I t will be 10 years ago this August that my family started homeschooling. It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed so quickly. I need to look up the exact date, so we can have an anniversary celebration.
Our homeschool has changed quite a bit over the last ten years. We’ve added two “students” (officially) and I’ve relaxed quit a bit. I’ve grown comfortable in my homechooling skin.
A lot has stayed the same, too. We’re every bit as eclectic as we were back then. That was back in the days when somebody would ask me what we used for school and I would rattle off a laundry list of curriculum. We never were a one-size-fits-all kind of homeschooling family.
My kids on our very first homeschooling day ever.
So, what have I learned in those ten years? A lot. From my ten years’ of experience, I offer you ten homeschooling do’s and don’ts (one for each year!).
Don’t knock somebody else’s style. I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again a time or two: don’t criticize someone else’s homeschooling style because you never know when it will become your homeschooling style.
There is a time and a season for everything. Your homeschool is going to go through a lot of changes as you and your family go through various seasons of life. What may seem completely foreign to you now may seem like just the right approach in a few years.
As homeschooling families, we should learn from and support one another, never criticize each other. We’ve got the rest of the world to handle that for us.
Don’t make your homeschool look like a public school classroom. It’s okay to have a schedule – even a strict one – if that suits your family. It’s okay for your style to be textbook or school at home, if that suits your family.
But, don’t model your home after a public school classroom just because that’s the only educational model you’ve ever seen. If public school worked for your kids, isn’t that where they would be?
Don’t feel that you have to copy a broken model. Make your home a homeschool, not a homeschool. You will get the hang of this. You will find your groove. It may take some time, but trust your instincts. You’re not going to ruin your kid in a year.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. It may take you awhile to find the style, schedule, and/or curriculum that works for you and your kids. Deciding to change things up isn’t admitting failure. It’s admitting that your first attempt might not have been the best choice for your family.
It’s that whole “Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb on the first try” thing. Change things up, alter your schedule, take your time. When you’re doing something you’ve never done before, sometimes it takes some experimenting to get everything just the way you like it.
Don’t think you have to jump in all at once. You don’t have to dive into every subject the first day, the first week, or even the first month. This is an adjustment for all of you. Give yourselves some time to get acclimated.
Maybe the first week or two, you focus on reading, math, and something your child really enjoys like music, art, or nature study. Then, you can add in other subjects, a couple a week, until you’re doing your full course load.
Maybe you’ve found the math and grammar curriculum that you want to use, but you’re still stumped on history and science. Enjoy some great books and videos from the library on history and science topics while you research and try to decide. The world isn’t going to stop and your child isn’t going to be uneducated if you don’t have every single thing in place on the first day of school. Really.
Don’t put your child(ren) in every extracurricular activity under the sun. A big mistake I see a lot of homeschooling parents make is trying to put their kids in every available activity to show how well-socialized they are. This does nothing but burn you and your kids out (unless, perhaps, you and your kids are extremely extroverted and like being on-the-go all the time).
If you’re just putting kids in things to make yourself and/or the grandparents feel better about the whole socialization thing, though, you’re not doing anyone a favor. The people who really care about your kids are going to see soon enough that they’ll be just fine and the ones who just want to argue with you are never going to be convinced anyway.
Do glamorize homeschooling. For your kids. Just a little bit. They’re being bombarded with back-to-school messages this time of year, everywhere from their favorite TV shows, to commercials, to the school supply aisle at the store, to library books that assume that every kid in America goes to a traditional school.
It’s okay to show your kids that homeschool can be really cool, too. Read a cute book about a homeschooled kid (or beagle). Go on cool field trips. Take off at a time when the public school kids aren’t off. The first year we homeschooled, I purposely started a week or two after the public schools just to show Brianna one of the benefits of homeschooling – that we could customize our schedule.
Do expect to make curriculum mistakes. You’re not always going to love everything you buy. It is frustrating? Yes. Does it feel like you’ve wasted money? Yes. I’d rather feel like I’d wasted a little bit of money, though, than stick with something that is clearly not a good fit.
A lot of times, curriculum can be tweaked so that it’s not a total loss. Don’t be afraid to do that, but also, don’t be unwilling to admit a curriculum mistake. We’ve all done it. It’s best to chalk it up to a bad choice and move on.
Do get involved with your local homeschooling community. The friends I made that first year of homeschooling helped us make it through the adjustment period – through all those moments of self-doubt. Brianna still enjoys a close friendship with the first homeschooled friend she ever made.
When you’re doing something radically different, it helps to form bonds with like-minded folks who will encourage you when you’re struggling and who can count on you to encourage them in their moments of struggle.
Do make learning fun and hands-on when you can. It’s not your job as a parent or a teacher to put on some circus act for your kids and try to make everything fun, but it is good to put forth an effort to make learning fun and hands-on as much as you can.
I think that having kids actively engaged, enjoying what they’re learning, and doing, rather than just discussing helps them retain more of the information that they’re taking in each day.
Think about some of the most memorable lessons you’ve learned in life. How engaged were you in the process? What was it about the lesson that made it memorable? Was it something that you were interested in? Were you actively involved in the learning process? Try to provide these types of opportunities for your kids.
Do allow yourself time to adjust. I’ve alluded to this once already in this post, but it’s worth repeating. The first year of homeschooling is an adjustment period for everyone, whether you’re schooling a child who’s been in public school for a few years or you’re doing formal learning for the first time with your child who’s always been home.
Don’t expect everything to live up to your expectations right from the beginning. It took us nearly four years to really feel like we’d found our groove with homeschooling – and we still lose it from time to time. It’s okay if it takes you awhile to feel like you’ve got this homeschooling thing figured out. You’re not alone in feeling that way. On any given day, there are probably hundreds of homeschool moms feeling that same way.
If you’ve homeschooled for a while, what tips would you offer a new homeschooling parent?