About 4 years. It took me about 4 years to reach the place where I could say I was truly a Relaxed Homeschooler. I get asked this question from time to time as well as, "How did you know it was safe to let go of the school mindset? or "How did you know your kids would turn out okay?"
It was journey for me, just as it's a journey for you. I began homeschooling my middle child. It was preschool, so I figured, really how much can I mess this up? It went amazingly well. I purchased a complete Kindergarten curriculum workbook from a bookstore. I can't even recall what it was but it was filled with letters, colors, and basics. That was the "school" part of my homeschooling. The part that really melted my butter was the home part of the homeschooling.
I created centers for her, games and activities that we could do together all day. I loved it. At this point my oldest was in 2nd grade in public school and my last child hadn't come along yet.
When I pulled my oldest from the third grade I was feeling pretty confident really. I chose Alpha Omega Lifepacs, got all the core subjects and we jumped in.
I hadn't attended ANY Homeschool Conferences - thank goodness! I hadn't even read one "how-to" homeschool book. Social Media wasn't a thing, the internet was barely a thing. I had met a couple women who were homeschooling. I loved the way their life and family looked so I jumped in. Imagine that friends. Starting homeschooling without going online and asking tens of thousands of people for their curriculum recommendations.
We were only about 3 weeks into the year when I encountered an obstacle which is one I hear from mothers ALL THE TIME when they are first starting with a child who has been in the system. Resistance.
I was trying to teach my son something, in Math I believe and he was rejecting my authority on the method. He just didn't believe I knew what I was talking about. What I was teaching him was NOT what he had learned in school or perhaps how he had learned it in school. He became increasingly frustrated and upset.
We took a break for the morning.
When I decided to take the lesson back up later that day, I saw my son's anxiety and frustration immediately return. He wasn't really confused about the different teaching methods and he wasn't really rejecting my authority, at least those weren't the central issue. The real problem was that he was panicked. He wasn't getting it. He wasn't even close to understanding the lesson.
Asking open ended questions to gently pry the reasons for his ever-increasing emotions he finally broke down and shared how we were going to test on this material on Friday and this was Thursday and he didn't understand!
For the entire year before withdrawing him, my son had battled with a misguided, power tripping, not very nice teacher. She was the reason I had pulled him. He had a year plagued with health problems and was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome which his pediatrician attributed to school stress and the Battle Royale we were having with his teacher. That's a story for another time.
What I was witnessing however was how deep this stress had gone for him. I had no idea. None. And I'm his mom.
He was so overwhelmed and upset about the schedule, the pacing, the testing and he had no reason to believe that home-school would be different than school-school. Honestly it didn't look that much different. We had a classroom, did the pledge of allegiance, desks, the whole spiel.
I grabbed the workbook and slung it across the room. "We don't have to test on Friday! Or Monday or Tuesday. We don't have to test at all. There is NO deadline here. You'll get it. When you do we'll move on. No hurry."
He burst into sobs, his face red. "Really?"
"Absolutely. In fact we are done for the week."
The weight of the world began to lift off my son that day. So much about him began to change that day. I had never heard the word "de-school" but what we needed to do. I knew in my gut we needed some distance from the system that was crushing his spirit. At the time I had no idea how we would proceed but I knew one thing, I was not doing anything that caused my children to well up with fear, self doubt, or anxiety.
Ultimately, I know now I was born a Relaxed Homeschooler but it would take a couple more years of back and forth, of trying to figure out how to make the mold fit before I saw the error in the system and realized THEIR mold was the problem.
I am SO thankful that in those first few years my early exploration into homeschooling philosophy was pretty radical - Gatto, Holt, Mason. Had I been led down a path of scope and sequence, of rigor and rubrics or worse! Bombarded with Homeschool Curricula at every turn, I don't know how many more years we would have wrestled to make the square peg fit in the round hole.
I didn't attend a Homeschool Conference until I'd been homeschooling over a decade.
The more I trusted God, myself, my children and the nature of children - the God-given love of His creation and learning- the faster I began to dump the remnants of my own indoctrination. Still it took about 4 years. Four long years. Then we began really Homeschooling. It was glorious. It really was.
Four years of self doubt. Four years of tears, of feeling like a failure. Four years of questioning everything, blaming everything, dusting myself off and trying again and again. Even placing them briefly in Parochial School before snatching them right back out. Four years of missing out on an amazing adventure.
I am almost finished with this journey now, over 20 years. One year to go with my last child. I don't need to be here writing this, I have grand babies to snuggle! But I am for one reason only. I hope to spare you those years.
If you are feeling the tugging in your gut, in your conscience, in your prayers or from your children to Relax...Explore those ideas don't wait four years, don't wait one more day.