Recently, I have had the pleasure of talking with some families that are embarking on the homeschool journey. They are in that phase of excited anticipation, overwhelmed stress, and constant worry if this choice they are making is the right choice. I remember those days. Fortunately, I was blessed with the most amazing homeschool mentor and role model. But even with her guidance, love, and support there were still so many moments of panic. Not everyone has a Mrs. Dee in their lives so that’s where I come in with a Homeschool 101, advice for beginning homeschooling.
Of course, like most things I have to do it in my way. I don’t think I could be genuine trying to do it any other way. Plus, I have spent so many hours looking at the advice given in homeschool groups and on forums, and honestly I think it’s all too often MORE stress-inducing. So, here it is…
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I always start by telling everyone that I hated homeschooling the first year. Remember that post? You can read it again here —->(I Hate Homeschooling). Not everyone hates it their first year, or maybe they just don’t admit it, but I did. There were a lot of reasons I hated that first year, but I think one major reason that is extremely pertinent to new homeschoolers is that I was disappointed by the huge discrepancy between what I envisioned homeschooling to be and what it actually was. My expectations were of these precious moments of learning with my children. I didn’t expect them to whine about having to do one workbook page or take 2 hours to complete ONE. SIMPLE. MATH PROBLEM. Ugh! I didn’t expect push back about reading together (they LOVE reading at bedtime, but read one word during the day…). I didn’t expect that in order to cover ALL of the subjects, we would be doing schoolwork for hours upon hours. The list goes on…
Take Time To De-School
De-Schooling. Do it. Take time to just readjust your thinking about school and how it works. Consider that “school” can happen anywhere, any time, any day. Don’t be married to a Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. schedule August through May. Allow yourself the freedom to NOT do subjects. Think outside the brick and mortar box down the street where children are bussed, and create a homeschool that works for your family. Give yourself time to acknowledge who you are and who your children are without comparing to anyone else.
After you’ve taken time to de-school whether it’s a week or a year, you will probably still harbor some residual ideas of what school should look like. I think one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is to consider the ACT or SAT tests. College bound students take these exams to test their college readiness. So, what’s on these tests? I’m glad you asked. Simply put, Math and Language Arts. These are really the only subjects you absolutely MUST cover. Stop stressing about trying to fit in a specific history, science, art, and music curriculum. I think it’s time we look at what history and science really are- reading comprehension. Hone those reading comprehension skills and suddenly, history and science are understandable. Ok… ok… I know that is a VERY simplistic view, but I think when we begin to think more simplistically we are better armed to overcome the overwhelming stress of covering so much information.
Now what if your child is scientifically-minded or really interested in history? I have a friend whose son is beyond gifted in science and my advice to her was to build his language arts and math around science. It’s the same principle as above- to cover only language arts and math, but it’s done through a science perspective. However you do it, I assure you that your child will get the education he/she needs to be successful as long as you are covering those basics.
Leave Some Flexibility in Your Schedule
Some people like a more scheduled life. As you know, I am not one for schedules. You can revisit my issues with scheduling here ——-> (Homeschool Schedules are for Losers) If you like a more scheduled life, please by all means DO IT! There are some really wonderful curriculum and groups that have good schedules. There are some amazing homeschool planners that will help you schedule every aspect of your life. But if you are more relaxed, like me, that’s ok too. Plan your school with the flexibility that fits you. Don’t be married to a Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. schedule August through May. Some of us are early risers and work best at 8 a.m. and some of us (—>ME<—) are late risers and don’t function until noon. Sometimes school can happen during regular business hours, but sometimes school works better at night or on the weekends. Christmas Day, July 4th… holidays are just days and learning can (and does) happen on them. I once was trying to finish up a curriculum before the end of the year and made the Princess do math on Christmas Day.
I highly recommend thinking outside the box when it comes to schedules because let’s face it, life doesn’t really happen on a schedule. We can’t schedule illnesses or surprise visits from the in-laws or natural disasters that displace us from our homes or sudden job losses. We can make plans for the “what ifs” in life, but there needs to be a certain amount of flexibility so when they happen we are not completely thrown off our game. Plus, there are so many wonderful opportunities out there- classes and co-ops and homeschool days at the local historical site and field trips and play dates and educational movie or TV specials…. don’t schedule yourself so tightly that you can’t take advantage of all of these amazing chances to learn.
Know Your State Requirements
The last piece of advice I would give is know the laws in your state. All of the laws vary from state to state and like so much in society right now, there is a whole lot of misinformation. One of the new homeschooling moms I had the pleasure of talking with asked me about record keeping. I live in North Carolina and our state requirements are pretty relaxed. We are required to register our homeschool with the state, maintain shot records and annual test scores. That’s all. This mom’s friend told her she needed a portfolio showing what was done for the year and grades and attendance records. This mom was overwhelmed enough without having all of this misinformation. Some states DO require all of that, but not ours. I could see the relief in her eyes when I told her, “No. You don’t need all of that.” Familiarize yourself with the requirements for your state. If you don’t understand the legalese, there are many, many, many homeschool groups out there you can check with. You can also call your state’s Department of Non-Public Education and there is sure to be someone there that will help you. I am always cautious with answers from others because there are so many people that just don’t know or understand so always consider your sources as well as the majority of answers.
Ultimately, I think my primary message is to relax and let this happen naturally based on you and your family’s needs and wants. Homeschooling is a journey, not a destination. The more you allow natural life and personality to lead your journey, the smoother the road will be. Take each day, week, and year one at a time. The longer your are on this journey, the more you fall into natural rhythms. I hope that the new moms I got to talk to walked away from our talk feeling less overwhelmed and stressed and a little refreshed. I hope you walk away from reading this feeling the same way.
Are you a new homeschooler? Does this help? Leave me a comment and let me know.
Are you a seasoned homeschooler? What advice would you give a new family? Do you agree or disagree with my advice? Leave a comment and share with new homeschooling families.