When our family began homeschooling, I was nervous and unsure. I had one homeschool friend, so I peppered her – and another poor, unsuspecting friend-of-a-friend – with questions. It didn’t completely alleviate my uncertainty, but it did help.
Just in case you’re a new homeschooling parent without a friend to interrogate, I wanted to offer you some tips – 10 things you need to know if you’re homeschooling for the first time this year. Ready?
1. You are capable.
I know you may be doubting yourself right now. You may be worried that your plans are bigger than your follow through. Or that you really won’t be able to teach your 1st grader to read or your 9th grader to find the value of x. Or that you won’t have enough patience to get through the first week, let alone the first year.
I know because I was you. A learning curve exists, but your willingness to learn alongside your students and commit to their education uniquely qualifies you to homeschool your kids.
2. You need to take care of yourself.
Homeschooling can be intense, especially in the early years. Get plenty of rest and exercise, eat healthy foods, and drink plenty of water.
Follow the advice of a fantastic article I read on Simple Homeschool – don’t leave yourself out of your homeschool plans. Go to lunch or dinner with your girlfriends or your spouse. Do the little things that make your day brighter. My personal favorite is keeping fresh flowers on the table.
3. You could be being hypersensitive.
As a new (or even veteran) homeschooling parent, you may misinterpret the intent of others. I love what The Hmmm…schooling Mom points out in the 4th item on her list of Seven MORE Things You Should Stop Doing if You Homeschool. The friend, relative, or random stranger in the grocery store who is asking about homeschooling may not be trying to pick a fight. She may just be making conversation. Really. (But you should totally go read the whole article.)
Sure, obnoxious people exist. There are lots of comments homeschooling parents get tired of hearing, and people do have some funny questions about homeschooling, but it’s not a bad idea to give people the benefit of the doubt until you’re sure they’re being obnoxious.
4. You don’t have anything to prove to the nosy neighbors or well-meaning relatives.
Really. You don’t. I seriously thought about writing a post entitled “10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Give a Rip What Someone Thinks About Your Homeschool,” but I couldn’t get past #1: Your kids are not their kids.
I mean, seriously. There is nothing to say beyond that. Trying to legitimize your homeschool to anyone other than yourself puts unnecessary pressure on yourself and your kids.
(Attempting to legitimize it to yourself rather than trusting the process and giving your children space to learn at their own pace can put unnecessary pressure on everyone, too. Just saying.)
If you need a trick to get the well-meaning relatives off your back, teach your kids to say the table blessing in Latin. It may not work for everyone, but it proved quite effective in our case.
5. You don’t have to sign your kid up for all. the. things.
I know you’ve heard all about those weird, unsocialized homeschoolers. That’s probably what brought you here. There are certainly weird homeschooled kids, just as there are weird public- and private-schooled kids, but homeschooling typically doesn’t cause weirdness.
It might if you really do keep your kids locked in the basement (though I’d argue the case that that’s parenting causing weirdness, not homeschooling), but both that and having them enrolled in every activity under the sun to prove that they’re socialized are extremes.
Let your kids get involved in what interests them and what your budget can handle. Don’t force groups or activities on them in the name of socialization. I generally limit my kids to two activities each (until they can drive themselves). None of them are any weirder than average, and they are all perfectly capable of interacting with others.
6. Your homeschooling style will change.
I can almost guarantee this fact. You’ll start out extremely structured, and you’ll relax, or you’ll start out quite relaxed and feel the need to add some structure. You may start out classical then discover how much you love Charlotte Mason principles.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is not to knock someone else’s homeschooling style – because it just might be yours at some point.
7. Don’t expect to ever feel like you’ve got it all figured out.
Really. Just about the time you think you’ve got it all figured out, something changes. Just about the time you’re feeling comfortably confident, someone utters the words homeschooling high school.
8. Your carefully-researched curriculum may not be a good fit.
It’s okay to chalk it up as a learning experience and move on. Changing homeschool curriculum mid-year isn’t as horrible as it sounds. It’s much worse to force yourself to stick with something that clearly isn’t working.
9. You may feel like an outsider in your homeschool group.
I think that, as a whole, homeschool moms don’t want to be cliquish, but we’re human, and sometimes it happens. If there are other groups, try them. If not, don’t give up.
You’re probably not the only one who isn’t clicking with the group. If you can’t make the existing group work, start your own like some friends and I did. Don’t give up. Your tribe is out there.
10. Homeschooling for the first time is kind of like being a new mom.
Everybody has an opinion. They want to tell you how to homeschool or regale you with horror stories of someone who did it wrong – you know, like their neighbor’s friend’s cousin’s sister whose kid turned out totally weird and unsocialized and still lives in his mom’s basement.
No one is an expert on homeschooling your kid. Sift through the advice and tips thrown your way, taking what works for you and discarding the rest. Do what you need to do for your family – and don’t feel guilty or ashamed about it.
If you need an entire boxed curriculum so that everything is laid out for you, do it and don’t worry about what the other moms at co-op (or wherever) think. (I can suggest a fabulous boxed homeschool curriculum for you.)
If you need to use workbooks, use them. They’re not as bad as I once thought.
Do what you need to do for your kids. Period. You may still be feeling unsure about your first homeschooling day, but try not to worry. You’ve got this!
If you’re a new homeschooling parent, what other questions do you have? If you’ve been at this awhile, what would you add?