Homeschooling here we come!

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s February 2018 issue.

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photo and article by Jenna Jones

Untimely? Quite possibly. I never pictured myself as a homeschooling mom with four kids, but here we are! Right in the middle of the school year, I am pulling my kids from school, and we are going to give homeschooling a try. 

First, a little of my personal background followed by my decision to homeschool my children.

My Own Experience

I am the oldest of four. By default, being the oldest kind of makes you the trial kid and I think my parents did actually try it all with me. I was homeschooled through 2nd grade, did a cottage school (group homeschool) for 3rd grade, Christian school for 4th and 5th grade, charter school for 6th grade, and then public school from 7th grade through high school.

None of them were terrible experiences, but I certainly had a favorite… after homeschooling, and then finally switching to a larger classroom experience in 4th grade, I thought school seemed magical! I am a total extrovert, so being with lots of people all day was utterly wonderful. I had already learned how to get my work done independently in just a couple of hours, so all of the additional time at school seemed like pure luxury to me. Then transferring to a huge public school seemed even better. All of the specialty programs and extracurricular activities gave me wings. I remember taking classes like drama, psychology, wood shop, weightlifting, and special history topics like the Holocaust. I had the opportunity to play volleyball and be a diver in high school. These were all wonderful experiences. I don’t mind finding my way in a large crowd, and the extrovert achiever in me thrived.

After my own experience, I thought for sure with my kids I would skip everything I went through and just start with public school. Funny though, my kids are not me. They have different personalities and different needs. Just like my parents did, I find myself assessing my kids' strengths and weaknesses, grappling with all of the schooling options, and doing my best with trial and error to place my kids where they will thrive.

The Decision to Homeschool

This year is the first year that I have had a kid in school five days. I have a kindergartener, a preschooler, a 1-year-old, and a baby on the way (due in April). I knew it would take some adjustments, but I thought we would eventually settle into a good rhythm with school. Several months in that had not happened. I think we were all just feeling sad at the missed time together. Both children wanted more one-on-one time with me, and I wanted the same.

I actually have no complaints about their school. We had completely ideal teachers and wonderful kids in each of their classes. But still, it was a struggle. Daily, it was hard to get them out of bed so early. Daily, I had to force them to eat in the morning before they were hungry. And daily, we had to have the discussion “Yes, you have to go to school today." The mornings were pretty much a battle.

The afternoons were not a lot better. It’s not that the kids were at school so long, it was just that they were gone during the best parts of the day. I got them back when they were already spent, tired, cranky, and ready to chill out. The time we were getting together did not feel like quality time. In the mornings they are happy, connected, present, and ready to learn. That is the time I want with them! With school every day, I was feeling shifted into more of a peripheral role — just a follow up after the main event had already happened.

Lastly, my 1-year-old was missing out. I have a flexible work schedule, so I thought it would be no problem just to work while my big kids were at school. But then, I ended up missing the entire morning with my 1-year-old before she would go down for a nap. Often, it wasn't until she would wake up around 3pm that I would get time with her. Tough.

It was actually after five days home during fall break that we all remembered how wonderful it is just to be together and have a more relaxed schedule. So many of our daily struggles and grouchiness disappeared. I really wanted that back and was sorting through all of the different ways we could reclaim some time together… but just felt stuck.

I didn't think homeschooling was an option for us because I work. But, after some encouragement from a friend, I thought it was worth looking into further. I found this book, "How to Work and Homeschool: Practical Advise, Tips, and Strategies from Parents" by Pamela Price. This book opened the door for me – It is possible, and other people are doing it.

The book leads with stating that people that want to work and homeschool are generally entrepreneurs. More than that, they typically work half time with flexible schedules (me!) and are used to being in command of their time and resources to self-direct in the most effective way. YES!!

In the past, I would spend the first half of my day with my kids, and the second half of the day working. It's ideal for us. We wake up when we are ready to, get time to connect, go out and do a fun activity, and have lunch together. When I head off to work my littlest goes down for a nap, and I leave my bigger kids with full love tanks, ready for some downtime.

Reading stories of other homeschooling mompreneurs gave me hope that we might be able to reclaim our time, but the whole thing just felt intimidating. When I started looking into the specifics, all of the sudden it felt entirely possible.

First of all, we are starting in kindergarten — it isn’t hard-core physics yet! Essentially, I would have to teach them to read, write, and do foundational math. I can do that!? (Of course, there are more topics to cover, but at this age, it's not hard.)

With a quick Google search, I found that there are many wonderful curriculums out there. I would just have to pick some options that looked like a good match for my kids' learning styles and then be disciplined enough to follow through with lessons every day.

The best part of all of this? We can get most of it done in 1-2 hours/day. That gives me lots of one-on-one time with my big kids, gives me back some morning time with my 1-year old… and let’s be honest, tosses early mornings and a rigid schedule to the wind.

I realize this is a risk… And I don’t actually know how it will go. Maybe we will love it. Maybe it will be a bust. I am quite sure homeschooling will have its own set of challenges, but I am committed to the rest of this year; then we will reassess. But, hey, this is my first… he gets the trial run just like I did.

*I have quickly discovered that Billings has a pretty fantastic community of homeschool families. There are co-ops, Facebook groups, and all kinds of other resources. We are just at the beginning but have had many reach out and invite us to things, share books, and give us great tips for getting started. (Thank you!)

about the author...Jenna Jones is a local mompreneur. She is mom to 3 little ones, soon to be 4! She is also a web developer and owner of Jenna Jones Design. In her writing, you will find Jenna getting honest about the hard stuff, and in all of it, finding some humor and some hope.