You’ve made the decision to homeschool, you’re staying home, maybe you have the curricula on order, and maybe you’ve set up a space. Now stop. Take some deep breaths and look at your child(ren) and smile. You are about to embark on a journey that will bring daily highs and lows filled with joy and frustration. It’s inevitable since learning is a trail that is made through the densest forests. I have seven things for you to consider before you begin.
1. You do NOT need approval from anyone
Your excitement is hard to contain, and you’ve begun to announce you are going to homeschool!But the comments are not what you were expecting.
Let’s face it: everyone is an expert in raising your child.Announcing your decision to homeschool will bring on a slew of unwanted opinions.Unfortunately, not everyone will see it the way you do, and some may be unkind.You may face criticism and endless questions about homeschooling.These comments bring you down, make you question yourself, or make you change your decision.
You will come across people who support you, those who will try to dissuade you, and people who (for some reason) get angry that you’re not taking a more traditional approach.They might tell you you’re not qualified, or it won’t last.Comments may continue through the years asking when are you going to finally send your kid to a real school.
I’ve heard these and felt the disparagement many times over.Although it isn’t easy to hear I have come to realize I have to let it go because others perception of homeschool is not our reality of how we homeschool.
It’s Your Right
Here’s the thing: you do not have to defend your decision to homeschool.You do not need a list of your whys or recent homeschool stats in your back pocket.You are the parent, and you have made the right decision for your child and your family.
Family and friends may view your decision as a personal attack on their choices, so their comments could be defensive, without meaning to come off that way.Your parents, who might have sent you to public school, they may feel that they made the best decision.They did.And now you’re making the best decision for your kids.
The best approach is not to get emotional or take it personal.It’s difficult, I know.But in a few years, they will see how bright and intelligent your child is then they may realize you did make the right decision.But don’t expect anyone to actually verbalize this.
2. You do not need to mimic school
“Do you have a desk for her in your living room?” “You should use X, that’s what I used when I was in school.” “What time do you start in the morning?” “It must be really hard being around your kids all day.” “Where is your classroom?” “What curriculum are you going to use?” If you’ve mentioned you’re planning/interested in teaching your child then you get bombarded with institutional related questions.
The thing is you don’t need to have a “classroom”. Or any sort of designated spot. The entire world is school! That’s one of the best reasons to even homeschool. Sometimes we have class on the living room floor, at the kitchen table, under a tree, at the patio table, or even lazing around on the bed reading and discussing math (especially nice on cold mornings).
If you want to imitate the schoolroom vibe then go for it. But know, that in no way (not logistically or physically) do you need to replicate a classroom in your home. Just like above, you do not need to defend where you homeschool.
3. Leave the labels behind
“Are you one of those unschoolers?” “Don’t you just love the Charlotte Mason way!” “Montessori method is the best!” Honestly – there are pros and cons to every philosophy of education.
Do we follow any of these? Not really. I love them all and I used to spend a lot of time researching and trying, but none really worked for us.
Do not let others trap you into any of these labels or educational philosophy.
Mix it up!
A point to be considered, as much as a parent may love a certain philosophy for whatever virtues it holds if it doesn’t work for your child then it’s okay to move on to something else. If one of your children work well within one philosophy, then another might be the complete opposite. That’s okay!
Maybe you change with the seasons. Like Julie Bogart suggests in her inspirational book The Brave Learner: you can do classical education in the fall, Charlotte Mason in the winter, and unschooling in the spring.
Or you could change depending on subject and use classical for history, unschooling for science, Waldorf method for language arts, and Montessori for math…you get the picture. Make these philosophies your own, however you see fit.
And aren’t we all homeschooling so we can enjoy being together while educating our children in a way that suits them best?
4. Children need TIME to absorb information
This could’ve saved a lot of frustration on my part and for my oldest child.
When a child learns something new the information needs time to sink in. Literally.
A child’s brain must make neural connections. That concept can be as simple as short vowels or addition facts of one. We tend to forget that they’re trying their hardest while we’ve been doing it for many (many) years. Give them time. This may be longer than your lesson plan has allotted, so make the necessary adjustments.
I Do, We Do, You Do Technique
This technique comes in handy across all subjects especially during the grammar years. The I do, We do, You do method is pretty straightforward and effective.
You introduce a new concept to the child by showing them how it is completed (i.e., drawing the letter a on a whiteboard slowly, sounding out the short a sound, slowly, several times over). That’s the “I do” part.
Next, you work with the child (i.e., helping your child by holding their hand to make that letter a. Doing this over and over and over again until they are comfortable with it). Now you’ve completed the “We do” part.
