10 Things You Need to Know if You’re Homeschooling for the First Time This Year


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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?

10 Things You Need to Know if You’re Homeschooling for the First Time This Year

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.

10 Things You Need to Know if You’re Homeschooling for the First Time This Year

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.

Yes, this happens. It can be frustrating because curriculum isn’t cheap. Consider all your options when the curriculum isn’t working. Try tweaking it a bit.

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?

 

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16 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips! This will be my first time homeschooling. My fella will be in the 1st grade.

    1. THANK YOU SO SO SO VERY MUCH! FIRST TIMER HERE WITH MY 1ST GRADER!!!! “MY TRIDE IS OUT THERE!”

  2. I will be helping to homeschool my brother this year and he will be in 10th grade. This was decided very last minute and I am a little stressed. Because I plan on homeschooling my own children I’ve done a lot of research and so my mom is depending on my suggestions. My children are still preschool and under, so homeschooling high school was really not in my frame of reference. Any suggestions for homeschooling a high schooler for the first time?
    I have followed your blog for several years and I love it! Your review has made me decide that Trail Guide to Learning will be a perfect fit for my family once my son reaches third grade.

  3. Awesome list, and it’s so true about your methods changing. We went from school-at-home to unit studies to unschooling to relaxed, which is where we are now. I’m so glad we did all of those methods, too, because I think there are really wonderful components of each style. We use the aspects that fit our family and toss the ones that don’t and get the mish mosh of styles we have now!

  4. I never really felt like I belonged in the homeschooling community.This was our first year. My boy will be technically in the 8th grade in the fall. What sets us apart is I work full time outside the home. So we school afternoons, evenings and weekends. My son, thankfully, is an independent learner and we work on the hard stuff together. Great tips here.

  5. Thanks for the tips. I have been doing this for 6.5 months and it still feels like I did it yesterday. I’ve changed curriculums (after long drought out research for a perfect fit) and discovered a book store that I never knew existed. In 6 months, I’ve learned to check out the bookstore first, go on a used book website, and (after reading this article) that I CAN do this. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m all over the place trying to supplement where the curriculum may have fell short for us. I’m determined and it is very nice to have someone writing an article that basically states, “Hey, I understand. Been there, done that. You can do it!” Thanks for the breath of fresh air.

  6. We’ve been homeschooling since 1997. My biggest tip is BREATHE — it will be okay! You don’t have to look like public school to do well. Enjoy the journey!

  7. Thanks for the tips! This is my first year homeschooling my 6th grade daughter. Yikes, just praying God will give me the wisdom and patience.

  8. Oh Ms. Kris thank you for this article. First timer here with a kindergarten! He’s not so thrilled about it and expects his first day of school to be picked up by the school bus like everyone else he’s imagined. I’m super nervous. Feel like it might not fit all that well with my son. But it’s in God’s hands. Hopefully He can change my son’s mind. And with a 1 yr old not sure how I’ll be able to keep that scheduled I’ve laminated lol! Thank you. Blessings

  9. I appreciate you mentioning that styles change especially in home school. My wife has been thinking about getting our kids started, we just need some curriculum. It is good to know there is stuff out there to keep up with the changing methods.

  10. Thank you so much for that, the Lord guided me to this specific page as He confirmed to me that I will be homeschooling my 2 sons 1st and 2nd graders and your article really gave me some comfort. Blessings to you sister in Christ.

  11. Thank you for your tips. This will be our first year homeschooling, last minute change due to my son been diagnosed with anxiety and we feel its better for him. We are thinking a co-op might work for us since we like structure and we definitely need a curriculum that has structure and has everything included in the books, steps by step for each subject. Any more tips? since we are starting homeschooling right after school already started, I don’t want my son to fall behind.
    Thank you

  12. It’s good to know that I don’t have to sign my kid up for everything a homeschooling curriculum has to offer. One of the things I’d like to make sure is that my child still gets the right physical education while growing up in a homeschooling environment. I hope that she could still get into sports when she gets to her teen years.

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