When my husband and I were in premarital counseling, he expressed an odd expectation. He asked that someday, when our kids were old enough, I consider trying to homeschool.
He had been homeschooled, but other than that I was unfamiliar with the practice. In fact, I thought it sounded strange. But sure, I thought, why not give it a shot?
Several years later, my oldest son was approaching kindergarten age and it was time for our first year homeschooling. We had done a little work with letters and numbers in preschool, but when it came to actual school school, I felt clueless.
It turns out a lot of we newbies feel that way: clueless. As I started doing research, I felt even more clueless! What if I messed it up and ruined my kids’ lives forever?
Fortunately, I soon discovered that it wasn’t as scary as I thought. Two years later I’m homeschooling two of my kids and they’re thriving. So am I!
I received little snippets of advice along the way that I thought would be helpful to put into one place—so that someone like me wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed starting out.
Do: Research different homeschool methods.
When I started out, I had no idea there were so many different approaches to homeschooling! It can be helpful to know what kinds of curriculum to use and how to schedule your year if you have a certain philosophy. Check out this quick guide to homeschool methods for a basic overview.
Don’t: Feel like you have to have your entire method figured out right now.
Unless they have a lot of background in homeschooling or education, many moms aren’t sure which method is best when they start. Most likely, you will develop your method as you figure out your family’s needs and learning style. I started out with more of a traditional approach (because that was my experience in public school), and now we are pretty firmly in the classical method.
Do: Connect with other homeschool families.
Being a part of a homeschool community has been a lifesaver for me! I’m on a local email list that exchanges tons of information including used curriculum for sale, co-ops, meet-ups, community events and more. I have made some great friends and we love to have playdates and swap ideas.
Don’t: Compete with other homeschool families.
The beauty of homeschooling is that each family is on its own unique journey. Do not fall into the trap of comparing your kids and your system to other families. Seek to learn from other families, but don’t make it a competition.
Do: Look into co-ops or meet-ups.
We didn’t find a co-op that we liked our first year homeschooling, and I felt a little lost. The second year, we joined a very organized co-op and we love it. It gives us the accountability, structure and community I felt like we were lacking.
Don’t: Feel like you have to meet with any particular group.
If you’re in a community with a lot of options, you might feel like you have to do it all or your kids will miss out. No. I recommend visiting a few groups and figuring out whether they will be a good fit. Maybe it will take some time to find the right one (it did for us!).
Do: Try out various curriculums.
It took me a while to figure out our style and which programs I wanted to use. Finding used curriculum at garage sales and through the local homeschool community’s email list was very helpful because then I didn’t feel as bad if I decided that it wasn’t for us. We could try it and, if we didn’t like it, we put it away. Just recently, in fact, I decluttered all of our books in the house—and it was okay to get rid of the homeschool books that just weren’t for us.
Don’t: Spend lots and lots of money on kindergarten curriculum.
Since I felt clueless about what I was doing, it was very tempting to want to buy a big box set and then just have everything I needed. Don’t get me wrong; for some families this is a great fit. But if you’re not sure, I suggest that you hold off. I actually ended up buying a used boxed set, and to my surprise we hated the rigidity of it—as well as the learning style. Good thing I didn’t drop hundreds of dollars on the new set, only to be locked into a program I didn’t like for a whole year! My advice, if you’re just starting out, is to relax, have fun and just remember: it’s kindergarten! They don’t need to be masters of much of anything yet.
Do: Establish a schedule that works for your family.
When I say “schedule” I use that term very loosely. But even if you lean towards “unschooling,” it’s still very helpful to have certain rhythms that your kids can expect throughout the day. I wrote a post about How To ROCK Your Schedule and have some resources that my help you.
A homeschool planner can also be extremely helpful. Personally, I found a homeschool planner this year that I’m really excited about. I need help planning and structuring our family’s homeschool, but I don’t like having each and every lesson plan mapped out. The Relaxed Mom Homeschool Planner from the Proverbial Homemaker is the perfect balance that helps you set goals and stick to a rhythm, while being flexible enough to meet each individual child’s needs. You can completely adjust it whenever you want. Plus, with the daily Scripture cards you can start each school day off in God’s Word without having to think too hard (and I need that!).
It can be tempting to want to do all the things. The best advice about starting kindergarten I heard from a veteran homeschool mom was, “Stay at home, have fun and play!” Young kids really don’t need more than an hour or two of instruction a day. Enjoy this time while you can!
Do: Pray. Then pray some more.
I may be stating the obvious, but don’t forget this crucial step to a great homeschool year! Pray continually about your kids and you the direction of your family’s homeschool.
Don’t: Give up.
If you’re like us, you’ll have days when both you and the kids will look out the window and wonder if it would just be easier for them to hop onto that yellow school bus. That’s normal; don’t freak out! Stick with it, take a break, try something new. You’ve got this!
Aspiring homeschoolers: what other fears and questions do you have? Veteran homeschoolers, what other advice would you offer? Let’s share the wisdom. 🙂
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