Are you new to homeschooling or trying to decide whether you want to home school?
Give me 15 minutes of your time. I hope I can provide you with some information and tools to help guide you on your journey.
When my husband and I first heard about homeschooling our first child was only 18 months old. We had no idea what homeschooling was and we had no idea what to do. The only person I knew that home schooled was my sister (she is the one who first told me about homeschooling) and she lived in another state miles and miles away. The only resource we had on homeschooling was a video we probably acquired as a free item with a purchase we made because we both have no idea where it came from. So we watched it. It was very basic and covered the advantages and disadvantage of homeschooling.
We were convinced, just by watching that video, that we wanted to home school. But we had no idea where to start, what to do, where to go, or how to make it work. Like many who are thinking about homeschooling or new to homeschooling, it can be scary, overwhelming, and confusing. Over the years, I have talked to, helped, and encouraged many home school families who are first starting out or have been homeschooling for years. You see, there is always something new to learn and there may be someone right in your circle who can guide you.
I put together this guide based on personal experience, trial and error, and 9+ years of homeschooling experience. Do I have it all figured out? Not at all. But that is the JOY of homeschooling! Here are some tips to help you along your way.
1. PRAY. Do you feel God is calling you to home school your children? If so, He will provide you with the strength and wisdom you need to do it. Write down what God has put on your heart so you can document His calling on your life. If you ever question your decision to home school, you can pull out your notes and remember that you are doing this for the Lord and for your family.
2. WHY DO YOU WANT TO HOME SCHOOL? Families home school for different reasons. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. You should evaluate what is best for your family. The important thing is that you take the time to answer this question. One family said they home school because they don’t want their kids to be exposed to different topics they teach in public/private school. Another family said they want to spend more time together as a family. I know many families who home school because their children were not thriving in a school environment. Why do you want to home school?
3. GET A GOOD HOME SCHOOL RESOURCE. I wish I had this advise when I started. There is a wealth of information out there on homeschooling. There are so many curricula out there that look so good and promise to produce good results (and they do…just which one do you pick???). Step back and breathe. The resource I would recommend before you move any farther is “Top 102 Picks for Homeschool Curriculum” by Cathy Duffy. Her website also has a wealth of good information.
The reason I love this book is because Cathy touches on multiple aspects of homeschooling that can start you in the right direction. She outlines setting goals, identifying your home school style, identifying your child’s learning style, reviews of curriculum, and curriculum selections based on your time, your child’s learning style, and more. There are many resources out there, but this is a good one to start with. I used this book when I first started and I still do! I recommend this book to parents just starting out or seasoned home school families looking to change things up a bit.
4. MAKE A DATE WITH A SEASONED HOME SCHOOL FAMILY. This is probably the best advise I can give you. Find a mom/dad who home schools and set up a date to chat. Come ready with questions: Why did you decide to home school? Is it worth it? What does a typical home school day look like? Is it hard? How do you home school all your kids with such a wide range of ages? How long does it take you to home school all your children? Do you worry about your kids not fitting in socially? How do you know which home school curriculum to pick? How do you home school a special needs child?
When I was exploring homeschooling, my mind was running in a million directions. Here are some of the things I had going through my mind: How am I going to set aside 5+ hours a day to home school? I mean, after all, children sit in public/private school for 8 hours. Shouldn’t I do the same? How am I going to work and home school my children? Will I have time to cook, clean, and maintain my house? Will I still have a social life? Will I have time for anything else?
I remember asking a homeschooling mom of nine: “How in the world do you homeschool that many kids? It must take you all day!” Her reply: “No, not all day. Maybe a few hours at the most!” Me: “WHAT? You have got to be kidding me. Just 3 hours?” You see, I did not know anything about homeschooling and for me it was overwhelming to think about schooling one child. But to see a mom do it, thrive at it, and have children graduating and going to college was very encouraging to me.
When I take the time to talk to other homeschooling families, I learn what works, what not to waste my money on, creative ideas, and more. It takes time, but you gain a wealth of knowledge and encouragement too. You may have questions that are on your heart. Don’t be afraid to ask.
5. ATTEND A LOCAL HOMESCHOOL CONFERENCE. I was already five years into homeschooling when I attended my first conference. I LOVED it! I learned so much in such a short time. I like to attend the seminars and pick up a few new ideas and chat with other homeschool parents. Sometimes, I just need a little encouragement for the journey. I can spend hours in the display hall paging through curriculum and asking questions. This is an opportunity for you to get your hands on the curriculum and talk to people browsing around the booth. More than likely, you will find someone who has used it for years and can give you the inside scoop!
I also like to attend the conference so I can step away from my day-to-day homeschooling and get refreshed, rejuvenated, and revived! I make it a yearly trip with my friend Cynthia who home schools her eight children. Our local conference is typically three days long. So, we get a hotel room and stay for the weekend conference. Usually we pack our day attending seminars and going to the display hall. Then we crash in our room, order in food, and stay up exchanging ideas and looking through curriculum. Then we head home ready to tackle our new goals. Whether you are trying to decide to home school, new to homeschooling, or a seasoned home school family, a conference is a great option for resources.
6. START SIMPLE. My son was 18 months old when I started doing some “structured” homeschooling with him. My sister flew over for a visit and set me up with some basic manipulative, ABC flip book, puzzles, flashcards, coloring books, and ideas for incentives (e.g., goldfish for sitting for 5 minutes at a time). He was only in pre-pre-pre school after all! But that was a good start for me. Then when he was four, we started with a more traditional curriculum. Even if you start with an 8th grader, take baby steps and keep it simple (not easy, just simple).
7. BE PATIENT. Homeschooling is a big commitment. It takes time, planning, research, dedication, and a whole lot of patience. This is a journey and you are investing a lot of your time into your children. If you don’t come across the “PERFECT” curriculum the first time around, be patient. Pray for God’s wisdom (He has always come through for me.). It may take a few rounds before you hone in on what works for you and your family. I have been homeschooling over nine years and I am still learning! The JOYs of homeschooling.