Hi Cottonwood families! My name is Amanda Bell, Cottonwood parent of four and new Family Liaison. You might have seen me around our Community Facebook Page or on one of our many school field trips. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself, my family, and share a little insight from my own homeschooling journey that I hope will help some of you reading this.

I have been homeschooling for four years now. What started with one homeschooled 2nd grader quickly snowballed into four homeschooling siblings (ages 13, 10, 7 and 4). Our family absolutely loves the lifestyle we now get to live because of the freedom granted to us through homeschooling. We get to share our common interests and learn from each other every day. We’re theater fans, gamers, nature lovers, and avid readers. I never pictured homeschooling as a path for my family. When circumstances changed my vision, there are quite a few things I wish I would have known beforehand, and I will share those with you below.

My favorite thing that I’ve picked up along the way is that learning is everywhere. It’s not limited to quietly sitting at a desk with a pencil in hand. It’s on the couch, at the library, outdoors, on YouTube, at the grocery store, in the kitchen, and on and on. All learning has its own value (paraphrasing Julie Bogart, author of The Brave Learner), and once you embrace that thought, the weight of homeschooling lifts off your shoulders (even if it’s only temporarily, until the next math lesson). When you choose to homeschool, you choose to let the entire world become your classroom.

I’ve come to realize that during the past four years my family’s most valuable resource has been community. By getting involved in local co-ops, community events, and of course all of the incredible opportunities offered by The Cottonwood School’s remarkable staff, I have found support that has lifted my children to heights that they couldn’t have reached with just my help. Step out of your comfort zone and attend events, get to know your community, and introduce yourself to fellow homeschoolers. Collaborate with parents to share your strengths and delegate your weaknesses. This may be a challenge for my fellow introverts, but the payoff is worth it in the end!

“Progress not perfection” or “Practice makes progress” is my daily homeschooling mantra. Small, consistent efforts will lead to real results. Accomplishing this means doing things we’re not good at or don’t like, sometimes in small doses. Don’t have time for a whole chapter? Read a page. Dreading math? Circle three problems on the page to work through, and pair it with a cozy blanket or your favorite snack. Allowing our children to learn that it will get easier and even more enjoyable if they practice is such a valuable resource. “Slow and steady wins the race” is a cliche for a reason!

So, that’s me, and my tips, in a nutshell. I’ve learned so much from reading and conversing with other homeschooling parents. I strongly believe that we are each other’s greatest resource. If you would like to share any of your tried-and-true homeschooling tips, I would love to see them on the Community Facebook Page! I will also be hosting a book club (both in-person & virtual options) on January 30 (see the Wednesday Weekly for details). If you’re at a Cottonwood event and see me, please say hi! I want to connect with you as well as help you connect with others.

Thanks for reading,

Amanda Bell