Whether you are starting your homeschool journey with a kindergartner or a high schooler, you are in for an adventure. It's one that doesn’t come with an exact map. This journey will lead you through deep valleys, up steep mountains, and through serene places. Sometimes you find it has placed you smack dab in the middle of a raging river. It's a thrilling adventure with inspiring moments, yet it can also be a scary journey with unpredictable setbacks.
Because there is no how-to manual for your specific family, you will need encouragement from those who have journeyed the road before. I've found some parallels between hiking and homeschooling that have given me direction and motivation. Here are three lessons from hiking for the new homeschooler.
1. Don’t Quit on the Uphill
On my daily walk down our street, I face steep hills that challenge my physical strength. Some days I want to stop in the middle of the road and quit because my legs are screaming at me to stop and my lungs are aching, trying to get enough air.
If I stop, I will never have the benefit of seeing what is on the other side of the hill and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with pushing through the pain. When I reach that point of wanting to quit, I have to forge on.
In your homeschool journey, you can’t stop and give up. You have to move forward with a steady pace in order to succeed. Always keep the end in mind, and never look back with regret. You can push yourself much further than is comfortable, and you can achieve that which seems impossible. The uphill is coming, but you can overcome it.
2. Listen to Advice of Fellow Hikers
My husband and I went hiking in Yellowstone a few years ago. Before we went, we were excited about the possibility of encountering wild animals. Our naive excitement didn't consider the dangers on the trail.
When we arrived, there were people and signs all along the path, warning us to be on alert and to carry bear spray. We debated whether we really needed the spray. But heeding the recommendations of those who had gone before us, we did buy the valuable bear spray and were glad we had it when we actually encountered our first grizzly.
One of the best ways to prepare for your homeschool adventure is to listen to sound advice from those who know the trail well—those who have walked it before you and those who are walking it now. Listen to their advice, take it to heart, and then make your own decisions. I am not suggesting that you try to be someone else. You have to be you and do what is best for your family, but you can benefit from sound advice of others.
3. Pace Yourself with Breaks
Our family went hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park when our youngest child was about nine months old. We scoped out the best trail for our skill level, so we thought. As we began our outing, we realized we were not well prepared.
The trail proved to be more of a steep uphill climb most of the way before it leveled out into a beautiful clearing with monster-size elk, grazing peacefully. I had our nine month old son strapped to me in a baby carrier as we hiked. I was keeping pace until the high elevation air got the best of me. I literally thought I was going to die right there on the top of the Rocky Mountains. I could not breathe; my lungs would not take in enough air.
Mentally, I told myself I had to breathe before I went into an all-out panic attack. I stopped and took a break. I knew I eventually had to keep going. But in that moment, I had to stop and breathe so I could make the rest of the journey.
Sometimes you have to stop and take a break in your homeschool journey as well. If you don’t take breaks when needed, you might experience panic attacks, exploding fury, or diminished joy.
These breaks are good for you and for your children. Make them a priority. Pausing to catch your breath is not quitting. Breaks are, in fact, wise ways to pace yourself.
As a new homeschooler, you are on an exciting adventure. It will take you places that you never dreamed. Look for the daily lessons that will shape and mold you into who God wants you to be. Keep forging the trail!
Your Sonlight Instructor's Guide is probably the closest thing you'll find to a homeschool map. See how it can save you time and worry.