May182011

37 Comments

My top 16 tips for beginning homeschoolers

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.

image by whgrad

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.

image by whgrad

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!

image by jimmiehomeschoolmom

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.

image by vanRjn

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!

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

(37) Readers Comments

  1. If you pay month to month, it's $11 for the HSLDA. Still SO worth the peace of mind!!!

    • If you're a member of a co-op that's registered w/ HSLDA you get a discount.

  2. You can get a free downloadable kindle app for PC or Mac to help when you can't find the charger. It won't have your page bookmarked from the device, but it'll still have the books. Back-ups are good. :-) I don't have a Kindle yet, but I'm assuming that your account will synch to the device and a desktop.

    • In fact, the Kindle PC app will automatically synchronize to the last page viewed on the Kindle if you enable that option. It will also save your bookmarks, highlights & notes.

      There's also a PC app for the Nook. I have each on both my desktop and laptop.

  3. We just started homeschooling and love it! The public school is being somewhat pushy so for peace of mind, we joined HSLDA.
    I love these tips! Exactly the kind of reminders I need!

  4. You are right about teaching reading and math as the main focus. Together they will help develop a much lacking skill in life: logical thinking, also called critical thinking. To many people today are incapable of seeing error and/or deciphering a real situation, like what politicians really are doing.

  5. We've been home schooling for 21 years (gasp!) and these are very good things to remember. Nicely done.

  6. If you need Home school transcripts, diploma, and or ID card you can download as follows:

    Name:Home School Transcripts & Other Templates.exe [self-executing zip file]
    Size:10.6MB (11107328 bytes)
    Created:2011-03-21 18:07:22
    URL :https://www.adrive.com/public/d4ae8b9099eb7ebb0b0737e12972311731f2850f17382205943c4ed1f0adeef8.html

  7. As a long-time libertarian, I still do not understand the home-schooling argument. The children will end up only as educated as their parents, which –in many cases– is a disaster. I look at my three brothers-in-law and their children and two of my my cousins who all "home-school" their children. I've never seen such an ignorant group of kids…they know nothing about history, geography, grammar, or math and everything about racist politics and the Bible as the literal word of god. But that is what I'd expect since their parents all have less than a high-school education. Please, where is the quality control on the home-teachers?

    • And I don't understand how a "long time libertarian" who is in favor of as little government as possible sees government-run schools as the ultimate answer to education. You must be sky-high happy with the results of government schools, then. I taught in public schools and was a trainer as well, and I can vouch for the existence of ignorant, barely literate teachers who can't control their classrooms and students who are passed on to the next grade over and over again in order to avoid 17 year old 8th graders. I taught in one of those schools.

      It sounds to me like maybe there are some family issues that are either clouding your judgment when it comes to homeschooling or you're choosing to focus on one example of poor homeschooling that belies the well-publicized stellar success of homeschooling overall.

    • Well absolutely there's a quality control problem. On the one hand yes the parents may be in charge so no outside influence is allowed. On the other hand if the children can read so hey they can read! Give them great books to read, there is tons of literature out there is enjoyable and broadening.. In most academic fields ultimately you're going to be dependent on books and your own thinking to get anywhere (i.e. in grad school.) Show them Khan academy – and maybe point out that most people work for someone who is better than them at math.

      The good thing about homeschooling is that quality control is put more in parents hands, and honestly they're more likely to care. It's not 100% true. But the teachers have the kids for only a year and they have a lot of them, so how are they going to do quality control. Also the curriculum these days is pretty weak. If a child quickly learns reading, writing and arithmetic, and a child can, then they have tons of time to learn, time which is wasted in most classrooms.

    • On the other hand, if pat's relatives went to government schools, the only difference in their education would be the elimination of their belief in God and the Bible. They'd still know nothing about history, geography, grammar, or math, and they'd get their faith mocked and squashed as part of the bargain.
      But proponents of government schools seem to think this is a plus.

    • If you look at the education of a typical public school teacher, you find the focus of most of the upper division classes are on classroom management. They also do not take many classes in their actual focus of teaching. Many school districts have poor quality graduates coming out of them. Many homeschool teachers are college graduates or are former public teachers. Yes, homeschool parents do sometimes fail their kids. These kids can at least read which is more than can be said from public school students. Teaching is an art. Homeschooling is not the answer for every family, but it can be for some. Everyone in my family thank you is going to college or graduated from college.

