What I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Homeschooling

18 Years Later:  What I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Homeschooling


I’ve realized a couple of things after homeschooling for the past 18 years.

1.  No one has a perfect homeschool.

2.  The conflicts and difficulties that we all experience traveling down this road are catalysts for positive changes in the way we homeschool.

The Homeschool Novice

Like most homeschooling parents, I came out of the public school system.  So naturally when I began homeschooling, despite my rebel tendencies, I chose to bring the public school home.  Text books, work books and a lot of should-dos were the course of our days.  That lasted about 6 months before I experienced my first case {of many more to come} of homeschool burnout.  Not only was I bored and frustrated with our homeschool, so was my son.

What I wish I’d known was that everyone struggles to find the right curriculum and methods for their family.  In fact, the only way to learn what works for your family is by trial and error.  Certainly some people find a good fit sooner than others, but with changing ages and family dynamics, this is in constant flux.  What works one year may not work the next.  This process need not be a depressing, burnout-causing dilemma.  It is actually exciting to learn about different methods of teaching and implement them with your kids.  Relax and enjoy the process.  Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to look for ways to alter your curriculum or schedule to better meet the needs of your family.

The Homeschool Rookie

A few homeschool conferences, homeschool support groups and homeschool catalogues later, I began to branch out and look at other homeschool methods.  One of my favorite resources for this information was written by Richele and Under the Golden Apple Tree.

Heavy literature-based programs appealed to me but with a houseful of dyslexic kids who were late to read {and time consuming to teach} and a steady stream of babies every few years, that method caused more anxiety than enrichment.  I stumbled upon the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling and found that it naturally fit the learning styles of both my kids and me.

Good literature, good conversation, plenty of outside time, art and music study.  Yes, this was the place for us!

The Homeschool Realist

After a decade or so of homeschooling, I had really hit my groove.  I learned better how to tweak my curricula and schedules for a more balanced homeschool.  We had more peaceful days than crazy days and when things did get crazy, I was able to recognize it before things spun completely out of control.

Yet, having said all of that, there are still days that I question myself, my sanity and the wisdom of having 8 children!

And so, that is why I write.  I write this blog to let you beautiful women who love your families know that the most important thing that you do each day does not come from a curriculum.  It is not teaching your kids perfectly, or keeping a perfect home or feeding your family the best foods, or throwing the best birthday parties or providing multitudes of mountaintop experiences.

The Most Important Thing

The thing that matters most in your homeschool is that you are there.  With fresh mercies every morning, greet your children with a smile.  Look into their eyes and tell them that you love them.  Observe their hearts and gently guide and direct them.  Witness their passions and nurture and encourage them, however small, any way you can.

Believe in your kids.  Believe in this process of homeschooling.

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8


Looking for more wisdom from those who have gone before you.  Check out the entire iHomeschool Network series by clicking the image below.


Marianne Sunderland

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  1. Hello Marianne,
    I have a question for you. I am a homeschooling mother of 5 (ages 1-9), and my oldest two (boys) have learning difficulties. My oldest was diagnoced with severe dyslexia and we did an intensive Orton-Gillingham “home-made” program at home (we live in France, and I didn’t find such a program in French so I made up my own version from different American sources). After 8 months of this, he really caught on to reading, at age 7. He loves to read, although I find he still has reading comprehension issues. As a whole, he is a left-brained child and so the step-by-step sequential repetitive approach worked with him well.
    My second son (8), on the other hand, is a very right-brained child. Very creative, without much attention span for anything that he isn’t interested in. The approach I used with his brother does not work with him. I have tried so many different things with him, a lot of them being whole words based (he doesn’t have auditory discrimination difficulties and has never had any problem decoding simple syllables, it’s reading complete words that is too much for him.)
    I have read Cindy Gaddis’ book “The Right Side of Normal” and she seems to promote waiting till the child is ready to learn to read. According to her, things will go smoothly if we just wait, even if the child only learns to read when he is 12 or 14.
    What do you think abouit this delayed learning approach ? Have you tried that with any of your chilkdren ? How old where they when they started reading ?+I’d be very thankful to know what you have to say about “just wainting”.
    Thanks !

    • Marianne Sunderland says:

      Bonjour Rebecca! The idea of waiting for a child to develop can indeed be a good one. However, it is important to note if there could be a learning disability at the root of the delay. There are some very clear early warning signs of dyslexia. If you think that he could be dyslexic, it is better to intervene early. He will not outgrow dyslexia. Try a multisensory approach. Let him jump, paint, sing – whatever it takes to get the information to stick. We did wait with our two oldest kids (because we didn’t really understand dyslexia). One is doing fine, the other has some pretty serious lags especially in spelling. If I had it to do again, I would have intervened early but I would not over stress about their progress – as long as there is some. Short, intense and frequent lessons rather that long, have-to-finish-the-lesson kinds of lessons.

      • Thanks Marianne for taking the time to reply. I read through your list of early warning signs of dyslexia, and I really don’t feel like my second born is dyslexic in the same way my oldest is. It’s a video from Susan Barton that alerted me to the fact my oldest is dyslexic. I saw that video and thought “wow, she is describing my son !” However, my second son is so vastly different that I never thought he would have any problems learning to read. He heard sounds in a word without any difficulty (which my oldest didn’t), and when he was 5, he would actually read words faster than my oldest, just walking by, not doing any sort of focused work. And yet here we are, over three years later, and he still isn’t reading… it is very perplexing to me. And that’s why I wonder if I should have just waited instead of pusching him so much which only led to frustration for both of us.

  2. Blessings to you and your family!

  3. I love this article. It’s so true and I too wish I would’ve realized so many of these things in the beginning. I’m glad to see that we weren’t the only family struggling at the start. We did the same, bringing the public school method home and burned out fairly quickly. Thanks for the encouraging words!!

    • Marianne Sunderland says:

      I think it is pretty normal to bring the public school home. But when you really embrace the freedom of homeschooling…that’s when it gets fun!!

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