Is your child ready to do it on their own? Maybe, give them the courage to try, but you may have to stay on the “We” for a bit longer.
When they are ready to try on their own without your assistance allow them to practice until they get it. Even if they are making mistakes, you do not need to correct as they go but do guide them with an encouraging attitude. This is the “You do” bit.
Every child is different. Once they’re doing the “You do” by themselves without frustration then you know you can move forward.
5. Know your personality type before you begin buying curricula
This might seem odd but since there are many of curricula to choose from nowadays and the list keeps growing, you should be on the lookout for the ones that will work with you. There’s nothing worse than spending money on a curriculum that causes stress or is just plain boring. It could be that it’s hard to follow or it doesn’t work with your schedule or there is too much planning for you to do.
Ask yourself a few questions before buying.
Are you the type of person who loves to plan out each part, type up a lesson outline, copy pages, and source reading material through the library and online?
Or do you prefer everything to be ready and listed out for you, so the only thing you need to worry about is opening a teacher’s guide and seeing the plan laid out in front of you?
Maybe you just want a straightforward teacher’s guide that tells you what you need to say when every step of the way?
Spend time exploring all your resource options.
Believe me, there is something available in every subject! Curriculum packages like Bookshark/Sonlight and Timberdoodle are amazing at giving you a package with every resource you need and a checklist for what to complete on each day for every subject. These usually come with a hefty price tag, but I know many moms that are always happy with the all-in-one option.
Other resources have a teacher’s guide and student workbook that you work. Well-Trained Mind has wonderful resources like this for grammar and history. Elemental Science has excellent programs created in this manner. With this type of setup, you usually need to source the accompanying reading, manipulatives, and supplies.
All About Spelling is one of those subject resources that offers the teacher’s guide with manipulatives and supplies. This program walks you and the student through a beautifully laid out program in a logically ordered and easy to understand spelling programs for all levels. It’s one we’ve been very happy to implement for the past several years.
Don’t be afraid to shop around before settling on any one program. For many of us homeschool teachers, this can be one of the best parts of a new school year!
6. Leave the Comparisons Behind
It’s difficult to see Marge’s kids a year younger than yours but working through a high school textbook for science, or Dan bragging about his boys sitting through adult-level biographies of great mathematicians. The thing is, you’re hearing the good parts, but it’s not the whole picture: they have their struggles just like the rest of us. We never really know the whole story, but it’s still hard not to compare our children to others, whether they’re being homeschooled or not.
All kids progress at different rates. That progress is not linear across all subjects. In the end they go into adulthood with the education and skills they need. Just because Lucy was reading second grade books at age four or Randolph could do calculus by ten does not mean your child is behind or not smart enough
It’s okay that Bailey is starting third grade with a second grade math program, fourth grade science, and third grade language arts. Humans are not meant to be idyllic beings that learn all subjects at the same rate. Our industrialized school system is set up in a linear fashion benefiting very few. Just add it to your list of reasons why you’re homeschooling.
7. The Art of Deschooling
It’s easy to be ready to jump in and get started NOW. It might even make you feel you’re doing the right thing and to prove to others that you’re capable. (Again, you do not need to prove anything.)
First thing, you are more than capable to handle this.
Second, give yourself and your little ones time to adjust, especially if they’re coming from a situation in a public or private school setting (daycare included).
Yes, I am asking that you take a vacation from schooling before you begin. The term is deschooling and it’s a time period to readjust your mind and get acquainted with your new journey. It’s not about missing out on lessons, but discovering the many opportunities there are to learn in the real world.
Have fun exploring!
Take hikes, visit the museum, make yourself acquainted with the library, do some road trips to local history sites, and see what other homeschoolers in your area are doing. Maybe it’s spring and you have some gardening you’d like to begin; this is a great time to teach about photosynthesis and the magic of a seed sprouting. Fall is a beautiful time to go pick apples at a local orchard and create a gorgeous array of goodies. Summer offers numerous opportunities to watch the sky and animals in your backyard. See if you can discovery new parks you’ve never visited, or you may run into other homeschoolers at a local park. Some extracurricular activities like gymnastics or activity centers offer special times for homeschoolers.
Try not to think of this time as a period where you’re skipping classes, but a time to educate and to create new connections with people who are on a similar path as you.
My goal for you is to find a sense of daily rhythm and balance that works for your family. When we rush into something new, we’re liable to miss something that could be beneficial for the journey or force something that just does not work.
I would love to hear your thoughts about these considerations and how you’re homeschool journey is going.
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