keep it simple. do what works.
This post is for people who have decided to homeschool for the first time, are already homeschooling yet still struggling to find their homeschool rhythm, or are considering this amazing transition. To get started homeschooling remember this, homeschooling is, by no means easy but it’s also not nearly as hard or as complicated as I’ve seen many homeschool families (including mine) make it. My #1 piece of advice to anxious homeschool parents is this: Start slow and do what works, for you. Document your days and celebrate the wins! In other words, observe, learn, celebrate!
When people ask me what curriculum we use (and that’s often the first thing they ask!) I cringe, struggling to find a satisfactory answer. The truth is, we use various resources to guide us but mostly follow our own paths as they emerge. Some families I know swear by a particular curriculum. Their homeschools don’t function without it. And, that’s great! Whether you use a curriculum, a mix of curriculums, or follow a particular philosophy as your road map, I believe your homeschool can only thrive, if you take the time to find what works best for you and your family. There is no “right” way to homeschool. After all, flexibility and personalization are part of the homeschool magic. The beauty lies in slowing down, letting go of the “have-tos” and, always advocating for you and your child rather than an archaic, societally programmed system.
Your speed doesn’t matter. Forward is forward.
Get started homeschooling
1. Become Legal
A quick google search should provide you with basic information on your local homeschool laws. hslda.org has useful information but note, you DO NOT need an organization to help you start homeschooling. In my opinion, many homeschool laws sound scarier and more strict than they are. (If you live in a state with no requirements, congratulations!). If not, joining a state or local homeschool FB group can help provide real-world insight into what your state (or country) truly requires. Some states require you to keep a portfolio, which I have discovered is not as challenging as I initially thought. If your state requires an assessment test, it may be, a licensed educator or anyone with a master’s degree can review your portfolio rather than have your child sit through a formal test (which can particularly stressful to differently-wired kids). Every state will have a procedure for how to get started and veteran homeschoolers in your state can help walk you through the process.
Ever hear of it? Neither had I until a few months into our (unofficial) homeschool start. When we started ignoring my son’s virtual learning classes and making up our own lessons, I thought we were onto some major non-schooly, out-of-the-box thinking. However, I later came to realize (after we hit a wall with our lessons) this was hardly the case and what we needed was a proper deschooling period to fully reprogram our way of thinking about education..
Deschooling, in its simplest form, is recovering from public (and some private) school. It is the adjustment period a parent and child go through when leaving school before beginning homeschooling. It’s the healing period that must take place before you can really groove as homeschoolers. It isn’t a break from learning but a break from what you’ve always done (schooling) and a chance to discover and build what you want, as you shift into what you are about to do. It is best done during the traditional school year, not over the summer when most of us are used to more relaxed, free days anyway.
So, how do you deschool? Don’t worry about jumping into academics right away. Simply enjoy this time as a family. Learning takes place 24/7, not just 8-3 so take the time to notice your conversations and ways in which you are already learning through everyday activities. Encourage your children to think for themselves and start to answer their own questions. Relax. Play. Read together. Read more together. Pick up forgotten hobbies. Go on adventures. Visit local landmarks. Start conversations. And of course, give them space to be a kid!
How long deschooling lasts depends on you and your child. One homeschooling mom I know suggests a month for every year they have been in school! I advocate doing what works for you. You’ll know you’re done when you stop thinking of education as a timeline and stop questioning if you are going to mess up your child(ren)’s education.
3. Observe. Learn. Celebrate.
This tip may actually overlap with deschooling but I want to give it its own space due to how utterly helpful I have found this advice.
Simply observe. Take the time to look at your child and really SEE your child. HEAR your child. Get to know them. Who are they? What do they enjoy? What makes them come alive? What makes their eyes glaze over? What challenges them? Where do they most need your guidance in life? Jot down what they are learning each day.
Learn from your observations and learn from your child(ren). Let them show you what type of learning works best for them. Learn about you. What learning (and teaching) styles work best for you? What absolutely doesn’t work? Learn to show up as your best self. Lead by example. Learn to work as a team with your child, tailoring your homeschool to each of your strengths.
