hear some parents who like the idea of homeschooling, but they don’t think they can do it. They say they don’t have the patience. While it’s up to you to decide what you can or can’t do, if you’re on the fence, I think you should go ahead and try. There really isn’t much to lose.

These are three reasons I know you can do it:

Love. If you love your kids and know homeschooling is in their best interests, you’ll be motivated. No one is more important than your child, right? For many kids, homeschooling could be the chance of a lifetime to be themselves, find interests that motivate them to work, and it can also give them the chance to master skills that will benefit them as adults. Let’s face it, traditional school makes kids spread their time too thin. For some, it works, but for many, it does not. They leave school not knowing what they want to do, so they end up floundering until their late 20s until they find what motivates them.

Time is something we can all use more of, and giving your kids the gift of time when they are young is one of the most loving gifts you can give.

Resources. If you want to homeschool, this is a great time to do it. The resources for homeschoolers have probably tripled since I began homeschooling just ten years ago. Most of them are very affordable, and some of them are free. I think for the first few years of elementary school, you could get everything you need at the library and off the Internet, but you can also find lots of my recommendations for different grades and subjects by using the Table of Contents in the menu at the top of my blog. ⬆️ I can’t imagine what will become available in the next few years. So don’t let your doubts about how you’re going to teach stop you from homeschooling because you’ll find lots of help.

There is room for mistakes. It’s the long view. Finally, I know you can homeschool because unless you’re starting in the 11th or 12th grade, you’ve got plenty of time to figure everything out. You will make mistakes, but that’s okay. Remember the resources I told you about? You can toss the ones you don’t like and find new ones. You can also go at your kids’ pace. You set the milestones — not a school. You can figure out when to challenge your kid and when to give them more time. Homeschooling is a lifestyle, and you can take the long view. What are your goals for your family? What are your kids’ goals? Start with helping your kids find what they’re good at and what motivates them to learn. If you can do that, you’ll figure the rest out.

This isn’t to say it’s easy, and it can help to have someone to chat with about homeschooling. I would love to help you, if I can. If you’d like to chat on Zoom, or see the other resources I’ve created, check out my Patreon or store.

Make Your Homeschool Your Own

Every homeschooling family is different. If you are going to home educate, you must not compare yourself to other families.

You can let other families inspire you. You can get good advice from other homeschool families too. But if you read homeschool blogs or meet other parents IRL, you will eventually see someone doing something you think is better. You may try to be more like them and fail, or maybe right away you think you could never do it that way. That’s not a failure! It shows you’re thinking about your kids and you also know your limits.

Every parent is going to have something they are good at, and you probably have super powers that you don’t even realize you have. Other mothers are probably looking at you wishing they could do what you do.

I know for me, I used to want to be one of those mothers who sat and read books half the day with my kids. I’m not well read! I like to read, and my boys like reading, but we’re not a sit-on-the-sofa reading most of the day kind of family. And when I think about, I don’t really want to do that anyway. It just sounds good, especially on days when I could use some more rest.

I know mothers who are so patient, and they seem like good teachers. All they need is a good curriculum, and they can lecture and teach the material to their kids. I don’t feel that’s me. Maybe it was when my boys were younger, but as they get older, I spend a lot of time figuring out resources that will help them teach themselves with less support from me. It’s not because I don’t want to teach but because it’s beyond my abilities now. My role is more of a facilitator and organizer and problem solver now.

I also know mothers who come up with incredible projects and unit studies, and they work on those together, exploring fascinating subjects. I sometimes think I would like to do that. Maybe I did a little when the boys were younger? (Everything was so much easier when they were younger!)

To be honest, part of the reason it’s easy for me to do child-led learning is because I don’t like coming up with the ideas! But this means we have many days when we’re not doing anything interesting. (I mean, not interesting enough to write about in a blog post. Most days are kind of the same.)

You should ask yourself: what AM I good at? Maybe you’re a fantastic cook, and you have inspired your kids to cook with you. Maybe you’re athletic, and you and your kids are outside on the trails every chance you get. Maybe you’re brilliant at crafts, and you’ve inspired your kids to build their own toys. Maybe you have a mind for business, and you have helped your kids start selling their crafts at a local market. Or maybe you just like hanging out together, and you give your kids a lot of quality time going to interesting places. 

