I’ve met a lot of new homeschoolers lately and they have all asked for advice on how to make it work. How do you not go crazy, how do you deal with feeling overwhelmed, etc. My top ten list for today is to help some of those new families through the first year (or two) of homeschooling.
1. Find Your Own Rhythm – What works for one family might not work for you, while it’s good to research and find out what other families are doing, don’t pigeon hold your self to one way of homeschooling. Your homeschool will evolve and change throughout the years as you learn what is best for your children and family. This leads me right into number 2.
2. Don’t Compare – This is a big no-no and fits right in with number 1. Your homeschool experience is completely unique. No 2 homeschools are the same and getting frustrated because Betty-Jo’s kids down the road are learning their 8th language and curing cancer doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing something right. Your kids all have individual talents that need to be nurtured and not compared.
3. It’s Homeschool, Not School at Home – you do not have to replicate the typical school classroom at home. You do not need a white board, teachers/students desks or a rigid schedule. I’ll confess that letting go of this one was very hard for me. for the first few years I had a very rigid homeschool schedule, I even went so far as to have “uniforms” for my kids to signify when it was school time. (Yes, I know my crazy was showing) I was miserable and the kids were miserable. Once I let go of all the structure and just let my kids learn, our school day improved by 1000%. Now we do school in pajamas. lying on the floor, sitting in the grass, hanging upside down, etc. (you get the picture).
4. Find Other Homeschool Families – I can’t stress the importance of this! You need to find a couple of homeschoolers that you can depend on for support and encouragement. If possible find a group that coordinates field trips, parties, etc. The one we belong to is fantastic and my kids and I have made some amazing friends.Meetup.com is a great site for this, there are tons of homeschool groups listed there 🙂
5. Be Willing to Try New Things – If something really isn’t working for your family, don’t be afraid to try something new. You are not a failure if a curriculum or book doesn’t work out, just because every homeschool family on the planet swears by a curriculum doesn’t mean it will be a fit for your family. Talk to your kids and find out why it’s not working and if it can’t be fixed, move on to something else that will work. My kids are homeschool nomads, we have tried nearly every curriculum out there 🙂
6. Help Your Children Love to Learn – Make learning something that they enjoy and not something they dread. Kids have a natural curiosity and it’s your job to foster that and make them want to know more. Let them pick what they want to learn about in science, history, art, etc. we let our children pick the topic and they learn as much as they can about that topic through field trips, books, documentaries, etc. Once they are done they get to pick a project of some sort to wrap everything up. It could be writing a report, drawing a picture, making a movie, the possibilities are endless. When my kids feel like they are in charge of aspects of their education, they are far more motivated to learn.
7. This is Your School – Remember that this is your school, so if you want to stay in you pajamas and watch Mythbusters all day, you can do that. Want to have a Magic School Bus marathon or a day of nothing but science experiments? That’s okay! Rest assured that your children are still learning, they are just having fun doing it.
8. Abuse Your Library Card – My dear friend over at Kathy’s Cluttered Mind is my inspiration for this one. She has been known to check out over 100 books at one time from her library. Her kids are an example of kids that LOVE to learn. The library is the homeschoolers best friend and an awesome, FREE resource.
9. Be Flexible – This ties into this being your school. You have the option as a homeschooler to be completely flexible. If you are sitting outside doing school and a butterfly lands on your book, you can stop what you are doing and have an impromptu science lesson. If it is a beautiful day out and your kids are having a hard time sitting still, go on a nature walk. You have all the flexibility in the world when you homeschool, embrace it!
10. Take Some Time – This one is more for parents that have pulled kids out of public or private school to homeschool. You need some time to decompress and readjust after a huge transition like that. It’s okay to take a mini vacation or staycation for a few days, even weeks. Take that time to get to know your child’s learning style a little better, play some games try some simple art projects or science experiments. remember this is a big adjustment for both of you. Don’t worry about your child “falling behind” there is no such thing in homeschool. Just focus on learning about your child for a few weeks, it really will help immensely when you are ready to start school again.
Don’t forget to breathe and enjoy this time with your children, it really does go by too fast. Happy homeschooling!