Celebrate your small wins whether it’s figuring out a new recipe, coming up with a creative out-of-the-box solution to an old problem, or working through difficult emotions. My son’s first sentence as a tiny tot was “I did it!” and he still says it frequently, to this day. We love this so much that “we did it!” has become a regular celebratory phrase in our homeschool life.
So, Observe. Learn. Celebrate. Oh and, write it down. Trust me, you’ll be amazed and, you’ll not only learn along with your child(ren), but you’ll also experience an incredible surge of confidence.
5. Create your homeschool vision
After deschooling, creating a home learning road map (vision) will help you:
- determine your educational goals for your child and decide which curriculum will best meet those goals. It will also give you a guide to see if you’re on track throughout the year.
- develop an educational philosophy by determining what you believe to be important. Are you concerned just about academics, or do you consider character development to be equally important? Do you want your child to be able to learn for a test, or do you want them to learn to think for themselves?
- decide what type of personality your family has – do you normally schedule everything down to the minute, or are you more spontaneous. Knowing this one piece of information can make a big difference in choosing the style or method of homeschooling you choose.
As a non-type A, overthinking scheduler, I found a vision plan to be much less anxiety-inducing and more inspiring for our learning than traditional curriculum planning. Knowing what we value as a family and the things we want to do together has strengthened our family’s connection and given us a map for the resources we bring into our house.
4. Connect with other homeschoolers.
When you start thinking about homeschooling, you probably wonder if you’ll be the only one in your area. However, with the ever increasing number of homeschooling families, that is not likely. Finding other homeschoolers, however, may not always be easy. It’s good to know where to look.
Some places for finding other homeschoolers during school hours include the public library, the park, and community centers.
The Internet is another place to find homeschoolers in your area. Try doing a search on one of the common search engines for “homeschool groups (your city).” If that doesn’t work, expand your search to include your county and then your state. On the outside chance that you don’t find anyone locally, don’t give up. You can still find support online through any number of Facebook homeschooling groups.
While you may not find local families (although you just MIGHT), online platforms such as Outschool can be a surprising source of socialization. My son refers to the other kids as his “classmates” and parents can even connect with each other through their platform.
When searching for homeschooling families locally, don’t be afraid to approach a family that you see out and about during school hours. Keep an eye out for them; you may find there are more homeschoolers in your area than you first thought.
For more ideas, check out these 8 Ideas For Finding Other Homeschoolers In Your Area.
6. Get started
Now you’re ready to officially start homeschooling! But remember to keep it simple. I repeat, KEEP IT SIMPLE. Jumping in too hard and fast can cause problems for the whole family. Start with one thing such as math and build up. Find your rhythm before adding on language arts. Repeat. Add music, history, science, or whatever works best with your homeschool vision and child. Keep in mind, not all learning is academic. Character building (check out the Big Life Kids Journal (and Podcast), executive functioning skills, critical thinking, and a love for learning are equally (or perhaps more) important in a child’s overall future success.
If your children are very young, you don’t have to purchase the latest curriculum. Spend time with them helping them learn to write their alphabet, learn simple math, and prepare them to learn to read. Small workbooks available at most discount stores. Use candy or beans to teach math concepts. Teach them to form their letters properly, use shaving cream or rice on a cookie sheet. As you can see, you don’t need to spend a great deal of money to teach the basics.
After teaching the basics, make sure your child has an opportunity for fun. Get involved in a support group with other homeschoolers. Plan some play days or field trips; let the children run and work off some of their pent-up energy. Having a support group helps moms, as well, especially when you have questions or need guidance.
Subscribe to some homeschooling magazines or newsletters. This will also help when you have questions because you’ll be able to see how other people homeschool and learn how they handle the different aspects of daily life while homeschooling. It will help you to know that you’re not alone.
Continue reading and learning as you teach your child. There will always be new things to learn, so plan on becoming a life learner. As your child grows you may need to try a different approach. By reading and learning along the way, you’ll be better able to make the necessary changes.
Choosing to homeschool is not always an easy decision to make. However, when you realize that you can do it and follow these basic guidelines, you’ll soon realize that you made the right choice. Homeschooling is an awesome opportunity for you, your family, and your children to learn and grow together. Remember, you decide what is important in your homeschool. Keeping it simple is a great way to start this new beautiful lifestyle choice.
This is just one homeschool mom’s opinion about how to approach things.
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