Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Advice for new homeschoolers - Blog Hop #3

This post is part of the blog hop ... "Australian Mums Encouraging Mums".   
Blog Hop Topic #3 

This isn't a 'How To Homeschool' article ... more a collection of thoughts based on the lessons I have learned.  Best wishes as you embark on this exciting adventure!

Top Tips

Be flexible.  Be open to change and ready to embrace opportunities.  Don't be afraid to change the routine.  Unless you are totally captivated by a particular home ed philosophy, don't be too quick to label your style at the exclusion of others.  If asked I will say our style is eclectic.  I draw inspiration from quite a few home ed styles, and the way we do things changes from year to year.  We might be ore or less academic, project based or natural learning one year to the next, but our steady components are faith and books, lots of wonderful books.  I don't mind that we don't fit neatly into one group.

Let it go.  Just because your friend or a local home ed veteran thinks a program is brilliant, doesn't mean you will like it, or that it will suit your child.  If something isn't working for you and your child, let it go.  Sell it or give it away, and free up time to do more of the things which ARE working.

It's all about your child.  Personalised education is one of the strengths of homeschooling.  Remembering this will influence everything you do ... when and where your child works, their preferred learning style, whether they need a lot of social stimulation or more time spent in their own company, engaging deeply in what interests them.  Each term or so I like to brainstorm what it is that each child needs from me, as their Mum and as the facilitator of their home education.

Keep your compass handy.  Long term goals help put the short term challenges in perspective and make it easier to prioritise and make daily decisions.  You can think of long term goals as a compass ... you know where you're heading, but there are many roads on the map which will lead you there.  Some detours will add richness to your experience, but your compass will help you keep the destination in mind.  By long term goals I mean values, skills and character more than particular academic outcomes.

Time out.  We used to have more frequent, shorter breaks, but I never felt refreshed and the children were frustrated.  I spent lunchtime serving lunch to tired children, doing odd jobs and listening to sudden bursts of inspiration ... if I was lucky, I got to read, write or rest for 10 minutes.  This year I have built in a TWO HOUR break, from 11-1pm or 12-2pm.  Long enough for me to make a healthy lunch, return phone calls, check email, potter around and still have some restful quiet time.  We don't watch the clock, but knowing there will be one long break each day motivates us to start earlier and focus in the morning, and by the time we return for afternoon work, we actually feel like we've had a break.

Take care of yourself.  Caitlin has wonderfully addressed the subject of balancing Mum's needs with children's needs ... she talks about space between and the calm before the storm, and has included lots of enticing links.

Work hard, work smart.  Work hard at spending quality time with your children, reading to them, making time for games, having heart to heart conversations, finding out what makes them tick and finding out what works for your family.  Don't worry so much about matching learning to outcomes, ticking boxes, comparing your homeschool to how your friend does things.

Give your children the best of you.  Share your passion, talent, expertise, tools, knowledge and experience.  Let your children see you at work ... writing, creating art, tinkering, mending.  You don't have to set up formal lessons, just be an available, willing, informal mentor.

The freezer is your friend.  When you have spare energy or time or ingredients, cook and freeze extra meals.  I freeze single portions of paleo breakfasts and lunches, cubes of vegetable soup to use as 'secret sauce' (hidden veges) in mince dishes, and servings of cake or slice for a morning tea treat.

Pitfalls ... and how to climb out of the pit

Perfectionism.  A steady flow of 'good enough' days are better than a handful of 'perfect' days.  Don't let your desire to do 'the best' stop you from simply 'doing.'

Trying to do it all.  There are so many wonderful things to do, but trying to do too many of them at once will set yourself up for disappointment.  Brainstorm all the shiny ideas, and go wild ... but then grab a cup of tea and cross things off the list.  Some will be great ideas for the future, others you may visit in a smaller way, and others you may decide you're willing to let go of in the interests of sanity.

