5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Homeschooling

With changes rapidly happening in our public school system, more parents than ever are considering the very viable option of homeschooling. If you’re one of those, read on.I’ll never forget our first year of homeschooling.I sort of “fell” into homeschooling, and so, admittedly, I was not as well prepared as some of you dear readers will be. In fact, I was about as green as green could get—but I was trying—right down to the flag salute and scheduled recess time. Like many new homeschool moms, I was trying to imitate what I remembered about school. And the school that I attended as a child had a flag salute. So we did, too.As you are probably guessing, our first year was tricky. The neighbors thought we were crazy, my parents wondered out loud about my “ability” to teach our children, and I had no idea how to get dinner on the table and still teach math, reading, and science. Or, maybe I didn’t need to be teaching science to our second grader? The opinions on teaching science to second graders were mixed, after all.Can you relate? Oh, the things I worried about!

I needed a class for homeschool rookies, but unfortunately, there were no such classes around.

Homeschooling is the best decision we have ever made with regard to how we would educate our children. But I won’t lie to you—those first few years were especially challenging. If I could start again, I would do a few things differently.

But even so, God has a way of working all things together for good as we trust him. Here are just a few of the many things he’s taught me over the past fifteen years:

Education is Discipleship

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)Education is discipleship.  This simple sentence has become the mission statement of our homeschool. The Lord has taught us the simple truth about education through homeschooling. And the truth is that ALL education can be summed up in one word: discipleship.Because the Bible tells us that students become like their teachers, we know that our children are modeling us in every area of life. Luke 6:40 bears special meaning for homeschooling parents. It reminds us that no matter who is teaching our children, they are being discipled; and it compels us to examine our own lives, because our children are very likely going to be just like we are.

The culture we live in has made academics the “main thing,” but I beg to differ. Academics pale in comparison to teaching our children what it means to be men and women who are sold out for Jesus Christ, ready to give an answer for the Hope that lies within them. Education is simply the opportunity to shape the hearts and minds of our children. There can be no greater goal than to teach our children to follow hard after Christ.

Manner is More Important Than Method

As a new homeschooler, I was bombarded with academic opportunities. Dozens of programs and curricula overwhelmed me at the homeschool conference. I studied my options, poring through homeschool catalogs and investigating different companies. Our coffee table overflowed with flyers and curriculum samples.

If I could start over (which I can, each year, by the way!), I would have spent more time praying and preparing for the manner in which I would be known for teaching our children, rather the method I chose. At the end of the day, my kids remember much more about how I taught them, rather that what I taught them.

As you begin homeschooling, take some time to think about how you want your kids to remember their homeschool years. I have learned that the relationships I foster with my children are much more important than the books I choose.

Fruit Grows Over Time

No one ever plants a fruit tree and expects mature fruit to appear overnight. Yet, for some reason, homeschool parents often feel pressure to “out-perform” in almost every area of parenting, even when children are very young!

Your kids don’t need to be seen as geniuses. If your neighbors ask your fourth grader what the capital of Texas is and he answers “Oregon,” don’t panic! Remind yourself that good fruit takes time to grow. The results of good homeschooling take time to see.

We can place undue pressure on ourselves and our children when we saddle ourselves with expectations that do not come from the Lord. See his expectations and live up to those. The rest either don’t matter, or will come in time. There will never be a teacher more devoted to the success of your child than you are.

Child Training Trumps the A-B-Cs

Is your child disobedient? Whining? Ungrateful? Rebellious? If so, then “real” school has begun.

Training your child to be obedient is more important than teaching addition. Don’t be afraid to stop formal schooling to teach the greater lessons of life: obedience, respect, truthfulness, graciousness, and love. I have met many parents over the years who miss the true opportunity of homeschooling by focusing solely on academics. Their children suffer for it. The parents suffer too, but it’s usually later down the road.

Consider Eli, who served as a priest in Israel. His unwillingness to discipline his sons brought dishonor to his family, and ultimately, grave punishment to his sons and himself.

You will not have done your child any favors if he or she is fluent in three languages, but cannot speak a single one in a loving and respectful way. When we honor God’s ways first, the rest will follow.

Learning Style Matters

Take the time to discover both your primary learning style and the learning styles of your children. Moms who know their learning style have an easier time choosing curriculum and a far greater success rate in teaching their children the best way.

Your preferred learning style will guide the way you learn, and it will greatly influence the way you teach!

For example, I know that I am a visual learner. If I had taken the time to discover this earlier in my homeschooling, I would have avoided many of the curricula that I chose, because I would have known that I would probably not enjoy teaching it.

Generally, you will find that you and your children fall into one of these learning styles:

• Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.

• Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.

• Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands, and sense of touch.

• Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning, and systems.

• Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.

• Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

There are many books and websites dedicated to learning styles. Check them out! You’ll be glad you did.

It’s been many years since I took my first steps as a new homeschool mom. Last month, we graduated our son, who never went to “regular” school. Like his two sisters before him, Skylar is ready. He graduated in June from our homeschool, and as he did, he was likely to catch a glimpse of two wide-eyed parents staring at him in a cap and gown … not because they couldn’t believe he graduated, but because they couldn’t believe it went by so fast.

