The Growing Pains of First Generation Homeschool Moms

worn outI am a first-generation homeschool mother.

I came to this with nothing to offer except the commitment to raise my children in the ways of the Lord.

I started with a little homeschooling catalog and a school-at-home mentality.  I took a leap of faith into something I didn’t really understand.  It hasn’t been easy.

Michael Farris coined the term “transitional” to describe those of us who have transitioned from our own personal public school upbringing into this world of homeschooling.

Anything that is “transitional” typically has kinks that need to be worked out.  I am forever grateful to the truly transitional generation of homeschoolers from the 80′s & 90′s who worked out the legal kinks for my generation (although, we must never stop fighting for these rights!)  Because of this, the kinks that my generation of first generation homeschool moms must work out aren’t legal, but mental.

go to jail

You see, I don’t have to hide my kids under beds or worry that what I am doing is illegal.

I have to worry that my public school upbringing will undermine my homeschooling.

That fact alone is why I started Raising Arrows.

I needed a daily pep talk and I was fairly certain I wasn’t alone.  I needed to know that I wasn’t doing it wrong if I didn’t do it like the public school.  I needed to know I was being faithful.  I needed to be reminded that what God called me to He would equip me for.

I don’t have all the answers.  I am a work in progress.  I have moments where I don’t have a clue what the next step is.  And sometimes it hurts.  My heart aches for all the missed opportunities, the lessons I couldn’t fit in, the times I chose school-at-home over living a lifestyle of learning.

Growing pains indeed.

help me out

But, the beauty of growing pains is the fact that you are growing.

Becoming a homeschooling mother has brought me to a place where I am always growing.  I am always learning.  My God-given talents are constantly in use and my shortcomings are constantly being stretched.

So, keep going, mama!  Keep learning!  Keep growing!  You are paving the way!

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50 thoughts on “The Growing Pains of First Generation Homeschool Moms

  1. Thanks so much for this post. I really needed it today as a first generation first year home school momma who was feeling a little hopeless today. Thank You!

    • I am going to be starting my homeschooling journy next year with my daughter who will be entering grade two… I am a bit apprehensive about it.

  2. Same here , everyone in my family thought I was nuts for homeschooling. I based my decision to homeschool my children not out of fear from the negative influence of public school. But I believed in my heart that God called me to train my children up in the Lord, and that meant evening having a handle in what they were being taught! I LOVE that each morning , I am free to pray with my children and study bible lesson together. This is just something public school just could not offer us. Everyday is not perfect, but each day we grow closer and closer together as a family and I love every moment!

    Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

  3. This spoke to me right where I am tonight! I have been struggling with homeschooling…..basically from the begining (2 years ago). My oldest (and only one of school age so far) is not a natural born learner. He is more your dreamy musician type. :) Traditional homeschooling is a full out battle with him and I’m so tired of the fights. I love the idea of unschooling, but it sounds so scary, and honestly, when we’ve tried it, its been a lot of work for me….and a lot of stress on myself to make sure I’m supplying enough. Today, we threw the curriculum aside and did our own thing based off of the curriculum. It was our first good day in MONTHS. All this to say, I know I need to weed through all these methods and ideas and really, I just need to get brave! This post helped me realize its ok to be brave and do our own thing. I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles. Makes me feel a bit more normal.

    • ha ha my daughter is exactly the same, dreamy novelist or artist or something! Sometimes I catch myself panicking because she is not bouncing out of bed in the morning demanding to do school like all the kids in the Sonlight catalog :)

      And then I remind myself that she’s five, and little-and-often with a loving mother is better than bullying her into a traditional approach, and that her attitude and personality would be no different if I were sending her to public school. Only there they wouldn’t love her or understand her quirks and faults and strengths, and they would have even less idea how to handle her plus 29 other kids to deal with as well.

      Yup, keep going.

  4. Great post!!! I will say that 20 years into my home education process I still battle the days of schooling at home vs. life is learning…… I will also say I think i learn more day to day than my children….. It is a journey and it is a process. I love hearing my adult children talk about schooling their children, I think they will have an easier time because that’s all they know…. I am one of the moms that has schooled since the early 90′s and I kinda had forgotten the hoops of homeschooling back then,….we were always advised not to have our children outside during school hours and homeschooling was less accepted and less wide spread…we are blessed to have the opportunity to home educate and even though there are days its a tough undertaking I will say that the blessing and relationships that my children share with each other and my husband and I encourage me to continue! :)

  5. I wish I could find a way to give to those first generation homeschoolers, as I am soon to be a second generation homeschooler, and there’s so many things I wish I could say to you all, especially the ones just starting out like you, with the passion and dedication, but so many doubts.

