A Beginner’s Guide to Your First Year of Homeschool

Amy from Saskatchewan asked, “I have all the fears I suspect most moms might have begun their homeschool, but I also have a sense of peace that has replaced my sense of dread when I sent him to school. Do you have any tips?”

If I could share a cup of tea with Amy, these would be my first thoughts for a guide to your first year of homeschool.

a beginner's guide to your first year of homeschool

Here’s a beginner’s guide to your first year of homeschool.

When my kids were young, our third daughter was just a baby, I was driving our oldest daughter to kindergarten, twice a day to a private school.

The kitchen would be a disaster as I backed the minivan out of the attached garage, kids bundled in their snow gear, all three of them, consent forms signed for whatever activities Hannah needed permission for.

When I returned from that 45-minute jaunt, I’d come home to a disaster in the kitchen so I’d clean that up and occupy the youngest two.

After the kitchen was reasonable, I’d bend down to pull out my second daughter’s learning things that I’d been collecting. We’d pull something from the cupboard to work together at the kitchen table. Rachel sat in the high chair and fed her baby Elmo.

We’d never do that for more than 20 minutes. Madelyn was preschool age. She loved learning things, such as underwater sea sticker books & printing books & giant red pencils. And she was an academic from way back.

A mom friend might come over to have coffee and a chat with her son after lunch. My girls would have an afternoon nap, and I’d have to wake up my baby girl so we could all drive to get Hannah in time for the afternoon bell. And we did this on repeat until Hannah finished grade 2.

It didn’t take long to realize that what I was doing at home with Madelyn I could also do with Hannah and Rachel too.

Why all the busywork, why wake up my babies from their afternoon naps when I was doing stuff at the kitchen table?

When I picked up the book, The Homeschool Option, by Lisa Rivere on a lark during a vacation, our lives shifted.

Within one week of reading it, I’d come up with all sorts of reasons why I should be homeschooling (even though I picked up that book to prove my reasons why I shouldn’t).

(And I share a whole bunch more on that book and the 8 reasons why I decided to homeschool on my very first episode of this podcast).

Sure, homeschooling has not been quite what I thought it would be. But it’s also been a whole lot more.

Straight talk for the homeschool mama: a beginner's guide to your first year of homeschool

In Season #3 of the Homeschool Mama Self-Care podcast, I want to undergird you, the new(er) homeschool mama with confidence, clarity, and vision for your homeschool journey.

I also want to give you a straight talk, a guide to your first year of homeschool, so you’ll be prepared for this remarkable family journey.

If you have questions as you consider (or get initiated) into the homeschool lifestyle, you can ask your questions here.

1. Your first year of homeschooling won’t be quite what you expect.

The curriculum you have on the shelf might seem like a waste of money in a few weeks. The schedule you’ve drafted might not work for one child, but it might for the next. Or it might work for you and not your child.

There’ll be moments you wonder if your idealistic tendencies just landed you in a whole lotta trouble. Cause every day is most definitely not a charmed homeschool day.

Or you’ll wonder if it’s just your…

  • curriculum choice,
  • philosophy choice,
  • lack of support,
  • the imperfect homeschool community that doesn’t quite suit you,
  • that you have a too structured routine and you need to let loose,
  • that you have no routine at all and you should really get one,
  • you should trade for your neighbors’ kids cause they look like they’d homeschool better
  • (they seem book-ish, kinda ideal for the homeschooling scenario, they appear not to argue with their mom, or fight with their siblings, and their mom always has everything in its place; alas, you can trade a Pokémon card, not a child…and what you see isn’t what you get, kids are kids. There is no perfect child for homeschool.)
However, you might discover you’re lonelier than you thought you’d be.

You might discover that you’re preaching this lifestyle like I am. Also, you might discover that it’s a lifestyle, not just an educational alternative.

Therefore, you might discover this is the best lifestyle choice since sliced bread (actually I don’t care for sliced bread, I’d rather tear hunks off a loaf from the local French bakery, but I digress).

So first tip: Be open to simply learning about you, your children, your rhythms, new homeschool community and supports, new homeschool philosophies, curriculums, routines, and your goals for an education anyway.

2. Your homeschool will change from the beginning to the end of the first year.

You might purchase desks and gorgeous posters of birds, cloud patterns & local vegetation for your homeschool space. You may ring a bell at 0830 every morning, after your hot breakfast, do a morning basket with a living literature readaloud, and hand out the drawing pencils with Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad or a basket of Legos, a felting basket, and markers for the Astronomy Objects in the Sky colouring book.

But soon you’ll discover that the toddler’s lips are painted in varying colours of marker as he’s been tucked behind the sofa sucking said markers.

The oldest two are pinching each other as they fight for their sofa cushion, and though one child is eagerly listening to the lovely story, you actually think the story is boring and old, and you ask yourself if you should just switch books when the kids aren’t looking?

