5 Hidden Gems for New Homeschooling Parents
When you’re brand new to homeschooling, it can seem a little overwhelming. Especially if homeschooling isn’t really something you even thought about before 2020 (Hellooo, 2020!), you are probably now discovering that homeschooling is more than just a form of education–it’s a whole lifestyle.
It’s a lifestyle in which the learning process, real life, relationships, extracurriculars, and possibly even work-from-home, all go on under the same roof, and you have limitless choices concerning what that looks like! In fact, there are so many variations among homeschooling families that no two homeschooling families will look exactly the same. Awesome? Yes! Possibly confusing if you’re new? Totally!
If you’re new to this lifestyle, I can’t tell you exactly what your own unique version of homeschooling should look like (and in fact, I wouldn’t dare). However, I can encourage you, though, by sharing some of the amazing hidden gems that I think all new homeschooling parents should know.
Hopefully, with these 5 exciting things in mind, you can move forward with a little more confidence (and excitement) into your new world of homeschooling.
1. It actually works better if you DON’T try to copy public school.
Please, oh please, do not go into this thing thinking you have to recreate public school at home: the strict schedule, the many protocols and procedures, the same educational approaches for each child (etc.).
I’m not saying that you can’t do that, but it’s just not necessary. In fact, I’d argue that trying to copy public school is the quick path to homeschool burnout. I’m groaning internally just trying to imagine being up, pulled together and sitting at an opposite desk from my child from 8-3. It doesn’t seem like much fun for her or for me, and yet this is what many people think homeschooling is.
In reality, our school day is a mixture of activities, games, and resources that fit her specific needs. It’s fun. It’s casual. It’s hands-on. It takes a lot less time than most people would guess. Most days, we also consider the other things we do throughout the course of the day to be educational in some capacity, too! (More on that later).
Public school has systems in place that work with the reality of having to educate a plethora of kids at once. However, homeschooling doesn’t fall into that system. As a new homeschooling parent, realize that you have the capability to customize what this “homeschooling thing,” looks like for you and your family. It doesn’t have to look like public school, private school, or (in fact) anyone else’s homeschool!
Pssst: If you’re curious about more of the differences between public school and homeschooling (particularly the public-school-from home that a lot of people experienced in the spring), you may want to check out this article: Public-School-at-Home Failed You. Try Homeschooling!
2. You CAN schedule everything after coffee (if that’s your thing).
Setting your own schedule is a really awesome feature of homeschooling that new homeschooling parents may not fully realize at first. However, it goes hand-in-hand with the above point: because you’re not trying to replicate public school, you can create a learning schedule that fits your needs!
For me, one of those needs is the ability to fully “wake up” in the morning before I jump into teaching. I’m just not a morning person. I get up early-ish, but it’s all zombie words and shuffling around until the coffee hits my bloodstream. But because we homeschool, I don’t feel like I have to be Mrs. Frizzle first thing in the morning. In fact, I’m going to be honest with you and admit that I am in the habit of letting my child watch the actual Mrs. Frizzle (on The Magic School Bus) while I get caffeinated. Usually, we get started around 9:00 a.m. and work until noon-ish. In fact, since many homeschooling parents find that they are able to get more done in less time than in a public school setting, most students can choose to work in the mornings or afternoons. Some parents and students even prefer to homeschool at night. You get to choose! Cool, right?
Other Things This Might Mean for You:
Morning-versus-evening learning is just one example of how you can set your own schedule with homeschooling. Here are some other things that “setting your own schedule” might mean for you:
- You may choose to skip a day or two during busy weekdays and do some work on the weekends instead!
- You may have designated days in the week where your child does certain subjects, instead of trying to do every subject, every day. (This is a type of block scheduling.)
- You may decide to homeschool through summer and take vacations other times throughout the year. (This is a kind of year-round-homeschooling.)
- You may want to share homeschooling responsibilities with your significant other, another family member, or a fellow homeschooling parent and arrange your homeschool schedule accordingly!
Figuring out what kind of schedule works best for your family and lifestyle may involve some experimenting and troubleshooting, but it’s just pretty awesome to realize that you have the power to do your own thing!
