Honestly? I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when my husband and I made the decision that I would homeschool our kids. How hard could it be? I didn’t think I needed homeschooling advice. After all, not only had I been a classroom teacher for several years but I had even TAUGHT classroom teachers how to teach!
I fully expected to achieve Master Homeschooling Mom status in no time at all.
Well, the reality of homeschooling is a whole other animal entirely. In fact, it doesn’t have much in common at all with traditional public schools. Instead, it takes the very best elements of childhood, the love of learning for learning’s sake, and combines it with the comfort of a loving home. The result is a transformative experience for parent and child.
Public school can’t touch that.
My Top Tips for Homeschoolers
Just to get you started on this path, or to encourage you if frustration reigns, here are a few of my top tips for homeschooling families at all stages of the journey.
- Forget trying to duplicate a classroom environment, school 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, up until 11 years old, my daughter didn’t even know what a textbook was!
- Your kids learn how to treat others and how to respect themselves by watching and modeling your words and behavior. This is powerful. 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.
- Another one of my top tips for homeschoolers is that ultimately, your role is 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. Please don’t think that because you didn’t like school, didn’t do well, or you don’t have a college degree that you can’t homeschool. Some of the very best homeschooling moms I ever met told me they were lucky to graduate from high school. Maybe they learned from their negative experiences what education should NOT be. Hmmm…food for thought.
- Connect with other homeschooling families. It won’t take long before much of your social life involves them because, like you, they won’t be tied to a school calendar. You’ll share availability for activities, field trips, and dinner together because you have the gift of time to do those things.
- Once you get inside the homeschooling ‘inner circle’, you’ll be AMAZED at the many resources available to you! When we lived in the Phoenix area we accessed special homeschooling classes at our Science Center. We received incredibly low rates for virtually every cultural event in town, including the ballet, opera, and museum tours. Begin learning about these resources from local homeschooling email loops, Facebook groups, forums, and more! These groups also simplify finding families with kids who have similar interests. Jump in and enjoy!
- Try to attend a homeschool conference if possible. Benefits include inspecting a multitude of curriculum, listening to inspiring speakers, and networking with others, and more!
- 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. Over the years, we used four different math curriculums until we finally settled on Teaching Textbooks for middle and high school. Don’t be afraid to make changes. Just roll with it. Also, curriculum sales are a great way to pick up what you need without paying full price.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Here’s some homeschooling advice that might surprise you, 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. Don’t kill yourself trying to fit in six subjects every day. And here’s a closely guarded secret in the public school realm — virtually no one finishes a textbook by the end of the school year. Ever.
- 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! My son went through the same lessons, and one day — he could read amazingly well!
- Reading and math are the keys to everything else your kids will learn. I can’t over-emphasize their importance. Do everything in your power to develop strong readers and little mathematicians. I read aloud to my kids through their entire school life, even into high school. This is a fabulous and often overlooked way to help them develop a strong vocabulary and a love of reading.
- This is YOUR school. You’re the teacher, principal, and superintendent all rolled into one. If you want to spend an entire day playing math games and then going for a nature walk, do it! Flexibility and spontaneity are part of the adventure.
- Join HSLDA, the Home School Legal Defense Association. They protect our legal right to homeschool. It’s a Christian-based organization, but if a school district, Board of Education, Child Protective Services, or any other agency questions your homeschooling, you’ll be grateful you belong to this organization. It’s worth the monthly fee of $7 or so. The HSLDA website also provides state-specific homeschooling information.
- The world is your classroom! Use it! Track down every resource available. Plan family vacations that reinforce what your kids have been learning. Read through my lists of skills kids should know and incorporate some of them in your learning time. Get started with this list of skills to learn.
Top Tips for Homeschoolers Bonus!
Your kids might still take some classes in public schools. If they want to take P.E., play a sport, sing in the choir, or play an instrument, it’s possible they might take advantage of just those classes. Check your local laws and regulations.
I’m not promising homeschooling years filled only with sunshine and unicorns. Days where you sit and cry from fatigue and frustration exist. It’s not EASY, but it’s beyond rewarding and creates a lifestyle you’ll love for its flexibility, fun, and everyday discoveries.
What’s your best advice for homeschoolers?
This blog post was updated on 10/7/2021.
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