Homeschool: Keep It Simple. Do What Works.
This homeschool guide 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. 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.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through some basics for how to start homeschooling on your terms as well as how to (hopefully) find your unique homeschool rhythm. This is all based on my own research and trial and error as a secular homeschool parent to a 7-year-old ADHD boy and merely one mom’s opinion.
Before we begin I’ll share my #1 piece of advice to anxious homeschool parents: Start slow and do what works, for you. Document your days and celebrate the wins! The best gift you can give your kids is to show up. In other words, observe, learn, celebrate!
Your speed doesn’t matter. Forward is forward.
Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links which means I may earn a commission should you click through and make a purchase. This in no way impacts your cost nor my recommendation of any products or services.
Homeschooling Guide: What is homeschooling?
In its simplest form, homeschooling is home-based education. Personally, I prefer the term home education or home based learning to homeschooling. Doesn’t that sound more flexible and freeing—to not have to try and replicate an archaic, traditional public or private school model of education?
Home based learning comes in many forms and is an age-old traditional educational practice that a decade ago appeared to be cutting-edge and “alternative” but is now bordering on “mainstream” in the United States. Part of the beauty of this lifestyle choice is the flexibility it provides. From learning philosophy to curriculum choice, daily rhythms to location, parents have control over the direction in which their children learn, the how, when, and where. While some home learners have more dedicated learning spaces, not all home learners learn at home. Some use the world as their “classroom” while traveling. Unlike traditional schools where the curriculum is fixed, home learning allows for a personalized learning environment tailored to an individual’s needs.
Homeschooling Guide: Common Myths
Myth #1: Homeschool Kids are “Weird”, Social Misfits
This is one of the biggest homeschool misconceptions I have heard so, I will address it first.
Learning in a school environment does not guarantee a child will be able to assimilate into a social group or have friends. Socialization is about much more than interacting with children in the same age group. Home learning allows you to teach your child how to get along with a variety of people. Instead of a child being stuck in a classroom with the same thirty students every day, a home learner encounters and interacts with people of all ages and backgrounds whether it’s family, neighbors, friends, or members of the community. Some of my 7-year-old’s favorite people are adults and he plays with multi-age children on a regular basis, pre-Covid that is.
A 2000 study by the Discovery Institute showed that homeschooled children were scored as “well-adjusted” by trained counselors and exhibited fewer behavioral problems than their peers. The social skills that a child learns from being home educated are often more beneficial and healthy than what many kids get from a traditional school environment.
Myth #2: Very few people homeschool their children
According to researcher, Brian D. Ray, Ph.D, there are an estimated 4.0 to 5.0 million homeschool students in grades K-12 in the United States (or 7% to 9% of school-age children). There were about 2.5 million homeschool students in spring 2019 (or 3% to 4% of school-age children). Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States have the most prevalent homeschooling movements.
Myth #3: Home learners don’t get into college
Research suggests home educated children tend to do better on standardized tests (home learners score 15% to 30% higher), stick around longer in college, and do better once they’re enrolled. A 2009 study from the institutional research at the University of St. Thomas showed that the proportion of homeschoolers who graduated from college was about 67%, while among public school students it was 59%. Some top-tier colleges like Yale, Dartmouth, and UC Berkeley actually seek out homeschooled kids and accept them at a high rate. These schools recognize the unique qualities and skills that such children often possess, such as being self-motivated and self-disciplined.
Unlike their traditionally educated peers who struggle with their newfound independence, home learners often have an easier time transitioning to college life.
Myth # 4: Homeschool kids aren’t prepared for the “real world”
Homes learners spend every day in the “real world” so they are often more prepared for adulthood. While other kids are cooped up in a classroom, home learners are often helping their parents with life skills such as laundry, grocery shopping, prepping meals, and more. They spend far more time outside interacting with the “real world” and how to interact in a variety of situations. You keep your grounded in the real word, create your unique Home Based Learning Road Map for the journey you want with your children before they leave their home. After all, home based learning is lifestyle choice.
Myth #5: Parents are not qualified to teach
Parents are the MOST qualified to guide their children in their learning and growth. After all, that’s what they have been doing since their child was born. By home educating, parents have more opportunities to connect with their children, get to know their needs, tailor learning to their individual child(ren), and share their family’s values. Not only that, parents today have a plethora of resources to assist them whether it’s a traditional curriculum, online courses, distance learning programs, in-person classes, or partnering with other homeschool parents to “divide and conquer.”