In July, you’ll begin homeschooling, because you’re all-through-the-year homeschoolers, then determine by February “you’re an unschooler, no wait, you’re a Charlotte Masoner, no wait, the kids need to understand inflation, investments, bitcoin, and world history given the present political climate, but first, there’s a cool unit study on Harry Potter, we’ll do that first”.

Teresa Wiedrick, author of Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer

a beginner's guide to your first year of homeschool

Your homeschool approach will adjust over the year.

You’ll discover your child doesn’t understand their math workbook or you’ll realize you don’t know how to explain that math concept. You’ll come to understand that he is too tired to do any formal studies as he was wiped out by that academic approach in school or Mondays are always the most challenging homeschool days, so they have to be homeschool-lite days.

Your approach will change as you see your child overwhelmed by a busy day, or as you see yourself a whole lot clearer on your PMS days and you’ll decide to unschool for that week every month.

(By the way wise, very very wise, choice).

There’s a lot of information to take in that first year.

So second tip: Ye shall have heard this before ye got started: there is no one right way to homeschool, you will not become certain of your dedicated path, your curriculum choice, your homeschool philosophy, nor even exactly how your children like to learn.

Ye are in the information-receiving season of your homeschool.

Take it all in by sitting with a notebook dedicated to “what I’m learning about me, my kids, and what an education is anyway” every Wednesday evening at a cafe near you.

(This will be your first step to clarity & less overwhelm).

Deschool your Homeschool in the first year of your homeschool: a beginner's guide to your first year of homeschool

3. Your expectations will likely be too high, for your child, and yourself. (That’s why it is sooo important to have a guide to your first year of homeschool.)

Straight up, you will get frustrated more times than you thought possible.

And you will understand when homeschool moms joke (hmmm, joke???) when they say, “Stop that yellow bus, I’m putting my kid on it!”

Or you wonder how moms get through their homeschool days when kids don’t want to do their work, they’re bored, always bored, I’m so bored, Mom, Mom this is so boring…
  • of kids avoiding work,
  • of kids not motivated as you saw testimonies of other kids on that unschool Facebook page
  • kids that started their own successful YouTube channels,
  • kids training to be grandmasters in chess,
  • children dedicated to getting no lower than 96% in their final online science classes,
  • teens that start their own catering businesses,
  • older teens that independently traveled the world before they were full-grown adults,
  • children that didn’t hate school,
  • siblings that didn’t hate their siblings,
  • daughters and sons that connected with their moms or dads.

Where are these kids? They are surely not in my home.

So third tip: You will discover that this homeschool thing isn’t a utopia. It has many many benefits, but utopia is for the U section of the dictionary, not for U’r homeschool family.

If you don’t want to become disillusioned, decide for yourself what you want out of this homeschool thing. What’s your goal? What is your vision? Without a vision, people…especially homeschooled people, drink a glass of wine before morning readaloud.

4. Your independent bone will strengthen.

With repeated questioning of your homeschool decision, and with your own internal questioning (because there’ll be more of that than you want to publicly acknowledge), you’ll wonder if you really should be doing what you’re doing.

Alas, if you can’t shake the notion that this homeschool thing has so many benefits, more benefits than the alternative, you’ll discover that you are a stronger, more independent human. (And so will your kids be).

And if you want to find your support, you’ll have to find it in supportive places: not where the people are anti-cheerleaders. You need support, you don’t need to become Homeschools’ Legal Defense.

(ps you can find that support in the Homeschool Mama Book Club monthly, the Homeschool Mama Support Group through this podcast Patreon Group, or even in group coaching or individual coaching with me).

And you can likely find it in your local area, but you’ll likely discover (& you’ll have to accept) that all homeschoolers are not homogenous. They don’t homeschool like you, they don’t parent like you, and they don’t have identical values as you do.

And you aren’t either. That you’ll do what you do because it works for you, and your child.

You’ll learn not to focus on the things other people think you should be doing, and you’ll happily live through the lenses of what you want to be doing.

Deschool your Homeschool Intensive to get you more freedom & individualization in your homeschool: a beginner's guide to your first year of homeschool

5. You will be happier than you thought you could be.

Kinda like parenting.

The prospect of sweet babies resting in your arms, falling into a deep sleep as you sang them lullabies and placing them into a cradle. Or walking them around the block in their pram, leisurely enjoying the world. Strangers oohing and awing over their coos and perfection…that’s the picture of what you thought it’d be like.

And some days it was.

The days when he wouldn’t sleep without wailing tears. Wouldn’t let you wander the grocery aisles for a full cart of food. Scowled at strangers, and your mother. Well, that was part of parenting as much as the dreamy days. Just like homeschooling. 

And you’re happier than you thought you could be…

PS You got this, girlfriend!

and pss you might have to answer that S question to infinity and beyond. So get a plan to address it.

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.

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