August. The final month (for practical purposes) of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Popsicles, dashes to the pool, watermelon—lots of delicious watermelon while it lasts.
And then it hits: back to school time.
But with it is back to school season with those long lists of school supplies, clothing shopping, and anxiety. Maybe it’s mom. You’ve watched your kids flounder in the local schools and you can’t figure out why. You have an amazing school district with fabulous teachers. So why is your kid definitely being “left behind”?
Then again, perhaps it’s your kid. He’s becoming more sullen and withdrawn with every mention of notebooks, gym clothes, and backpacks.
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For whatever reason, that niggling idea of homeschooling hits and you wonder if maybe this is the year.
So, you find the local homeschool group, you muster up the courage to go meet with these weirdos who think they can educate a child with a dictionary, the Bible, and a slide rule. What is that thing, anyway?
The talk on co-ops? Exciting. Who knew your kids could learn Spanish, take folk dancing, be in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and take a watercolor class? Woohoo!
The mini seminar on how to keep records? Wow. This might be doable!
The meeting adjourns. You turn to the woman next to you and introduce yourself. She’s friendly. Happy to meet you. Everything’s going great until you ask the question of new homeschooler death.
“So, what should I buy for curriculum?”
I remember those days. It’s scary. Almost without fail, the women who can sit at park day and argue a dozen schooling philosophies with the vehemence of debaters in an election year clam up. They say those dreaded words.
“You have to find what works for you.”
I swear those are the worst eight words in a budding homeschool mom’s life. Thanks a lot. For nothing.
You think I exaggerate? HA! I was so frustrated by this as a SEASONED homeschool mom that I put a scene in For Keeps. It goes like this:
“I ordered curriculum for Vannie today. We just have to decide on the others. I don’t think Laird will be so independently motivated, so I chose not to do the video course for him.” Aggie chose to ignore the continued disapproval from William. “What did they say about choosing curriculum?”
Tina’s face twisted in a mixture of disgust and frustration. “I asked almost every woman there and they all agree.”
“So why do you look revolted by their choice.”
“Ask me.” Tina kicked off her shoes, sat cross-legged across from them, and leaned back on her hands. “I dare you to ask me what kind of curriculum you should use.”
“Ok…” The whole thing seemed ridiculous to Aggie. “What kind of curriculum should I use?”
With a falsetto that made William and Aggie snicker before they even heard the answer, Tina said, “Oh, you have to find what works for you.”
Yep. It happens.
I watched new, excited moms show up ready to learn from seasoned veterans only to turn away frustrated and disillusioned when no one would give them real, practical help. More often than not, they found themselves with a sticky note that said, “Buy Mary Pride’s Big Book of Home Learning” on it.
If I’d only known then what I know now. There’s a solution to that frustration. Tina figured it out in For Keeps. She says,
“The good news is, I did figure out how to get a feel for what they’d suggest if they weren’t so adamant about everyone blazing their own trail through the home educating wilderness.”
William’s face grew more disapproving with every word. “How?”
“I asked what they use. I went back to every woman and asked what curriculum they use and why.”
That question solves a multitude of frustrations.
When you ask us why we chose what we chose, homeschooling moms wax eloquent (because we don’t have time to wax our floors).
So, I’m here to give new homeschoolers a bit of advice. If you find yourself in a group of ladies who don’t want to unduly influence your choices because their family’s ways might not be best for yours, just ask what they do and why. You might actually get somewhere.
Seasoned homeschoolers, please take pity. Just answer the question they didn’t know they should have asked. Tell them what you use and why–and then introduce them to someone who has a different philosophy.
And to everyone: I hope this is your best school year ever—regardless of your educational choice! Oh! If you’re searching for Charlotte Mason-inspired ideas, check out #1Daughter’s YouTube Channel!