Myth #6: To homeschool, you have to follow a public school, core standard curriculum
Some states have higher requirements for homeschooling than others but no state requires you to follow a public school, traditional curriculum if you don’t want to. If you are considering re-enrolling your learner in publics school, this may be the path you choose. I have found, however, many families start out this way, then shift to a different education model as their needs shift. If you think you want to home educate for at least a few years, I highly recommend veering away from a traditional education model. Learn more about our un-curriculum.
Myth #7: Families who homeschool their kids are all alike
Just like curriculum choices, homeschool families come in all varieties including homes where both parents work, parents with a single child, parents with many children, homes where not all children are homeschooled, and homes from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Every family has its own reason for choosing home education. For some, it’s because they feel they can do a better job than the public schools. For others, it’s a lifestyle-perhaps their family is on the road a lot. Some families home education due to their religious beliefs and some are creating an individualized program for a special needs child. Although the reasons for choosing to educate their children at home differ, these families share one thing in common: they want what is best for their kids.
Homeschooling Guide: A brief overview of homeschool philosophies
As much as I loath labels and find it easy to get bogged down or “categorized” by terminology and philosophies, I do believe, having a basic understanding of educational models can enhance your home education as you discover new ideas and determine what philosophies (or parts of philosophies) you want to incorporate into your vision. Just remember to stop researching if it becomes overwhelming! Ultimately, your homeschool style will be a unique blend of what you have learned over the years, the values your family holds, and the method that works best for each of your children.
It would be impossible for me to list every type of homeschool philosophy as education and educational philosophies are never static. I am discovering many new philosophies and some older philosophies that have become hidden over the decades and centuries. Below is a list of the most common philosophies as well as a few less common ones I personally pull from.
Charlotte Mason Education
Charlotte Mason (1842 – 1923) was a British educator who challenged the concept of a utilitarian education. She believed that children learned best through life and “living books,” rather than rote memory and dry facts. She advocated that students read narrative books, retelling what they read in their own words. Her ideas also favor outdoor exploration, art, music, and a wide variety of subjects, with an emphasis on focus, effort, and a love of learning. While Charlotte Mason was deeply religious, there is a new group of secular CM home educators, many of whom have adapted Charoltte’s teaching for secular learning. And, if you have a kid with special needs, you can join this Facebook group.
The most popular classical education model divides learning into three phases. In the Grammar stage, elementary-aged students memorize and recite the “building blocks” for later learning in a full range of subjects. The second stage, Dialectic, teaches its middle-school-aged students to think through knowledge they have acquired. The third stage, Rhetoric, guides its high-school students to understand the deeper themes of what they already know, communicate to others, and apply those lessons to their own lives.
This is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s when a home learning family chooses to base their home learning on a variety of educational principles – modifying and blending each as seen fit to work for their vision and learning needs. This is a relatively new terms which seems to be catching on quickly.
I recently discovered this term and have been shamelessly incorporating it into our homeschool. It’s exactly what it sounds like: using games to enhance (or teach) concepts. Find out which educational games we currently like and how we have modified them for even more learning!
This educational method was developed by Maria Montessori (1870-1952), an Italian physician. In a Montessori setting, older children and younger children learn alongside one another. Teachers are on hand to give guidance and support while providing access to a large array of learning materials. Children choose their work activities and learn through seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement. Knowledge is internalized in a natural, self-paced way. While it’s a little harder to implement this method and create a pure Montessori learning environment at home, it’s becoming easier to do so.
Citing inspiration from Maria Montessori, American educational theorist John Dewey (1859-1952), and even Confucius and Aristotle, this educational method challenges students to solve real-life problems. These projects are not developed for the sake of “enriching” a student’s previous learning; the project itself is the means by which the student learns. Presented with questions such as “How safe is our water?” or “What can we do to protect a special place or species?” students research, analyze, and communicate their own work in a real-life setting.
Named for the Italian town in which this philosophy originated, the Reggio Emilia Approach focuses mostly on early childhood education. Although no “Reggio-inspired” classroom or home will look exactly alike, they are influenced by a few core ideals. Children are viewed as competent, curious, and interested in connecting to the world around them. Teachers document students’ work (through a variety of means including observations, video, or visual mediums like paint), then track what the students are learning and develop ideas for expansion. The Reggio approach focuses strongly on working in groups, giving equal value to all thoughts and ideas, and facilitating children’s search for knowledge.
