The 10 Commandments of Homeschooling

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It has come to my attention that the homeschooling community may need some guidelines. You know, to keep things running smoothly. To that end, I give you The 10 Commandments of Homeschooling. As per my usual way of doing things, there’s a little humor and a little seriousness, so read at your own risk.

The 10 Commandments of Homeschooling

1. Thou shalt socialize thy children.

That’s the cardinal rule of homeschooling, right? If you really want to buck the system, though, I’ve got tips for making sure you raise the weird, unsocialized version of homeschooled kids.

2. Thou shalt not allow thy library fines to rival the national debt.

We’ve kind of come to the point of deciding that it’s just cheaper and easier for me to buy the books we need on Amazon and keep them as long as we need them. Did you know you can trade them in now? I haven’t tried that yet, but I’m thinking about it.

If you insist on going to the library, though, make yourself renewal reminders on Google calendar or your iPhone. Don’t make the library put up wanted posters with your name on them. That’s just embarrassing.

3. Thou shalt drive a 15-passenger van or at least a minivan.

I think I’m probably about to get kicked out of the National Homeschooling Moms Society. You know, since I decided that my kids could cram into the back of a Ford Edge so that I could, after 13 years, drive something that I enjoy driving. You probably need to wear the right clothes, too.

4. Remember the Sabbath, and take a break.

Every living thing needs rest. Even fields need to lie fallow some years in order to continue to produce. As homeschool parents, we often try to function on too little rest, but that’s often counter-productive. I have discovered that I am much more productive when I get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

However, it’s not just nightly rest that we need to consider. There is one change that I made in our homeschool a few years ago that has had a huge impact on our school – ours is mostly year round homeschooling with a six weeks on/one week off schedule. That is one of the best decisions that I ever made for our homeschool and I wish I’d done it from the beginning. It means that we start our school year mid-summer, but that regular time off is such a benefit that no one complains about the early start date.

5. Thou shalt not be a slave to thy curriculum.

Sometimes, even after great research, a curriculum choice is not a good fit. There are certainly things to consider before changing curriculum because often some simple tweaks can make it work for your family. However, if it’s not working, don’t be afraid to ditch it and find something that will work. Enjoying your curriculum makes for a much better homeschool experience.

6. Thou shalt not kill thy child’s love of learning.

Sometimes we moms suck all the fun out of learning by trying to follow what we’re “supposed” to be doing or making sure all the little boxes get checked. There is definitely a time and a place for box-checking and we don’t need to ignore the basics, but I believe there is great value in following your child’s interests when you can and trying to find curriculum that works well with his learning style.

7. Thou shalt not take thy children out in public during school hours.

I mean, you can do what you want, but be prepared to answer questions such as, “Are you out of school today?” or “Is it spring break already?”

Okay, I’ll be honest and say that we live in a very homeschool-friendly area. We are generally at home doing school during regular school hours, but I don’t avoid taking the kids out if we have things to do and we are rarely quizzed. However, I frequently hear comments from other homeschooling families in other parts of the country who do hear those questions, so consider yourself warned.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

It is extremely important that homeschooling parents understand – and abide by – copyright laws. We’re a frugal bunch, but we need to make sure we’re being frugal ethically. Most consumable student workbooks are intended for use by one student. Some homeschool curriculum allows you to make copies for your immediate family, but not a complete copy of the resource with the intent to resell the original.

Most CD-based curriculum or student resources are not allowed to be resold. A lot of us think that homeschool curriculum companies are large operations. Some are, but a great many are more of the mom-and-pop variety, and the publishers are homeschooling families just like you and me, who produce great content out of their love for homeschooling. We want to treat them with integrity and make sure our frugality doesn’t put them out of business.

9. Thou shalt ensure thy child knows his approximate grade level.

If she doesn’t, you run the risk of that blank, deer-in-the-headlights look when some well-meaning person tries to make conversation by asking your child what grade level she’s in. You could just make it a first-day of school ritual to review current grade levels. <– That’s a joke. Mostly.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s homeschool.

Don’t compare your family to the homeschool family down the road, your cousin’s homeschool, or the homeschool family on your favorite blog. For one thing, those glossy, Pinterest-worthy photos only tell part of the story. For another, your family is unique. Your kids have their own unique gifts and talents. If all kids learned the same, we wouldn’t need a gazillion curriculum choices. If all were academics, whose art would make our world beautiful? If all were artists, who would run our businesses?

