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