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? 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 be a Master Homeschooling Mom in no time at all.
Well, the reality is that homeschooling is a whole other animal entirely. In fact, it doesn’t have much in common at all with traditional public school. Instead, it can take the very best elements of childhood, the love of learning for learning’s sake, combined with the comfort of a loving home and create a transformative experience for parent and child.
Public school is none of that.
Just to get you started on this path, or to encourage you if you’ve become frustrated, here are a few of my top tips for homeschooling families at all stages of the journey.
1. Just 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, 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. Your kids will learn how to treat others and how to respect themselves by watching and modeling your words and behavior. This is powerful.
3. Another one of my top tips for homeschoolers is that 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. 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.
4. 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 and will be available for activities, field trips, and dinner together because you have the gift of time to do those things.
5. Once you get inside the homeschooling ‘inner circle’, you’ll be AMAZED at the resources available to you! When we lived in the Phoenix area we had access to special homeschooling classes at our Science Center. We got incredibly low rates to virtually every cultural event in town, including the ballet, opera, and museum tours. You’ll begin learning about these resources from local homeschooling email loops, Facebook groups, 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. Over the years, we used 4 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.
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. And here’s a closely guarded secret in the public school realm — virtually no one ever, ever finishes a textbook by the end of the school year.
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! My son went through the same lessons, and one day — he could read amazingly well!
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. 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 strong vocabularies and a love of reading.
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 on 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. Read through my lists of skills kids should know and incorporate some of them in your learning time. You can get started with this list..
I’m not promising that your homeschooling years will be filled only with sunshine and unicorns. You’ll have days where you sit and cry from fatigue and frustration. It’s not EASY but it’s beyond rewarding and will create a lifestyle you will love for its flexibility, fun, and everyday discoveries.
This blog post was updated on July 16, 2019.