My husband and I officially decided to homeschool last year. At the time, it was a scary decision because we just weren’t sure how we would make it all work. He works at night, I work from home and we had three kids (ages 2, 4 & 6) who we were now going to be responsible for educating.
While we are newbies at this, we’ve learned some things over the last eight months. I can also officially say that we’re going to stick with it as long as absolutely possible. It’s such a rewarding experience to have a hand at your kids excelling in their studies (our Kindergartner is learning on a second and third grade level in reading, spelling and math, and our pre-schooler is reading, writing and understands addition). While we know this way of life isn’t for everyone, I wanted to share some tips that could help those who are in the “debating” phase where we were over a year ago.
1. Do your research.
A year prior to making the official decision to homeschool our kids, my husband and I started really looking into our options. We found articles online, reached out to people who were already doing it and put a plan into place in regards to how we would make it work.
2. Stand your ground.
People will try and give you 20 questions as to why you have chosen to homeschool. Some of them with good intentions, and some with the intention of making you feel “less than” or crazy for doing it. Either way, it’s not really any of their business as long as you have your own reasons. Understanding your “why” will make things much easier to navigate through the naysayers.
3. Don’t try to compare homeschool to traditional school.
Since my kids had already been going to private school prior to our decision to homeschool, that’s the only perception of “schooling” and teaching that we had in mind. We had to realize that as their teachers, we were now making the rules. And no, we didn’t have to have them “in school” for six hours a day. We could plan the lessons and finish their school work in two or three hours and that was okay.
4. Don’t try to compare how one family homeschools to yours.
There is a such thing as doing too much research and I may have gone a little overboard on this one. I wanted to adapt to everyone else’s homeschooling styles, and create the same files, documents, handouts, projects, rules, routines, etc. It was exhausting. I had to realize that our family was unique in our homeschool dynamics. Other families’ needs weren’t necessarily our needs so we had to take all of the little pieces of info we had, and create our own system.
5. Find and build your own support system.
With all the research and reaching out to other people, and meetings about homeschool, we were able to find a homeschool co-op group. We looked into two different ones, and ultimately chose the one that we felt would best fit our needs and that of our children. We found a community of support and have never felt alone (especially with 70 other families) since starting this new journey. The kids enjoy going “to school” once a week and taking classes with kids of all ages.
6. Understand your state’s homeschool regulations.
Every state (and may even vary by county) has different regulations when it comes to homeschooling. Thankfully, because we had found a supportive community of homeschool leaders, we were able to quickly find out what the requirements are for our particular area. It’s important to know this because while some states mandate a strict curriculum, others may require knowledge by a certain milestone. Be sure to check out the Homeschool Legal Defense.
7. Be patient and flexible.
As with any change, it takes time to adjust to a new schedule, routine and way of life. So don’t expect that everything will run smoothly no matter how great and color coded your notebooks are, how many lessons you’ve planned, or how cute your charts are. All three of my kids have different learning styles so we’ve had to adjust and figure out what works best for one, over the other. We’ve learned to stop setting our expectations so high being that we’re rookies at this.
8. Have structure and a schedule.
Once we realized that our son was not at his “peak” performance time in the early mornings, we decided to push back our school time to start late morning. While our schedule may vary from day-to-day, there are certain things that the kids know are expected of them every day. They know we don’t watch TV during the day, they know they have to finish all of their work before they can play with their toys. We have a big sheet that we created a loose schedule on so now when my son asks if he can do something, we ask him to look at the schedule and let us know what it says.
9. Have a plan but don’t be afraid to supplement as needed.
When we started to work more closely with our son last summer, we already realized that he was above the skill-set for just about all areas of Kindergarten. So when we set out to look for a curriculum, we looked for one that was a grade above (starting at first grade). But even with that, we’ve found that he’s advance to a lot of that as well. With that in mind, we’ve had to find other ways to supplement his learning so that he’s more challenged and not telling us “that was too easy” with all of the work we give him. Listen to your kids and pay attention to their learning needs.
10. Trust and believe in yourself.
When my husband first brought up the idea to homeschool, I thought he had officially lost it. It had nothing to do with the actual idea of homeschooling and what it could do. It had more to do with the fact that I didn’t believe that I/we could do it and do it successfully. But the more I prayed about it, the more I was led to believe that this is what I was supposed to be doing. If you feel called to homeschool, then know that God will give you the grace and tools you need to be successful. All you have to do is ask and believe in yourself.
BMWK: If you’ve considered homeschooling, what are your biggest worries?
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