I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Dear Me-From-Ten-Years-Ago, Here's What I Know Today

Dear Me-from-ten-years-ago, Here's what I know today (OR a look at what I would do differently in my homeschool if I could begin at the beginning again.)

I got a message in my in-box a few days ago. It was from a sweet friend of mine who reminds me so much of myself (only about ten years younger and more than a few pounds lighter.) She's at the beginning of the homeschooling journey, feels like she has a million-and-one little people clamoring for her attention every waking moment, and is just desperate to do this homeschooling thing well.
Her message was simple. She had recently encountered my oldest son and was impressed with his kindness and respectfulness. She wrote, "He answered the door with such courtesy and friendliness the other day. I was somewhat taken aback by how mature he seems." She went on to say that she sometimes wonders if that will be her son one day.

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Dear Me-from-ten-years-ago, Here's what I know today (OR a look at what I would do differently in my homeschool if I could begin at the beginning again.)

"Of course it will," I reminded her. "Just keep being the fantastic mom that you are. Just keep being faithful. Being consistent. And trust the journey."

But if experience holds true, I know that she probably heard the whisperings of self-doubt still lingering. At least that was the case for me, when I was in her shoes.

Ten years ago when I first started homeschooling and my oldest was entering preschool, I was all fear-and-trembling covered in skin. I wondered if I could do it right. Do it well. Do it at all.

But, that was then. And this is now. While I know I certainly don't have it all figured out, while I still have many white-knuckle days, and while the final verdict is FAR from out on my homeschooling, I have learned a few things in the past ten years.

If the Now-Me could go back in time and tell the Then-Me a few things...if I could cup her shaking chin in my palms and lift her gaze off of her worries...here's what I'd tell her. 

Dear Me-from-ten-years-ago, Here's what I know today (OR a look at what I would do differently in my homeschool if I could begin at the beginning again.)

Contrived learning is not learning

All the worksheets in the world will not produce an education. Real learning happens when a child is engaged, when he can see true purpose in all of it, when his passion is ignited. I spent far too many days trying to get through the workbook, trying to check all the boxes, trying to MAKE learning happen. (Don't get me wrong, I still use workbooks, I just don't let them ruin my homeschool.) They encourage a child to memorize for a test, but they never inspire him to want to learn more. 

You don't have to teach all-the-stuff

In those first few years, I tried to cram every.single.moment with every.single.bit.of.learning. I felt the gravity of my child's education and wore it like a burden around my neck. I convinced myself that my daughter had to learn all the facts and that she had to learn them all from me. But, the truth is, I could NEVER teach her all-the-stuff. Learning is a life-long process. If, in my inadequacies, I happen to forget to teach any of my kids how to tie their shoes, how to add fractions, or how to read a map, I know they'd learn it SOMEDAY. That's the thing about learning...it grows out of necessity. 

Dear Me-from-ten-years-ago, Here's what I know today (OR a look at what I would do differently in my homeschool if I could begin at the beginning again.)

You don't even have to teach every subject

In the beginning, as I gazed down the never-ending tunnel of formal education, I panicked at the thought of higher-level math. Numbers and I have always been blood enemies. ("Algebra and Geometry...a plague on both your houses!") But, I've learned that homeschooling doesn't mean I teach all the subjects. It just means that I get to decide who teaches it and how it is taught. I farm out math. I farm out some art. I farm out music. And that's OK. I still get to call myself a homeschooler.

Preschoolers don't need "formal"

While I have never ordered a pretty boxed set of anything, I know that I dropped way too much money on unnecessaries in those early years. I, like sooooo many just-starting-out-mommas, wanted it to feel like REAL school. I thought that if I DID something...lots of formal somethings...it would count. I could call it school. What I wish I would have know then is that all I really needed to homeschool my littlest ones was a library card, a snuggly couch, and a really great booklist. I just needed to read lovely living books (like this one, this one, and this one) out loud and read them often. I needed to inspire wonder and curiosity through stories and the rest would fall into place. 

Dear Me-from-ten-years-ago, Here's what I know today (OR a look at what I would do differently in my homeschool if I could begin at the beginning again.)

Trust your gut-you know your kids

Looking back, I know I let comparison derail my homeschool. I measured my curriculum choices to those of my friends or those of the traditional school where I used to teach. I didn't understand that my homeschool was as unique as my home and all the people in it. I had a cookie cutter approach to learning and I almost let it cost my children dearly.  

Case in point, in her fourth grade year when my daughter was struggling greatly with spelling (even though she scored beyond high school level on her annual achievement tests in all other language arts related subjects), I waffled on my decision of how to help her. My teacher-brain told me to just keep plodding along with the trite, time-honored curriculum, but my gut told me to yank the plug and try something new.

In the end, I took a big gulp, pulled up my brave girl pants, and did the unthinkable! I scrapped the memorize-a-list-of-words curriculum that I had been using and opted for All About Spelling instead. I chose the program that no one else was doing and the one which went against everything I held sacred about teaching spelling (Memorize.Memorize.Memorize). In hindsight, I wish I would have had the courage to start with AAS from the very beginning. I would have saved us both quite a bit of angst. Now, thanks to the daily lessons in HOW to spell, not WHAT to spell and her voracious reading appetite, my daughter's not only AT grade level in spelling, but quite a bit beyond it.

