Homeschool Conference Season: A time for parents to network, learn, and generally descend into neurotic behavior.
Here’s what usually happens:
You register early, pay your $30 to get in. You’ve got your notebook so you can sit through your six workshops per day like a good student and learn as much as humanly possible in two days. Your hand aches, but your heart is beating with excitement at all the new ideas you could implement in your homeschool.
Between sessions, you roam the aisles of tables overloaded with books, games, supplies, and teeming with publishers happy to explain why their curriculum is right for your family.
By Sunday night when you finally finish hauling all the new books and workbooks wrapped in shrink-wrap in from the car, you’re ready to get down to work.
The next few days are consumed with planning. Dishes don’t get done, diapers go too long before getting changed. You’re on a roll and can’t stop obsessively planning the right book list, the science experiments, the history projects. You think to yourself, “We should be to Lesson 62 in the math text by Thanksgiving break. That’ll give me just enough time to take a day off to plan the meal, grocery shop, and deep-clean the house before family begins arriving.”
Homeschooling is a high pressure job.
If you don’t do it right, your kids will be screwed up for life, they’ll never get into college or get a decent job. Worst of all, they could resent you forever for bringing them home for school.
It all starts with the convention, the right curricula, and the right plan of action (to which you and your kids will adhere for the next 13 years).
These are the deluded, grandiose plans of the new-to-homeschooling mom. I’m not judging, I’ve been that mom! In fact, we all have. And we slip back into this way of thinking easily. I’ve long believed that homeschooling parents, like military spouses (I happen to be one, so I can say this), have a neurological disorder called Chronic I-Can-Do-It-ALL-By-Myself Syndrome. I’m seeking treatment.
Here are Three Don’ts that help me:
- Don’t get distracted by the shiny things. If you attend the homeschooling convention, have clear goals in mind. Look up the list of publishers and vendors who will be at the convention and write down a list of curricula you’d like to get your hands on. Sometimes flipping through the books really is the best way to decide if something is right for your family, and conventions are great ways to get your hands on lots of options. Wander other tables, sure, just maintain self-control and refer to your list. Having a budget helps here, too, especially if you only bring cash–that way you’re limited on what you can spend on shiny new books.
- Don’t believe you’ll actually follow the plan. Life happens. Family comes to visit unexpectedly, cars break down, kids get sick, moms get sick, or, shockingly, kids sometimes don’t want to do the lesson. Bottom line: they are little, but remember you’re dealing with people. People need flexibility. People are not machines who can motor through the whole year’s curriculum, at the pace of exactly one worksheet per day. So set goals for your kids, both long-term and short-term, but think of them more like guidelines than hard-and-fast schedules.
- Don’t let the convention change everything. If you’re new to homeschooling this is an especially important point. You’ll come home from the convention wanting to implement an 8-hour school day with your three-year-old. Don’t. Your kid is not excited about what you learned at the convention. He wants to play with bugs in the backyard. He doesn’t need to learn to read this year. But maybe sitting with you for 10 minutes per day while you read aloud is something he can do (and will really enjoy). Kids need gradual change, just like we adults do. So, add in something small, and do it slowly. You’ll be chomping at the bit, but your kiddo will be grateful (and won’t try to have you committed).
Homeschool conventions really are a great time to regroup, learn some new stuff, and check out new materials. They’re especially helpful if you can keep these tips in mind and stave off the neuroticism a tad longer. Your homeschool will be more peaceful and relaxed, which will help you and your kids get more done in the end.