Sometimes, life is too overwhelming. There are moments when you have to pause in order to prevent an explosion. While juggling the daily physical needs of your family:  laundry, meals, and clean bathrooms, you may also feel the weight of what it means to raise good human beings who have mental and emotional needs. Homeschooling isn’t just about academic endeavors, the journey involves navigating life. 

But…you’re not alone. Hearing from other homeschool moms who have been through the same struggles and victories may be all you need to keep going today. 

So, grab that fifth cup of coffee (or reheat the cold one that you forgot about) and take a moment to read some advice from one of our long-time HLA moms, Terri Cannon who lives in Uganda with her beautiful family. 

Words of Advice from T

“Just some thoughts as many new homeschoolers start their first year. I began in 1984 and have seen such an evolution of homeschooling! 

  1. Homeschooling is all about your family——your needs, their abilities, your desires, your financial budget, health, work schedules, upcoming events, etc. I suggest you take some time and list why you are homeschooling and your goals/desires/abilities in a realistic (as opposed to idealistic) way. To put it in writing from your heart will be something you can refer to when discouraged/doubting/planning/shopping. In fact, a personal journal just for homeschool thoughts/ideas/experiences is a very good idea. Whether you are a large family, have one child, whether you travel or live in the city, the country, or overseas, this step will help you refine and define how you will homeschool. All of your decisions on the who, what, where, when, and how will flow from your personal statement you craft. 
  2. Curriculum is a tool. With any tool you use it as designed. But you can adapt that tool to work for your needs. If your child needs to read instructions aloud or skip extra work or add extra work, you are in control! I have read about a lot of new/younger homeschoolers who try to plow through material and forget that they need not be “public school at home.” Truly, things go much better when you make the curriculum work for you, not the other way around. 
  3. Take time every day to pray with your kids, preferably before you begin.
  4. Each week sit with each child and ask them to share what they learned, experienced, and remembered. Review is key to learning and assessing if you are on the right track. If you have to schedule it in, do so.
  5. Find support somewhere. Even if you live miles and miles from other homeschoolers, there are online blogs, YouTube videos, real-time interactive Q&A’s, etc. We are long-time missionaries, and with the Internet, I can now find answers to almost any question.
  6. Know your state homeschool laws and follow them, but don’t go overboard. Sometimes we may feel nervous and provide more material or information than asked. Don’t do this, as it endangers the freedom of the laws in your state. 
  7. Defend homeschooling, but don’t get defensive. As they say, “the proof is in the pudding.” Life has a way of being the judge of our decisions. Others’ opinions can cause us to doubt and make hasty decisions. Work it out internally first, and your commitment will speak volumes. Find the latest data on homeschooling and testing and just be as knowledgeable and up-to-date as you can, but don’t feel you have something to prove. This is perhaps the hardest thing of all. 
  8. Don’t jump your child around curricula just because they say they don’t like it, it’s too hard, or it takes too much time. Do your research; perhaps find a free placement test (which some curricula offer) to see where your child may fall. If at every challenging page you keep switching, you will not teach your child perseverance. Make sure the reason you are switching is that it doesn’t meet YOUR goals or desires (as you outlined in #1)!
  9. Parent-child conflicts will be magnified in homeschooling. You must make personal development as a parent your goal and seek answers about handling things like anger, disagreement, and authority. Do Bible studies on these topics, and take steps to improve. 
  10. Organize, but don’t overdo it. I personally like a medium amount that allows for stepping outside the plan as needed. Daily time schedules are important, but not iron-clad. If a child is needing more time, practice, or even wants to excitedly talk about something during a lesson, that’s important! 
  11. Keep in mind the long-term. Your child may have future goals that differ from yours. Don’t short-change your child in the future by being lazy and undisciplined in preparing their learning plan and following through. You may have no desire or vision of college for your child and think it’s a waste of time and money. But your child may truly be designed for college and higher education. You have to make sure they end their years at home equipped for a general life plan with many options. Keep your comments about learning focused on God’s will for them, rather than focusing on and pressuring them to “get to college” or disregarding subjects that teach higher level thinking because they “won’t need that in trade school.” Help them be well-rounded and future-focused. As they grow, ask them to share their feelings about their future. 
  12. Don’t project your learning experiences on your child. Homeschool is not like your public school experience. This is probably something new for all of you on some level. If you struggled or struggle today with spelling or math, don’t give them an excuse to fail or skip something. Be for them what someone wasn’t for you. If there is a true learning disability, nearly every city has a way to test your child. With the Internet there is help finding special needs testing and guidance. But don’t project yourself and discourage the child. In fact, a child can resent this, and a homeschool battle will ensue. 
  13. Never, ever threaten to “send them back to school.” Threats are a sign of weak parenting. It is better to study some good parenting as mentioned above and decide to follow a better path. Threats rarely produce the necessary inner discipline we want our child to have. 
  14. The Bible says not to compare ourselves with others. This includes homeschooling. Some homeschoolers these days feel comfortable setting up whole “school rooms” full of expensive furniture and supplies. Others have small nooks and crannies and have one bookshelf and the kitchen table. Let’s allow each other space to do this. But let’s not push ourselves to do what others do. Go back to #1, look at what you have written, and stick to it. Each according to their desires and ability.
  15. Get help when needed, and always keep learning! I learned a ton teaching my children, and I was already considered a good student growing up. Today’s curriculum is so well developed and full of information—keep learning and growing and plan ahead! If you know a child has Algebra I coming up, watch a Youtube course yourself or take an actual refresher course. Sometimes learning will come to you more easily later in life. Never stop learning. It’s such a good model for your child to observe. 

I began homeschooling in Washington state in 1984 when my oldest was three. Since then, we have had seven children, three of whom were adopted while living overseas, and one adopted through US foster care. So far, we have:

1 college graduate child – now married and a loan officer 

2 college attended children – one a full-time graphic artist, married dad of five adopted special needs kids, and the other one married and a full-time military wife and mom to three sons.

1  Army paratrooper

1 daughter currently attending college studying computer science

1 child deceased 

1 child grade six. 

We have made it through many years of homeschooling. It’s so encouraging to see how it is growing, but in the growth let’s keep our eye on our original purpose. 

Love you all. T”