With four more children coming up, we are learning just how fast it goes—and how worth it the journey is.

About Heidi St. John

Heidi St. John has been married to her husband Jay since 1989. Together they have seven children from toddler to adult and have homeschooled all the way through high school. A favorite conference and radio speaker, Heidi approaches marriage and parenting with humor and grace. Her passion to encourage moms and set them free to be who God has created them to be will bless and encourage you.

27 thoughts on “5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Homeschooling

  1. Wonderful insight as usual Heidi. After 4 years of homeschooling and many of your posts, I am finally “getting it”. I have let go of “doing school at home” and measuring our success by comparing ourselves to everyone else and “regular school”. There is finally a sense of peace in our homeschool and in this teacher’s heart! We took our boys on a field trip to Jamestown and my husband couldn’t believe how much they knew. I was delighted, of course, because I could see how much more they learn by relaxing my rigid “school at home approach”. While we were there, we were out to dinner and a woman got up and walked over to our table to compliment us on how well-behaved our boys were and remarked that she hadn’t seen boys behave that well in a long time. I believe we were more proud of that than how much they knew on the field trip. It was a great reminder of how equally important it is to disciple them in life, not just teach them academics.

  2. Heidi, thank you so much for your insightful wisdom. You are so right on! Like Amy said above, I have four years of homeschooling behind me, and the Lord has faithfully opened my eyes to His ways as we press on. I look forward to many more years of homeschooling and growing together in Him. Thank you for your encouragement in faithfully living the Truth.

  3. Love this: “Education is simply the opportunity to shape the hearts and minds of our children. There can be no greater goal than to teach our children to follow hard after Christ.”

  4. God Bless those adults who offer a public compliment when they see it is deserved! That is so uplifting and gutsy! They encourage us to keep on truckin’!

  5. Heidi, what is your go-to source for purchasing homeschooly items… such as maps/globes, desks, supplies, etc? Thanks!

  6. Hi,

    First, let me say I really enjoy and find your posts very helpful. I have three children ages 4 (almost 5), 2 (almost 3) and 4 months. We have decided that I will homeschool our son this year. He misses the cut off for kindergarten by about a month and a half so technically I don’t have to report that I am homeschooling this year but I’ve bought the following curriculum to try: 100 lessons teach your child to read, handwriting w/o tears, Singapore math and five in a row. I tried to do my first lesson from 100 lessons yesterday and I just couldn’t keep my sons interest. We made it through but it was not fun. He was in preschool last year but I don’t think he learned much at all. I’m wondering if what I bought is too advanced for him and if I should start with the letter of the week type curric. To be honest, I’m scared I can’t do this and I’m going to royally screw up my kids. I have a law degree and used to be a full time lawyer but when I had my son I switched to a few days a week and then we got pregnant with out daughter I bowed out completely and now I just do some work from home.

    Any thoughts or advice would be helpful 🙂

    1. If he missed the cut for kindergarten, don’t sweat teaching him this year. The fact that he is distractable is probably more because he is young than because of the curriculum you chose or your method. I started Kindergarten with my first “on time” according to the school systems around us, but the first year, ALL I did was Righstart Math Level A, which we took at a leisurely pace, and I taught him the letters of the alphabet using Explode the Code Primers. That’s all for “official” school. We read books and talked about things we encountered in real life. Answering their questions about nature is “science” at that age. He’s now entering third grade and right on track. My second son, when school district would have put in Kindergarten, was too distractable and I could tell he wasn’t ready, so we waited and he’s starting Kindergarten the month before turning 6. I don’t regret it one bit, having seen the change in maturity and attention span in the last year. If I would’ve started him last year, it would have been an exhausting battle. This year, he’s inquisitive and able to follow through with instruction much more readily. Do not fear. I only have a high school diploma, no college, and am loving this learning journey. You’ll do fine, mama.

    2. Another way to look at homeschooling the younger years is to embrace the fact that curiosity is the fuel that runs learning. Curiosity makes learning easy and enjoyable. Learning without curiosity can be as hard as pushing a car up hill. This is just common sense, but we have to stop and think about it in order to realize it.

      Curiosity is a normal part of the creation of humans, very likely experienced in the womb. We do not have to make it happen, but we can interfere with it (e.g. sitting at a desk or table, being told what to be interested in and for how long – sound like school?). Children learn to talk and walk because of curiosity, not curriculum. Let that process continue for as long as you are comfortable. Some say to start an organized, prescribed education plan in the age range of 8-10 (read the book, Better Late Than Early, by Dr. Raymond Moore). Others have discovered that it works very well all the way through high school.

      Homeschooling provides freedom for our children to learn at their pace and according to their interests. Two ingredients needed for this freedom to be used most effectively is a resource-rich environment (e.g. a library) and examples to observe (e.g. parents who love to learn).

      ~ From the perspective of a father who has been homeschooling for forty years

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