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Dear Me! I’m Homeschooling

Affiliate Disclosure | in Motherhood | by | with 21 Comments

Today’s guest post comes from my real-life friend Kim McCorkle, who recently abandoned the plains of Texas to work alongside her director/husband on “Unconditional,” a feature film due in theaters this fall. If that wasn’t perfectly clear, he is her husband and a movie director, not some weird new husband hybrid. Kim spends most of her days at her Tennessee home, where she educates their five children, ages 6-14, but sometimes she brings me apples. :) 

Not My Plan

I always marvel at the mothers whose little ones are still in diapers, and who are already researching the various homeschooling methods and strategically selecting the materials they will use when the time comes. This was not how our homeschool experience began…to put it mildly. My decision to homeschool was made abruptly when I realized that first grade meant sending my daughter away for seven hours a day. I just couldn’t do it. I wanted her with me…and so began my bumbling journey into the great unknown.

When I was younger, I had always imagined homeschool kids as the socially bewildered, highwater wearing types who hide behind their mother’s long dresses. This was obviously not for me. Furthermore, I had even been guilty of making remarks like, “Homeschool breeders are taking over the world!” But that was before I decided to homeschool…and before I had five children. I’m pretty sure God is laughing at me.

Learning As You Go

People often ask me how I do it, to which I always reply, “Not gracefully.” I would say that homeschooling is not so different from parenting in general, in that your first child is the “guinea pig” so to speak. And by the time the second child arrives, you are much more prepared to deal with diaper rashes and gassy tummies, and you don’t have to agonize over what kind of baby food you’re going to use. You’ve been there, done that. You’re an old pro. But there are new challenges that come with every age and with every season, and all you can do is learn as you go.

So here I am, eight years into the homeschool experience, and I have not “arrived” and I’m certainly not an “old pro.” I still have days where life happens and nothing much gets done…and moments when I doubt myself and wonder why I’m not better at this by now. But when I look back and remember myself as a naïve but optimistic young mother just starting out, I realize that I’ve come a long way. I have some experience under my belt, and lessons learned the hard way. But what if, from where I sit, I could go back and give myself some advice? Yes! What if I could send my younger self a letter? What would I say? Hmmm…I think it would go something like this:

“Dear Me,

It’s me, your older wiser self. This decision you’ve just made to homeschool? You’ll never regret it. We’re having a wonderful time. The kids are doing great…all five of them. Yeah, that natural birth control doesn’t work, but you keep using it OK? Your life will be the better for it. Trust me on this one.

I know you’re a little overwhelmed with all the options. Textbooks? Boxed curriculum? Charlotte Mason? Unit studies? Classical Edcuation? Yes, yes, I know. There’s a lot to choose from.  I could tell you what you’ll love in the end, but I’d be spoiling half the fun. What’s more important is how you proceed once you’ve made your selections.

Let me make an observation. You, my dear, are something of a perfectionist. Actually, that’s a gross understatement and you know it! Someday, you’ll believe me when I say that perfectionism is a fault, not a virtue. But for now, let me just say this. You CANNOT do everything. And if you try, you will get so overwhelmed, you will literally become paralyzed. You will find yourself accomplishing nothing, even though you’re planning a stellar education. Just hear me on this. There is no such thing as a perfect homeschool, a perfect teacher, a perfect mother, or a perfect wife. You have to make peace with this, and the sooner the better.

About curriculum . .

You will be making too many purchases and trying too many new things at once. I would tell you to slow down, but I know you won’t be able to help yourself. You’ll get it right eventually. Don’t be afraid to discard the things that aren’t working, and don’t worry about the money you lost. You can re-sell it or give it away… doesn’t matter. Just get rid of it and move on. Try to take baby steps, and for goodness sake, use only ONE new thing at a time! Once you get used to it, then you can add something new. Baby steps, Kim. Baby steps.

Be careful not to get caught up in trying to emulate other “successful” homeschoolers. They have much to teach you, this is true. But you are unique and your kids are unique. What works for them and for their kids may not be what’s best for you and yours.

