by Carrie De Francisco
Last spring I was sitting in one of my favorite homeschooling spots. I was outside under our Crepe Myrtle tree sipping an iced mocha latte while looking over my son’s senior portraits. I was overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions. I remember thinking, “How in the world were we one month away from our homeschooling journey coming to end?”
When we first started homeschooling, veteran homeschooling moms reminded me again and again to enjoy our time learning together because it would come to an end in a blink of an eye. Well, since I had an out-of-the-box overachieving seven year old daughter and an extremely overactive toddler running circles around me both mentally and physically, I didn’t understand or appreciate this precious advice. All I saw were loads of laundry to do, dirty dishes to clean, potty training to complete, doctor appointments to attend, and stacks of books and lessons to finish. I have learned many heart-warming and heart-breaking lessons over the past twenty years of homeschooling. If my older and wiser self could go back and knock some sense into my younger idealistic (and more energetic) self, this is the advice I would give her.
First and most importantly, don’t rush!
Don’t rush to get out of bed. Don’t rush to finish every problem on every page. Don’t rush mealtimes. Don’t rush read-aloud times. Don’t rush to get to the next thing. Don’t rush out the door and don’t rush the playtime in the backyard. Slow down. Enjoy the moments. Sip the coffee. Savor the meal. Elaborate on the conversations. Sit in the stillness of nature. Take a nap. Just be. And let your children have time to just be.
One of the greatest gifts of homeschooling is the gift of time. My younger self didn’t realize or appreciate that.
In hindsight, I wish I would not have rushed our walks, our talks, and our meal times in order to get to the next thing. I wish I could go back and do all of the things I put into that “we will get to that when we have more time” pile. In actuality, those were the things that fed my children’s souls and captured their curiosity. I wish I would not have crammed so much into our days and into our weeks. I wish I would have hit the pause button a long, long time ago.
Next, I would tell my younger perfectionist self “don’t push!” Don’t push the academics.
Don’t push the expectations. Don’t push state standards. Don’t push them to be something they are not, and don’t push them to be something they are not yet ready to become. Relish the wonder years. Play more. Go outside. Get in the dirt with them. Get on the floor with them. Build and create with them. Turn off the computer. Check your emails later. Have coffee dates with your teen and playdates with your little one. Trust me, if you give them time to climb in the trees during the day, you won’t be climbing the walls out of frustration at bedtime. Embrace the late bloomer. Nurture the curiosity. Enjoy who your child is and who he or she is becoming.
In hindsight, I would tell my younger self to just breathe, relax, enjoy the lizards and show tunes and give them just as much time – if not more time – to explore their interests and passions. If I was really honest with my younger self, I would tell her to try and make some of those favorite things, hobbies, and passions their actual “school work.”
One of the biggest blessings of homeschooling is learning right alongside your child, watching your son find his passions, and seeing your daughter develop into her purpose.
In hindsight, I wish I would have appreciated more the things that make my kids different. I wish I would have focused more on their strengths instead of harping on their weaknesses. If I would have truly trusted the process, I would have realized that really there wasn’t anything to worry about. My kids were going to be okay! My husband kept telling me that. God kept promising me that in his Word and in our prayer time.
I worried for nothing. Both of my children have turned out to be wonderful young adults who are finding their way in the world while using their God-given gifts and talents to bless others and glorify God.
Another piece of advice I would give my younger, stressed-out self would be don’t wait.
Don’t wait to do Bible study together until you have more time. Don’t wait to go out with friends when you need a break. Don’t wait until you have more money to go on a date with your hubby. Don’t wait to have those important conversations with your worried teen, your lonely child, or your overwhelmed homeschooling friend. Don’t wait to take those much-needed breaks. If you don’t do it now, trust me, you won’t have time later.
Next, I would tell my younger self “don’t doubt!” Don’t doubt your decision to homeschool. Don’t listen to the critics. Don’t listen to the noise. Don’t listen to the world’s lies. Don’t become a slave to society’s “standards.” Trust your instincts. Go with your gut. Listen to that small voice in your head. Remember you are the expert. No one knows your child like you do. No one loves your child like you do. No one understands your child like you do, and no one wants your child to succeed as much as you do. Do what you think is best. And give yourself grace when you mess up.
In hindsight, I wish I would have listened to that still small voice in my head a lot sooner. Even though I am far from perfect, I wish I would have trusted my abilities to educate my own children a lot sooner. Once I finally realized that home was exactly where my children were supposed to be, and that there really was no better way to do life or to do school, then I was truly free to enjoy the adventure. I just wish I would have stopped doubting myself and God’s calling on my life a whole lot sooner!
I can honestly say, homeschooling has been one of the most rewarding and best experiences of my life. In hindsight, I wish I would have listened to those mentor moms way-back-when, when they told me this was going to be the best adventure of my life. My advice to my younger self – and to you – is to enjoy the ride. Enjoy your children. Enjoy your homeschool calling.
About Carrie De Francisco
Originally from New Orleans, Carrie De Francisco is now living, loving, and learning in Southern California with her husband, Mike, her two young adult children, Francesca and Joseph, and their introverted dog, Jesse. After twenty plus years of homeschooling her own children (and helping others do the same), she tries not to take herself too seriously. Motherhood and homeschooling have helped Carrie appreciate the gift of laughter (and quiet times with her Bible and favorite cup of coffee). She is definitely saved by Jesus but fueled by coffee! Carrie De Francisco is the author of Just Breathe (and Take a Sip of Coffee): Homeschool in Step with God, founder of “Coffee With Carrie” Homeschool Blog and hosts the Coffee With Carrie: Homeschool Help Podcast.