    • "The children will end up only as educated as their parents". This is the fallacy of imagining that the students' learning is a product of the teacher's efforts and expertise rather than the students' engagement with the subject matters of interest to the student. Parents can learn from other parents and from resource providers focusing on the home educator market how to become facilitators to their children's efforts, even when they themselves are (initially) unfamiliar with various topics, e.g., view several of the clips at Khan Academy: http://www.khanacademy.org/ (and there are many others either in development or rolled-out to the home educator community).

      Expose yourself to John Taylor Gatto's exploration of schooling and the alternatives in "The Underground History of American Education". http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/toc1.h
      and take the "history tour": http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/historytour/histor

    • Not much of a libertarian, Pat. The public school is the very fuel of our state-worshiping society. It could not exist in its present form without it.
      You look at your brothers-in-law and cringe. OK. I look at the millions of kids being told that the Bible ISN'T the literal Word of God and do more than cringe. You wouldn't understand, so I'll leave it at that.
      You were no doubt reared by the state in a public school, and are therefore a master of logic, so please explain, logically, how you can even come close to proving that home-schooled children cannot exceed the education of their parents. Where would you even begin with that one? Did you think we just lock our kids in an empty and dark padded cell and then lecture randomly from our own minds to them over an intercom? And in any case, I wouldn't give a nickel for most modern "education", so I wouldn't be heartbroken if my kids weren't as "educated" as the average public school teacher.
      I know fewer and fewer children who AREN'T home-schooled and I've never seen such a group of intelligent kids. Your brothers-in-law don't teach their kids geography, etc., and so you do not understand the "home-schooling argument", and lament the absence of the all-powerful state's interference? What you do not see is that character trumps education, and the icing on our cake is that home-schoolers don't have to choose between them, and usually end up with both IN SPADES. That is against their child-prison counterparts, which occasionally get something of an education, but generally end up with neither.
      The quality control on the home teachers is usually where it belongs; in the home. Send your kids to the local mind-laundry if you will, but please don't then soil the word "libertarian" by calling yourself one.

      I'm not sure if you're counting the "Christian-based" aspect of HSLDA against them or not, but this was a very good article, SurvivalMom.

    • Proof that anyone who wants to can call himself or herself a libertarian.

    • Are you for real? My great- niece (11) and great-nephew (13) both attend public schools in the Missouri. The classes are not overcrowded by public school standards. Their ability to spell is limited at best. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that it is anyone else but the parents responsibility to ensure that their child is properly educated. Pat, do you really believe that education is better left in the hands of a government employee, protected by a union. I had an English teacher in the government ran school I attended. She was an alcoholic. Her large purse had a flask in it. She stunk of booze. It was not uncommon for her to give us an assignment and forget she had given it. Often times she would ask us to turn in assignments she had never given. Not to mention the problems with violence.

    • Pat you mention racist politics. Have you noticed that most government forms ask your race. When asked race, I decline to answer or put humans. Politics as a whole is racist.

  8. I have been homeschooling for four years and can vouch for all of these tips. Once they're independent readers, they can teach themselves history, science, etc. My daughter reads history books before bed each night. It's hard to break out of the need to "play school" with your kids, but its really not as effective as being their facilitator as you say.

  9. Does anyone have any experience homeschooling an only child? My daughter is VERY social and my big concern is homeschooling without other kids around wouldn't work for that reason.

    • Why not just arrange for some type of sports or other group activity? Putting her in some kind of lessons which take place in a group, whether swimming or gymnastics or martial arts or whatever, will keep her healthy, teach her a useful skill (depending on what you pick) and let her socialize with the other kids taking the lessons. It can be the homeschool equivalent of gym, and the kids will probably be nicer there then in school anyway.

    • We will begin our 2nd year of homeschooling my only child. A vibrant, super social boy of 7. The other person made some good suggestions but we can't afford to pay the gas bill this month, let less pay for lessons. We are transplants to our state and part of a very small minority group. So a big important part of getting my son the social interactions he needs and craves is being an example for him. I made sure to meet almost all the people on our block. I am very friendly to everyone we meet, and that can be hard sometimes lol. If you are at the library with school age children and its not summer I WILL ask if you homeschool. I made a wonderful friend by taking a stroll around the neighborhood one day and talking to a lady having a garage sale. She introduced me to another good friend who homeschools!

