Taking on the education of your children is a daunting task, and most of us need simple baby steps to get started. Here are a few that have worked for me and other homeschooling families.
1. Just forget trying to duplicate a classroom environment, schedule and curriculum in your home. There’s nothing sacred about sitting at desks, having set amounts of time per subject, or using only textbooks. In fact, until my daughter was 11 years old, she didn’t even know what a textbook was!
2. Ignore the strawman argument about homeschooled kids not being socialized. I challenge the assumption that putting 20-30 kids, all the same age, in a room for nine months is the best method for teaching empathy, self-control, patience, generosity, and other desirable traits. Often, it achieves just the opposite.
3. Ultimately, your role will be as a facilitator to your child’s learning. There’s no need to lecture, and very often you’ll find yourself learning something new right alongside your child.
4. Connect with other homeschooling families.
5. Once you get inside the homeschooling ‘inner circle’, you’ll be AMAZED at the resources available to you! Here in the Phoenix area we have access to special homeschooling classes at our Science Center. We get incredibly low rates to virtually every cultural event in town, including the ballet, opera, and museum tours. You’ll find local homeschooling email loops, forums, and more! Jump in and enjoy!
6. Try to attend a homeschool conference if possible. You’ll have the chance to inspect a multitude of curriculum, listen to inspiring speakers, and network with others.
7. Don’t assume that you’ll always use the same curriculum or belong to the same homeschooling group. You’ll be surprised at how your educational philosophy evolves and how one group or activity turns out to not be the best for your family after all. Just roll with it.
8. Use technology but don’t become dependent on it. I used a computer based curriculum this year and when we experienced computer problems, my kids couldn’t do any lessons until the problems were fixed! I couldn’t believe how often we had issues with this during the year. We have tons of books on the Kindle, but when we misplace the charger, forget it!
9. If something, anything, isn’t working, give it one more try and then move on. There’s no use being a stubborn idiot about it. I loved the idea of my daughter taking gymnastics, but when it became a fight to get her to class, I gave up and we moved on to another activity.
10. At the beginning of the school year, get your feet wet gently. Begin with just one subject for the first week. Add the second subject the next week and another subject or two the third week. This helps ease everyone back into the school year.
11. This may go against your nature, but there’s no need to do every subject every day! Keep in mind that public schools offer music once a week, maybe twice. Science is taught only two or three days a week, and the same goes for history, geography, social studies, foreign language and more. You’ll kill yourself trying to fit in six subjects every day.
12. You’ll be surprised by how few materials you need to teach. I taught my daughter to read using the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. The lessons were ghastly boring, but she’s an astonishing reader!
13. I can’t over-emphasize the importance of reading and math. They’re the keys to everything else your kids will learn. Do everything in your power to develop strong readers and little mathematicians.
14. This is YOUR school. If you want to spend an entire day playing math games and then going for a nature walk, do it! The flexibility and spontaneity are part of the adventure.
15. Join HSLDA. It’s a Christian based organization, but if you are EVER contacted by a school district, Board of Education, Child Protective Services or any other agency questioning your homeschooling, you will be grateful you belong to this organization. It’s worth the monthly fee of $7 or so. You can also learn about your state’s laws at the HSLDA website.
16. The world is your classroom! Use it! Track down every resource available. Plan family vacations that will reinforce what your kids have been learning.
Next in the series: Smart and Really Stupid Things I’ve Done as a Homeschooler!