There are so many variables to consider: learning styles, teaching styles,  personality types, family dynamic. Learn what you can, but embrace your uniqueness. Find your backbone, and trust your own mothering instinct. You are connected to your children like no one else. You know what’s best for them. So when you find yourself overwhelmed with all the options and all the advice, go with your gut. Trust yourself. You’ll figure it out.

And take care of yourself!

I know it seems counterintuitive, but you have to put yourself first sometimes. “WHAT?!?!” I can hear you screaming at me. I know, I know. It sounds all wrong, but let me explain. You pride yourself in being “low maintenance,” but there is no such thing. You need plenty of water, plenty of rest and exercise, good food and supplements. You need your “me” time. You need to go on dates with your hubby. And you need girlfriends. Girl’s night out is essential! Being “low-maintenance” will leave you physically exhausted and emotionally bankrupt with nothing left to give. But taking care of you means that you can be a better wife, a better mom, a better teacher, and a better friend….all those things you so desperately want to be. It’s a balancing act, I know. But don’t feel bad about taking care of yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for your family and for the people you love. Hear me on this…or you’ll learn the hard way.

You can do this. I’m proud of you, and you should be proud of you too. Just take it one day at a time.

Yours literally,

Me

 

I Wonder If I Would Have Listened

I wonder if I would have been ready to take these pearls of wisdom to heart. The truth is, there are no shortcuts. You just have to get in there and get started. I will always be failing forward. After all, a cook that isn’t flubbing recipes is obviously not taking risks…not learning new things. Homeschooling is no different. You try new things…and some stick, some don’t. And eventually, you find what best suits your homeschool personality. But as long as your children are learning, and as long as you’re enjoying each other in the process, you’re doing great. Don’t look back.

Image credit

 

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21 Responses to Dear Me! I’m Homeschooling

  1. Lauren

    says:

    Love it. Needed this today!

  2. Loved this post, Kim Hinson Mccorkle!! I’m sure I will be rereading often as I try to get a handle on our first year schooling at home. Thank you!!!

  3. Jill Bryant Mitchell via FB

    says:

    Such great timing!! I just pulled my son from school. I was not prepared and did it for his mental health and happiness. Now I just need to figure out what I am doing. But after teaching him how to speak and doing intensive one on one with him when he was little, this should be easier, right? :) Thanks again!!

  4. Kristine

    says:

    That was funny, Kim. I love the “yours literally.” :) As a former school teacher I agree that you just have to experiment until you find something that works for you and the kids you are teaching. It is a challenge with so many personalities. I’m glad you encouraged the moms to take care of themselves. I think this area is lacking because moms have so much to do. I’d like to hear more on how you make the time and keep everything balanced.

  5. rawkinmom says:

    I loved this post!!! I am in my 3rd year of homeschooling and even though I feel like I may go crazy spmetimes and there are days when we skip it altogether, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!!!!

  6. @Jill – Yay! So glad you liked this post and I hope you LOVE homeschooling!

  7. Ronda C

    says:

    Great job, Kim. You speak to, and for, homeschooling mommies everywhere!

  8. kathryn

    says:

    Did you know…we just pulled our kids out of school on March…not sure what I am doing!? <3

    • Heather says:

      Really? I’m dipping my toes in with one little student, but it sounds like you just did a cannonball. Whee! Have fun!!! (And call Kim if you haven’t :))

  9. just in time!
    i just (finally) submitted the paperwork to homeschool my daughter next year! i’d wanted to do it from the start, but life got in the way, so our start will be third grade.

    anyway, thanks for the letter – i could have written this to my perfectionist self! in fact, maybe i’ll pretend i did :-)

    • Heather says:

      Katja – Oh wow, I just realized how awesome it would be to have coffee with you and Kim together. That would DEFINITELY make for some fascinating conversation . . . too bad we all live in different states!!

  10. Wendy

    says:

    I’m one of those mommies with 2 in diapers, researching homeschooling curriculum. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not totally overwhelmed by thinking about doing it all (wife, mommy, friend, teacher) and not falling short and failing my kiddos!! Thanks for this post. It’s a keeper!

    I just started following your blog and it’s my favorite!