The “traditional approach” to education, mirroring public school classrooms, views teachers as givers of knowledge, and students as receivers of it. The curriculum is designed to provide students with the foundation they will need in order to achieve their own personal goals in life. Parents use textbooks, workbooks, videos and computer programs, tests, and grading systems. This might be a time when homeschool really is an appropriate term, as this is pretty much an attempt to replicate school at home. Many families I know start using this philosophy and model and shift their approach over time, as they understand their child on a deeper level and become more confident in their abilities to guide their child on their learning journey.
Unit Studies Approach
The Unit Study Method builds a variety of topics around a common theme rather than teaching each subject as separate courses. A unit-study homeschool might use pre-planned studies, or create their own based on their children’s interests. This method lends itself to aspects of project-based education, multi-age education, and open-ended exploration and learning.
Unschooling Approach (a varient of child-led learning)
This education model is—in my opinion—often misunderstood. Founded by John Holt (1923-1985), unschoolers believe that children will best learn academics, in the same manner, they learn to walk and talk: naturally. It doesn’t mean that children are uneducated; it refers to the fact that parents don’t use curriculum or formal lesson plans. Unschoolers are encouraged to follow their interests, and learning occurs through daily life experiences and interactions. You may also hear the terms delight learning or child-led learning and, while similar, there are some differences in these approaches.
Waldorf Education follows the ideas of Austrian philosopher and social reformer Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). This model posits that children pass through the same developmental stages, and it’s the role of the teacher to guide learning during these stages. The earliest stage focuses on creative play and moral principles. The second stage spans childhood to puberty, and focuses on a child’s emotional development by way of creative expression and cooperation. The third stage guides students into independent thinking and their own personal way of interacting with the world.
I grew up partly as a world schooler but only discover the term a few years ago, well into my adult years. I love this term as it applies to anyone who uses the world as their “classroom”. Most people probably picture nomad families adventuring from county to country (as was the case with my family) but other families who embrace this term (such as I do with my son) do so from a solid home base. If you are intentionally and actively seeking out learning opportunities in the world around where you live, you are, at least partially, worldschooling!
Homeschooling Guide: simplify, relax and find balance
So many homeschool families I hear from (myself included) talk about burnout or overwhelm at some point. My biggest advice for new homeschool families is to start slow to avoid a ‘false’ start or the desire to simply return to public school and, my advice for families in a burnout phase is to relax, take a break from the academics, and see if you can find balance through simplification. Find a few things, whether it be the stuff in your house, the “noise” in your brain, the amount of information your child is receiving on a daily basis or your scheduled activates to simplify. Discover what brings you peace and recharge. Home based learning is, by nature, flexible and super adaptable so do what works for you. At the end of the day, jot down what you ended up doing during this time of relaxation and celebrate your wins. It may feel like a lot know but taking some time to create a Home Based Learning Road Map will keep you grounded and confident during the rough patches.
Homeschooling Guide: The importance of reading to your child
One of the best ways to encourage a love of books, reading, critical thinking, and interesting conversations is by reading to your child often. If you’re not a huge fan of reading, audiobooks can be a fun family activity. Make sure you choose a variety of books including fiction and non-fiction and some living books. Talk about the books, what’s happening in the storyline? Who are the characters? What new questions arise because of this book? What’s one thing you learned that you didn’t know before? Is this a topic or author your child is interested in exploring further?
Read over breakfast or after lunch or dinner. Set aside a designated reading time during the day. Read while your child is in the bath, or just before bed. Pick an audiobook to listen to as a family. As always, do what works for you. I believe, the more you incorporate stories and living texts into your every day, the more curious your child will become.
Living books come from Charlotte Mason (CM) and her educational philosophy. While I am not a traditional CM follower, I do appreciate this term and way of thinking, more intentionally, about the books I choose to read with my son. If you’re interested in learning more about living books, Marjorie of Juniper Pines sums it up better than I can.
