Most of us probably think of easing into a new homeschooling year as a topic for the summer months. However, I know that there are lots of brand-new homeschooling families trying to figure out how to transition from public school to homeschool right now. If your Christmas break involved pulling your student from a more traditional school setting to homeschool, you may be floundering right now. You may be feeling overwhelmed and wondering if you can really do this.
Take a deep breath. You can do it. And, hopefully, these tips will make the transition go a bit more smoothly.
Allow yourself time to adjust.
Going from public school to homeschool is a big adjustment for all of you. Not only has your child’s learning environment completely changed, but your family roles have taken on new dimensions. You’re not just the parent; you’re now the teacher, too. Your child isn’t just your child; now he’s your student, too.
It’s very unlikely that you’re using the same curriculum your child used in school, so her source of learning and her entire daily routine (and yours!) have changed. She’s probably missing her friends and, if you’re honest with yourself, you may be missing your familiar routine.
If you’ve ever had the experience of moving to a new school or starting a new job, you can get an idea of what your student is feeling. It’s not that the new situation is bad; it’s just very, very different. It takes awhile to find your new normal, to adjust to the new routine, and to find what works best for your family – for everything from your daily schedule to your curriculum.
Help your child maintain friendships.
Help your child maintain friendships with his public or private school friends. When we began homeschooling at the start of my daughter’s second grade year, one of the aspects of public school that she missed the most was, understandably, seeing her friends regularly. We made a concentrated effort to maintain those friendships while also providing ample opportunities to form new friendships with homeschooled kids.
We had her girl friends over for sleepovers, but one of her closest friends was a boy. The two of them loved having “almost sleepovers,” in which her friend would come over for movies, pizza, playing – all the usual sleepover stuff – until bedtime, when we’d take him back to his house.
The first year we homeschooled, Brianna let me know that she missed classroom parties. That was the start of our annual Valentine’s party. The first year, the party was hosted at our house. Brianna and two other girls whose mother I’d known for years were the only homeschooled kids. The rest were friends from our neighborhood, church, and Brianna’s former public school. The next year, the ratio was about 50/50 public school to homeschool kids, evidence of the fact that Brianna was making friends in our new homeschool circles.
Include yourself in this, too, Mom. It’s often the case that our friends are the parents of our kids’ friends. Make an effort to maintain your public school mom friendships while investing in the new circle of homeschool moms in which you find yourself. Remember the Girl Scout poem?
Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, and the other is gold.
Take some time off.
Families who start homeschooling after Christmas break have a bit of a disadvantage compared to those who start at the beginning of the school year in that there isn’t a built-in deschooling time. I explained deschooling in-depth in the article, What Is Deschooling and Is It Important? at Real Life at Home. The gist of it is: deschooling is taking time off from formal learning and giving kids a chance to rekindle their natural curiosity and love of learning.
If you jumped into a full course load after Christmas break and you’re struggling now, it’s not too late to spend some time deschooling. It’s okay to set aside the books for a time. That doesn’t mean your student isn’t learning. You can do things like:
- Take field trips
- Visit the library for biographies, historical fiction, non-fiction books on topics of interest
- Go to museums
- Watch documentaries
- Do a nature study
- Do cool science experiments
- Bake together
- Explore living math
Deschooling is a time for your student to decompress from the highly structured, teacher-directed learning style of a traditional classroom setting and rediscover his natural curiosity. It’s also time for you to explore his learning style, your teaching style, and the homeschooling method(s) that is best going to fit your unique family.
Utilize the library.
It often takes some time, along with trial and error – despite your best research – to find the best curriculum for your family. I advise new homeschooling families not to jump into a full course load right away, but, instead, take some time to find the best curriculum fit for your student. That could mean observing the way your child learns, trying free samples, asking homeschool friends, visiting a curriculum fair, or scouring the internet.
While you’re doing that, the library can be an invaluable resource.
History and science can easily be studied through great books – those biographies, historical fiction, and non-fiction books I mentioned earlier. The library has resources for art, music, economics, and – you guessed it – reading!
You’ll also find a great selection of documentaries and don’t forget fun and educational videos such as The Magic School Bus. You might even be fortunate enough to find some homeschool curriculum options available for loan at your library. Ours doesn’t have much, but I do remember checking out the Five in a Row books when the kids were younger.
Utilize the library for more interest-led learning while you nail down your curriculum choices for other subjects, such as math or spelling.
The early days – and months – of homeschooling can seem daunting. Just remember that it’s a time of change for everyone and allow yourselves time to adjust without expecting smooth sailing right out of the gate. You’ll find your groove. I hope these tips for the transitional period help!
If you’re a homeschool parent whose kids started out in public or private school, what tips would you offer? If you’re a parent who is just making the transition, are there any areas you’re struggling in right now?