Part 1: Preparing Yourself
Part 1 of 7 in our Path to Homeschool Peace series
Note: Check out our free self-evaluation form below. It contains the information in this post, placed in a table format. It’s a tool for you to use as you prepare your homeschool year.
Whether you are contemplating homeschooling for the first time, a veteran preparing to start another school year, or in the thick of things and desperately need a reset—this is a series you will not want to miss. Together, we will walk through all the vital reflection points and proactive steps necessary to achieve that elusive ideal of homeschool peace.
Now, make no mistake, this doesn’t promise a Pinterest-perfect homeschool utopia where the children skip gleefully to the kitchen table every morning. This is actually about something better—authentic peace, the kind you can’t see on Instagram. This is about knowing your why, building a homeschool that works for you and your kids, creating a life that is sustainable.
Give yourself permission to pause, wherever you’re at in your homeschool journey, and take this time to build your plan for homeschool peace. The time you invest now will pay for itself over and over again in found joy, progress, and tranquility.
We will begin at the very heart of your family and your homeschool. Step 1 to homeschool peace is about preparing yourself.
What is the biggest mistake most people make when preparing to homeschool? It’s not choosing the wrong curriculum. It’s not overscheduling their day. It’s something much more fundamental. The biggest mistake most homeschoolers make is failing to sufficiently prepare themselves.
Ideally, this step should preface buying your first book or even telling anyone outside your immediate family that you will be homeschooling. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Grab a journal and a few quiet minutes to answer the following questions.
Why are you homeschooling?
Although you may have many reasons (there are so many good ones), try to keep this list to your top three. Why? Because of the universal truth, which I will paraphrase, that if everything is important then nothing is.
During the course of your homeschool career, no matter how short or long, you will have countless times when you need to know your whys. From picking a curriculum that meets your top needs (nothing fits them all), to explaining to “concerned” family members (we all have them), to those moments when you want to throw the towel in (again, we all have these too), your future self will thank your present self for taking the time to crystalize why you are undertaking this labor of love.
What are your goals for your children?
Your homeschooling goals for your children are often derived from the reasons why you’re homeschooling in the first place. See how quickly that came in handy! Think about different categories like educational, vocational, religious, emotional, or social goals.
Here, you want to try to write something more like core values statements (I want my children to develop a strong sense of ethics and character.) rather than a destination goal (I want my children to attend an Ivy League college.)
Although there is nothing wrong with having Ivy League aspirations, that type of goal statement is more difficult to align concrete steps with on a daily basis. Said another way: When life gets hectic, it’s easier to look at your day and say, “What can I accomplish that builds character in my kids?” than it is to say, “What can I do that will further our Harvard University chances?”
What do you need emotionally to be able to do this job every day?
Is it 30 minutes to yourself every morning? A night out with your husband once a week? A great mail-order coffee subscription? Maybe all of the above! Plan it and put it in place. If you haven’t homeschooled before, you might need to revisit this one and update it just because we’re often not sure what things will be like until we’re neck deep.
In fact, it’s probably important to mention that you shouldn’t be afraid to revise any of these answers at any time. We all change. Life changes. We’re not putting down these answers to commit ourselves to them at any cost. We are going to use them as tools, and sometimes we need different tools.
How many hours can you devote to schooling?
Be realistic. It isn’t necessary, or even desirable really, to replicate a public school day. Homeschooling is part of life, real life, and that includes work, doctor’s appointments, errands, play dates, and also spontaneous blanket forts, cookie making, and documentary binging. Leave room for your life and ask yourself how much of your day really works for school.
What other responsibilities do you have?
This is very similar to the last question. However, here, you need to look a little deeper into your other responsibilities and ask yourself what can you cut and what do you need to keep your remaining responsibilities afloat. Can you order groceries online or hire a teenager to mow your lawn? Do you need to hire a mommy’s helper a few hours a week to get some work done or step down from a volunteer position for a while? Make room for adding this big, new thing to your life.
What resources do you have available?
In addition to leveraging your resources for help with non-homeschool responsibilities, make a list of every little thing you already have that will help you with the homeschooling itself. Here are some examples:
- A public library,
- Streaming subscriptions with some educational content,
- Educational toys,
- A bedroom / office / basement / kitchen table for a school area,
- A niece who speaks Spanish,
- A neighbor who gives piano lessons,
- A homeschooling moms group at church.
Be creative and think about *everything* you have available to you.
What are your limitations?
As much as we try to be, none of us are actually Superwoman with unlimited resources. Listing your most challenging limitations is not meant to be a downer. Rather, this exercise helps us be realists and informs our future decisions.
Here are some limited resources for us all:
- Tolerance of projects involving glitter
List what you feel will be your top one to three limitations when it comes to homeschooling. When it comes to picking a curriculum, planning a schedule, or joining a co-op, keep these things in mind.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Know thyself the Greek sages say. The single biggest thing you can do to make sure you are rocking this homeschool business is to capitalize on the things that make you great and avoid your personal pitfalls.
Not a morning person? Don’t plan a school day that starts at 7:30 a.m.
Love to get creative in the kitchen? Find unit studies that use cooking to teach math, reading, history, culture, and more.
Not a fan of reading aloud for hours on end? Invest in an audiobook subscription.
Play to your strengths.
What skills and knowledge do you have?
This is where you need to dig deep, back to childhood even, and list the things you know, the things you love, the things you’re good at. Use this list as a springboard for ideas to teach your own children and as a reminder to yourself that you are qualified to do so.
It all counts! Do you (or did you) . . .
- . . . know a second language?
- . . . touch type?
- . . . aced AP English?
- . . . watercolor paint?
- . . . held a job as a [fill in the blank]?
- . . . have a ridiculous amount of knowledge about [fill in the blank]?
Do you have a support system?
It’s a good idea to evaluate the strength of your support system, homeschooling or not. Even though most of us homeschool because we don’t want the village raising our kids, sometimes even the best of us need help. This could be a friend to vent to when things get rough or a mom to come over and pinch-hit with the toddler while we teach a particularly sticky fractions lesson. Make a list of the people or groups of people in your life that you can count on for help with things, big or small.
If you find, when you’re finished, that the list is uncomfortably short, now is the time to reach out and expand it. Fortunately, with social media and other online resources, finding like-minded, supportive communities is not as difficult as it once was. This is another thing your future self will thank you for.
Congratulations! You have taken the first step on the path to creating real, lasting homeschool peace. Our seven-part Path to Homeschool Peace series continues with Step 2 – Choosing a Homeschool Method.