No matter what it is that you’re good at, it will be good for your kids. What they need is a guide who is loving and kind….Not a jack of all trades….Or an academic genius.

Another one: maybe you’re good at research, and you pick the right curricula and resources that fit your kids needs…..that’s me. That’s what I’m good at. But that also means I have spent time using not-the-right resources. I have to try stuff before I find something that works. Or works good enough. It’s not very glamorous. It’s not blog worthy to show a picture of myself sitting at my computer doing research. LOL

But see? If I can figure out what I am good at, you can too.

Maybe I’m pretty good at playing Wingspan more times than I can count too. 🤔😆

If you would like more, individualized support on your homeschool journey, consider signing up with me on Patreon.

Top 7 Things I Dislike About Homeschooling

Today I’m reflecting on what I dislike about homeschooling after doing it for twelve years:

  1. People make a lot of assumptions about you that aren’t true. One small assumption is that people tend to think we have lots of free time. As for other assumptions, I won’t go into details, but this is always the case when anyone does anything “off the beaten path.” For the most part, I have thick skin, but it can be hurtful sometimes. 
  2. In that same vein, I have been told that the reason my kids do well on standardized tests is because we cheat. WTF?! Note: People who lie and cheat tend to think other people lie and cheat, but there ARE many honest people out there, including us. One of the reasons we homeschool is so that we can impart good morals on our kids.
  3. Three meals a day for four people = three sets of dishes to clean everyday. I mean, come on! If someone had told me before I got married and had kids how many meals I’d have to make or all the dishes I’d have to do, I may have decided to stay single. (Just kidding.) While I admire people who enjoy cooking, this isn’t for me. (Shout out to my husband who occasionally gives me a break by doing the dishes and getting take out!)
  4. On a similar note, I’m not sure I ever realized how little time I’d have for myself, and even though I can make time, it can come at a price because there’s always something that’s not getting done, or someone is trying to find me, I’m forgetting that I need to make dinner, and my house is never truly clean. But who cares about that, right? I take breaks when I need to.
  5. When we first started homeschooling, I found plenty of social activities for my boys, but it was hard to find friends who were kindred spirits. I didn’t find too many other kids who clicked with my kids, or the parent didn’t click with me, or our schedules didn’t match, or the interests of all the kids were different, etc…..I did find friends, but it wasn’t as easy as some homeschoolers have made it seem. Also, we live in a rural area, so that made it more challenging. 
  6. Overwhelm. Some days I drown in the overwhelm of taking full responsibility for two kids’ entire K-12 education. The curriculum choices are overwhelming…figuring out what works best is overwhelming…figuring out what I can let go and what I shouldn’t let go can be overwhelming.
  7. Lack of time and funds to do everything. Trying to give the boys some free time while also making sure they do all their work and get some exercise is hard; I’ve never found that perfect balance. And then when you end up fostering awesome kids who have interesting life goals, and you realize you don’t have the funds to support all of it, that’s soul crushing. But I still wouldn’t have it any other way because without walking this unconventional path, I might not have these awesome kids.

To see what I love about homeschooling, click here

If you would like some camaraderie about homeschooling in a new private, online support group, please consider signing up for mine here.

Private Homeschool Support Group for Project-based Homeschoolers, a.k.a. any Homeschool Family :)

I’m excited to share some news. I have created a Patreon account so that I can form a small, nurturing community of like-minded parents. Space will be limited, so we can get to know each other.

It will be a homeschool support group for project-based homeschoolers, but you don’t have to consider yourself a project-based homeschooler (PBH) to join. You just need to be interested in becoming a better mentor and guide for your child, which is what PBH is all about! Seasoned project-based homeschoolers are more than welcome too!

Project-based homeschooling might seem like unschooling or common sense parenting, but there are actually a lot of tips and tricks that I learned that helped me find a balance between stepping in to help my kids and stepping away when appropriate. That’s harder than it seems! I will be sure to share everything I’ve learned in this support group and help you with whatever comes up in your daily homeschooling life. I hope everyone in the group will support each other.

