Last week I went to the OCHEC Convention for the first time in my homeschooling life—the first time in any part of my life, I guess, since that isn’t really an event commonly attended by childless women. Anyway, I was excited to go and was looking forward to listening to the speakers and browsing the vendor hall. The speakers were really good (more on that another time), but the vendor hall was almost overwhelming. Everywhere you turned there was another company with something you just had to have to make your homeschooling experience a success! It was enough to make just about any mom question her choices, even if her kids are doing fine.
I knew that this was how it was going to be, and that’s one of the reasons I haven’t attended until this year. I finally feel secure enough in the decisions I’ve made to not completely flip out when I see everything that’s out there. If you were one of the moms stressed about all the latest things you don’t have, please don’t feel bad. No one can buy it all, and even if you could, there’s no way you could do it all. You don’t have to buy much of anything, really.
What do you need to be a homeschooler?
- Patience: If you’ve told five people that you’re homeschooling, you’ve heard, “Oh, I could never do that! I just don’t have the patience!” at least four times. Homeschooling moms do not have superhuman patience. There are many days when my patience wears thin and we have to take a break for everyone to gather themselves. You know what? That’s how it is for moms who don’t homeschool, too. I’ve learned, though, that if I practice patience, if I make myself smile at the child who is dawdling rather than gritting my teeth, if I count to ten before answering a snarky comment in kind, I am better at being patient. And when I am more patient, my kids are more patient, and the day runs smoother. Patience only costs your time, and it’s the most valuable investment you can make in your parenting.
- Perseverance: I’ve heard it said many, many times that homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s so, so true. Some days you’ll think you’re not going to make it, but it’s okay to stop and take a break and get your breath. There are times you’re going to be ahead and times you’ll be behind, but in the end, you will cross the finish line—and then you’ll wonder how it all went so fast.
- A Library Card: Once upon a time, I moved to Omaha and didn’t have a library card for two years. Everything I read came from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Clearly I didn’t have kids then! Now, even if I could afford to buy every book we used, there’s no way I could store them all. Your library, no matter the size, is the most important physical resource you have. If you plan ahead, you can request more books and movies on a topic than you could ever use and have them delivered right to your library branch. Make friends with your librarians and ask questions if you’re not sure about something, because the more you know how to use your library, the more amazed you’ll be at all the resources available to you!
- The Internet: Do I need to explain this one? At least once a day I marvel at how we were able to live without the internet. Probably you could homeschool without the internet, but I really hope I never have to!
- Support: Not everyone in your life is going to support your decision to homeschool. Hopefully most people aren’t hostile about it—as a woman taking Goodwill donations once was to me—but you will encounter those who think you’re just a little strange to want to spend your life this way. Seek out people who will encourage you on this journey. If you don’t know any other homeschoolers in real life, look online for people who live in your area or use the same curriculum. It can make such a difference to have someone to talk to who understands the kind of life you’ve chosen.
Do other things come in handy for homeschooling? Of course! I found some vendor booths where I could have emptied my checking account and still have things on my wish list. Books, games, toys, just about anything you could think of was there for a price. As you’re planning and shopping this summer, remember that some of the most important things you need won’t cost you anything!