    Things are different now, I was one of those children who couldn’t go outside in school hours and had to lie about my school history when asked by certain people. I remember the stress as we attemped to re-lose ourselves in ‘the system after messing up and getting back on the records, and the year my family had to genuinly consider moving states just so the education department lost track of us, and the wonderful school principle of all people who lied for us, to prevent us having to take that route. (Australian homeschoolers have been messed around for years, tricked and trapped. It only became truly legal to homeschool in my state about 5 years ago, but very few of us trust it, many still homeschool ‘illegally’ by choice, and I doubt I’ll be registering when the time comes. There’s a history there, and among second generation homeschoolers, unless they were put exclusivly through a correspondance program, there’s still a lot of anger and fear as far as I see)

    But things are so different now, not easier, just different. I’m so grateful for my upbringing as a homeschooler, because frankly the different curriculums, subjects, methods, all seem so overwhelming without that prior knowlege. I can’t imagine trying to work out what to teach my first grader, coming from public school. The pressure to show your child is as smart as other kids, the worry that they will end up at 18 and not know what they’re ‘supposed’ to? I can only imagine it would eat me up inside, if I didn’t know dozens of homeschoolers who are now adults and functioning as well, if not better, than their peers.

    Ultimately, the books you use and the methods you teach don’t matter, sure some will work better than others, but what matters the most is that you care about your child, and you care about their education. I’ve seen the ‘homeschool failures’ and the drop outs, and ultimately the biggest factor is the dedication of the parents. If you’re worrying about this stuff, then you’ll do just fine. The fact you’re aware of it means you’ll find the best curriculum for your child, or the best method for your family, or make what you have work for them. Because you care, not because you have the ‘best’ curriculum possible, because I promise you you will have to at least alter that ‘best’ curriculum to make it the ‘best’ for the next child.

    • Thank you so much for giving your perspective! I wondered what you see from your side of the house and if you do feel more at ease with homeschooling since you lived it. I always appreciate your thoughtful comments. :)

      • My mother had many of the same stresses as you guys do, even up to the last years of homeschooling. But for me, I grew up with it. Even though I personally was in and out of public school as well, I grew up with homeschooling and for me, it’s simply normal, it’s part of life. I have absolurely no doubt it’s the best thing for us. I guess it feels like it comes much more naturally for me. That’s not to say I don’t have concerns sometimes, or that I won’t have more when I get to the nitty gritty of it all down the track, especially because I’ve seen the common pitfalls in homeschool graduates, the things most of us managed to miss, no matter what method or curriculum we used. Any big decision in life comes with some worry and stress. But I find lesson planning, and intergrating school into life, and all those things just feel very natural for me. I can’t say how I’ll cope with actually teaching, but since I used to teach my siblings, I shouldn’t think it’ll be too bad.

        I was talking to my husband and we think one of the biggest differences these days for first generation homeschoolers (we’ll there’s two actually, but the first) is that so many lack confidence in themselves. When we were growing up, any homeschooling family had to have a lot of confidence in what they were doing, if they didn’t they wouldn’t stand up to the legal issues. It was kind of a pre-requisite. They worried too but it wasn’t as bad as it seems to be now and the legal pressure just strengthened their resolve. There was kind of a ‘no turning back’ thing which helped. People who struggled back then usually never started in the first place because too much detered them. Have confidence ladies!