We will not be restricted to talking about project-based homeschooling! As a support group, we can discuss all aspects of homeschooling, parenting and daily life as homeschool parents. Also, you can use PBH techniques whether you unschool, use a strict curriculum or are somewhere in between.

So, if you’d like a small, nurturing group that you can check in with daily, weekly, monthly (whenever it’s good for you), please join. If you’d like to share your child’s projects and successes, but you don’t want to put it out for everyone on the Internet to see, please consider joining. If you’d like some camaraderie with like-minded parents, please join. 

I want to make it accessible, affordable and easy to join, but I can’t do this for free because I need to pay fees to keep up the infrastructure. I have created two tiers that I hope you find very reasonable:

$3.00/month subscription — Join the group I’m calling the “Wrens,” and you will receive the following benefits:

  • You will unlock posts on Patreon that are not on my public blog. I can be a little more candid there. Some of what I’ll share:
    • Resources I’m using right now and my candid feelings about it.
    • Curriculum I don’t like.
    • Ups and downs of daily life.
    • Our research into colleges and universities and what I need to do to help my kids reach their goals.
    • The pitfalls of homeschooling.
  • Ask me any question in a comment, and I will respond ASAP. Or you can access a private Discord server for this group that I will monitor daily. Share your child’s projects, ask advice, or just chat with the group!
  • As a sign on bonus, I will give you access to all my PDF resources.
  • You will also be supporting this ad-free blog (which will remain unchanged), and you will have my deepest thanks!

$6.00/month subscription — Join the group I’m calling the “Ravens,” and you will receive the following benefits:

  • You will have everything from the Wrens tier plus:
  • I will offer a monthly, live online support group meeting. Day and time will be determined by the first few members, so please don’t hesitate to sign up!
  • As a sign on bonus, you will have access to the classes in my store. That is, you do not have to pay extra for these classes. You can even take them more than once. (Each class is worth between $10-$25 each, and I will be adding more classes in the coming months.)
  • I will also create classes/presentations by request from my patrons on specific topics.

NOTE: I also have a $1 tier for anyone who would like to support my blog and read my posts on Patreon, but you don’t need a support group.

Click here to access My Patreon. Also, please share this post with your social networks. Thank you!

If you aren’t sure what project-based homeschooling is all about, start here: https://mamaofletters.com/project-based-homeschooling/

To learn more about me, see https://mamaofletters.com/bio/

Please join. Will you? Please comment or ask questions below.

Project-based Homeschooling in the Later Years

Recently I gave a Zoom presentation on project-based homeschooling (you can sign up here for the next one), and a question I received made me think about how I have never stopped using project-based homeschooling (PBH) techniques, but PBH looks very different in our home than it did ten years ago. I don’t think about the techniques anymore. My sons each have a project that has become more of a life goal, and my role is to support them on a higher level. In other words, our lives revolve around these activities. My own projects have evolved over the years, overlapping with the boys’ activities, so we learn and grow alongside each other.

Here are the current state of our projects:

My eldest son is a classical pianist, and at 16, it’s clear that he has his heart set on a career in music. I’m not sure what that will look like yet, but we’re sacrificing a lot to help him. As we do more research, we know what we can offer him may not be enough to catapult him to the place he dreams of, but he works hard, and I have no doubt he’ll carve out a life full of music making. Besides taking the time he needs to practice and work on his technique, he has started a Patreon account where he will share short, weekly practice videos, and I’ll help him chronicle our research into his next steps, including college applications, scholarship applications, auditions and more. I hope someone will show their support for him there. 🙏

He got to hold his favorite bird!

My younger son has been interested in birds since he was four-years-old, and it’s interesting for me to look back at how this interest has always been there, though there have been long periods when he hasn’t done much with it. Now that he’s 13, this is changing, and that’s largely because he’s old enough to join certain classes related to birds on Outschool and get something out of them. He also has an active YouTube channel where he shares his videos of birds. Recently he also got to visit a bird banding station in a program run by Georgia Audubon for teens. Now that he’s getting a chance to meet people with similar interests, I hope it’ll introduce him to many possible paths that will most likely include birds.

