When M was in 2nd grade, I found out I was pregnant. With TWINS! While we were excited with the surprise, I was overwhelmed with the idea of being able to manage two babies at one time plus make sure to make time for my 2nd grader. I was scared. Really scared. As the year progressed, it became clear that we needed to make a change with M and her school. After much discussion with M and hubs, we felt that homeschooling was going to be an excellent choice for her starting in 3rd grade.
It was a choice we all decided together. We knew it was the right choice, but secretly I was terrified how I would manage. M was still at an age that she needed to learn reading, spelling, math, etc. with sit down one on one help from me. How was I going to do this with infant twins? Even though I have a degree, I had no experience with homeschool and didn't know all that much about it.
So, I researched. I studied curriculum; I joined homeschool Facebook groups. I read blogs.
I read books on homeschooling, books on curriculum, books on twins.
Just as anyone would do, I got my hands on every bit of info I could to help me feel ready to start this new journey.
The twins were born the end of July. The plan was to start working with M in September. I am so thankful that she was so excited and eager to homeschool and we had a bit of time before getting started to adjust to being a new family.
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We started 3rd grade with a plan, and it went great for awhile. As time went on and I became sleep deprived for longer and longer, things got harder. I started to get extremely burned out.
One of the things I quickly learned was that
We had Flexibility
M was doing great. I didn't need to repeat her rigid school schedule from the previous year for her to be successful. In fact, that system ultimately failed her. We needed to do what was best for us all to stay emotionally healthy, and the learning would come! So, we did the following:
- We took a break.
- We found a new group of friends who participate in lots of fun homeschooling field trips- Meeting some new people and getting out of the house was a huge turning point. We went to an aquarium, factory tours, a stadium, art classes, learned how to be a baker at Panera and more. She was learning a ton, and it was a nice change for both of us.
- I started thinking about my own needs. This was a pretty big turning point. As I began to think about finding my outlet, I became a lot less controlled by my day to day requirements and more focused on enjoying the different things I have going on in my life right now.
We were not married to the Curriculum we selected
The summer before we started homeschooling, I did tons of research on curriculum and purchased what I had planned to use. With reading and spelling (more info on that below) we struck gold, and it was a perfect fit and a huge blessing. Unfortunately, with Math, we had to switch programs three times before we found the right fit for us! It was incredibly frustrating. I always just tried to remind myself that it would have been worse if we would have continued with a curriculum that wasn't working for my daughter's learning style. The first year is a time to figure those things out, and it is ok to take time and try out different approaches.
My #1 goal for homeschooling M this past year was to help her to read better and build up her confidence in reading. She was a late reader and had suffered some lack of confidence in her school for a variety of reasons. I needed to build her up and help her with this even if I got nothing else accomplished all year. In fact, because of the babies, we had decided not to try and focus on everything the first year of homeschooling and kept our focus academically on a few key subjects.
I purchased All About Reading for our reading program and it seriously has made all of the difference for us. You can check out my full review of All About Reading HERE. In short, this program took my struggling reader and transformed her into a confident, independent reader. The program was completely doable for me as her teacher even when I started with newborn twins less than six weeks old! We were able to get through 1 and 1/2 levels of All About Reading in one year (from September – May). That's roughly associated with 1 and 1/2 grade levels in reading in 1 year. And, we took breaks, and didn't do it every day! I can not say enough positive about the transition we experienced using this program, and because it was my #1 goal academically, I feel strongly that it has given my daughter confidence that homeschooling can work for her. It's also given me confidence that I can homeschool my kids! All About Reading was so critical to our success. We will be continuing with it this year. I am so glad we didn't mess around with other reading programs before getting this one.
Finding a group of Homeschooling friends was Important
The first several months of our first year homeschooling, M was involved in many extracurricular things that gave her opportunities to have lots of friends outside of school. We kept in contact with some old school friends as well. Even with this, she never really found her place in a group of friends until we got involved with a homeschooling group. Through that group, we met other homeschoolers of all ages and their parents. The group did tons of amazing fun field trips that I would never have even thought of. It has been super fun, but most importantly, it was incredible how friendships were made so quickly! I was blown away by how seamlessly these kids accepted M and she became part of their group. Considering that part of the reason we decided to homeschool revolved around a social aspect, this was a time of our first year that I will never forget. Once we got to this point, I knew the year was successful.
If you are new to homeschooling, I strongly encourage you to get involved with other homeschoolers. Whether you decide to do a co-op or just meet up with a local homeschool Facebook group, the value is indescribable. The friendships, connections, information, help, and support you will receive is so worth the effort (even if you have to leave the house with baby twins to make it happen)!
These are the top 3 things I learned from Homeschooling my first year. I definitely learned other things too but, the above things stick out to me as turning points our first year. Once I learned these things and implemented the changes, it made a difference in our success.
Have you been through a year homeschooling too? I'd love to hear from you and what were the top things you learned the first year!
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