I started writing a homeschool book years ago, way before we jumped into full time traveling, and I called it It’s Not About The Curriculum. To be honest, I put it on the side burner because of doubt and fear. I strongly believe in my approach to homeschooling, but I didn’t know how to validate the results. If my kid went to school and got good grades, was valedictorian, got into Harvard, I guess then I could say I know the best approach to raising successful kids.
But that wasn’t my goal. I wanted a certain connection with my kids. I wanted them to think outside the box, be brave, bold, and strong.
Personally, I absolutely love that I homeschool my kids and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s not for everyone. Like full time travel, homeschooling can be really hard, but also really rewarding. I want to help you decide if this is something that would benefit you and your family. Homeschooling your kids is a HUGE decision and it’s not something to take lightly. I can’t promise that homeschooling is the answer or that it’s right for you, but it’s important to weigh your options so you know if you are making the right choice for your family. Before jumping into this crazy adventure you should consider these five things.
What’s Your Intention?
I always say homeschooling isn’t about the curriculum. The math, science, history, and language arts are all great byproducts of homeschooling, but it’s the other lessons my kids (and myself) have learned that are what make me such a strong believer in homeschooling.
I’ve been homeschooling my kids for 13 years. For 11 of those we didn’t travel. I homeschooled as conventionally as you could imagine and followed strict curriculum programs. It was only the past three years that I switched gears to unschooling and world schooling (I’m still not 100% an unschooler).
I feel the key to making homeschooling work is confidence. Knowing what you want from the experience and being able to stand by that decision even when mainstream questions your capabilities. I like being able to give others the confidence to follow what your heart might be saying when it comes to raising your children. If what I’m talking about seems too crazy or too different, it’s okay. Like I said, homeschooling is not for everyone and it doesn’t make you a better or worse mom if you choose to send the rugrats to school. I’m positive they will still turn out alright and you will still be a rock star mom (or dad).
I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what your intention is with homeschooling. It may not be time related at all. I know a lot of homeschool parents who choose to homeschool for religious, academic, or social reasons. If you are just starting to contemplate homeschooling, don’t worry about the curriculum part yet. That part is easy. For now, just focus on what you want your days to feel like and then fill in all those other details later.
So before you order all your curriculum, write down your answer to these questions and put them somewhere that you can look at six months from now when you have a hard day and you want to pull your hair out because your child won’t sit still and do math.
- What is your intention is with homeschooling?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- What doesn’t feel right in your life at this point in time?
- What do you hope to gain from homeschooling?
- What’s the current problem that you are hoping homeschooling will solve?
- What needs do you have for maintaining your own sanity?
- What do you imagine the rewards of homeschooling being?
- What would your ideal homeschool day look like?
How Much Do You Want To Be Around Your Kids?
So the number one reason I homeschool my kids is because I want to be around them all the time. They are my BFFs.
Maybe I have Jerry Maguire syndrome and can’t be alone, or maybe I just really, really wanted to have a family of my own and wanted to share the most amount of my life with them, but for whatever reason, I love that my kids and I hang out together ALL THE TIME.
When I think about what it would be like if I had sent them to school and the few hours a day I’d get to see them– and let’s not forget all the time I’d have to spend doing homework and running them around to practices and lessons– it makes me sad to think I might’ve missed out on the relationship I have with them now.
That doesn’t mean that if you send your kids to school that you don’t have a good relationship with them. I just want to convey that choosing to homeschool, whether in a more traditional sense at home with a daily routine, or world school with minimal structure or routine, is a nonstop job and one that should align with whatever your intention and personality dictates.
For me, I am not that social, nor do I enjoy running errands, meeting up for coffee every day, or having my house in order at all times. I do need to exercise everyday, eat healthy foods, and have some quiet reflective time throughout the day.
When I was pregnant, all I could think about was spending as much time being a mom as I could and from the minute they were born I took my kids to work with me every single day (I taught spinning classes with my first child strapped to my chest when he was only 5 days old–crazy, I know!)
With the addition of each child, things got a little more complicated. I still want to spend all my time with them, but they all like or are capable of different things. Now my bigger struggle is wanting to go do sports with my older three while being able to spend enough quality time with my younger two who just can’t keep up yet in the big hikes, runs, and surfing that I do with the others.
Can You Meet Your Own Needs?
Once you know what your intention is, take some time to identify your own needs. If you love meeting your girlfriends every morning to play tennis, will you be just as happy if some of that has to give? Not that you should give up tennis, in fact, I think it’s one of the best things to drag your kids to your sports because it teaches them to entertain themselves (a very important and often underrated skill) and you are setting an example that health and fitness are important.
It’s easy to imagine that choosing to homeschool will require some form of sacrifice on your part, so now is also a good time to write down all the rewards you hope to gain from it.
Like I said, my kids are my best friends. Most of the time I talk to the older three as if they were a friend I was calling on the phone. I know what you are thinking, Isn’t that bad? Shouldn’t there be a level of authority? Yes, but they are 14, 17, and 19 now, so discipline isn’t much of an issue. And that is the beauty of homeschooling. When they were younger, I was always around correcting bad behaviors before they became an issue and I was the one in charge of routines and expectations from an early age which minimized the number of issues they had.