“A living book is a book of literary quality, often written for a popular audience by a single author (sometimes two) who is passionate about his subject. It transmits ideas rather than just facts, and feeds the mind.“
Narration is another principle taken from Charlotte Mason. It takes place in many ways from a simple retelling of a story to an animated conversation to an art project to a puppet show or a reenactment. By incorporating narration into your home learning, you are not only helping your child understand basic storytelling but also stretching their listening and memory skills. Most importantly, narration is a great way to test their retention and understanding, and acts as a form of assessment for a child’s academic progress. Learn more about teaching your child to narrate.
Homeschooling Guide: Incorporating Nature Into Your Homeschool
Nature is a core component of many educational philosophies—Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Reggio, Waldorf, just to name a few. Despite (or perhaps because of) my son’s “fast and furious” quickly moving body/mind, I try to incorporate a good amount of nature and observation skills into our activities. Nature and observation skills are so, so important for any child but extra important for the ADHD child whose brain is functioning on overdrive. Scheduling time to unwind, relax and recalibrate is vital, not only for young children who are inundated with information, requests, demands, activities, and stuff, but also for the adults who are behind the scenes guiding and supporting these active young souls on their journey.
Check out Our Relaxed Homeschool Curriculum to see how we incorporate Nature and Science into our Home Learning Plan.
Homeschool Guide: Beyond Academics
Center Your Child’s Needs
One of the best things about home learning is that you can create an educational environment that fits your child rather than fitting your child into an educational environment that may not suit them fully. This is particularly relevant for differently wired learners such as learners with ADHD. But this also means you have to be vigilant and willing to change your approach if you find what you are doing is not working. This involves listening to your child and asking for their feedback.
In addition to being your children’s teacher, you are also their parent and personal advocate. Your children need your unconditional love regardless of their academic success. They need free time to play. They need friends and mentors outside of their family. They need privacy, responsibility, agency, autonomy, and freedom. Remember, as parents, we do not own our children and, as such, it is important to respect them as whole and complete, fully capable beings with their own passions, interests, and ways of interacting with the world. As parents (and now educators), it is our job to guide, support, and inspire them on their journey.
Listen to your children when they tell you about their needs, both academic and otherwise. If your approach to homeschooling is not fulfilling those needs, be willing to consider alternative options. If your child is unhappy with a certain aspect of homeschooling, spend some time brainstorming solutions with them. Listen to your child and, listen with your whole being. Listen, not only with your ears, but with your eyes, heart, and intuition. Then, do what works for you and your child(ren).
Most educational philosophies I am drawn to have a strong emphasis on character development or good habits. They recognize the child, born as a person, whole and complete. Educators act as guides, creating a nurturing environment for learning. Our relationships and emotions are key to learning.
I have come to realize that, to create a nurturing environment for learning, I must give equal attention to Emotional Intelligence: (How to raise children who are caring, resilient, and emotionally strong), executive functioning skills, and calm through Simplicity Parenting. Other things we are emphasizing in our home education include understanding mistakes as learning opportunities, passion, not being afraid to try new things, love/respect, and holistic problem-solving.
Emotional Intelligence: noun
- a set of skills that helps children (and adults) identify, appropriately express, and manage their emotions; develop effective relationships; cope with stress; adapt to change; and make good decisions.
“Simply put, emotional intelligence (EI) involves an array of skills that allows your child to understand and leverage emotions in ways that lead to more accurate self-awareness, greater confidence, more effective coping, stronger relationships, better decisions making and more academic and work success. EI skills will allow your child to stand up for his or herself, handle pressure, or become motivated to perform at his or her best—among many other things.” – The Everything Parent’s guide to Emotional Intelligence.
Big Life Kids Journal (and Podcast) is an amazing resource for teaching kids about growth mindset, goal setting, and kindness. Started by a parent couple, it was designed to help their son grow up to be a positive, confident, resilient human being who strives to achieve great things in life.
Homeschooling Guide: How to start
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.
4. Connect with other homeschoolers.
This may be harder to do during a pandemic but there are a plethora of Facebook groups for any type of personal or homeschool philosophy or geographic region. Connect and find out what others are doing. Get your questions answered, gain insight, and pick-up new tips and tricks. Another great way to connect is through homeschool classes on platforms such as Outschool. With thousands of online classes, Outschool is the largest marketplace for live online classes for kids. You can take traditional “core” classes or take unique, one-off “extra-curricular” classes such as Harry Potter conducting, Lego robotics and engineering, or Cats and Cultures (“travel” the world with other cat fans!) My son refers to the other kids as his “classmates” and parents can even connect with each other through their platform. Connecting with other homeschoolers will help you stay anchored in the sea of overwhelm.
