by Christina Rivera

I’m not just a home school mamma; I’m also a huge fan of gardening. Most of my children have grown up ‘farm-schooling’. We used to struggle to plant from seeds with the idea that all ‘real’ gardeners always sow seeds. It was a struggle, and we didn’t always have the time because of seasons to get a harvest from these little seeds. It was disheartening. The game-changer for us was using starts. ‘Starts’ are plants that you can buy from the store that are still young enough to transplant, but old enough and hardy enough to grow quickly. We became experts on finding the nurseries that carried our favorites. We began having an amazing and fruitful experience.

I realized that sometimes my homeschool journey was similar to my gardening experience. When I first started out, I thought that ‘real’ homeschoolers always made up their own resources and set their own pace. Unfortunately, that meant many late nights planning, cutting, pasting, printing fun manipulatives, nursing a baby in the night, and an early morning scramble. After all this; the lessons were awkward. (Picture me reading out of a book and being really boring. Big kids rolling their eyes and littles fidgeting.) Because I was new, the lessons weren’t always age appropriate. Some of the children were bored because it was too easy and some exasperated because it was too hard. Not much of a crop for this gardener.

After a while, I began to get an idea of what was required of me. I understood what to expect of my children. It took time, experience, research, and older homeschoolers teaching me. Textbooks were a way that allowed me to gain this context. We started with Abeka, picking books out of their grade level selection. I was able to get an understanding of what to expect from my child. I was able to get an understanding of what was too much, or too little, for both the kids and myself. I started branching off as I found resources, many online, from beautiful ladies who had published their information, and gradually I found my nitch.

Now, I have my routine. My third set of children are enjoying the fruits of the early years. I can tweak our school to fit their needs and interests without re-creating the wheel. ‘Starts’ are amazing and they’re out there for all home educators, new ones and veterans alike.

As with anything, use discernment in determining which resources are the best fit for your family. Where will you get your ‘starts’? Only you can answer that question. Drafting a mission statement and defining goals for your homeschool can help give you direction. Once you’ve decided what your mission is and what your goals are, you can find a veteran homeschool mamma who did similar things you want to do. That’s your ‘start’. Go for it! Pick and choose.

CHEA also has many resources that can help you in this journey. They have printed resources that you can routinely reference, audio sessions you can listen to, and great blogs. You can use the names of CHEA speakers to check out their personal website and have a solid ‘start’ to your homeschool each year (or throughout the year). Their conferences are spectacular, and if you’re a member you can get free audios and discounts online in the bookstore and at their conferences. Check out their bookstore at