This is my tenth year of homeschooling. My oldest daughter is entering ninth grade, and I have a sixth grader, a third grader, and a kindergartner. Then, one on the end shadowing just about everyone. I think I’ll just start her out in second grade.
To continue my impromptu homeschooling theme, I’d like to share a few ideas on how to get started and how to plug along when the shine wears off. I previously shared my curriculum choices in Part 1 and Part 2.
1. There is no “right” way to homeschool. The very reason I and most families homeschool is for the freedom. What freedom, you may ask:
- The freedom to pick your own curriculum. Wanna only read Elizabethan literature? Go ahead. Wanna learn five languages? Be my guest.
- The freedom to pick your own projects. Wanna rebuild a classic car from the frame? Go for it. Wanna compete in marathons in every state? Run with it (pun intended).
- The freedom to choose your own schedule. Some families school year-round with lots of mini-breaks. We, in fact, don’t usually take a full summer off. It’s so stinking hot in Texas, that we might as well make use of our confinement and do school. Likewise, the fall and spring are so wonderful, that we try to take extended breaks to enjoy the weather and do necessary outdoor projects.
- The freedom to vacation during off-season. Why compete with a gazillion other families during spring and summer breaks? Save cash and sanity by going places during the off-season. You might actually get to see something besides the back of someone’s head or hear the full presentation over the roar of screaming kids.
2. There is no “wrong” way to homeschool. I may not agree with all methods as they pertain to my children and my family, but they probably work for someone. Whereas, I like to use workbooks and outlines and lots of reading, someone else may have the opportunity to travel a lot and use few, if any, books. Instead, they see and experience the places and history we only read about.
3. You don’t have to have all the answers at first. A kindergartner just likes to play and read, or at least, that’s what my kindergartner likes to do. There’s nothing wrong with that. Let her lead you, while you throw in a few learning moments. Teach counting and letters with hopscotch, for instance. Kids who have been in a different school environment might need time to unwind and get a handle on learning differently.
4. Catch a vision. At least start with a 10,000 foot view of what you want to do. It can be as basic as “I want to introduce my child(ren) to my heritage,” and you build a unit study around your country of origin and do a genealogical study. Great world history, geography, social studies all wrapped up together. After that, see where the adventure takes you. I ask myself every year why I still homeschool and where we’re going on this journey. For us, it’s a combination of just taking the next step/grade and incorporating our children’s talents and desires into our learning. For instance, my sixth grader is a talented artist. So, this year, I am having her draw, paint, sketch a lot of stuff in science and geography. At the end of the year, she will have a nice portfolio, instead of 100 pictures of the same thing, horses being her favorite subject.
5. Set a schedule. You don’t have to micromanage the day down to the second, but it pays to have a routine. Set a wakeup time, a start school time, a few breaks, and a stop time. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done when you have it planned out. Likewise, you’ll realize when you’re being unrealistic about cramming too much into the day.
6. Take a break when life comes at you fast. We have encountered illness, financial difficulty, extended family problems, transportation challenges, job instability, and schedule overload…sometimes all at the same time. It can wear you down, but don’t let it wear you out. Take a break to work through things and catch your breath. Remember that most bad things don’t last forever, so don’t make big changes in a knee-jerk reaction before seeing how things will turn out.
7. Find friends. Homeschooling can get a little lonely, especially when you’re surrounded by munchkins all day. But the homeschooling community is pretty tight and supportive. Ask around for support groups and co-operative teaching groups. The support groups usually meet monthly for a mom’s social and/or topical discussion. They might have playdates at local playgrounds and organize field trips. Co-op groups involve several families that meet weekly to teach classes together. One former engineer mom might teach math logic while a weekend nurse mom teaches biology. My girls have taken sign language, art, writing, science, and lots of other great subjects at our co-op.
Homeschooling has been our first choice for educating our children from the beginning. I can’t say I’ve never thought of other options in moments of desperation, but I’m convinced that homeschooling best meets our family’s needs and goals. Never let distractions (human or circumstances) overrule what might be the most important thing you can do for your children.
Do you have any questions or suggestions for new homeschoolers?