Our family spent fourteen years homeschooling and during that time I helped a lot of other families get started. If you are in the beginning stages of homeschooling, then here are ten pieces of advice.
1. Why are you homeschooling?
Write down all the reasons why you’ve chosen to homeschool. Believe me, there will be days when you will need to reread this. Days when everything goes wrong. Days when people question your sanity and/or your children’s well-being. And days when you’re tired, confused, or burned out. There will be days!
2. Set goals
Set goals for each of your children, and your family as a whole. Not only educational ones, but quality of life ones. Write them down for future reference. These will come in handy in making decisions about allocating time and budget among curriculum and activities. These aren’t etched in stone. They can be revised as needed.
3. Define success
Success is going to look different for different families. One family may have the goal of their children attending an Ivy League school, or their own alma mater. Another family may want their children to take over the family business. Still other families may have definitions that don’t have anything to do with education, but rather the quality of their children’s lives. Again, write this down. There will be times when you will be tempted to compare your students with others, and being able to review your definition of success will remind you that all homeschools are unique. It will also help you to determine when you have achieved it.
4. Don’t try to recreate school
Embrace freedom. Let yourself enjoy the time spent with your kids, watching them blossom. It may be hard to believe now, but one day you’ll look back and wonder where all that time went. You won’t remember the days you were locking horns as much as you’ll remember the days when you witnessed a light flickering on, the discovery of a new talent, and the precious time spent with little ones that grow too fast.
Homeschooling has so much freedom that it can actually be a little scary. Some families Unschool, while others prefer the reassurance and structure of curriculum. I’ve known families whose school schedule followed a parent’s work schedule. One family whose father traveled a lot did school when he was away and took off when he was home to spend time with him, for example. I’ve also known families who homeschooled while traveling in an RV or boat. School doesn’t always have to take place at a desk. Also, see “Thinking Outside the Desk While Homeschooling.”
Dignify your homeschool by giving it a name and a motto. When your students graduate you can order a custom, high-quality diploma with these details on it.
5. Homeschooling is a Lifestyle
Homeschooling isn’t just an educational choice, it’s a lifestyle. It affects your family relationships because you’ll be spending so much more time together. If you view it more as a lifestyle than just school, you’ll have a broader view and see that learning and socialization take place all the time. It’s like putting on a different pair of glasses. Also, be sure to read “Warnings from a Retired Homeschool Mom”.
6. Allow A De-tox Period
If you are taking your kids out of school to start at home, give yourselves time to adjust. Don’t feel the need to leap right into bookwork and a strict schedule. There are lots of changes taking place with schedules, expectations, and family dynamics. Do educational, yet fun, things to mark the change from school to homeschool. For science go on nature walks and take some guidebooks along to identify trees or birds. For math do some baking or order a pizza to practice fractions. Visit museums and zoos. Take a family vacation and visit historical spots. Once you start your curriculum, you still may want to ease into it, adding a few subjects at a time as you figure out where your children are, what their needs are, and how they learn best.
7. You aren’t married to your curriculum
I feel safe in saying that you WILL make changes. As you find out what works or doesn’t work, and as your kids mature, your needs will change. Read about homeschooling approaches, learning styles, and curriculum reviews. Make the best choice you can and start.
8. Keep a personal journal
Write down funny things, “aha” moments, lessons learned, answered prayers, etc. You will enjoy having it, and someday might want to blog or write a book. This would be a good place to keep a copy of your reasons (#1), goals (#2), and definition of success (#3). Read “Save Your Memories with an Easy Email Journal.”
9. Keep a SCHOOL log
I kept a running list for each child. At the beginning of each school year I listed what grade they were in, what curriculum and outside classes we were using. Below that I listed any field trips or extra-curricular activities the kids participated in throughout the school year. This may come in handy if you ever have legal trouble, when applying to a school or college, or even for your own memories later on. Keep copies of certificates, awards, and photos. This will be especially handy during the high school years when making transcripts. If it’s on the computer, be sure to print it out occasionally in case something happens to your computer.
10. Go with the Flow
This may be hard to do, especially at first, but homeschooling is full of change. Every year, every semester, is different. Each child is different. You will never have it all figured out so try to relax and enjoy the ride. Know that your children are being taught by their parents (or other family members) who love them and want what is best for them. As long as you are diligent in homeschooling, it will be okay.
You can read about how we started homeschooling in “The Birth of Curren Christian Academy.” I would love to hear from you! Drop me a line in the comments.
For even more advice, visit my friend, Amanda’s article, “Advice for New Homeschool Moms.”
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