Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Each year, our local homeschool group holds an annual used book and curriculum sale. I look forward to this day all year long, and I am never disappointed. A large group of ladies bring all sorts of amazing things to look through and purchase. The room is full of tables piled high with books of all kinds: textbooks, reading books, gardening and herb books, books for the young, books for teenagers, educational games, and anything else homeschool-related—a homeschooler’s heaven!

This year proved to be no different. I found lots of math manipulatives, which I felt would work very well with the new math program, Math on the Level, which we are using this year. I bought two books, Before Five in a Row and Pond, for my 4-year-old, Abigail, who is now doing preschool. My 10-year-old, Hannah, spotted a paper recycling kit. We have talked about recycling our own paper for years now, so this will be a good science experiment. Colby, who is 9, true to character, found a video game that he felt he had to have and was even willing to pay for it with his own money. Of course, it helped that the video game cost only a dollar! (Later I realized why the seller had marked it for that price: it makes lots of noise! Maybe she just wanted it out of her own house!) I bought a sign language book so that I can stop continually borrowing the same book from the library. And I also came home with a devotional book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, which I wanted to read.

While I was at the book sale visiting with friends, I noticed a new homeschooling mom walk in. Jackie will be starting her first year of homeschooling this year with her teenage kids. I had met Jackie at our co-op group’s open house. As I talked with her, I realized that she was absolutely overwhelmed with the sight of all the different items for sale on the tables.

Let me just say that if you are just starting out in homeschooling and have relied only on what the public school offers your children (or even what you remember from your own childhood), you have no idea how much material is out there! You could drown in all the different curricula being sold! In fact, if you need help with choosing a curriculum, there is a book nearly two inches thick with really small print that lists all the different options available to a person. Very overwhelming!

Jackie walked in, and immediately she got a small taste of just how overwhelming choosing curriculum really is. Yet, this was a no-brainer for me: I knew exactly which items I wanted, and more importantly I knew what I didn’t want. But as I noticed the stress on her face, I was taken back about five or six years to the time when I first began homeschooling. I completely understood what she was feeling. 

When I began homeschooling, my only experience with curricula, like most people, was what I knew from school, and I knew I hated that. I had loathed sitting in a desk for twelve years learning from books that I found to be completely boring and receiving instruction from teachers who didn’t necessarily care if I liked it or got anything out of it. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do, but I just couldn’t see any other options. 

It’s amazing to me how God doesn’t always speak the answer that we need, but He does send us to the place where we can find answers. He sent me to my friend, Kayla, a mom who had been homeschooling much longer than I had. I didn’t know her well, but I knew I liked her laid-back attitude and approach to school. 

On a day when I had stood all I thought I could stand and I was ready to quit and go enroll my kids in school, God put it in my heart to call her. I told her how overwhelmed I was because I just didn’t know what I was doing. I couldn’t find textbooks that I liked, and textbooks were all that I knew. I felt like I was about to crack! After patiently listening to my plight, she told me, in her laid-back way, how she teaches in her homeschool.

Kayla’s approach is to do unit studies, lapbooks, notebooks, and lots of fun, “life stuff” with her kids. She explained the different methods she used, and she pointed me to a website from which she had gleaned a wealth of information and help: HomeschoolOasis.com.

Homeschool Oasis talks of delight-directed learning, a way of homeschooling by which you teach according to your child’s interests, or delights. Instead of following a learning schedule made up by someone else, you use your children’s likes and interests to determine what you teach and when. If your daughter loves American Girls dolls and cannot stop talking about them, you could take some time to learn about life in the time period of one her favorite American Girls. Or maybe your son, after spending time with his grandpa, a Vietnam veteran, becomes curious about the war, the weapons used, the uniforms, the country of Vietnam, and anything else you can tell him. You could take a week or two to encourage those interests and teach him accordingly. 

As I read what this website had to offer, I knew how I wanted to run my homeschool. Finally, I felt as though I was heading in the right direction. However, things were still very hard and overwhelming at first. I still had no idea where to start. Kayla stood alongside me helping me. She guided me, was never pushy, and any time I had a question or problem, she was right there to get me back on track. God knew exactly what and whom I needed, and He caused our paths to cross at exactly the right time. Without Kayla’s help, I doubt I would be homeschooling today.

Our school runs pretty smoothly now, even without a schedule. Our days are filled with delight-directed learning. But every now and then, there’s a glitch in my school. Sometimes I just cannot figure out or understand something. So I pick up the phone and call Kayla. She is still always right there, ready to talk and give me some perspective and guidance. She is my mentor. And for that, I am so very thankful.

Many of us have been down this road longer than others. When we see someone struggling, may we never forget what it felt like “way back when” as we began the very overwhelming task of educating our children. May we always be willing to offer a hand to someone who doesn’t yet have it all together. Find someone to offer help to, and be there for them. Become a mentor.

If you are new to homeschooling, know that you are not alone. Anyone who has ever stepped into unfamiliar waters feels overwhelmed at some point. Look to other “seasoned” homeschool moms, because they have a wealth of knowledge to offer. Lean on others. 

And then, go and do the same for someone else.

Nicole Neeley and her husband, Brient, have four children: Hannah, Colby, Abigail, and Elizabeth. They live in the Deep South, where Nicole homeschools the three oldest children. She enjoys vegetable and herb gardening, making homemade bread, and drinking hot tea while blogging. You can follow Nicole’s blog at www.ahighercallingchristianacademy.blogspot.com.

Publication date: October 5, 2012