  10. Pat;

    Your argument might be correct “children will end up only be as educated as their parents”. But those parents will have messed up only one child. If we expand your argument, public school teachers could “mess up” 30 children at a time, multiplied over x number of classes nation wide (a large number). Prof is in the product; look at our publicly educated children’s math and science test scores compared to other nations. Many do not rank among first world nations. Teachers have no incentive to educate our children, many show up for a rather large paycheck because they can do no better in the job market. Remember, nothing fails like government, and the NEA is one of the largest government sponsored failures of our time. Parents with no more than a high school education educating their own children would have a hard time doing worse. Remember, you don’t have to possess the knowledge you’re teaching your children, you only need to know where to find the information; the WWW has, and will continue to change how we educate our children forever.

  11. I personally know lots of Moms that used How to teach your child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and they loved it too, but I had the best luck with all my kids using Dr. Seuss books, especially Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and Hop on Pop. Keep reading these books over and over, changing your volume and inflections to keep it interesting and your child will soon memorize each of these books. You can use these words to teach the alphabet and phonetics. All the high frequency words are already included in these books and will be memorized in no time. I started mine on these books as babies and they were mostly all reading on their own by 4 yrs old. Not that it is a race but we had a lot of fun with those books!

  12. I clicked on the "Resources" button of No. 5 but there was nothing on the "Resources" page. Please fix. Thank you.

  13. Pingback: Tips for beginning homeschoolers

  14. Absolutely #6 – Can't wait for this huge conference in June. http://www.ihmconference.org/national/

  15. My daughter just finished her kindergarten year in a wonderful, small, public school with just 300 students in a school with grades pre-k to 6th. She had a wonderful teacher, small class size, and I had nothing to complain about. But we will be moving to another city in a month. One where there are too many students and not enough teachers. The education is less than satifactory at best and the teachers have too much on their plates to really care about each student individually. But I found a great alternative available that would help me tons with not only easing our relocation but easing my mind on my daughters education. Its an online public charter school. They give me the cirriculum and lessons, I teach them to my daughter. She has one classroom day per week with a certified teacher to make sure shes hitting her benchmarks and doing well.They give the grades. I make the schedule, she still has to "attend" school everyday but we are not required to have a set schedule or time for schoolwork and she can move through the cirriculum as quickly or as slowly as she needs to. they provide the laptop (so we can do school where ever we need to) and an internet stipend. It sounds amazing and I hope its as good as they say.

  16. Pingback: survival Podcast Listener Feedback 5-31-11 | The Survival Podcast

  17. Great Tips!

  18. Great tips, I would add simply:

    Teach children to be curious and love to read about things, and no matter how old they get, they will never stop learning new things!

  19. We are going to Convention this year. We’ll be at the Extreme Defense USA booth – I hope we get to meet you. I love your blog!!

  20. Great list! We Love the book “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” and our children are fantastic readers too! And I really am glad to hear that it’s true that we don’t have to do every subject everyday. As much as I believe it – it’s hard not to put pressure on myself and feel we really need to do it. Thanks for this post =)

  21. Some of you, in your anger over Pat’s ridiculously ignorant attacks, are simply sinking to his level in your own comments about public school and public school teachers. Part of Pat’s problem is that he is basing his misguided opinions of homeschool on a few examples that he’s not impressed with. I understand your anger at his statement. However, to fight back by lumping all public school experiences into the category of terrible or all public school teachers as stupid lazy people who don’t care about their students and are pouring lies down their throats is just wrong. I fully support home schooling, have seen countless good and bad examples, and am considering homeschooling my own girls one day. However, I also currently teach at a public school and I’m offended by the comments you are making about teachers. Those things might apply to some, but there are an awful lot of caring, dedicated, educated teachers who pour their lives into their students every day. Please don’t lump all public school experiences as bad just like you don’t want people to judge homeschooling by the horror stories of bad models that exist.

  22. Thank you so much for all the advice, suggestions, and encouragement! I will start homeschooling my grandson and ward (1st grade) this coming fall. After raising 3 public school children I am quite ready to do this, and wish I’d have had the self-confidence to get started 15 years ago. I want to get my feet wet but don’t want to drown by jumping in blindly and feeling overwhelmed by it all. This is why I am reading everything I can and learning the difference between individual homeschools. Your article was a very nice and easy read that I have found quite helpful. Thank you :-)

  23. Pingback: Resources for Beginning to Homeschool | My School of Thought

  24. I’m just checking out some homeschooling tips, my cousins opted to have their kid schooled at home, some very good tips here, just combined it with some of the stuff from here, really expanded my view on the whole matter http://shai77.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Start-Homeschooling-Your-Kids

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