3. Doing life together “counts!”
I said earlier that – even though my daughter usually wraps up formal schooling by noon – we found other educational things to do throughout the day. If you’re new to the homeschooling world, you may be wondering what that means. It doesn’t mean that we’ve taken up rocket science in our spare time (though there are probably some homeschooling families who do that).
It does mean that learning and real-life are constantly linked together in our reality.
Something about being a parent who is actively involved in the teaching process shapes how you think about interacting with your child. Likewise, the quality time you spend together, learning together and having fun, gives your child positive associations with learning.
As a result, I honestly feel like some of the most meaningful learning happens when we’re not formally “doing school.” We often find learning in everyday life things like: going on walks and observing nature, cooking together, caring for others, and sharing a love of reading as a family.
In these activities (and so many others) “doing life together” becomes a natural part of the learning process, and the learning process becomes a fun part of everyday life.
The more you get into this world of homeschooling and meet more homeschooling families, the more you’ll find that the great majority of homeschooling kids actually have a very positive view of learning. I think it’s because they have so many positive and practical associations with the learning process! Honestly, this is one of my favorite things about the homeschool lifestyle (and about homeschoolers, too)!
4. The best curriculum is…
When you are starting to homeschool, you might be looking for that elusive “best” curriculum. I’ve seen a lot of new homeschooling parents asking around for it on social media groups lately, so it seemed like a good hidden gem to reveal today.
Here it is. Ready?
The best homeschooling curriculum looks different for everyone. Your best homeschooling curriculum is the one that works for your:
Budget: Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of ways to do homeschooling completely free, or close to free. If you have some money to spend on curriculum and you like the idea of a program that comprehensively, cohesively goes together, there are a lot of nice ones that you can buy as a total package, too. Then of course there are online classes and extra-curriculars (some of which cost more money than others). A lot of homeschooling parents do a mixture of all of the above. Remember: the way you use a curriculum is what makes it great, not necessarily how much it costs!
Time/Level of Involvement: How much time you are able/ willing to spend working directly with your kids on a daily/weekly basis? As I mentioned earlier, homeschooling often takes much less time per day than most new homeschooling parents (transitioning out of public school) may assume. However (realistically speaking) if your home has two full-time working parents, you may want to consider a more pre-planned curriculum. If you have a bit more time to commit, it’s probably going to be easier to piece your own thing together or to use a curriculum that requires more parent involvement. (Most curriculum websites address the amount of parent involvement that’s required for that particular curriculum.)
Method: If you’re new to this homeschooling thing, you may not realize that there are actually some very different “homeschool methods” to choose from! Read this article to learn more about the most common ones and figure out if any of them resonate with you!
Learning Style: Is your child a visual learner? Auditory? Kinesthetic? You can consider those things when customizing what curriculum you use! This article goes into more depth about how to choose a curriculum based on learning style.
Once you have evaluated these components, you can play around with different approaches to curriculum and find what the best one is…for you!
5. You’re the ideal candidate.
It’s easy to get intimidated when you’re starting something new, especially a task as life-altering as homeschooling. However, the most important hidden gem for you to discover as you get started is this: you are the ideal candidate for the job of homeschooling your child.
You may not feel qualified because you haven’t taught school before, or maybe because you don’t have a lot of money to spend on curriculum, or maybe someone told you that you shouldn’t homeschool because you didn’t get a college degree. If you feel like homeschooling is the right choice for your family, don’t worry about any of that.
Did you know that research has shown that homeschoolers are (on average) academically more successful than their public school peers? Furthermore, this academic success has no perceivable relationship with a family’s income or the parents’ level of education. (Don’t take my word for it, you can read the data here.)
So what makes the “homeschooling difference” that leads to successful outcomes?
Think about it this way: Before you made the switch to homeschooling, wouldn’t you have been happy to find out that your child’s public or private school teacher was someone who knew your child extremely well, believed in him/her, and cared for him/her (warts and all)? Wouldn’t that have mattered infinitely more than whether or not that teacher was up on the latest tech or curriculum? I think we both know the answer.
So take that same logic and apply it to yourself. As parent and teacher, you already know your kids’ struggles and strengths. You know what makes them tick and what will motivate them. You are invested in them and their success. Those things are what makes it work. That is what makes you the ideal candidate for this job.
While there will be some inevitable bumps in the road (because life), hopefully these 5 hidden gems will encourage and excite you as you begin your homeschooling journey!
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