How Being a Teacher Has Made Homeschooling Harder – Yes, you read the title of this post correctly.
I’ve had countless conversations with moms who say, “I’d love to homeschool my kids, but I’m not a teacher.” Or they might say, “I’m planning to homeschool, but I’m really scared. I’m not a teacher.”
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More often than not, there’s simply not time for me to provide a long response.
We’re usually in a situation where the most appropriate response is something quick.
I typically respond, “You can do this!” OR “Don’t worry! You’ll do a great job.”
I always walk away from these conversations wishing I could say more.
I wish I could explain how being a teacher has made homeschooling harder for me.
I wish I could tell them that some of the most amazing homeschool families I know are led by parents who have zero training or experience.
Sure, during my years in the classroom, I learned a great deal and gained much! I will never discount that time or the amazing relationships God gifted to me during those years. I LOVED being a classroom teacher!
To this day, I continue to remain in contact with many of my former students and their families. I could cry a river of grateful tears thinking of all the ways God has used them in my life over the years.
What I have learned, though, after several years of homeschooling is that classroom teaching and homeschooling differ in many ways!
In the early years of our homeschooling journey, I didn’t realize just how different time spent learning at home with my children would be from those days in the classroom.
Honestly, I am still learning to spot these differences.
My time in the classroom continues to be a hurdle in some ways for me. There is a certain mindset and ways of thinking that I battle often.
In many ways, I’ve struggled and continue to struggle to adjust.
Maybe you’re a current teacher anticipating a homeschooling path for your own children. Or maybe you’re a former teacher who is struggling to move beyond that classroom mindset yourself.
No matter your situation, my hope is that this post will encourage you. I want to cheer you on and inspire you to look at things in fresh, new ways.
You are not alone, friend. I am writing this as someone who is still learning, and I’m so grateful you’re here doing it with me.
In this post, I want to share a handful of ways being a former classroom teacher has created some tension in my personal homeschooling journey.
You may be able to add some things to my list. If so, I’d love to hear from you. It’s always encouraging to know you’re not alone.
How Being a Teacher Has Made Homeschooling Harder
It has been a consistent struggle for me to accept that it’s truly okay to let go of the calendar/schedule maintained by many schools.
In my blog writing, in my social media posts, in my eBooks, I encourage others to embrace the freedom that comes with homeschooling.
I challenge readers to embrace a lifestyle that allows them to build a year-round learning rhythm that works for their particular family culture.
I consistently remind others that homeschooling gives them the flexibility to establish routines that work for the individual learners in their home.
However, there are still times when that August-May school calendar and 8am-3pm weekday schedule still creeps into my mind.
Sometimes these thoughts make me question what we’re doing at that particular moment.
Shouldn’t we be doing something else right now?
- Family vacation in September or November
- Multiplication practice on the weekends
- A service opportunity that’s available on a Tuesday morning
- Read-alouds at night when the family is together
- A child who thinks more clearly in the evenings
- An on-line class that meets on Saturday afternoon
The local school’s calendar and daily schedule has no bearing on the homeschooling lifestyle you’ve chosen.
So, teacher friends, let’s let it go.
Can y’all come back around and remind me of this? Especially when I feel that twinge of guilt that we’re not doing math at 8:15am every morning?
I don’t feel this often, but sometimes I do.
A “Homeschool Room”
When we were building our house, we had a little boy and another baby boy on the way!
By that point, we knew we wanted to homeschool. So it was important to me that we factor a homeschool room into the house plans.
In my mind, it was also necessary that this homeschool room include a closet. This closet would be where I would store all the resources we were going to use in our homeschooling.
Fast-forward to now. All these years later, and most of our homeschooling has happened either in the kitchen or in the family room.
If you popped into our house during a homeschool day, you’d probably see a kiddo at the kitchen counter. There would probably be another one on a couch in the living room. Then you’d maybe spot another one reading on the back porch. I’m guessing there’d be another kiddo in some other part of the house looking for a missing shoe. In our family, someone always seems to be looking for a missing shoe.
All that to say, that beautiful homeschooling room I just had to have years ago is rarely used for homeschooling.
A few years ago, I even tried shifting the whole setup to another part of the house. I thought for sure we would use the room more if I chose a better location for the setup. Nope. Everyone still wants to do their diagramming at the kitchen counter.
I have finally come to accept this and attempt to move on from my Pinterest dreams once again being crushed. Reality is most definitely a Pinterest dream-crusher.
If you’ve been around here for long, you know we are big fans of Abeka. In our homeschool, we use it for much of those early elementary years. However, we do a very parent-led version of Abeka.
The busy work designed for classroom situations? We skip it. Some homeschool moms have seemed appalled by my saying this.
Truthfully, though, many of the curriculum options out there have been created with classrooms of 30 in mind.
So we use the pieces that work for us and leave the rest behind, creating space for other supplemental resources and pursuits we want to include in our homeschooling life.
