Homeschool mom Jennifer Coe has authored two articles, below. The first and newest is, Three Homeschooling Traps and How to Avoid Them. The second one is a short story about her family’s personal homeschool journey – that’s below the first article. nifer Coe is a stay at home mom, homeschooler, blogger, writer. Follow The Coe family’s homeschool adventures on our Facebook page, All The Good Things. Treat yourself to Jennifer’s insight and wisdom!
Three Homeschooling Traps and How to Avoid Them
By Jennifer Coe
Starting this fall, many parents will be bringing their children home and homeschooling them for the very first time. In some cases, this decision will have been made after months of planning. In other cases, it will have been an urgent, family choice made after bad experiences in the public school environment.
Whatever has gotten you to this place, you have chosen to attempt your hand at educating your child yourself. Congratulations!
Homeschooling is amazing.
In my own personal experience, I believe I have saved my sons from a lot of peer-pressure, unnecessary academic testing and the daily grind of being educated in an environment where there is very little time to access and build upon their own unique qualities.
While all this is true, homeschooling can be extremely emotionally draining, time consuming and a real experiment in being constantly flexible. And when I say flexible, I mean like Gumby flexible.
Below I will present some of the traps that we moms can fall into. Don’t worry – we have all been there.
The I-am-not-doing-enough homeschool mom
This mom has chosen a curriculum for her child and one month into the school year, she may comment to herself: “Is this all my child will be learning?” She has a strong sense of what her child was learning in public school and is trying to match it, or outdo it, with homeschooling.
This mom has her child doing all the core subjects (Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies), plus art and piano lessons, weekly playdates and a co-op.
This mom is tired. I’ll bet the kid is tired too.
This mom is probably me. I can’t tell you how many times I have called my friend and lamented that maybe my boys aren’t doing enough. That maybe I am doing them a disservice by homeschooling them. My friend always patiently reminds me of all the things I am doing, what good boys they are and how happy they are. It’s a comfort.
I need the reminder that homeschooling is not meant to be the same as public schooling.
To expect the same results from homeschooling that your children produced when public schooling is like planting pumpkin seeds and expecting to find watermelons growing in your garden.
First of all, don’t be hard on yourself. Especially if this is your first or second year of homeschooling. It seriously took me three years to figure my groove out.
Also, and most importantly, the farther I got away from our public school experience, the more I was able to decide what we wanted to focus on in our school; the things that really mattered to us as a family like nature, character and being well-read.
The over-planning mom
This mom was probably a good student herself. She is presently planning out what her children’s week will look like starting September 1, in half-an-hour time slots.
I admire you, mom.
And maybe for some it’s just an exercise in organization, but, any homeschooler who has been at it at least two years will tell you that you need to build-in room for schedule flexibility. Like a lot of it.
Teaching your own children is different from anything you have every done before (even if you are a professional teacher by trade). It is more emotional, more demanding, and more amazing! But, you will learn things about your children you never knew before.
My first year of homeschooling, my son kept saying to me:
“That’s not how Mrs. K did it.”
“Yes son. I know. Mommy has to find the way for her to do it,” I would say. Over and over.
I did build out half-an-hour time slots. I did think they would joyfully move from one subject to another. I thought that if I inserted some art in there, they would get the “break” they needed. I thought they would be so thrilled to be homeschooled that they would never give me push-back.
Oh friends, I was such a novice. I was such a control-freak.
First of all, mom, you have to R-E-L-A-X. Go ahead and make your yearly schedule with the lessons and the field trips, but constantly remind yourself that if you don’t get to it ALL, EVERYDAY, that’s it’s ok.
Do you think that public school teachers successfully execute EVERY lesson they plan? I will let you answer that.
When you find yourself getting uptight because Daniel is behind by a chapter in math and Grace is fighting you on grammar, step back, look at it from their perspective, and re-plan.
I re-evaluate my goals for the kids about every two weeks.
The Go-It-Alone Mom
This, I can honestly say, has never been me. I am naturally an extrovert and so is my older son, so I am always “out there,” doing things and talking to people. Both he and I have a strong need to connect with other people.
But, not all moms are like that.
Many moms are naturally introverted and were not extremely social before homeschooling began. It is hard to get out of your own comfort zone even if it is for a good reason: varying and diversifying your children’s educational opportunities.
There’s another reason parents shouldn’t “go it alone” when it comes to homeschooling: depression and isolation.
Listen, I love my boys, but when they have given me a hard time about math for the millionth time, and the baby is crying, and the computer program isn’t working and they are looking for lunch and … you get the picture.
I need other adults to give me perspective. I need other adults to say “I relate!”
And, a lot of times, when I am with other adults they have given me ways to solve some of my homeschooling problems and put me “in the know” of some awesome class happening nearby.
Have a great first day of school and remember: when you homeschool, the whole world is your classroom!
Our Homeschooling Story: The Coe Family
By Jennifer Coe
It all started nine years ago.
As I toted my huge baby belly around with me, counseling students in an urban middle school, I had one thought in my mind: “I can’t wait to leave this all behind and stay home with this little fellow.” Now, bearing in my mind I knew nothing about parenting, babies and being at home full-time, this was a bit of a fantasy thought. I had no idea what that would be like, but I supposed I thought it would be better than working full time.
The next two years, I got to know my little boy. I always say he came out a thinking like a fully grown man. He was fast to learn things, excited to try new things and ate up life. The boy was determined and eager to take his first steps, read his first words and when I recognized this, I began to think about what it might be like to be at home with him. Not just as his mom, but also as his teacher.
I thought: “I surely will decide before he enters preschool.” Well, three years went by, a second baby boy arrived, and I still hadn’t decided.
I thought: “Surely, I will decide before I send him off to kindergarten.”
But my fear of the unknown had me paralyzed. Could I teach them on a day to day basis, would I enjoy it, would I get lazy, would I poop out and get depressed, would I go crazy being around my kids all the time…and the list went on.
So, I began to pray in earnest about it.
As number one went through his kindergarten and first grade years, he thrived. We had a really good public school experience and I began to add a new fear to my list: “What if I cannot live up to his expectations?”
Halfway through his second grade year (while he was being taught by the district’s Teacher of the Year, by the way), I decided I had better get serious about making a decision.
On and off, I had been pulling my husband aside to tell him I was thinking about it again. I would give him this look that might have said: can you make this decision for me? But, of course, I knew that was not possible. I had to choose to homeschool and choose it with all my heart.
Through the whole process, I was open with my husband about my desires and I asked his thoughts. Sometimes it was hard for me to hear him ask tough questions about how I would plan to teach the boys, but in the end it was a good process for both of us to go through, because he is completely supportive of me.
Finally the summer between second and third grade, I decided that if I were going to homeschool Andrew and his brother Jeff (who would be in kindergarten), I had to decide now. My 8 year old was growing up before my eyes, and if I waited any longer, I felt I would cave in a let me fear win.
I will never forget that day when I went into the superintendant’s office and signed him out. That was two years ago.
Some days are really hard. They don’t want to do work sometimes or they say they hate math or they complain: why aren’t we doing more crafts? I have a weekly planning time which I have to stick to or else I find myself flying by the seat of my pants too much. I have had to, several times, pull back and ask myself what was working and what wasn’t. But, with the support of my husband and a small community of local homeschoolers, I can say I am keeping my head up high and making progress with my “students.”
Homeschooling has been the hardest yet most rewarding experience besides becoming a mother that I have ever done.
Jennifer Coe is a homeschooling mom to two boys ages 9 and 7. She is a freelance writer and photographer.