        The other thing is, there’s so much choice and range now, which gives so much scope for someone to worry they’re wrong. What I’m about to say was more prevelent for Australian homeschoolers, but I’m sure it was similar in the USA. When I was a kid you had three choices for math curriculum. Three. Saxon, Math-U-See, and a state curriculum that could be bought at the newsagents. It made the choice really easy, you could research all three completely and decide which one suited you best, then rest in confidence that you were doing the best you could for your kids. Now? Every homeschooling family seems to use something different, there’s always someone claiming to have a ‘better’ curriculum than what you’re using, always something new to look at. There’s families using different curriculums for each child, something almost incomprehensible to me (though we did alter curriculums regularly for each child) It’s completely overwhelming! In some ways it’s a great thing, I’ve found a math curriculum I LOVE and intend to use to teach myself some higher math, but it has a downfall as well. And, I mean, Science! Growing up, your mum gave science lessons from her head or a research book. Homeschooling mums made the lessons up as they went until higher grades where they sent kids to do reports with a research text. If you were rich or had the right connections you could import A-Beka, or some people used ACE pacers but most people didn’t use ACE unless they used ACE for everything. But now mothers feel very nervous and unsure of teaching without a curriculum, again they lack confidence to just teach from knowlege and a research book. There’s so many curriculums that claim to do it better, it’s almost like they’re undermining mums comfidence and ability. Don’t get me wrong, a mum dosen’t have to teach her own science to be a real homeschooling mum lol, It’s just that making ones own curriculum gave one confidence in their teaching ability It’s just a shift in how it all works, and I feel confidence has become one of the casualties

        Wow, I’m really not very good at short, consise posts am I?

  6. We’re in kind of a unique situation. I went to public school, but my husband was homeschooled. So we have his experience, but of course he’s not the person primarily responsible for educating the children, since he works. I have something to draw on — talking to him and my mother-in-law — but I still have all my own public school experiences in my head. Luckily I never really fit in public school and enjoyed paving my own way even there (to both the delight and horror of my teachers in different situations), so I am enjoying figuring out what will work for my kids. :)

    • Kate, I’m in the same situation as you. I have all the same support as you, but it is hard having been in public school and my hubby not. I think my biggest thing is trying to live up to what I *think* his schooling was like, when I have a pretty distorted view of it. We’re slowly figuring it all out!

  7. Thank you so much for this, Amy!!!! Just what I needed. We are in the middle of our first year as first generation homeschoolers who have moved our son from public school. I am unlearning regular schooling approaches and so is our son. It is quite a challenge.

    Thanks for the encouragement today, Amy! Just what I needed!

  8. As a second generation homeschooler I face many doubts, too. Though I have the complete backing of both sides of the family we are still a work in progress. One of the best things we have today is the choice of curriculum we can choose from. Thank you to the many first generation homeschoolers who have written curriculums for those who follow.

    • Thank you for adding your thoughts, Suanna! I’m sure it’s tough no matter how many generations you have behind you simply because you do have to pave your own way. What a blessing to have your family’s backing, though.

  9. We are entering the high school years with our oldest of 4 being a “9th grader”. I’m a public/private school grad who went to college for teaching cert, dh is a h.s. dropout who later attained his GED working towards MBA. As a first gen homeschool…it’s so daunting, yet exhilarating to be free of the broken system that is public school. We had a really tough first semester this year, no funds to purchase curriculum/supplies… rocky marital relationship et c. I was so fearful that I wouldn’t be able to teach my children properly and was sabotaging their education, so the older two enrolled in public full time… this exposed a math weak spot, but for the most part they’ve been bored.. except for the CPS investigation we endured over false allegations. This is their last week in public and they are coming home FOR GOOD…
    Lesson learned: “Lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
    (Marriage on firm ground, CPS was unfounded (of course), curriculum ordered-love tax return season, and the whole family is ready for the beginning of our academy 2012)

    P.S. kahnAcademy.org is a fantastic completely free resource especially for maths and science and some other subjects as well… very comprehensive… could’ve been using all along… oh never mind the could’ve.

  10. I didn’t start home schooling my daughter until she was in 8th grade and my son was already a senior so he graduated from public school. Big mistake! She is now 26 and he is 31. My biggest regret was that I didn’t start sooner. But like you said, she was a child born in 1985 and people in my area were just starting to home school, my husband wasn’t keen on the idea, and I wasn’t sure how to begin. The time I did get to spend with her is precious to me and I would trade it for anything. It is the time you are with them that is as important as the cirriculum you are teaching. You will be amazed what your little ones are learning, even when you think they aren’t picking up a thing. Hang in there. I am sure you are doing fine. Take it one day at a time. I can only imagine the pressure you are feeling to educate those precious ones. God will help you. Trust Him! :-)

  11. Thank you sooo much for posting this! Sometimes I get so hard on myself for struggling with homeschooling and the part that really stuck out to me was how you chose to focus on a lifestyle of learning. I get discouraged with myself when we don’t always sit down at the table and do “school work”. But I have to remember that my daughter is constantly learning, even if it’s not at the kitchen table. I am a first generation homeschooler and am homeschooling my first child right now who is now in first grade. :) I can definitely feel the growing pains. So, thank you for sharing your heart. God bless you mama….