As for me, I’m thinking about what I can do to support the boys in these later years, yet I also know they are going to go by fast. So I’m wondering what life has in store for me when they don’t need me as a teacher/facilitator/coordinator anymore. With that in mind, I’m slowly building a store and some other opportunities for families to connect with me in video chats so that I can share more of what I’ve learned. (Watch this space for updates on that.) I don’t know how much interest I can stir up, but if nothing happens, I’ll lose nothing….except a little pride, maybe. 😉

If there is one thing about project-based homeschooling, it’s that the learning never stops, the creating never stops, and the striving never stops. It’s a life-long endeavor. You have to find joy in the journey. Ultimately, the big project is creating a life that is worth living that also puts some good into the world. With the proper support, you can’t go wrong with that.

Time for a Change

Here it is October, and I’m relieved by the cooler, beautiful weather. Yet the boys are full swing into their new homeschool year, and I’m already feeling the crunch of time. Sometimes I sit and breathe and remember that all will be well. No matter what we get done or don’t get done, the boys are growing into intelligent, caring people, and what more can I ask for?

Whether I like it or not, life is always changing. By that I mean people change and circumstances change, and I can’t control it. I’m getting older, and my body doesn’t agree with what my mind wants it to do. I can’t get society to act in ways that I wish it would, so instead I accept what is, and I do what little I can to help my family and make the world a better place.

One thing I have always loved to do is offer encouragement to other homeschooling parents. I don’t do this because I’m an expert at it. I’m carefully considering my every move on this unsure journey. However, I feel confident I have found some things that work well for the boys and me, and as they get older, I find it’s the boys themselves who are validating the overall choice to homeschool, go at their pace, and focus on their interests. Because like I said, they are growing into intelligent and caring people, and they have such interesting pursuits. (This doesn’t mean I think everything is perfect or that I don’t wish I had more resources at my fingertips!)

I hope we can help them in this later stage of homeschooling as they take what they’ve gained here and make their way into more independent lives and, most likely, higher education. I can’t wait to see what happens, but I’m humbled by knowing anything could happen, and nothing is certain.

I also think about myself and what I will do when I finish homeschooling. There are things I’d like to try, but I have less interest in the things I used to do. Will that interest come back when I’m less exhausted and have more time? Maybe. For now, I hope I can continue to be a source for homeschooling parents.

I have always been available by email, but I need to change that. I’m getting busier, and I have less energy for typing long emails. So I’m going to try out Zoom so that I can talk to parents. Unfortunately, I can’t do this for free, but I don’t need much to sustain it.

This Saturday, I’m giving a presentation on project-based homeschooling with plenty of time for a Q&A. (I can also make it available at a time that’s good for you.) These simple but powerful techniques helped me shift from thinking of myself as a parent-teacher to more of a mentor. It helped me identify my kids’ interests and not just the ones I thought were education-worthy.

I think it’s important to say that this is not about helping kids get into the best schools or putting them on a certain career path (unless that helps them with their goals). It’s more about supporting kids where they are at and creating a relationship of trust so that they know you are their advocate. Every kid should have an advocate that truly cares about what they care about! I think it’s these relationships that create a path of success for kids, and by success, I don’t mean just financial success. I mean a path that will be meaningful to them and the community they live in. When you respect kids and their interests, they will turn around and respect others. And that makes the world a little bit better.

Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. I hope you’ll sign up for my presentation. Click here to do that.

If there’s an interest, I may create an on-going homeschooling support group for a nominal fee. So let me know, if you would be interested in that.

Join me for my presentation on Project-based Homeschooling

 

I’m very excited to offer this live video chat to anyone who would like to learn more about project-based homeschooling techniques and how I have used them in my homeschool. We’ll meet for 1~1.5 hours so that there’s plenty of time to answer your questions.

If this day/time doesn’t work for you, there’s an option to purchase the class and arrange another time with me.

Please share this with anyone you think would be interested. You can download a PDF of this flyer by clicking on the word “Download” above this image. Contact me, if you have any questions!