A friend who is considering homeschooling recently asked me, “You’ve been homeschooling now for a decade. What’s the best advice you ever received in that whole time?”
Thinking back on ten years of homeschooling advice covers a lot of things. There have been conversations about what homeschooling method is best, how to choose the right curriculum, and whether or not a homeschool co-op is necessary. There have been numerous suggestions on age appropriate screen time, fun ways to review what you’ve studied, and how to help your kids learn independence.
But I would have to say the best advice I ever received about homeschooling had to do with ice cream.
Ice cream? To help with homeschooling?
Way back when my husband and I were first researching the option to homeschool our kids, we attended a local meeting held by a panel of veteran homeschooling parents. The prospective homeschooling families in attendance asked all the usual questions :
How will I know my kids are learning?
What subjects do I have to teach them, and what schedule do I follow?
After the many questions were answered, one veteran mom gave her most important advice to the group.
“There are going to be times you will feel like you’re not doing anything right and nothing is working. Those are the times you’re going to have to scrap everything and go for ice cream. And you need to know that’s totally okay.”
Now, when she first said it, I didn’t think much of it. In fact, I was so gung ho to start the homeschooling thing, I just jumped in with both feet, not really expecting to every have a disaster day. So, I might have all but forgotten what she said about ice cream.
Until I needed it.
Friends, we all struggle at some point in our homeschooling journey. There are times we question how we ever thought we could be successful homeschoolers, and there are times we want to throw in the towel. Sometimes we have a rough day, and other times it’s a rough year. Sometimes we need help. We need a break.
We need ice cream.
I remember the first time we actually scrapped what we were doing and went out for ice cream. It seemed counter-intuitive. I couldn’t get my head around it.
How does setting something aside help us to stay on the path?
How does putting something away help my kids to learn perseverance and follow through?
When we’re having a rough time and at each other’s throats, doesn’t going out for ice cream reward our less than awesome attitudes?
But here’s the thing—going out for ice cream provides a change of scenery. Going out for ice cream hits everyone’s reset button. Going out for ice cream gives you perspective and reminds you that nothing about homeschooling is so serious or important that relationships or sanity should be put on the line for it.
Ice cream isn’t just for younger homeschoolers...
Here’s a little secret: you won’t go out for ice cream only when your kids are 5 or 8 or 10. There are times when your kids are 13 or 15 or 17 that you will still need to scrap what you’re doing and go out for ice cream. The chaos in and challenges of homeschooling don’t go away simply because your kids get older; the chaos and challenges are just different.
Laughing together over a bowl of rocky road or mint chocolate chip is a great way to remember that even though your son doesn’t understand algebra at all—and you’re thinking you might stab your eye out while you’re trying to teach it to him—you still both really like each other, and you’re glad you have the option to be learn this stuff at home.
Ice cream is also a nice reminder that life continues on, with or without a complete grasp of algebra, American history, or the diagramming of sentences.
I encourage you to stick this little piece of ice cream advice in your back pocket to pull out for a day you need it. Because there will come a time in your homeschooling journey that you’ll need to scrap everything and go for ice cream.
And take it from me—ten years in, I can vouch that it’s totally okay.
About the Author
Amy Dingmann lives in Minnesota with her husband where they have been homeschooling their two sons since 2007. Her hobbies include filling up her sons’ bottomless pits, drinking a lot of strong coffee, and smiling. Her least favorite subject is math. Her favorite subjects are everything else. She likes talking to other homeschooling parents and assuring them that even though they worry they’re totally screwing things up, they actually totally and completely rock. Amy blogs at The Hmmmschooling Mom, and works as an author/speaker on homeschooling and parenting/family topics.