What if I started a homeschool? If I could tell you how many times that question left my lips in the past year, you’d probably laugh. And actually, my boyfriend did. Until he realized I was absolutely, without-a-doubt serious and determined to make it work.
Homeschooling my boyfriend’s son (my ‘bonus son’ as I playfully call him) wasn’t really a choice. It was a decision I made without hesitation. Virtual wasn’t working for him—and wouldn’t. He is dyslexic and needs support, differentiation, and patience.
Bottom line: he needed something different, and as a teacher with a passion for individualized, project-based, and custom-created curriculum, I figured who better than to support him (and others) during this crazy, COVID time than me?
So yes, in July 2020 I launched my full-time homeschool program, Donnelly’s Daily Apple with him and five other in-person kiddos.
It’s been crazy. It’s been hard. And it’s been more than I thought—in all the best ways. So whether you’re curious about what this all looks like, or you’re thinking about starting your own ‘pod,’ here’s what I’ve learned (so far):
1. There is never a ‘right’ or perfect time (for anything in life)
Before I *officially* launched my homeschool, I went back and forth on whether this was the right decision, or the right time. I was living in limbo between what I wanted to do, what I was *supposed* to do as a mom-but-not-real-mom, and what decisions were being made in the education world about COVID.
I was waiting for the moment where I could feel confident that I was doing the right thing. I waiting for the CDC to say, “Schools are closed for the year,” but you know as well as I do that they weren’t able to make the kind of decision (and wouldn’t say it even if they could).
I was waiting because I thought that the more I waited, the more secure I would feel in my life-altering decision. But what I learned about this (that really translates to anything in life) is that there’s never going to be a right time. Unfortunately, making a difficult decision won’t get easier—even if you continue to wait.
Sometimes you just have to decide to make the move and figure out the next steps as you go. Sometimes you have to trust in the imperfect-yet-perfect timing of life. You wouldn’t be facing this decision if it wasn’t exactly where you were meant to be.
2. You know your child best
If you’re a parent or caregiver, I want you to read these words twice: You know your child best. This is something else that I spent—no wasted—so much time doubting. I felt that others knew what was right for my son. I felt that I was just one piece of the puzzle and couldn’t possibly know everything.
And of course, I don’t.
But I know what my son needs.
And you know what your child needs.
This is not to say that experts and their opinions don’t matter—of course they do! What I’m trying to say, though, is that you have to trust your voice, your perspectives, and your decisions as much as you value the outside ones.
The virus has brought about so much change and people are all trying their best. But that’s the thing: we’re all pivoting and trying to manage what’s happening in the world as best as we can. And sometimes you may know something that others don’t, or recognize something that’s just not able to be addressed in someone else’s sphere of influence.
For me, I recognized my son’s needs in distance learning and how they simply wouldn’t be helped in the way they needed to be. This isn’t because the schools, teachers, or staff didn’t care but because they simply didn’t have the means within the virtual education environment. Recognizing this, and recognizing my crucial role in the decision-making is ultimately what pushed me forward in the choice to homeschool.
3. Listen to your heart above anything else
Cliché, yes. But true.
In my heart, I knew what I had to do. I knew that my son was frustrated trying to attend Zoom, falling behind, and then having to sit with me and redo every single lesson with my support anyways! It just wasn’t working.
I eventually made the decision that was in my heart all along. And I encourage you, too, regardless of whether you’re considering homeschool or thinking about something else important in your life—listen to your heart.
4. Do your research and then jump
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m going to homeschool.” Well, okay, I sort of did haha. But being an educator, I knew what it entailed. (A lot.)
So I researched the Common Core Standards, I looked into the legislature for my home state (California), I pored over different books and resources, I read blog after blog. And I invested time and money into figuring out exactly what I was going to do before I started to ensure it was the best experience possible—for me and my students.
If you’re thinking about homeschool or another significant decision in your/your child’s life, please research. Please take the time to really think through your decisions. Please ask for help. And then dive in.
5. Don’t expect perfection
This is probably advice I need to take haha. As a recovering perfectionist, I share this with you because the self-imposed pressure has been the hardest part of my journey. I want to make everything as amazing as possible. I want my students to flourish. I want every opportunity and class session to be purposeful.
And while that’s great, it’s important to keep reality in mind.
Some days will be difficult. Some days will downright suck. But this is a part of the process. Be patient.
6. It’s not easy, but nothing right ever is
I’ve had to navigate behavior problems, new grading systems, complex curriculum, learning disabilities, unruly students, broken glass from kids throwing stuffed animals in my backyard, a COVID case—you name it and I’ve probably gone through it!
My journey hasn’t been easy by any means, but it’s been the best decision I could have made. I’m blessed, humbled, and thankful for the opportunity I have to teach them and create stability, creativity, confidence, and hope in a difficult time.
Nothing worth doing, having, or creating is every easy.
You can see a behind-the-scenes video of our classroom on their Facebook page!