When he turned four, I started looking into a local private school. As a young Army family, on one income, and with our second son due any day, private school seemed like a dream I would never reach. If private school wasn’t an option, public school was our only choice. However, something about the decision didn’t feel right. There must be some other way and I found homeschooling was the answer. I was hesitant to approach the subject with my husband. We had never talked about homeschooling and I know he also figured we would be sending our little guy off to kindergarten like everyone else. When I asked him how he felt about homeschooling and explained why I thought it was a good idea, I was surprised and thrilled when I heard he felt the same way. That’s the day we went from Military Family to Homeschooling Military Family.
I mistakenly thought the hard part was over when we had decided on the idea of homeschooling. I was very wrong. In this day and age, homeschooling is widely accepted and more commonplace than it was 20 years ago. As a result, there is nearly an endless supply of homeschooling resources. It’s incredible to have options but it’s also very overwhelming. As a new homeschooling mom, I had no idea there was such a wealth of curricula at my disposal. I felt like I needed to try it all and start right away.
Preschool for my oldest son was a thought-out, scheduled and planned day. I purchased a box curriculum and we didn’t skip a lesson. It was a learning experience for my son and for myself. We continued on with homeschooling, trying new a curriculum every few months. I wanted to be certain I was making the best choice in educational material. I always felt the work was too easy or he should be doing more. We went through several different curricula before finally finding the one that fit, the one that worked.
When my oldest son reached third grade, my middle son was ready for preschool. By that time, we had welcomed our third son and for the first time, I would be homeschooling three children in three very different educational stages — a third grader, a preschooler, and a toddler running around. Suddenly my views on preschool and homeschooling changed dramatically. I no longer felt that our preschool time needed to be so structured and defined. I embraced the fun in learning and playing. We read books, played board games and assembled puzzles. We spent time outside digging in the dirt and setting up army guys in the sandbox. This time around, preschool was so much easier and more fun. I also found that we needed to make a change, once again, with our oldest son. I had to streamline our school time if I was ever going to get it done.
Around the middle part of that year, we had found an online curriculum that saved our homeschool. We were moving again and I stumbled across Time4Learning. It fit, it worked, it ended my search for curriculum. My third grader started right away. He loved his lessons and his time spent learning online. Our lives were so busy at that time that I was so grateful for some assistance as far as lesson planning and record keeping. When my middle son was ready, he received his own login information for his preschool account. Letting him play around with his lessons every day, for as long as he was interested, was the only “formal” part of his preschool education. I was no longer concerned with making sure he was doing enough, just whether or not he was enjoying learning.
This year I have a fifth grader, first grader and preschooler. We’re still using the same online curriculum that we’ve been using for nearly three years. I add in extra work when someone is struggling or to encourage a new skill set. We work together when possible and enjoy joint science experiments and family art projects. There are things I wish I knew when my homeschooling adventure started. I wish I had known that sometimes less is really more. I wish I had known that playing IS learning. I wish I had learned to make your curriculum work for you, not the other way around. If it’s not working, don’t use it. It doesn’t matter that you’re only a month in, or that it cost $200, if your child isn’t learning or hates it, then it’s worthless to you.
I wish someone had said that it is OK to take some time off when you’re struggling. When a parent deploys, your household is turned upside down. When your service member returns, the house flips right side up but everything is in a different place. You change, your family changes, the dynamic changes and that’s OK. Give yourself time and grace to come back together again. It is of utmost importance to educate our children. It’s important that we choose the route we feel is best. But it’s also important to remember that we are a family first, a military family who has chosen to homeschool, but first and foremost a family.
Nicole McGhee is an Army wife of 11 years. She uses Time4Learning to homeschool all three of her children.