I've learned now to trust my gut.

Every little drop in the bucket, will eventually fill the pail

Homeschooling, much like mothering, is a daily lesson in faithfulness. You will rarely see immediate results. But don't fret or spend another moment wringing your hands. Every little bit of effort...every tiny ounce of consistency...every tip-toe step of forward motion will eventually add up to great things. Trust the journey and keep filling the pail. 

It's not lather-rinse-repeat

Your children all have unique struggles and strengths. They might be cut from the same cloth, but they are not carbon copies of one another. Knowing that, give yourself the grace and financial wiggle room to buy what is needed for each of them. Don't always rely on a hand-me-down education. 

Dear Me-from-ten-years-ago, Here's what I know today (OR a look at what I would do differently in my homeschool if I could begin at the beginning again.)

Homeschooling is about producing people, not a project

At the end of the journey, I want to look back and see lives well lived. Moments savored. Souls shaped. It's so easy to get pre-occupied with spinning all the wheels and completing all the assignments. But, I never want to sacrifice relationships on the altar of homeschooling. The world doesn't need another smart person. It has more than its share of those. What it desperately craves are people who can show kindness, compassion, honesty, and integrity. 

If you can trust God with the eternity of your child, you can certainly trust him with her education

God called me to this task of homeschooling, monumental though it may seem. I have learned to find complete comfort in that fact. As Scripture reminds us, 
"He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." I Thess. 5:24
If I can trust my God in the eternal destination of my children, I can no doubt trust Him with something so temporal as math facts and dangling modifiers.

In the end...

Of course hindsight is 20/20. I can't go back and get a homeschool do-over. I can only lean hard into Jesus and trust that he'll weave all of it...even my mistakes...into something beautiful. I know that He can and trust that He will.

For now, I'll just take the hands of the mommas behind me and help them find their way.

To avoid more coulda, shoulda, wouldas, be sure to head to iHomeschool Network for the My Biggest Homeschool Regret link-up. 


  1. Great post! Thank you I so needed this today!

  2. Perfect . I'm keeping this all in mind for the fall. Curious, my son is in fourth grade and I need a spelling curriculum. What level did u start your daughter at. My son is a decent speller, and a good reader . How do you make sure that you're engaging your kids ? By doing hands on projects? Having five kids I feel like I'm drowning in the how to actually provide hands on engaging learning . Help?

    1. Because AAS teaches the rules and not words, you have to start at the very beginning with level 1. But, be prepared to zip through that first and even the second book. Set your own pace according to your child's mastery of each rule.

      Regarding engaging, hands on learning is ONE way, but it doesn't have to be the only way. If you're not a hands on momma, that's OK. Other ways include really great conversations during the learning time, exceptional books, spontaneous youtube videos that pertain to what we are learning, manipulatives, field trips, and lots of time to let them explore their own interests.

  3. This was great - thank you! I'm in my sixth year of homeschooling, and I have some of the same regrets. Some, to be frank, are regrets that I am GOING to have, because I'm still in the middle of making those mistakes. :) I loved hearing your perspective!! :)

    1. Diana, we ALL are constantly learning and growing. Me included.

  4. LOVE this so much!! Such timely encouragement! This is my first year to be "eclectic" and it feels like I'm on the edge of a cliff, I'm SO nervous about it! Boxed set curriculum is what I knew and got comfortable with, so it's been hard and scary to pull away from that! I have twin girls and last year, (2nd grade) I finally made myself come to terms that "one size fits all" is not gonna work for us! They learn so different and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. They may be twins, but they couldn't be more opposite in every area of life! Why was I wasting these precious years just checking off boxes?! I'm looking forward to adding drops in the bucket this year, I have a feeling that's how I'll get through it because I feel like it's my first year all over again!!

    I do have a question about AAS. Per your and many others' suggestions, I decided to order Level 1. I completely understand the reasoning for needing to start there, I just feel a little awkward and they do too because this is stuff they know. I have one who is an excellent reader and very good speller and one who is a good reader and an ok speller. I don't necessarily feel like they're struggling. My question would be, even though they are not struggling would you still suggest starting with Level 1?

    Thanks again for all your encouragement!! I feel like we'd be fabulous friends if we lived near one another! ��

    And to make this novel even longer, I never got back to you about The Prairie Thief, but I read it and loved it! I've added it to our read-aloud book list for the year! Can't wait to read it as a family!

    1. Yes, I think even strong readers should start with level 1 of AAS, because it's important that they learn the clue words associated with each sound in order to continue on well in the program. Don't be afraid to go at a quicker pace, however.

      You'll do great this year. Eclectic homeschooling really isn't all that different from ordering a box-set. You still do all the things, it's just that the publisher's name on each book or resource is different.

      So, glad you enjoyed The Prairie Thief. I hope to read it this year to my crew.

      You can do this, Leah! This year's gonna be great!