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Reflections of a First Time Homeschool Parent


Background 

Although prior to the 2021-2022 school year my kids had only attended public school, homeschooling was a daydream that would play from time to time in my head, usually when I thought about the possibility of uniting my passions for my children and education. Once the pandemic hit, we remained in our school district as they shifted to virtual learning. That year, honestly, was not the best one for my kids. I feel they missed out on deeper learning opportunities. Their teachers were obviously struggling with managing in-person and virtual students at the same time, which was completely understandable (hats off to teachers, truly and read this post by Claudia about her teaching during the pandemic). I felt like there had to be another way to reclaim their desire to learn, because after months of online lectures, it really wasn’t there anymore. 

My eldest and I tossed around the idea of homeschooling, and the more we talked about it, the more appealing it seemed. Making our homeschool inclusive and feminist, learning at our own pace, no commute, and zero externally enforced schedules sounded perfect. When the Texas governor signed a critical race theory bill that limited the teaching of history and current events last year, we weren’t totally sure what that would look like in the classroom. However, during a discussion of Lewis & Clark in her 5th grade history class, my daughter noted the exclusion of Sacagawea to the teacher during instruction. They responded by explaining the bill to the children before moving on, essentially erasing Indigenous history from the discussion. Once that happened, it just felt like the transition to home education was the right move to make. 

Our Experience

Then we started and discovered that homeschooling is HARD. I expected it to be challenging, but changing our mindset at first was a major adjustment. Blogs, YouTube videos and Tiktoks can make it seem easy, but it is far from it. It is a job that requires discipline, commitment, time, money, and endless patience. We made it through with coffee and access to some great resources, and ended up having a pretty good time. 

After being home with my kids most of the time for more than a year straight since March 2020, I really expected homeschool to possibly drive a wedge between us, or make us tired of eachother. As silly as it may sound, I was terrified of this going in. Thankfully, such was not our experience. We looked forward to our learning time together everyday, we read good books together, we watched documentaries, and we took some learning trips. Aside from the basic curriculum to meet our state requirements, we focused on our research skills, we worked on our Spanish, and we let our interests guide our unit studies. I learned that my daughter is adept at note-taking, and my son likes using stories to understand math. 

Probably our favorite thing about homeschool: our daily journal sessions. Once we got our routine down, the kids expected to find a prompt on the board and looked forward to it everyday. It was so uplifting to see them excited; not once did I ever see them struggle to find an idea, and they never wanted to stop writing, even after our 10-15 timer went off. We all shared our writing afterward, and celebrated our ideas. It became a creative and reflective bubble where time seemed to pause for us just a bit. 

Moving Forward & Some Suggestions

We’re so proud of our academic gains: 5th grader is reading at an upper high school level, 1st grader is passionate about writing after not being comfortable with it at first, and my mental math skills are top notch. A personal parenting win for me is that I’m a lot more patient with them. Moving forward, the learning relationship we have with each other will not change, whether we continue homeschooling or if the kids decide they want to re-enter the public school system. 

Homeschooling is a personal choice that should be made with your family and your family alone in mind. I’m no expert, but I found it helpful when people shared their tips from experience. If you’re considering homeschooling, here are some things to think about: 

-Doing adequate research. A lot of homeschool resources online are steeped in Christian fundamentalism and white supremacy. If this is not your jam, secular resources are there too, but require more work on your part to find them. 

Keeping expectations low is key, because change is the only constant. 

Setting boundaries is important. Once school time is over, don’t think about it or work on school  things anymore.

-Asking for support when you need it. If necessary, establish roles that your partner or family can take on to support your homeschooling journey early on.

Being consistent and accountable is important. Your children’s education is YOUR responsibility. That can be both freeing and feel heavy at times.

-All homeschools are not created equal. What works for one family may not work for you, and that’s okay. Comparison is the thief of joy, etc. so be sure to make choices that reflect your family’s needs and interests. 

A final word if you do decide to educate children at home: be PREPARED with snacks. 

Nina Garcia is a reader, reviewer, and devoted coffee drinker from Texas. When she’s not reading or watching Netflix, she is working on writing projects, including a middle grade novel. Favorite genres: anti-racist and intersectional feminist non-fiction, science fiction, horror, and contemporary with elements of fantasy.

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