Every child is born into a home school. Every parent is their child’s first educator.
This continues to be true for everyone as the child grows older – whether the child is sent to a separate building to be trained or kept at home.
Early on in my career as a home educator, whenever I was in a situation where I knew I was going to have to answer the education question – I felt small and insecure. The question seemed to drain all my confidence, even if the person asking was a stranger and they were just making small talk.
I found out quickly that I was doing something different. And when my kids were preschool age, I didn’t want to be viewed as different – I wanted to be viewed as good, brave, commendable. Normal.
I craved affirmation.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that the affirmation I needed wasn’t missing from the outside in – it was missing from the inside out. And the issue I had with being different was rooted in a life dominating problem: my “Mom-Identity-Crisis.”
I lacked the type of confidence from experience, and I let that reality limit how I felt about my commitment. When that’s backwards. Now I let my commitment lead me. I know that as a part of this journey I will have to address road blocks and hurtles, and I know from experience now that these only prove to strengthen my confidence and deepen my commitment.
Here are 6 ways that I’ve bolstered my confidence as a home educator:
- You don’t have to feel alone. Whether you’re starting out with pre-K or you’re bringing home your 6th grader – whatever fears and struggles you’re facing there are others in the homeschool community who are feeling the same way you are. There are great sources of support and encouragement – don’t be afraid to be counted as a part of the group. If you struggle with feeling isolated as a person or a family, don’t wait for others to reach out and notice you. Determine your priorities, write out your commitment to home educate and turn that into a mission statement, and then brainstorm 3 small goals for how you will strengthen your commitment to home education. Remembering that these goals need to be self-motivated and confidence building. The best goals will connect you back to your mission and activate the inner confidence to continue. (Consider trying this course if you’d like help learning how to make and accomplish goals.)
- Get access to nationwide programs that recognize and reward parents for being educators too: Barnes & Noble, Pizza Hut, Apple, Adobe, and more. I’ll never forget when I got my Educator’s Card from Barnes & Noble. When I was checking out at the counter – I was buying children’s books – and the woman asked “Are you a Barnes & Noble Member?” To which I replied “no.” She then went on to ask if I was an “Educator?” And I smiled and said “Well, I homeschool my kids.” With a slight laugh and shoulder raise – body language for: I lack confidence in what I just said. To my surprise and delight, she said “That counts. If you can show me your curricula or your scope and sequence, then I can get you signed up to save on all your purchases for your homeschool.” For Pizza Hut, I saw on the MoneySavingMom.com that home educators were being encouraged to sign up for the “Book-It” program. At the time, I had to go through the process as a teacher. Filling in our “school name” and number of students in the classroom: 2. But Pizza Hut honored it, and we enjoyed free personal pan pizzas. Now Pizza Hut has a full “Book-It” program for home educators; it’s easy and worthwhile to sign up. Apple has an educator’s discount on their products as well. You don’t have to be the principal of a large school system with a huge budget to get the attention of a company like Apple. On the Apple website in the footer, there’s a link within the Store page that says “Educator.” Clicking on that allows you to see the instant savings that an educator receives. We just recently purchase Apple products from our local store, we were able to confirm our home educator status (mainly by showing my B&N Educator’s Card) and everything was discounted! Adobe programs are useful for many reasons, and most recently I researched purchasing through their Creative Cloud subscription. On the home page of Adobe’s website, near the bottom it says that they offer discounts for certain reasons. One being “student.” Under the link, “Am I eligible” it says that homeschoolers are eligible by submission of one of three options: dated letter of intent to homeschool, a current membership ID to a homeschool association (like the Home School Legal Defense Association). Getting this requirement saves 60% off the price of Adobe products for being recognized as a home educator. And more: I’m sure there are more organizations offering benefits to home educators – if you know of more, add them to the comments!
- Find out what your state requirements are, and keep good records. This step is vital for confidence in your commitment to home educate. When my husband and I heard attorney David Gibbs, III speak at the Great Homeschool Convention last year, in one of the Q&A sessions he was asked “How do we know that our right to homeschool our children won’t be denied?” And his reply was simple: know the requirements and keep records. If in the unfortunate event that a family were to have trouble with their local and state authorities because of keeping their children home for schooling then that’s where the legal defense associations are there to help. You do not need to busy yourself with understanding the history of the right to home educate, and you don’t have to keep up with the latest home education news from across the world – to have confidence, be counted as a home educator on paper and set the worry aside.
