Our First Year of Homeschooling – What We Learned

This time last year we were getting ready to begin our first year of homeschooling. Two weeks ago we successfully finished the year! Despite the challenges of getting into a new system of education, this past year has been full and rich and I’m so excited to share what we’ve learned with you.

So let’s get straight to it. Here are some things we learned in our first year as homeschoolers.

  • Homeschooling offered us the flexibility and freedom we’ve never had before. We decided to do a 4-day school day and use the 5th day to do art and crafts. On Saturdays we never touched a school book! Initially, Friday was our arts and crafts day, but in the middle of the school year we enrolled the girls for piano lessons on Tuesdays mornings. So we were able to switch and now we do school on Fridays instead and Tuesdays have become our arts and crafts day after piano lessons. We also had the freedom to miss a day of school when we had other commitments, without feeling bad about it.

  • I’m a planner and thoroughly enjoyed planning the lessons and the school year. I bought this downloadable planner on sale, had it printed and bound, and it is one of my favorite tools. I divided the year into quarters and loosely planned the year, especially the big breaks. Then I penned down my plans for a few weeks at a time. I always used a pencil because that made it easy for me to edit. We had school on most public holidays and festival days. It worked well for us to go on our trips on working days to avoid the crowds.

  • Being around homeschooling families for years and owing to the crazy research and reading I did, I was well aware of all the amazing curricula out there. But because I’ve never actually used the books I was confused about how to choose from it all. I also had the choice to either use CBSE/ICSE books that I could get from the local bookstores or use a Christian curriculum from the USA. Since it was our “first” in every way, we decided to use a boxed curriculum (ACE or Accelerated Christian Education) to make it easier for me. A boxed curriculum includes everything (all the books, etc.) you need for the school year. All the planning is already done so it works well because it requires very little preparation. This was extremely helpful as I navigated through this new season. We read countless books. Went on field trips once every month. Tried to get outside (can do better with this!). We did simple art projects. I did my best to choose connection over curriculum, even when it was tempting to just get through the day by checking all the boxes.

  • Honestly, it wasn’t always easy for me to be flexible. Like I said I like plans. I like to check my boxes. However, I learned it was okay to skip a lesson and return to it later if needed. Sometimes our brains need a break and that’s okay. I had to remind myself to take it easy.

  • We have always been big readers but this past year we’ve been able to read so many MORE books because we’ve had so much more time. We encouraged questions and discussions about what we read. We did have to add a couple more bookcases in the house but it was totally worth it!

  • I have been so blessed to have homeschooling families around me. They have been such an encouragement to me. But that also meant I sometimes compared myself to them. I had to remind myself that every family is different, and we are all at different stages of our homeschooling journey. The point of homeschooling is that I can tailor school to my child’s needs. I learned firsthand, that every child is different, every family is different, and so every homeschooling style is different.

  • Okay, this is something I’ve always known but it took on a new meaning this past year with the children being home the whole day. It’s okay for our kids to be bored. When they’re bored, their brains are forced to work! Lots of pretend play, board games, Legos, drawing, and audiobooks have been my girls’ go-tos when they were bored. Yes I did play with them but I’m not their entertainer! Let’s face it, I had other things around the house that I needed to get done!

  • We also wanted to focus on honing certain life skills this year. Things like making their beds which they didn’t get to do when went to school. They left home early in the morning which meant no time for anything except waking, getting ready, wolfing down breakfast, and rushing out the door. This year they made their beds and had a list of daily chores to do around the house. I can’t say they always do it right – but they’re on the right track!

  • One of the best outcomes of homeschooling has been bonding time as a family. During school days it was always a rush in the evenings to finish dinner, have prayer, and get ready for bed. My kids (and I guess all kids) do much better in the day when they’ve had a full night’s sleep. They didn’t get much time with their dad as he worked on Saturdays when they had a holiday. This past year we’ve had time some nights to simply cuddle in bed telling stories, singing songs together around the piano, playing games, and going on drives together. It’s been fun and we’ve not been pressed to wake up super early the next morning!

  • I’ve learned that it’s okay to pivot. To change. I took the time this past year to find out what works for me and my children. I’ve leaned into the freedom that homeschool offered to really discover this … to find new systems, new books, new curriculum, new adventures…and find the courage to celebrate what resonates as well as letting go of all that doesn’t. This is why, although ACE is an excellent curriculum, I realized it wasn’t the right fit for us and so we will not be continuing with it (more on this when I will share our curriculum choices for 2024-25).

  • Not all days were good days. We had our bad days as well. Days when I felt like I was failing my girls. When I wondered if they would be better off at school. If our life was just too distracting for learning. But I held on because I knew that important work is hard sometimes. I knew this was where God wanted our family. And after all, the good days trumped the bad. And that helped. I learned to embrace the good days and let go of the not-so-good ones.

  • This one is something I’ve personally enjoyed the most I think! I’m no longer running around the house stressed out at 6 am, rushing to get everyone dressed and fed, cooking and making up tiffin boxes, and screaming the kids out the door! I almost always started the day feeling guilty for disturbing their sleep and for how our mornings started. This past year I got to enjoy slower, quieter mornings with my Bible before I heard their bedroom door open and got a glimpse of little faces peeking out. They run up to me and climb onto the sofa beside me for some morning snuggles. It sets a whole different tone for the day!

  • I have understood even more, the importance of making time for God’s Word and prayer in my day. I’ve found that when I begin my day with God, I can better maintain composure throughout the day. He then is at the center in all circumstances, good and bad.

  • I learned that homeschooling is much more than setting up “school” at home. It’s about the TIME I have with my girls…to help them grow in all the ways it matters. It’s about the conversations we get to have about everything under the sun. About the virtues and habits we get to imbibe in them. Homeschooling is so much more than just school. Sometimes the very best lessons have nothing to do with curriculum. I learned to go with the flow and grasp at teachable moments. One of my biggest takeaways from the past year was not to let academics hem us in. To quote Charlotte Mason: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

  • It’s okay if others don’t understand our decision to homeschool. Few without homeschooling experience will understand, and my attempts to “convince” others of the soundness of our family’s choice only ended up frustrating me. Instead, I learned to smile and explain the heart of the matter: that the Lord called us to homeschool during this season of life. Walking in obedience to the Lord is the essence of our decision.

  • I just want to say, that I don’t believe (even more so now) that homeschooling is for everyone. No if, ands, and buts about it. It is a brave choice. And so is sending your kids to school. Any decision we make with the deep sacrificial love of a parent is brave. So whether the Lord calls us to send our kids to school or teach them at home, He gives us the grace and strength to do it.

So that’s it! Grade 3 and Kindergarten have come to a close. We now have a Fourth Grader and First Grader! This educational journey has been amazing, yet I realize, we’ve only just begun. I am convinced that with every year there will be new challenges and triumphs. But I know that the One who calls me is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Our God is sovereign and He has a good purpose behind everything He does. I’m amazed at how He led us on this journey and provided us with sufficient grace to obey Him. Though the road ahead is long and uncertain, I trust He is good and will make everything beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

 Read Part 2 in this series here – Our First Year of Homeschooling – Keeping my Sanity.

boredandbusymama
boredandbusymama
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2 Comments

  1. Love these insights! Thanks for sharing!
    Are you planning on following a particular boxed curriculum this year if you’re not going with ACE?

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