With my younger two–ages 7 and 10– discipline is a nonstop chore. The good thing is that in a few years, I know they will be very well behaved kids and responsible adults, the bad thing is that it is tiring to be constantly correcting behavior and defining what I expect from them. It would be much easier if they went to school and someone else took over the discipline/expectation conundrum. Then again, I’d have the chore of correcting poor behaviors that they may be picking up at school so who knows!
This will be one of those things that you have to listen to your heart, follow your gut, and then use your brain to create an action plan to align with your intention.
I know that for me, the amount of time I get to spend grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, surfing, running, and talking with my kids makes the other parts not so bad.
Do you Care If Your Kids Know Your Flaws?
I love being around my kids all the time, but I find it also lends itself to our family seeing each other at our highest highs and lowest lows.
My kids know me well (probably too well). They see me struggle with real life demands. They see how physically hard it is to keep everyone fed, heard, and happy. But they also see me work through emotional demands such as taking care of them, nurturing relationships around me, and my own self discovery.
In my experience, these are things that weren’t shared as much between parents and child a few decades ago and it may be something you aren’t comfortable with, which is totally okay. If you find yourself still wanting to homeschool and keep a firm line of separation between raising your kids and your own adult responsibilities, my advice is to plan on having help. Finding ways to create personal space for yourself and with your spouse can be the key ingredient when it comes to feeling good with choosing this lifestyle.
For me, I’m okay with it, especially when compared to the alternative of spending so little time with them and the fact that having help just isn’t an option with our lifestyle.
I also really like the tools my kids are gaining from watching me.
When Victor and I started our first website, our tag line was “Be who you want your kids to be.” My oldest three are highly focused, compassionate, and have a good level of self accountability–qualities Victor and I try to set an example of. They also have some of our flaws, like how I get frustrated easily–which is not always a pretty sight nor something I feel good about afterward.
Homeschooling is about so much more than academics. It gives you the opportunity to shape your kids personalities, emotional intelligence, and work ethic. For this reason alone, I am such a huge believer in it.
If you can give your kids the tools of focus, accountability, persistence, and compassion, they will have an edge in life that will make them succeed in whatever path they choose.
Take a moment and think about some of your own flaws that your kids may not see regularly if they are at school during the day or you are at work. I think if you can visualize ahead of time some of the potential areas of conflict, you can set yourself up to avoid them or create a line of communication with your kids ahead of time to acknowledge that we all have flaws and learning to be emotionally intelligent to our reactions is a very important life skill and very real part of homeschooling.
Are You Ready To Nurture Your Child’s Love Language?
Have you heard of the book The Five Love Languages of Children: The Secret of Loving Children Effectively? This book has helped me tremendously with homeschooling.
In it, the authors explain the five love languages and how learning your child’s love language can help you understand and communicate better with your child, which in the end, helps your child learn better. I find using different discipline and correction techniques for each child depending on their love language helps a lot too.
If you go to 5lovelanguages.com there is a quiz you can take to assess your child’s love language. Here is a breakdown of the 5 love languages:
- Words of Affirmation– Kids whose love language is words of affirmation like for others to use words to tell them that they are special and that they do a good job.
- Physical Touch– Kids whose love language is physical touch like to receive hugs, kisses, and high-fives.
- Acts of Service– Kids whose love language is acts of service likes it when others do nice things for them such as helping with chores, helping with school projects, or driving them places.
- Receiving Gifts– Kids with the love language of gifts feel good when someone gives them a special present or surprise.
- Quality Time– Kids with the love language of quality time like it when others do things with them like play a game, watch television, or go to a ballgame.
I think it is quite ironic that I have 5 kids who each have a different love language. In some ways it makes it harder for me because I have to design each child’s curriculum (as well as disciplining and rewarding) differently, but once I recognized the difference between each child, it also became easier for me to set them up to succeed and to have the right positive reinforcement for when they do a great job.
To be honest, once you start homeschooling and are around your children all the time, you naturally start picking up on their uniqueness. That’s the beauty of homeschooling, it becomes more about conscious parenting than about teaching the curriculum the schools deem worthy. It’s an incredible opportunity to provide your kids with a great education while also creating a special relationship with them.
Of course there will be hard days and many moments filled with guilt and self-doubt. And don’t be surprised if the people closest to you are the ones who criticize you the most (it happens to the best of us!).
Lastly the most important thing to remember, in my opinion, when transitioning from traditional school to homeschool is to not try to “school at home”. If you try to recreate what your child’s day is like at school, you and your child will end up feeling frustrated. It would be like an adult who works a forty hour workweek and decides to become a digital nomad only to sit at their kitchen table from 9 to 5 working. Sure, it might be better than the office environment, but they’d be missing the point of being able to work at off times, or sporadically through the day, or in beautiful, remote locations.
Slow down and enjoy the journey.