You and your children are exactly who God designed you to be. Capitalize on your areas of gifting and talent without neglecting the rest.

What would you add – you know, if there were 11 commandments?

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. This is a great list. I wholeheartedly agree with the 6 weeks on, 1 week off schedule. I got the idea from you last year. We started in July and have been happily homeschooling year-round since.

  2. Great post, as usual! I agree with the Sabbath Schooling schedule. We’ve been doing it for years and love it! And we had to have “the talk” about grade levels. Lol. “This is what you say when someone asks you what grade you’re in…” Ha! My 8 year old Asperger’s kid is a pro now.

    1. Okay, I’ll confess that the “as usual” comment made me smile. 🙂 Funny about the grade level question. We’ve had that deer-in-the-headlights look enough times to know I need to make sure everyone knows their grade. If they don’t, the person asking looks at me like, “What’s wrong with your kids?? They don’t know what grade they’re in?”

  3. I agree with your #7….we are almost always home during the week but sometimes life takes over and I just have to go get groceries. Before I walk into the store with my three children I always give them the mom speech: “Now remember, you are all supposed to be in school so don’t do anything to draw attention to yourselves and behave!”

  4. I’m not sure there is anything I could add. I am considering the year round homeschooling. Summers are so hot in MS that we can hardly spend time outside. I rather have time off in the fall.

    1. Exactly. We’re in Georgia. When people ask me why we start school in July, I tell them it’s too hot to do anything else. We might as well get some school done as we sit inside under the AC.

      1. We’re the opposite. I would never consider year-round homeschooling because our summers are so short! We want to spend all the time outdoors we can. (We’re in northern British Columbia.)

  5. I will confess that the whole grade level thing was so very confusing to me in the beginning as I was a homeschool student myself, and we never went by grade levels.
    I had to Google, what grade should a seven year be in? But I think we have it down now. I think.
    This is a great list, I can only think of a couple we need to work on:)

    1. Oh, no! Second-generation deer-in-the-headlights looks! 😉 As long as you’re close and you say it with confidence, you should be okay. {grin}

      1. LOL my daughter always give a very complicated answer. She knows what grade she’s suppose to be in and what grade levels she’s studying. People just look up at me like um…. translate?

        1. Both of my girls were really bad about doing that. I finally had to explain to both of them that people don’t really need to know all that. Just say, “I’m in X-number grade” and be done with it.

          1. I’ve found that when most people ask what grade they’re in, they REALLY want to know how old they are. If I let my 6 year old go into grade-level stuff, it’s a 15 minute conversation. Haha

  6. Had to laugh at #3! I drive a minivan, but it felt small when I was at my local homeschool convention last weekend and got parked in by four huge vans! My son had to get out of the car to help me get out of our parking spot, and even then it took almost 5 minutes and several tries to get out! 🙂

  7. I loved this list! My older two know their “grade levels” but my youngest, who breezed through prek and as working on K now just goes blank when you ask her … instead her usual answer is, “I get to start catechism next year at church” LOL

  8. These are great! We tell the kids to say whatever grade they are in at church so my daughter used to answer she was in the 1st & 2nd grade class. lol

  9. Kris, thank you for #6 and I’m glad you posted early because yesterday I lost my patience with my 14yo who steadfastly resists making or following a checkbox schedule. I walked out {stomped out} of the room and opened my email to read your post. I was so struck by #6 Don’t kill your child’s love of learning that I walked back {humbly} to give her a hug and tell her to go ahead and ditch the schedule so she can work on her short story that she is so excited about. How cool is it that you can minister to people you’ve never met?? And how much cooler is it that a “mistake” can be the very thing much needed?

