I was clearing out old posts from the blog today and I realized that I have been homeschooling now for 5 years. It has taken me this long to really feel like we're figuring this school thing out and to stop questioning most of my choices. 5 years. Yeesh.
Don't get me wrong-there are many days that I have been confident that we were on track and learning at a good pace. Then there are days when I look at what other kids are learning in public school and worry that we're falling short. During those moments of doubt I remember what I have learned from experienced homeschoolers. For example, last year I was at the year end picnic for our homeschool group and I was talking about how worried I was about kid #1s writing skills (or lack thereof). I was pretty sure it was laziness and not that he wasn't getting it but I was concerned because I thought that he was far behind and I was failing in my job. One mom set me straight and let me know that my expectations might be a little out of line and that he would be just fine in time. She didn't offer some magic formula or easy answer, but something about that conversation took the pressure off of me and let me allow him to grow in his own time. One year later, I have learned that #1 is capable of more than I realized but the key is to assign topics that interest him. I am so grateful to have that freedom in homeschooling to tailor his work around his interests so I can help him gain a firm foundation.
My point here is that homeschooling might click for you right away and you might pick one curriculum and be able to use it right through graduation. That would be amazing and I'd be thrilled for you. What I've seen over time is that it often takes a while to really find the best curriculum for your family and figure out the best schedule (year round? summers off? start lessons early in the day? start late morning?) for your family. Give yourself permission to learn from your experiences and permission to change curriculum and permission to take a break if needed. When your kids are in the younger elementary grades, there are so many free and cheap resources you can use that will help you pinpoint learning styles. I suggest you try some of these before you spend big money on curriculum or else buy curriculum that you can resell if it doesn't work out for you. I have seen people stick with a frustrating curriculum because it was purchased so it must be finished. Oh, wait. I did this with Horizons math. We had a miserable second half of the year but I was committed to finishing the book. After seeing my math lover start hating math, I decided that I wouldn't stick with a curriculum that didn't work for us because it can cause unnecessary tension.
So what is my point? Don't get discouraged in the beginning or feel like you have to have it all figured out. Don't be afraid to ask for help or encouragement from moms/dads that have been doing this for years. Remember that some days will be horrible and you'll wonder if it is worth it. Then remember the joy of seeing the excitement on your child's face when they really understand something or get to explore a topic that they love. Don't worry about trying to hit it all in one year. You have many years to teach them what they need to be successful adults. Finally, enjoy this time of learning and enjoy the precious moments you are sharing with your kids.