4 Things I Would Tell My Younger Homeschool Self

By Melissa Batai

Part of living is making mistakes and learning and growing through those mistakes. Sometimes, we have to recognize that we did the best we could do at the time and, in hindsight, see we could have handled the situation differently. As my oldest child is preparing to graduate, I find myself looking back on our homeschool journey thus far and reflecting on what I would tell my younger homeschool self.

Every family’s homeschool journey is unique, so the advice I’d give my younger self might not reflect your homeschool experience. However, I hope I help some who are just starting their homeschool journey.

4 Things I Would Tell My Younger Homeschool Self

My family’s homeschool situation is unique in that all three of my kids have special needs. Two have high functioning autism, two have ADHD, two have dyslexia, and one has dysgraphia. Yes, they all have multiple diagnoses.

1. Get Help with Disabilities Earlier

When two of my kids struggled to learn to read, I didn’t know why. We tried several different programs, and each was just as frustrating to them as the previous one. I began to suspect a learning disability or dyslexia , but when I asked in various homeschool communities, almost everyone assured me that some kids just take longer to read. I even brought up my concerns at the public school where my children received speech therapy. I was dismissed.

Not getting help with their dyslexia earlier is partly my fault because I trusted when others said some kids just catch on to reading slowly even though my gut told me the problem was deeper than that. However, I did try various avenues to get a diagnosis, and it was incredibly difficult because so many dismissed my concerns.

If you’re new to homeschooling and your gut tells you that your child’s struggle is deeply rooted, listen to this instinct! It took me several years to finally get the diagnosis of dyslexia for two of my kids, but once we had a name for their struggle, our situation improved because we could get them help. Both of our kids went through the Barton Reading and Spelling program and are now doing well with reading.

2. Don’t Replicate School at Home

The first year I homeschooled, when my oldest was in 4th grade, I tried to replicate school at home. We had textbooks, he took tests, and we even had him take standardized testing. The school mentality was firmly planted in my mind, especially since I didn’t know if he would go back to school or not the next year.

However, I learned my lesson, and we loosened up the second year. That was also the year my younger kids started kindergarten and first grade. I moved to a literature-based learning model for all three kids, and we started enjoying homeschooling more.

3. Let the Kids Determine the Activities They Do

Just as I was locked in the public-school mindset when I started homeschooling, I was also worried about socialization. This led me to put the kids in more activities than they wanted to participate in. As a result, we didn’t have time to do as much schoolwork. In addition, two of my kids are introverts, so all that time participating in activities they didn’t enjoy exhausted them.

I’ve learned my lesson, and now the kids participate in fewer activities, but they’re activities that they enjoy, so we’re all happier.

4. Don’t Use the Same Curriculum Just Because Kids Are Close in Age

Spend any time in the homeschool community, and you’ll hear people advise if your kids are less than two years apart, teach them the same curriculum together. I understand the motivation for this—you can save money by buying only one curriculum and time by homeschooling two kids at once. For years this is what I did with my youngest two who are only 17 months apart. However, looking back, this wasn’t a good decision after the preschool years for several reasons.

Children Have Different Learning Styles

My two who are 17 months apart have different learning styles. One is an auditory learner, so when we read aloud and I asked questions afterward, she would get them all right while her sister, who is a kinesthetic learner, would not.

When we did hands-on activities, the kinesthetic learner thrived, while the other was annoyed by the activities. This led to some bickering and bad feelings.

They Compete

I assume there is some degree of competitiveness between siblings close in age, and my kids are no different. They competed against one another and sometimes criticized one another’s learning styles. I didn’t want this to continue, so I stopped teaching them from the same curriculum when they were in 5th and 6th grade. Looking back, I should have stopped a few years earlier.

They Have Different Interests

Likewise, they have different interests, which become more pronounced as they got older. Even though separating their curriculum required me to spend more time homeschooling, both kids were happier. We found curriculum that worked for each of them and that they each enjoy.

Final Thoughts

If you’re new to homeschooling, welcome to this way of life! Remember, you will make mistakes along the way, but you will likely enjoy this journey with your children, and they will likely thrive.