Deborah Morris Burton
Do you have a “Homeschool Wins” file on your computer? Every homeschooler NEEDS this!
A “Homeschool Wins” file or document is where you save photos, notes to yourself, screenshots of social media posts and anything else you have of what I call a “homeschool win.”
What is a homeschool win?
A homeschool win is a photo or memory of one of those days or events where you feel on top of the homeschool world. Maybe your child just read a book on his/her own for the first time. Maybe your child lovingly took care of a sibling or grandparent. Maybe your child who usually gives up persevered all day and finished a tough math problem. Maybe your child just appropriately and uniquely applied a Bible verse or biblical principle.
Snap a picture, write a brief note (into a file called Homeschool Wins, if you’d like), screenshot something your child sent you or you shared on social media. Save it in this file (you can have it subdivided by academic years, if you’d like). These mementos can be very helpful if your state requires you to undergo some sort of evaluation, whether that’s an evaluator who looks over a portfolio, sending material into the school district, or any other method.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
*Take a photo of that math lesson your child struggled with but finally completed—maybe with your child smiling broadly while holding it triumphantly next to him.
*Write down that time your child used knowledge in one subject in a totally different area
*Take a picture of that daily list with all those checkmarks checked off!
*Snap a photo of your child’s room after he/she cleaned it without you asking!
*Maybe include the full paper your child wrote analyzing a great work of literature.
*Type up some quick notes about the brainstorm your child had or the great discussion you had with your child that otherwise would not be captured anywhere (perhaps bringing together different concepts from multiple disciplines in a compelling and unique way).
These are all great things to remember for that end-of-year evaluation or to share with doubting relatives. It can help you identify strengths in your child that you can share with that child, shaping his/her future academic goals.
But that’s NOT the real reason for this file.
I know what it’s like. Believe me, I’ve been there. I homeschooled both of our sons throughout their lives. We barely knew anyone who homeschooled when we started out oh so many years ago. We believed that God was leading us to this decision to homeschool. We believed it was His perfect will for us. I believe it was my calling for that season of life.
But. It was still kind of an experiment.
As we went through those preschool days, when everyone else we knew was sending their child to preschool. As we went through the elementary school years, when friends whose children went to public school advised me to teach my children the new math or they wouldn’t be able to compete with public school children on the SATs. When someone else’s child read earlier, or was more social, or loved sitting and filling out worksheets. When it looked like my child wasn’t listening (but then recalled so many details later). When there were behavior issues. When we moved into the middle school years and high school loomed ahead. And oh my, the high school years, with thoughts about how homeschooling would affect our children in college admissions, taking the SATs and being able to do college-level work.
It was an experiment that we did for over 13 years with each child. Day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, we kept going, never knowing for sure what the outcome would be.
So I understand the quiet little doubts in your mind and in your heart. I know the struggles with academic issues, behavioral issues, spiritual issues, social issues. Am I ruining my child? Am I doing something they will regret later on? What is the right curriculum, the right schedule, the right disciplinary tactic? Am I crazy to think this is going to work?
I know what it’s like to feel like a failure as a mom. The days you’re so overwhelmed and exhausted that it takes everything in you to play with your own child. The days you yell at your child or react angrily. The days you have to go back to your child and apologize. The days you see the same character flaws in your beloved child that you see in yourself, or your spouse.
Then there’s the comparison trap. When we started homeschooling, it seemed like homeschooling magazines always had cover photos and articles about the family of seven children that all played string instruments flawlessly, while being paragons of virtue and love for their siblings and excelling at Latin, calculus and every academic competition there was. The children who started college at twelve and their own thriving business by sixteen. It is wonderful that there are so many amazing and excelling homeschoolers—but it can be tough on the average homeschool mom.
I can tell you that if God called you to homeschool, He will enable you to do it. And He will. That is absolutely true.
You are not going to ruin your child. No matter what the issue. God gave you and your spouse this child. Maybe another mom or dad would have been more patient. A more inventive or engaging teacher. Done more crafts with your child or taught your child Latin or calculus by age eight. Maybe there’s another mom or dad that is smarter, or more educated, or more gentle, or tougher, or more fun, or more adventurous, or more happy-go-lucky…or whatever qualities you do not possess.
But God put you, your spouse and your children together. No one loves your child more or will work harder for that child than you and your spouse. God knows what He’s doing, and He knows exactly what each of you need. Yes, you and your spouse will also be shaped and developed through homeschooling, not just your child. And He wants you to endure to the end. You will receive His blessing. It might not be a child at the top of whatever field they choose in adulthood. It might not be the child with a full scholarship to college. It might not be any particular financial, academic, career, spiritual or social blessing (although it might be).
There is one blessing I know with 100% certainty that you will receive when you stay the course. That blessing is when your children are out of your home and you are so thankful that you were able to spend those hours and days and years side-by-side with them, whatever difficulties there were. You were there for the smiles, and the tears, and the celebrations, and the sass, and the cuddles on the couch, and the daily grind, and the ability to make a skinned knee all better just by kissing it.
The Homeschool Wins file is something you can go to on those days of frustration, fear, discouragement. Those days when you desperately want to quit. Those days when you feel like a failure. Those days when you just know that anyone would be doing this job better than you.
The photos and notes in the file will be tangible evidence that you can do this. You have had success (however that is defined by you) before—and you’ll have it again.
Read that anecdote you wrote down years ago that shows your child applying the Scripture to his/her life. The other anecdote that reminds you that one time your child memorized the genealogy of Jesus from Ruth to Jesus for fun. Remember that day when you did the messy science experiment that your child loved and you didn't even stress out about cleaning up. Read about the days spent discussing the literature you were reading as a family, or the day your six-year-old said, "Mommy, did you know that 2 9's are 18, and 3 9's are 27..." all the way up to 10 9's, or the day your high schooler spent an entire day reading about black holes and other astronomy concepts and excitedly shared it all with your husband when he came home from work.
A homeschool “win” will be defined by each person. Your “win” might not be the same as your homeschooling friend’s “win.” And that’s okay. Capture those moments and events that speak to your heart and make you so happy you chose home education.
I hope this encourages you to keep moving forward with your homeschool. There are so many academic, social and emotional benefits to homeschooling. I won’t go into them all here because I know they are covered so well in many other articles (for example, see https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/benefits-of-homeschooling-2/.) This post is to provide you with a handy mechanism to help you persevere.
The “Homeschool Wins” file is a practical, down-to-earth tool you can use right away if you need it. It is something tangible that can help you and encourage you to persevere. One day, it will be a source of immense joy as you look over those little daily occurrences that are too, too easy to forget.