- Find a planner that works for you year-round. Ever go weeks without referencing your calendar? Do you keep a personal, kid, and family chart of activities? Do you struggle to get everything organized and synced? How far in advance do you plan for the next season? Or do you only plan for your favorite seasons, and then struggle through your not so favorites while your home and kids suffer from the lack of intention? If you answered “yes” or “I don’t know” to any of these questions, then I can’t encourage you enough to get alone for 2 hours with large whole-year calendar and a blank notebook and chart your year in months. This is something that I’ve been doing and developing for a couple years now. I’ve started to notice rhythms and patterns in my families pulse. Times were we need a boost to stay in a healthy beat (February) and times when we need a break to slow it all back down (June). I recommend that you subscribe now to TheHomeLearner.com because I’m working on making a planner available that will walk you through this process of intentionality. It won’t be a pretty “One-size fits all” planner, nor will it be a “follow exactly these rules to live your life like mine” instructional guide. The aim is to provide prompts that will direct your thoughts to discern what intentionality looks like in each season of life for you. I hope you’ll look forward to it with me, and more than that – I hope it helps.
- Annually, create traditions and routines: Holidays, birthdays, and local festivals can be celebrated in much more detail and depth at home. Take the time to commit to plan the rhythm of your family’s year and then enjoy the freedom and creativity that comes from your commitment to be a home educator. It’s a special privilege and unique, personal challenge to have your kids at home for their education. Don’t waste your time. Each day as a home educator, you have the opportunity to capture each moment and turn it into an education. What better education is there than one that teaches a child to live full and with meaningful roots.
- Commit to community. This is the positive side to #1 above. If you feel alone in your commitment to home educate, then it is up to you to begin working through these steps. I purposefully saved this step for last too, because it takes confidence and personal strength to step out and ask to be included in a group. And what if you’re still questioning your commitment? If you’re unsure whether you’re committed to this long term, do you need to be involved in a group? Definitely. Pick one or more of the options below and count yourself a member of the club.
- Local: I don’t know of a registry of groups, but I know that most areas have other home educators near by. Here are some tips for where to find a local group:
- Your church or Bible study: ask around to find out if anyone else home educates.
- Your local library: visit the library at 10am on a Tuesday (or any time and day during normal “school hours”). If there are other school age kids there, chances are good that family home educates. Go say “hi,” introduce yourself and get the ball rolling. It’s a good idea to have connections with families who have older kids than yours to be able to ask questions and receive honest feedback.
- Parks, playgrounds, or the local coffee shop: similar to the library set up, everywhere you go during the day – look for other families with children.
- Local businesses and services: If you’re interested in having your children involved in a sport or in volunteering, call the organization and be direct – ask: Do you offer classes specifically for home educating families? You may be surprised at how many families are supported by local organizations and businesses for being home educating families. They want your business and they appreciate the increase in their income from families who are able to attend classes or use their services during the “school day.”
- Online: There are many different home educating families represented online. Take the time to know why you have chosen to home educate, and then start reading and connecting with other home educators online.
- If you find a blog that speaks to you, don’t stay quiet – engage – comment, message, ask questions. More than likely the person on the other end of the screen is connected to a great community online that you are welcome to join.
- If you’ve chosen to use a curriculum sold online, then most companies also offer online forums specifically designed to meet the needs of families using their products. But it isn’t limited to that – forums are a place for like-minded parents to ask vulnerable questions and provide real life responses to questions about behavior, development, relationships in the home, etc. This is especially useful for parents just starting out in their home education journey and for those who do not know any families with older kids than their own locally. Be prepared for debate and disagreements more online than in person as people are much more free with their judgments and criticisms online – and that’s why I recommend first going through each educational theory to find the one or two that best fit you and then look for a group.
- By phone or Skype: One of my dearest friends is overseas. She and I have connected over Skype and shared what we are learning, what resources we are using (the internet is now e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e), and what we want to do next. It’s a deep friendship and so it doesn’t have to be in person for me to feel accountable and encouraged just by letting her in. It’s important to carve out time to continue to nurture relationships that are distant while in the middle of home educating. Even when I’m involved in a lot of local groups – if there are a lot of new faces in my life, even if they are there for a common goal – I still need to balance new with old. For me, this looks like a call every month or 6 weeks. Our schedules don’t allow us to be engaged more often, and that’s okay. We surprise each other with how much it means to start up where we left off. It’s work to be in touch, but it’s a big part of the good work of staying confident in the commitment to home educate.
Finally, don’t cut your commitment to home educate short by dumbing it down. How people view “homeschooling” is changing. There is growing interest and respect for parents who are home educating well. I hope you will count yourself as a member of this group with confidence for the next time you’re asked “so where do your kids go to school?”
Thank you for reading. I created a free PDF guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement that will help form a framework for your choices as a parent whether a home educator or not. Click here to sign up for the free guide and posts from The Home Learner. Also, affiliate links are used in this post. They are set apart by underlining. Read more about the use of affiliate links: Disclosure Policy. Or contact me for more information.