5. Create your homeschool vision
After deschooling, creating a homeschool vision (your Home Based Learning Road Map) will help you gain clarity on what’s important to you. It can help you narrow down your homeschool philosophy, type of curriculum, or other resources you will use. It will help you discover the things you actually want your kids to be learning from their time with you. 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. (link to a downloadable freebie?)
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 Kid’s Journal), executive functioning skills, critical thinking, and a love for learning are equally (or perhaps more) important in a child’s overall future success. Remember, you decide what is important in your homeschool. Keeping it simple is a great way to start this new beautiful lifestyle choice.
Homeschool Guide: How to choose curriculum
A family’s curriculum choice and home learning approach are as varied as Baskin-Robbins ice cream. While some families prefer to use one curriculum for all their subjects, others prefer to mix and match. Yet still, some make up their own curriculum, and some unschooling families choose no curriculum at all (although, if you use the public library than you still have a curriculum!) curriculum Today, curriculum comes in many forms including apps, online classes, and even full online learning programs. The best way to approach home education is to do what works best for your learner! Find a curriculum that works with their needs. Or don’t if that’s how the learning takes place.
With all that said, this can be an overwhelming part of planning your home based learning so only do this after you have deschooled and you’ve had time to observe your child(ren). Also, remember that it’s okay not to stick with one thing. If a particular curriculum doesn’t work, see if you can sell it second-hand to another homeschool family and move on! Another option, which I have done a few times, is to hang onto the curriculum and try introducing it at a later time if you think your child might be ready then. More than finding the “right” curriculum, I encourage you to develop a home education vision plan. Write down your personal and academic goals for each of your children. Once I did this, it was much easier for me to see what was worth my time and money and what wasn’t. Also, remember that a curriculum doesn’t need to take the form of a particular learning program. We incorporate some monthly subscription kits, one-off online classes, living books from the library, podcasts, games, and more in our curriculum. Check out our relaxed curriculum here.
Cathy Duffy is also a good resource, if you would like more detailed reviews on a particular “traditional” curriculum.
Homeschooling Guide: Scheduling made Simple
I have never been a great planner or scheduler. I am forever creating schedules and lists that don’t “stick”. I am an overthinker and extreme planning tends to cause me stress. I have spent way too many hours agonizing over scheduling logistics. Template after template, I keep trying to wrap my head around all the moving parts. The final schedule feel busy and rigid. I even tried “relaxed” homeschool schedules but they leave me feeling equally overwhelmed, like I am missing something important in our days.
When I finally stopped trying to schedule and organize our “work”, things began to flow. I was able to spend more time engaged with my son, and I could focus on the lesson that I felt would benefit him the most, at that particular time.
One of the first things we did once officially homeschooling, was deschooling. I took the time to observe and write it all down. With each new activity, I asked myself, “what is he learning from this?” (Thanks Mom and Dad for this idea.) I looked for ways of incorporating learning into our every day and began jotting all this down. After a few weeks, I realized we had a schedule of sorts! Or, more importantly, we had rhythm and flow and learning was happening.
So, my new approach is to write it down after we do it, rather than before. Try it! You’ll be amazed at the things you’re already learning together. NB: None of this was scheduled beforehand.
Another wonderful thing I did, which freed us from the scheduling and curriculum trap was to create a Home Learning Road Map. Jotting down our reasons for home learning, what we hoped to accomplish, what things we want to be able to share with our son before he leaves our house, gave me the internal permission I needed to embrace flexibility and live in the NOW.
We live in seasons with more academic periods and more child-led periods. In The Brave Learner, Julie Borgart recommends this seasonal schedule:
Fall: dedicated studies (curriculum)
Winter: unit studies
While we may not follow this exactly, reading this has given me the confidence to just “go with the flow” as needed.
I keep a list of resources and “go-to” things for when my son needs a little more guidance. I also keep a list of things I want to accomplish together – reading time, working through his big life kids podcast journal, or a specific project I have in mind. The other things we learn seem to fall magically in the cracks of our days as he or I suggest them – a podcast episode followed by an interesting conversation, a bike outing that leads us to the new Jane Goodall documentary, or a book which sparks a Lego engineering project.
