Nine years ago, when I first started homeschooling, I felt a little bit like a duck. A duck without any water on its back.
A dry, ducky freak.
Not because I had chosen to take my children out of a four-walled box so that I could spend more time with them and teach them at home, but because try as I might I did not fit in with my new homeschooling community.
I wasn’t a regular homeschooling mum.
Why I Didn’t Fit In
I wasn’t religious— although admittedly, I do like to say ‘oh my God, you are j-o-k-i-n-g!’ a lot when I’m trying to sound cool in front of my kids…and I swore.
Usually under my breath and mostly in the form of ‘shut the f*ck up you little sh*ts’ from behind the locked bathroom door.
I mean they never heard me but I don’t suppose that’s the point.
And I loved wine.
Not just a sip on a Sunday to give thanks to Jesus for his blood. No. I’m talking a couple of hefty glasses a night with my dinner.
And even more, if it was his and my birthday.
So all in all, I wasn’t your average homeschooling parent role model.
Life as a Homeschooling Parent (When You Don’t Even Know How To Spell Astronaut).
When you step into the waters of something new and don’t know what the hell you are doing you talk, read and attend everything and anything related to your subject matter.
And homeschooling was no different.
The trouble was, try as I might, I couldn’t find any other homeschooling parents that wanted to come to swim in my duck pond and drink wine and stuff.
Instead, these very intelligent parents talked about how their ten-year-old kid was almost ready to graduate and about how they were switching maths programmes because the algebra wasn’t challenging enough.
And this freaked me out.
My insecure ducky feelings were rampant in those early homeschooling years.
I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and I spent most of my days measuring myself against other ‘successful’ homeschooling parents.
All in all, feeling like a crappy failure.
So, in order to find someone like me, I attended every activity under the sun.
Even the painfully shite ones.
So that I could swim in the duck pond with another quack.
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Homeschooling get-togethers. With other mums and stuff.
If you are new to homeschooling and the leader of the duck pond suggests a get together with all the other parents, tell them that your cat has just died and you have to go to Afganistan to bury it.
I found those early homeschool socials where every housebound parent got together to release their frustrations, truly hideous.
Probably because of my insecurities and feelings of I’m-not-really-good-enough.
Looking back I probably should’ve stayed at home and poked myself in the eye with a sharp stick.
The events were always held in the same homeschooly venues. An odd-smelling room with orange polyester curtains flaying at the windows and a switched off tea urn that the group was banned from using.
Lots of parents.
Asking me why my kid was wearing plastic vampire teeth.
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Those Early Homeschool Memories
I wish I could tell you that I look back at those homeschool get-togethers with fondness, but I can’t.
The thought of those early meetups still sends shivers down my spine.
Yes, they were valuable times—I made a handful of lifelong friends because of those village hall meet-ups— but to get to where I needed to be was painful.
I suppose now it would be different.
There are fabulous homeschool Facebook groups and TicToc parties where all ducks are equal and use emojis and stuff, but back then?
To this day when I walk into any village hall, I start quivering and reciting the nine times tables in my head – all the while scanning the room for a rusty tea urn.
But. Be it out of guilt, ignorance or both, every week I was there; measuring myself up against the other homeschooling veterans.
Trying to be accepted into the big girls club and pretending that I gave a shit about Khan academy’s refund policy.
And all the time wishing I was at home drinking a G&T in the garden with my cat that was still alive.
So why did I continue with this self-induced torture?
I thought that if I didn’t attend every homeschool get together under the sun that my kids would somehow fail.
That if I didn’t take my kids to these social events then they wouldn’t make friends or be happy.
Because apparently, if you don’t send your kids to school, then congregating in a 1970’s jumble sale hall on a Tuesday afternoon is the only way they will ever get to make friends and meet people.
I also didn’t trust myself.
I believed that because I was new to homeschooling and I wasn’t an ex-teacher or something else equally as worthy, I was somehow not good enough.
And then one day, at the beginning of a new term, I asked my kids if they were enjoying these get-togethers.
They said no.
They said that they’d rather go and swim in the river and play Minecraft than go to another homeschool meetup and draw pictures of carrots.
They said they couldn’t stand the smell of the baby duck pond any longer.
So I decided there and then to stop.
As I said, I had made friends with a couple of parents that were on the same page as me and I saw no need to put myself through the comparison torture any longer.
Instead, I started to trust myself.
I began a new homeschooling journey, and on this voyage, I gave myself some credit and started to listen to my own common sense.
And that was all it took.
What Did Did I Learn About Homeschooling?
Sadly, it took me a few years of trying to copy everyone else before I learned something invaluable about homeschooling.
What it really takes. Not just to be a successful homeschooler, but more importantly, a happy one.
Homeschooling your kids doesn’t mean that you suddenly have to take an avid interest in phonics and number patterns or start wearing your husband’s socks and crocs to the supermarket (although what’s wrong with that I say?).
Homeschooling doesn’t mean you have to stand by a tea urn and listen to other parents soapboxing their opinions on religion and health and university entrance exams; droning on and on about how eating carrot sticks is far better for you than biltong.
What Is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is so much more than having your kids learn at home and answering questions about pyjamas and socialisation.
Homeschooling is about reading to your kids, talking to your kids. Cooking meals in the name of mathematics with your kids.
Homeschooling is having the freedom to travel as a family, to watch films on rainy days (or on sunny days with the curtains closed).
Being a homeschooling parent is about going grocery shopping with your kids.
No hang on. Scrub that. That’s ridiculous.
Being a homeschooling parent is about going grocery shopping and leaving the kids in the car with the windows down.
Homeschooling is about tickling your kids and keeping them as children for as long as possible.
Homeschooling means arguing with your kids and saying sorry afterwards.
Homeschooling is about crying to your kids and telling them stuff that you probably shouldn’t. (But which you’ll never regret because kids appreciate honest vulnerability).
Homeschooling is about juggling work and teaching. It’s about listening to your kids. About saying no.
And maybe – or you’ll think about it tomorrow.
Homeschooling means being yourself.
It means drinking wine and wobbling your tummy in the bathroom mirror. It means wondering if you can go another week before you book an appointment at the hairdressers and it means that you’ll become a whizz on google.
Homeschooling is being yourself. Knowing who you are.
Knowing that’s it and that’s enough.
To be a successful homeschooler, all you have to do is be yourself.
It’s not about number crunching or essay writing. It doesn’t begin or end with finding the square root of a carrot or dissecting a milk carton with a compass.
You don’t need a fancy pants curriculum to cut it with homeschooling.
It’s just you and your kids. Making the best of what you’ve got.
And if that means making it the hell up as you go along then so be it.
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I’m Not Saying I’m Perfect.
I am not saying how I have homeschooled my kids for the past nine years was the right way to do it, or that I am now a perfect mummy duck who swims circles around her quacklings.
I’m telling you what worked for me and what didn’t.
And to reassure all of you parents who are new to homeschooling and are asking what the hell THIS is all about? that you will be ok.
Just keep your lovely chin up and remember this.
Homeschooling parents can drink wine.
Homeschooling parents can wear dresses that don’t come from Frumpsvil.
And homeschooling parents can let their kids play Minecraft (the bad version) and not feel guilty about it. (Just tell yourself that it is creative and then close the bedroom door).
Be yourself, give it all you have and you will be perfect.
Now. Go and pour us both a glass of wine and let’s talk about the state of your pond.
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