A really difficult thing about homeschooling is that a huge swath of my professional network disappeared once I announced I was homeschooling. I thought it was because they assumed I would be useless to them.
But actually I realize, in hindsight, that I chose not to maintain a huge professional network. I made a conscious decision to pay more attention to people who could help me in the next stage of my life.
There’s a saying, you can’t get to where you are going by doing what you did to get where you are. It applies to homeschooling too. In my career I was very independent, and I relied on very few people to help me. Probably because everywhere I turned, people told me I was making terrible decisions. I realized, though, that I was not going to be able to homeschool without help.
When I was out on the bleeding edge in careers it was exciting – like when I told people I worked on the Internet and they thought it meant I was unemployed. That was fun. But when I told people I homeschool and they thought that meant locking my kids in a closet, that wasn’t fun.
So I started building a support system. And these are the parts of my support system that have felt essential to me:
A homeschooling mom. My son’s violin teacher was the first person I really knew well who was homeschooling. She was my first frame of reference for what days look like. (Chaos.) I liked her kids. So it made me believe that my kids could become personable, kind, accomplished kids outside of school.
A homeschool advocate. Lisa Nielsen is the person I trust to always tell me that it’s better to homeschool than put the kids in a classroom, no matter how lost I am in homeschooling plans.
A friend who was homeschooled. Melissa is my sounding board. She has the ultimate perspective of hindsight and is more confident than I am about what works. She tells me what it was like to find her own learning materials. She tells me when I’m paying too much money for tutors or not paying enough attention to vacations.
A partner. It’s really hard to homeschool, so having an adult partner helps a lot. I am pretty sure I am failing in this arena. But I’m also pretty sure that it helps a lot to know you’re not alone. A partner doesn’t need to help with the homeschooling per se – the partner can just help you feel like you are on a team and someone has your back.
A role model for the next stage. I met Lauren Teller when she submitted a piece of writing in one of my webinars, and the writing was incredible, so I sent her a note about it.
She was so excited that I liked her writing that she came to my apartment and paid me to sit with her for a whole day while she wrote. I was nervous because what if I didn’t like her? I told myself it’s a job, and I don’t have to like her.
But it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Not just because it was so fun to hang out with her and edit her writing, but also because I learned so much from her while I was doing it. Like, she knew she would learn to be more disciplined writing if she was paying me to watch her do it.
Fast Company calls this sort of relationship a procrastination nanny. When I read that I thought to myself: “I hate Silicon Valley and everyone there is a child.” But when I saw how much Lauren produced the day I spent with her, I thought: “She’s so smart. I want to pay people to keep me from procrastinating.”
In between writing stories, we ate meals with my kids. I practiced cello with my son while she made changes to edited versions. We talked about what makes people write poorly (bad self-knowledge) and what makes people write well (bravery).
I didn’t know she was my friend until one evening when I was crying about my marriage-that-is -not-really-a-marriage, she is the person I called. And her perspective was so much more broad than mine, because I am right here, in my stage of life, not seeing very far past it. Lauren is a part of my homeschool support system I didn’t know I needed: The past-raising-kids, not-homeschooling, fresh perspective of someone who is where I want to be headed.