  11. LeeAnn

    says:

    I used OakMeadow when I homeschooled my children – ti’s somewhat “different” but I do encourage everyone to check it out. It’s very much based on creativity and art.

  12. Marie

    says:

    My suggestion for everyone who is homeschooling or considering homeschooling to look at attending a conference! We are attending a conference called Teach Them Diligently coming up in Nashville, and I’m super excited about the ENCOURAGEMENT I expect to attend. This is a fundamental Christian conference, but looking at the schedule, there appears to be something for everyone in every timeslot, this is going to be a vacation weekend for me and my husband. There is also a children’s program. Tim Tebow’s mom will be a speaker among dozens of fantastic other experienced homeschool moms and dads. Here is the schedule. https://teachthemdiligently.net/images/documents/Nashville_2013_SessionDescriptions.pdf

    It’s not too late to sign up if this interests you.
    https://www.facebook.com/teachthemdiligently?fref=ts

    My other suggestion is find a LOCAL homeschool support group, even the smallest of towns usually has one, or at the least a facebook resource group that is local for your area homeschoolers. This has been a huge source of encouragement and resources for us!

  13. Marie

    says:

    Also, I just have to add– I am not one who really WANTS to teach my children academics. We run a business out of our home, so actively teaching for 4 hours a day in addition to my other responsibilities just didn’t interest me. But I knew there was no way I could put them in school, because I want to teach them other things throughout the day, like how to run a household, how to run a business, how to code (our five year old has started beginning internet coding!),
    http://www.codecademy.com/#!/exercises/0 music and instruments, gardening, etc. Because of that, we chose the A Beka DVD video program, which is essentially FANTASTIC highly trained and highly paid teachers videotaped in their classrooms teaching your children. Everything is provided, and my K5 is already essentially administering her own schooling in the morning. We are generally done by noon and she then learns real life skills with mom or dad. We have a 3 yr old who watches part of the school day as well. She will start her own video school for K4.

    What impresses me so much about the curriculum is the reading and writing. My daughter can now read at a 2nd grade level, and it just felt effortless. Also, there is no sight reading here, she can sound out just about any word. She also writes in cursive and has since she was 4 thanks to curriculum. Print just comes naturally after you learn the discipline of cursive writing. (I love that she has learned the DISCIPLINE even if it is becoming irrelevant.) She is also adding and subtracting, telling time, and many other numbers related activities that I would never have guessed she could do if I was teaching her!

  14. Carrie

    says:

    Love this!! We are entering our 3rd year of homeschooling & J U S T had this discussion this morning with new homeschooling mommas!

  15. Bonnie Hughes

    says:

    Oh man, I just cried reading this. Today of all days I called the public school my daughter Evelyn would attend in the fall for kindergarten and picked up the registration packet and signed up for the kindergarten camp at the end of the month and just felt like I was losing my breath the whole time I was there… There were many lines in your friend’s post that I felt I am writing in my mind. I just can’t get to the point of okay with sending her. I feel selfish and worry that I would be depriving her of an experience she most certainly would enjoy. After I drove away I ended up calling our district homeschool assistance program to get information from them too…. I want to do what is best for her and worry so much that I will mess it up because I want to have her with me. I am that perfectionist and low maintenance mom and wife! Will I be able to give her what she needs and maintain some semblance of balance for taking care of me too? I don’t know… But when I think of her not being with me during the day I can barely think. Mom neuropathy is great isn’t it?

  16. Stephanie Perez

    says:

    I’ve been homeschooling for two years now and this was so encouraging! There are kinks we need to work out as a family, but I think it will be worth the struggle in the end. There us nothing more humbling or sanctifying than homeschooling. Nothing.

  17. Maegan

    says:

    Thank you for this. We start homeschooling this July and I’m so excited but also so nervous that I’m not going to make the right curriculum choice or teach the right way or get frustrated or… I just want my kids and I to be successful; have fun, learn, experience new things and love each other more than we already do. I don’t have a large amount of family support but I have some. My husband is tremendous. :) I know we can do this and I’m so grateful that I’m not alone. Thanks y’all. :)

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