homeschool mom pushing stroller down a country dirt road

Inside: Homeschool styles can take a while to sift through and figure out. Keep trying until you find the best one for you and for your family!

When you first start homeschooling, no one tells you that it might take a while to find your homeschool style.

(Homeschool styles? What the heck does that even mean?!)

You jump in eagerly with both feet – or with lots of fear and trembling, depending on your personality – never doubting that you’ll use every single resource you carefully selected…and forked over hundreds of hard-earned dollars for.

Can’t stop thinking about those dollars.

And then it happens. The novelty wears off. Two months later, it’s not working.

It’s not working, and you and your kids just might hate homeschooling.

Panic sets in. How can it not work?! You spent hours researching curriculum. And the money….oh, man.

So. Much. Money. You start to hyperventilate.

Then I grab your hands, tell you to take deep breaths, and offer to tell you my story. I just might be able to talk you off the homeschool cliff.

Related: How to Start Homeschooling – A Minimalist’s Guide for Beginners

homeschool mom walking with stroller in winter with barren landscape in background, with text overlay, "when finding your homeschool style takes way too long"

Our Early Days of Homeschooling Felt Like Stumbling Around in the Dark


Let me break down our first years of homeschooling for you. The short version? They were messy with A LOT of trial and error.

Year One: University Model School (Hybrid Homeschool/School)

$2,400. That’s how much it cost to send our oldest child to a university model school with a bonified teacher (and that didn’t count the books!).

$2,400 is kind of a lot for some confidence and dose of sanity, when you stop to think about it.

She was barely five years old, on the cusp of reading. With two more little ones at home, I just couldn’t handle the thought of teaching her to read on my own – I was barely treading water.

So I sent her to “school” two days a week with an “actual teacher.” They picked the curriculum, and the at-home teaching was open and go. The homeschool style was Charlotte Mason with a dash of school-at-home, I believe.

All the lessons were already planned out. They told me what to do.

It was easy.

She did learn how to read there (for which I am forever grateful), but she struggled with the every other day schedule.

Even if the dollars hadn’t been an issue, it wasn’t for us.

smiling 5-year-old girl dressed with backpack and lunch bag for first day of kindergarten at university model school

Year Two: The Gap Year

This year, we decided to take it easy. We weren’t required to report to our state yet, and I was having a fourth baby.

We read a lot, played a lot, drew a lot and basically did exactly what I now believe 5 and 6-year-olds should be doing with their days.

Year Three, Part One: School at Home/Charlotte Mason(ish)

$600. That’s how much I spent my first year officially homeschooling on my own.

I bought a used Sonlight Core, Saxon Math with a big old box of shiny, fancy math manipulatives, and a host of other things I thought I needed to homeschool first grade.

I stuck with Sonlight for a few months. How I did it, I’m not sure: little boys were bouncing off the walls (literally) as I tried to read-aloud to my daughter – the one officially in school at the time.

They interrupted every other page, and I just about lost my mind finding my place over and over again.

I loved the literature-based curriculum, but ultimately, Sonlight wasn’t the right fit either.

Saxon Math? Ha! I took one look at the lengthy script, scanned the list of over a hundred and thirty lessons and had a hunch I would be ditching it in just a week or two.

I loved Saxon growing up, so I assumed it would be a natural fit.

Wrong again.

Related: The Top 20 Chapter Book Read-Alouds According to Homeschool Moms

Year Three, Part Two: Relaxed Homeschooling

After taking an extended time off last year during our first long-distance move, I finally tried on relaxed homeschooling.

And the shoe finally fit…more than $3,000 later.

When I consider the amount of money I spent those first few years trying to find my way in the homeschool world, I cringe. Whatever could I do with $3,000? I can think of a whole lotta things I’d like to spend it on, mostly in the home decor department.

But I also know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

Related: Relaxed Homeschooling (a day in the life with a 7, 5, 3, & 1 year old)

Not All Who Wander The Homeschool World Are Lost

Some of us homeschool moms nail it the first time around.

We show up at that first Classical Conversations meeting and instantly feel at home.

Or we buy that boxed curriculum the first year and never look back. We love it so much, we give the company glowing reviews every single year! They should seriously pay us for all the referrals we send their way.

I’m so happy for that homeschool mom – really I am. Consider yourself lucky or blessed or some kind of fortunate.

For some of us, however, finding our homeschool style feels a whole lot like driving along the homeschool highway at a snail’s pace while tossing dollar bills out the window.

We hope against hope that some of the money (and did I mention time?) we’re spending will get us where we want to go.

We attend homeschool conventions and drift from booth to booth in search of some magic curriculum that will produce the perfect homeschool picture that’s been in our heads ever since we started this journey.

We desperately want that homeschool happily ever after, and we want it without the blood, sweat, tears, and cash it sometimes takes to get there.

It takes some of us a little longer than others.

Some of us spend quite a while stumbling along, and it can be so very discouraging. We “waste” money every year on new curriculum, only to discard it a few months later (or even sooner!).

But it’s all in how you look at it.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas A. Edison

You see, I don’t think I would have ever fallen into relaxed homeschooling on my own (and “falling into it” is exactly how I would describe what happened). I lacked the courage to leave behind twenty checkboxes a day and a pile of workbooks a mile high.

For me, the path to my true homeschool style was paved with dollar bills and half-used curriculum.

I had to try all of it to realize it wasn’t for us, but it sure is tempting to look at that $3,000 and twenty pounds of books as a total waste.

Related: Relaxed Homeschooling v Unschooling – What’s the Difference?

three young brothers playing at the lake in the sand

But now I know better.

We encourage our kids to try – to fail even! We tell them that it’s o.k., and that mistakes and failure are how we learn. We want them to acquire a growth mindset.

Why is it so hard, then, to take that same advice ourselves?

What I’m trying to say is, don’t quit homeschooling just because you haven’t found your groove yet.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas A. Edison

Everything you try and discard is one more piece of your puzzle.

Keep trying.

Keep buying (within reason, of course – don’t rob your grocery budget for the latest and greatest curriculum).

Related: For the Homeschool Mom Who Wants to Quit Homeschooling

Don’t Give Up Homeschooling Just Because You Feel A Little Lost

The path to finding your homeschool style can be a whole lot of trial and error, and a whole lot of expensive. But when you finally find it, you will hopefully look back and see that the whole winding road was worth traveling.

It’s kind of like watching a painting in progress – you can’t really tell what it’s supposed to be when you’re looking at it up close. Only when it’s finished do you step back and finally see the whole picture.

It’s then that you realize.

Every brushstroke. Every minute. Every dollar. It’s all part of your homeschool story.

You will find your homeschool style.

It might take you longer than others, but keep going! You’ll get there eventually.

Try to enjoy the ride.

Read Next: 20+ Brilliant Homeschooling Tips for Beginners (what I wish I’d known 7 years ago)

homeschool mom playing with her young children on the bed, with text overlay, "when finding your homeschool style takes forever"

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