Putting your needs last.  Self-care is important.  That's why it gets a repeat mention.  It can also be really hard, when there are so many pressing needs around you competing for your time.  Know what you need to survive and what you need to thrive, and try to make it part of your weekly routine.

I hear the questions tumbling out ...
  • How can I possibly take time out when my child has separation anxiety?
  • How can I go to an art class when I can't even keep up with laundry?
  • How can I find time to exercise?
These are real road-blocks, but with creativity you can get past most of them.  I stay up late or wake early, sometimes both, to enjoy some solitude.  I am doing a virtual art class using a book on my Kindle, and I save inspiring ideas to an 'art class' bookmark on my computer with the intention of learning by imitation.  My children, together or individually, go with me for walk and talks after dinner.  If your children will happily stay with someone else, you can arrange to have time out to do the things which refresh you.

Introvert overload.  One of my needs is solitude.  I love my family and friends.  I choose to be with them and love our time together, but I do get overloaded and sometimes ... it's too much.  At the moment the only lengthy block of solitude I can get is late at night or early in the morning.  I can manage with those little top ups, knowing things will change at some point.  In the meantime, I choose to be grateful for the closeness.

Rotten days.  Some days nothing goes right.  After years of trial and error, I have written an article, How to rescue a rotten day, full of my best tips to help you turn the tide and move towards a graceful recovery.

The challenges change from year to year, but the way you face them teaches your children some valuable lessons:  how to bounce back, say sorry, look for the positive, compromise, negotiate, make decisions, choose gratitude and show love.  No pressure intended!


With online forums and social media, there is a lot of support for homeschoolers.  If you use Facebook, search for the type of support you need, or ask your friends which groups they find the most supportive.  It's also a good idea to join a local group to learn about what activities and opportunities are right on your doorstep.  Joining an activity or going to a park meet-up are easy ways to meet, and hopefully you'll find some people you really click with.  If there's nothing on which appeals to you, suggest something you know your children would like to do ... it's a good way to attract like-minded people.

The BEST support for your homeschooling journey is a few good friends who know what your days are like, face the same challenges and know how big the little wins really are.  My family and friends are usually supportive of our decision to homeschool, but my homeschooling best friends are a real sanity saver!  We talk by email, phone or text message, and because our children like to play together, we meet up every fortnight or so.  This year we all decided we'd prefer to meet with one family at a time, but we've also been part of lovely small groups which led to long term friendships.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.  We've all been new, and we can all benefit from each other's experiences and wisdom.  Chances are if you have a question, someone will thank you for asking it because they are puzzled by the same thing, and people are more than happy to share suggestions and possible solutions.  At the very least, you'll know you're not alone, and at best, you will find the book, website, mentor, art or music teacher, or idea to help you on your way.


At the start of this year, my 8th year homeschooling, I wrote this in my morning pages journal:
How will I deal with all the parenting, teaching, cooking and cleaning?How will I set a sustainable pace?PRAY
Sometimes it's that simple.  We have a lot to juggle, and all the best intentions and clever ideas in the world can't match the power of seeking wisdom from above.
Whether you have come to homeschooling by choice or circumstances,
Whether you are Mum to one or seven,
Whether you love homeschooling or find it a daily struggle,
Whether you have a degree or two or none,
Whether your children are livewires or lazybones ...  
Your homeschooling family will not look like anyone else's
But if it's built on LOVE 
It will be beautiful.


  1. Oh wow Vanessa - so much to think about here. Thanks for sharing. Give your children the best of you - that is the one that jumped out at me. It isn't just giving our kids the best of my focus, but the best of the very essence of who I am. Great thought.

    1. Your words are a gift to me, Belinda!
      Thankyou for the encouragement.

      Giving my children "the very essence of who I am" ...
      I like the way you phrased that.

      It's been a busy week here but I look forward to reading the other blog hop entries soon and seeing the different perspectives and writing styles.


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