Read more about our simple homeschool scheduling process and learn how to find your homeschool rhythm.
Homeschool Guide: Setting up Learning Spaces
Learning spaces can be anything you want them to be – from dedicated home learning rooms to your kitchen table to camper vans on the road. There is no “right” way to set up your learning space. The only things I highly recommend for your space is access to books (this could just be one or two books out on a shelf + a way to listen to audiobooks), a quiet or “safe” space for your child to calm down, a favorite game or two (or more if that works for your space), nature, and some basic art supplies.
You don’t need a large space for home learning. We currently home educate in a 750 Sq Ft apartment and are considering taking our education on the road in the near future. Currently, we have a small dedicated art space with a set of watercolor paints and a construction paper, white paper, pencils, erasers, and color pencils, crayons, popsicle sticks, and glue. And because my ADHD son is still learning executive functioning and impulse control, there are certain things I keep easily accessible (by an adult only) in our homeschool space in our closet. Scissors, tape (love these tape roles), googly eyes, wooden beads, back-up supplies, and few more things are ready when asked for. I try to keep enough things on hand to do a wide range of art projects yet not so many things as to feel overwhelming. We have worked quite hard to simplify or space to create breathing room for my son’s creativity as well as for my own planning and organizing sanity.
A bookshelf with a few books and school activity takes up a small wall and a quiet space is set up with a large Buddha, focus jars, and mindfulness cards between our couch and window in the corner of our living room.
If you are traveling and even more limited for space, a simple drawing notebook, color pencils, and watercolor set suffice for art. A good writing notebook and pencils, pencil sharpener and eraser should come in handy. As for books, you may choose to bring one or two fictional books which you can trade for new ones along the way, and use audiobooks for additional story learning.
If you’re short on text book space, I recommend What Your First-Grader Needs to Know (or Kindergartner, Second-Grader, Third-grader, Fourth-Grader, or Fifth-Grader).
Homeschool Guide: Homeschooling with ADHD
While these suggestions and tips apply to all kids, home education with ADHD poses its own set of challenges. Check out the homeschooling with ADHD guide to learn about types of ADHD, ADHD symptoms, ADHD diagnosis, treatment options (including nutrition ideas) to help your child’s brain perform at it’s best, how we structure our learning to work for our son, executive functioning skills and more.
Homeschool Guide: Tips for successful home learning
Observe and take the time to get to know your child(ren)
To me, this is key. It took me a while to figure out how to truly observe-without trying to tell my son what to do or how to do something. Just observe what your child does. What interests them? How do they go about solving problems? What are their strengths? Where do they need more guidance and support from you? Don’t try to “fix” or teach anything just yet. Instead, write it down and start to notice the patterns. Then, plan your home learning from there.
When we started our homeschool journey, I was so stuck in my lesson plans that I would make everyone in my family miserable. I would wake up with an idea of how the day would go, only to find out that my son, my husband, my house, or the universe had different plans. This would really aggrevate me, causing huge frustrations and on-going tension. Once I let go of my rigidity, however, (whether it was with scheduling, curriculum, expectations), we began to have fun and see more success. So, take it from me, flexibility is important.
Play board games, play imaginary games, watch movies, go for a long hike or bike ride, bake, cook, dance, be silly, go on field trips. Remember learning takes place wherever, whenever you want it.
Celebrate your successes
Remember to acknowledge the success of not only your child but of you and your home learning! You can celebrate with a fun outing, a special treat or just a simple high five and a gratitude practice.
Never compare your children, you, or your homeschool to others. You and your home learning are unique. Do what works for you.
When you or your child(ren) start to feel burn out, simply take a break. Don’t worry, the learning will happen. But it can only happen when the child is engaged.
Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If she is not interested it’s like throwing marshmallows at her head and calling it eating.”Katrina Gutleben
Be kind to and take care of yourself
The best gift you can give your child is the gift of showing up. When we take care of ourselves, it’s not only for us but for our children as well. Get tips for having an abundant homeschool here.
Homeschool Guide: Conclusion
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. Remember, they only get one chance to be a kid, and it’s our job to protect their childhoods.
Leave a comment or message me with any questions, suggestions or ideas. I love learning from, sharing, supporting, and encouraging other families. Together we can change the future.
This is just one homeschool mom’s opinion about how to approach things.
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