  12. Oh, this is SO true! There are days when I want to pull my hair out, and then there are days when I can see the fruit of my labor! Thank you SO much for this blog! God Bless you my Sister-in -Christ!

  13. Wow, you always have a post that I ABSOLUTELY needed to hear for the day!!! Gosh, today has been one of those days where no one wants to sit down for school and I grumble about how I wonder how I’ll be able to “do it” when the “real subjects” start!

    How do you not get frustrated Amy? I fear sometimes that I am so task oriented that I need to get things done, even if my children have other plans or ideas!

    • Oh, I’m not perfect. I have doubts and wonder if I’m doing the right thing, but as I told a friend of mine, if I am always doing the “right” thing, there’s no room for God. ;)

  14. I was homeschooled, as was my husband. I love having that unique perspective as I go into homeschooling. I really love your lifestyle of learning philosophie. We plan on doing a similar thing here. Actually, we ARE doing a similar thing here. I try to teach Christopher through out the day. Mark was raised more with a school at home mentality and I was raised with an unschool philosophie. I want to be more structured then my mom was, he wants to be less. (His parents really were not that structured honestly, they gave him his work for the week and said “due friday”).

    My biggest goal right now is to make our home a learning enviroment. We try to have simple toys, beneficial (and living) books, and use teachable moments.

    I know this post was not “technically” for me, but I still enjoyed it.

    • Sounds like you are finding just the right mix of your upbringings for your own family. I’m sure my children will choose to do some things differently, but at least they won’t go into this blindly!

  15. I needed to read this! I was a public school graduate and then continued on to college to be a teacher. Boy when I decided to bring my at that time 7yr old 2nd grader home was it ever a learning experience. I had a 2yr old and a 4 month old and felt like we had to do school at home. The classroom setting the posters the books the strict schedule. Yikes! that first yr was a huge flop. Somehow my daughter managed to learn and continue to grow but we hated every moment of it. Our second year went a little better as I was a little less stuck on a schedule. However this has been our best year yet as I have let school work around life. We didn’t start really doing “book type work” till the weather turned cold…. some days playing with the little ones and making bread and doing laundry just are part of life and school happens here and there. My daughter is learning growing and loving being home. I realize now I had to let go of everything I thought school and teaching were suppose to be and learn to enjoy our time!

  16. Thank you! I am a first gen homeschooler and definitely need encouragement on a regular basis! One of my biggest reasons I didn’t homeschool the first year (and DS went to PS) was that I *wanted* to HS but just had no idea how – where to start, what I needed to know, where to find the “right” curriculum. Most importantly, I didn’t know if I could do it without ending up with children who wished they’d had “more”, and “better” opportunities through PS. I was missing the point. I still feel like I’m missing the point sometimes, but having taken that step in faith and seeing how God has provided has been what keeps me going.

    • I think it is very easy to “miss the point.” We only know what we know, so if public school is all we know, we will have a hard time pushing past that knowledge and outside the box. You can do it! :)

  17. Thank you for this post. I feel like I have been just trudging along lately and not really enjoying my days and my kids. I need to daily remember that I am raising children for the Lord. I am trying really hard to remember to stop and enjoy my kids, not just check off my to-do list. I am already thinking about changing our schedule for next year to give more time together during our school day.

  18. I was public-schooled through junior high and then private-schooled for high school. Neither provided an impressive education. I tend to spend more time educating my kids in all the things I didn’t get: art, music, Shakespeare, Latin, and history. (Oh I got history, but man was it boring! Names and dates and places- that’s all it was. I didn’t get the point of it at all. Now I LOVE history!)
    I love that I’m getting a second chance at a quality education by homeschooling my children.