    1. You can’t know how your comment encouraged me today. It sounds like maybe it was providence that the post went out on the “wrong” day. 🙂

  10. I love number 3! We have a mini cooper that we do most of our traveling in. We feel constantly dwarfed by other big cars! My kids are still young, 4 and 5, but we plan to homeschool year round. It gets hot here in wisconsin in the summers and we would rather have time off in the fall also. My kids are warm blooded and just want to sit in the AC during the hot days, besides going to the pool of course! Such a great list! Pinned and shared 🙂

  11. Love the blog — what an entertaining and insightful read 🙂

    “Know their grade level” That’s easy for you to say, Mrs Weird-and-Unsocialised ! We live in England, use American mathematics books and the Ambleside and HUFI schedules — all with completely different numbering systems. No one in this house has any idea, most of the time! I seriously cannot be bothered. My husband made a great point when I told him that I could never remember which (school) year the kids were in. He said, ” Is that all that an adult can find to talk about with a child? That’s sad…”

    Don’t go out during school hours? We have to get out when we can over here — Oh, looks it’s NOT raining, let’s go for it!

    1. Yes, as a social media manager, I work closely with several homeschool vendors. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to see the world from their perspective. So many of them are just small operations working with a passion for providing homeschool families with tools that they developed when they homeschooled their kids or tools they wish their kids had had. I think it is so important to support them.

    1. It was a joke because so many people complain about people asking about why the kids aren’t in school. If we’re going to a kid-friendly area, we always go during school hours to avoid the crowds.

  12. I hear ya. We get the questions too. And we’re total wise-guys about answering it. When some little old lady asks “Why aren’t you in school?” my son says “I AM in school. The WORLD is my school!” 🙂

  13. Love this list. Fortunely, where we live we have a very forgiving public library. As long as the books aren’t ruined or completely lost, no over-due fees regardless of how late they are returned. My only (so far) child will just be starting kindergarten in the Fall, so knowing her grade level isn’t hard…yet, but no doubt she’ll end up like me. The grade I was in depended on the subject. Some subjects I was right on track, others I was a grade or two ahead, and then there was math where I was about a year behind.

    1. That sounds like my kind of library! 🙂 See? You’re doing great with grade levels. Just jot it on the calendar every year. 🙂 Just kidding. Mostly.

  14. Hilarious! I do, in fact, drive a 15 passenger van, and I’ve had to learn to discuss approximate grade levels with my kids to help them answer people politely in public.

    The 11th commandment would have to have something to do with keeping housework in its place . . . or tolerating creative messes . . . or something like that, but I’m not feeling clever enough to encapsulate it for you. Perhaps you can. 🙂

  15. Number 2!!!! Omg, I think my highest fine was $54 and some change, there should be a whole post for this to compare every one’s fines so I don’t feel so bad!

  16. Ok, you are the third person in three days who has mentioned the “don’t kill the love of learning” thing. My daughter is in 8th grade officially, but has started some 9th grade courses (Time4Learning High School yay! ) I have been so frantic about checking the boxes for her to finish 8th grade that even casual homeschooling friends are telling me to chill and let my daughter learn!
    And, of course, because she is in 8th and 9th grade in May, she has that blank stare when asked what grade she is in! Love your 10 commandments for homeschool!
    My 11th commandment would be…If you are having a rough day, or week, or month, take a deep breath and celebrate your accomplishments. Tomorrow is another day!

    1. That would make a great #11! It’s hard sometimes to avoid getting frantic. I could have made high school a much better experience for my oldest. I’m sincerely hoping I learned my lesson as I go through with my son this upcoming year.

  17. Well I no longer drive a mini-van either – when my mom gave us her Santa Fe that had a/c versus our constantly in the shop Kia with no a/c the choice was clear 🙂 Not sure what we’ll do if the Lord gives us a 4th? I enjoy doing our running during school hours – stores are less crowded and I don’t have to deal with children who have been taught no manners (although I have meant h.s. with no manners as well). As far as grades, yes, I started ‘assigning’ grade levels when family kept quizzing me and it became too much of a chore to explain that “we don’t do grade levels and nor do we have to follow the public or private school way of doing things”. UGH!

  18. Honor your mother, father, inlaws, etc even when they make “suggestions” or thoughtless comments about your homeschooling that tear you down emotionally.

  19. I can definitely relate to numbers 3, 9 and 10. With number 10, there is allot of useful resources and pictures that can definitely encourage and help but sometimes it can also be too perfect in the blogs that I see and sometimes feel discouraged and like are they keeping it real or what?! =)

  20. Our library emails reminders a few days before books become due! Helpful when you’re in weekly amd your 3 week loans are staggered!

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