In recent years, I have found myself feeling more and more comfortable with this. Yes, breaking away from a curriculum I’ve loved for so long. Sure, we still use a great deal of Abeka curriculum, but we’re also exploring some new things.
In this house, we are navigating Down Syndrome, retained reflexes, sensory issues, and a variety of other things.
My role in this? To meet my kids where they are. Sometimes this requires me to explore resources that are outside of the box.
As hard as this has been for me at times, I’ve been doing it.
I’ve gotta say – it feels pretty good!
Learning Center Mindset
When I was a classroom teacher, I loved preparing and setting up learning centers!
At school, I had created an environment where centers were a regular part of our day-to-day routine in the classroom.
The kids loved the set-ups, and as a teacher, I found these self-checking learning opportunities to be a great way to assist me in helping my students.
Whether a child needed more practice with a concept or simply the reinforcement of reviewing a skill they’d already mastered, I found centers to be super helpful.
However, in homeschooling, I’ve had to let go of this mindset.
One-on-one with a learner at home means that many of these activities are going to be one-and-done scenarios.
As a classroom teacher, I would either spend a great deal of money purchasing already-made learning center activities or a great deal of time preparing them from scratch.
Oh the time I spent printing or copying, cutting, laminating, cutting again.
For a classroom scenario, the time and money seemed worth it. Thirty kids would use the center activity. Then it would probably be used again by the students I had the next year…and the next year.
In homeschooling, however, you are most likely going to use an activity once. The end.
Sure, I have had some resources that we’ve used for multiple practice sessions. Also, many of the things we’ve used can be passed down to younger siblings.
But I’ve had to be careful about the things I purchase as well as the prep time I spend on something I’m making.
Will it be worth it?
Would there be a better way to accomplish this learning goal?
Is there a naturally occurring situation where this skill could be practiced?
Do I have an everyday item that could be used as a learning tool?
I’m teaching in a homeschooling environment, not in a large group setting. This typically means less simulation is required!
Functional Activities and Games
In a way, this goes along with what I was describing on the last point. Like a lot of the curriculum that’s out there, many educational activities and games have been designed with a classroom environment in mind.
For us, we have found a lot of these items are simply not functional in a homeschooling environment.
Remember that beloved homeschool closet I mentioned earlier? Yes, it was full of items like this!
Not only did a have loads of resources I’d held onto from my classroom days, but in the early years of our homeschooling, I continued to buy these kinds of things!
It was a struggle to let go of that classroom mindset.
I would play a game with my kids and it would flop.
I’d do an activity with my learners at home, and it wouldn’t go over quite like it did with my former students.
It took some time, but I started to pick up on the kinds of things that were actually functional for us to incorporate into our homeschooling lessons and what kinds of things weren’t.
These lessons have been expensive for me!
I have truly paid the price with my money and time. It has taken so much time, but I have slowly but surely been purging the items that I’ve realized are not a good fit for us.
Guess who’s been buying them? Classroom teachers! I feel good knowing that the resources are going to work for them. They are going to be great for their scenario, but they no longer work for me.
If you’ve been around here for long, you know our family has been on a now multi-year quest to minimize our belongings.
Purging the excess in our homeschooling spaces has definitely been a huge piece of this simplifying process.
If you’re interested in reading more about that, here are a few posts you might enjoy:
The Minimal Mom is currently homeschooling, and I’ve enjoyed seeing glimpses into her simplified learning area.
Okay, one more for you, and I realize this one might be a little controversial.
There are homeschooling families who have their kids take regular quizzes and tests just like their students would be asked to do in a classroom setting.
Then there are homeschooling families who are strongly against any such thing.
I find myself falling somewhere in the middle with this whole thing.
I’m passionate about my kids graduating from our homeschool with great study skills and the ability to comfortably perform on tests when needed.
However, as a homeschooling mom working with her kiddos each day, I am very tuned in to what my kids know and understand and where they are struggling.
I’m right there with them, working alongside them on their lessons. Therefore, in our homeschool, constant formal assessment is simply not needed.
In a classroom setting, it serves multiple purposes for administration, classroom teachers, parents, etc.
In a homeschool setting, I have found an excess of it to be unnecessary and a large waste of our time. (I know someone out there is cringing as they read that.)
Where we live, annual standardized tests are required as part of the state’s homeschooling requirements. Also, throughout our days together, we do a variety of different activities and assessments as I feel they’re needed, helpful to the learning process, etc. but it is not a strong area of focus as it was during my time spent in a classroom setting.
Has this post encouraged you?
Is there something on this list you feel you can release as well? Do you notice any other ways your homeschool days differ from the time you spent in the classroom?
I am truly so grateful for the freedom and flexibility that comes along with homeschooling. If you’re considered making a switch to homeschooling, I promise it’s not as scary as it may seem. I’m guessing you’re probably going to discover that you love it.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy reading about my retirement from the classroom.