  19. I told my friends just last night that I am going back and forth with continuing to homeschool my almost 5yr old son. I really felt he needed structure and instruction and social norms to help get a foundation under him…then i would be able to take it from there. I have a blog I also write so that I keep motivated and focused, and that helps! But, there are times that I need to just vocalize that this journey is hard and that I struggle with the reality that my son might be missing out on 4 hours of schooling like his friends. But, as my friends reminded me last night, there are ways of incorporating structure and social groups for my son while homeschooling. I am going to do the things my friends suggested and stay on this path until God (not my weaknesses and fears) direct me in another direction. God is faithful to direct me, and I rest in Him today. Thank you for this timely post.

  20. Thank You! I am very much struggling trying to homeschool my daughter, she is only in Kindergarten. The hardest part for me is finding a routine for us to stick to. I have two younger ones and I also do tons for my mom, who is disabled. I am so thankful to know that I am not the only struggling. Thank you again!

  21. Thank you for sharing this. It is so true. Growing pains… I so would like to just hit pause figure it out and then hit start. I am thankful that God uses even our mess up in our own lives and the lives of our children. He is so gracious and merciful.

  22. Oh how crazy my parents think I am pulling my kids out of school. This is year 2 for me and yesterday I was having a -why am I doing this again, banging my head against the wall kind of day- crying out to God to show me the way, for encouragement to keep going, to be faithful to our decision to keep the 5 kids home when my neighbors are enjoying the peace and quiet the sound of that school bus brings. Today I woke up refreshed and ready to face that math book AGAIN and kept going. Perfect day for a little support here girls! Thanks Amy! Even though I feel like quitting once in a while- I know I won’t. You know?

  23. Thank you so much for this post today. It gave me strength when I was started to feel weak. You are the angel that the Lord sent to remind me that I am not alone in this journey. As a first year, first generation homeschooling mom I was terrified today. Doubts were overtaking the blessing, but your post is my reminder that I can do this. Thank you for this blessing.

  24. Thank you for this great post! I am a first generation homeschool mom too! I am very thankful for posts like this that help me get through day with Joy and remind me to love every minute of this precious life I get to lead!

  25. I am a second generation homeschooler, but I still have the same struggles. I still feel lost some (most?) days and I still need reassurance that I’m not doing it all wrong. Your message is a blessing to me, too!

  26. I really enjoyed this post–so honest and so true. There are definitely some learning opportunities I missed.There are days when I still get in my way when it comes to homeschooling. But, so true, we are a work in progress.

  27. thank you Amy for this post. This is my first year homeschooling and I was SO nervous when the Lord called me to this. I am not that smart! However the Lord reminded me that when He bring us to something He equips us. Everyday I pray for wisdom and for Him to help in areas that I have no clue and He comes through EVERY time. I am glad that I trust HIM enough not to listen to family and the world because the blessing I receive HS my son is amazing. Hugs

  28. Same here , everyone in my family thought I was nuts for homeschooling. I based my decision to homeschool my children not out of fear from the negative influence of public school. But I believed in my heart that God called me to train my children up in the Lord, and that meant evening having a handle in what they were being taught! I LOVE that each morning , I am free to pray with my children and study bible lesson together. This is just something public school just could not offer us. Everyday is not perfect, but each day we grow closer and closer together as a family and I love every moment!

  29. I am amazed, thankful, and overwhelmed at the amount of websites/links where there are likeminded mothers, wanting to train our children according to the Lord’s will. Amy, I am grateful for the things that you share here; and so happy for all the “new” links to the other likeminded mothers who have wisdom to impart to me.
    Before I had children, God was changing my heart. Even though I went to a Christian School, I never wanted to send my kids to school. Somehow I knew it was the job of my husband and I. It could have had something to do with my exposure to day care life when I was a young adult. Those children which were not my own, were in my care for about 8 hours a day. I was raising them- toilet training them, teaching them their letters and how to be kind to each other, and hugging them when they hurt themselves. I knew I wouldn’t want to have someone else raise my children. So all along the way for the past 14 years, my husband and I have been growing as we are open to what God would have us do for our family. It’s very fulfilling. :D

    • And…… I am thankful to say that I’ve not had any flack from any family or friends for homeschooling. My in laws, in particular, are so happy that we homeschool. They are very grateful to have grandchildren with such an upbringing. :)

  30. Amen! I’m a first-generation homeschool mother and working out the mental kinks as well, but so thankful to God that my calling is still loud and clear and that my family is supportive. Thank you for all of your thoughts and advice! This is probably the best homeschool website I have ever come across. I’m learning so much and I’ve only been here for 10 minutes! Praise God! :)