After several weeks into the homeschooling year, you are hopefully starting to hit a nice little groove. Even with an adjustment to new schedules in the beginning, or maybe a whole new way of doing school for those new to homeschooling, confidence is building and you may be feeling pretty good about your decisions for the year.
Hold on to that feeling. Remember why you decided to homeschool. In fact, grab a pen or pencil and write down all the positives you are seeing this year so far. Then tuck it away for a time when you may need a reminder on why you chose to homeschool.
Last November I wrote a blog post entitled Fall Chaos in response to a rather common frustration homeschoolers feel mid-semester. The post drew parallels between parenting, homeschooling, and autumn yard clean-up, of all things. It sounds like an odd parallel, but it works. If you haven’t read it, or maybe need a refresher, I suggest you mosey on over and give it read.
Why am I mentioning a year-old blog post? Because it doesn’t matter whether you are a new or veteran homeschooler, the months of October and November usually bring a wave of self-doubt. Given the number of new homeschoolers this year, I simply want to give a message of “get ready” and “you will get through it.” Then when the strong winds blow and you start to feel overwhelmed, you’ll know to stand firm rather than become overwhelmed with second-guessing.
Now that you are armed with the knowledge, what do you do to prepare? Simple awareness is perhaps the best preparation, but here are a few other things you can do.
Head Outdoors Often
Studies have shown that even a short time outdoors will improve your outlook. With cooler weather around the corner, be sure to get some outdoor time in while you can — both you and your students. A better frame of mind may give a different perspective.
It is Okay to Take a Day Off
We all need a mental health day from time-to-time. I don’t advise you to regularly skip schoolwork, but if the struggle is such that no book learning is happening that day, shift to something still educational but not as structured. You could have a day of snuggling up reading books, exploring art projects, or learning through baking. Or, you can combine both art and outdoor time with this fun spin painting project.
Resist the Urge to Ditch the Class or Curriculum (at least not yet!)
One of the benefits for homeschooling is you aren’t stuck with a curriculum that isn’t working. That said, it isn’t likely you’ll find the perfect curriculum or class. A few weeks in isn’t really long enough to determine if something is a fit. Give it some time and tweak as needed. I once had an acquaintance who was a chronic curriculum ditcher. Instead of finding the perfect curriculum, she cycled through program after program, which can be very confusing to students. In general, I would suggest giving a program or class at least a semester before calling it quits and trying something else.
Build Your Network and Support System
While it helps to have knowledge that you aren’t the only one experiencing these feelings, it isn’t something you can physically see like piles of leaves in your neighbor’s yard. Connecting with others in the homeschooling trenches, whether virtually or in-person, is really important to help combat that feeling that you are the only one. In difficult times, feeling like you are the only one brings on discouragement and thoughts of failure. Knowing others are experiencing the same brings on encouragement and thoughts of camaraderie.
There are always Facebook groups to share both the trials and rewards of homeschooling with others, but two in-person activities really helped me through doubting days of homeschooling.
- Park Days – the more consistent the better. Children tend to build friendships with regular and unstructured time with others. A Park Day doesn’t need to be complicated. Pick a park, day, and time and share the plan with others. If no one comes, you are still getting some outdoor time. I coordinated a Park Day for years and it was just as beneficial for the kids as it was for the moms, who would chat while the kids played.
- Mom’s Night Out – sometimes we just need a break from our adorable students. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Gather with fellow moms outside of a coffee shop sipping some yummy drinks, which can work for social distancing. I used to hold an annual Chocolate Night with other homeschooling moms, which was always met with a lot of enthusiasm, despite the sugar coma that resulted.
Reach out and connect with others as much as possible. We are better together.
Lastly and most importantly,
Remember Why You Started and What is Going Well
You came to homeschooling for a reason, whether you intend it to be temporary because of a pandemic or a decision for the long haul. You didn’t come to this decision over a few rough weeks, so it doesn’t make sense to lose sight of those reasons based on a few rough weeks either. That list of positives I suggested you write at the beginning of the post? Now is the time to find it and read it as a reminder. Consider the big picture of whether or not you are meeting your goals for homeschooling. If you feel you aren’t, brainstorm ways to improve.
I promise you the self-doubt feelings are completely normal. Don’t let those feelings of insecurity swirl in your head like leaves in the wind. Anticipate them, recognize them, and move to the other side with confidence.
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Note: I can’t let an October post go by without acknowledging that October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. Unlike any season of self-doubt, dyslexia doesn’t just exist in October. Look for a future blogpost about homeschooling a student with dyslexia.