Homeschooling 101 - You CAN Do This
Well. 2020 has been a doozy, hasn’t it?
So many changes! So much upheaval! So much uncertainty. Anxiety, worry, caution, panic. . . And we’re only halfway done. Who knows what the remainder of this year will bring but one thing’s for certain – it won’t be normalcy.
I don’t write these things to freak you out. I hope I can be a source of calm and peace. I always want to speak or write words of encouragement, peace, calm and hopefully share a little bit of wisdom. And that’s why I’m writing today – I want to share some tips on things I’ve learned over the years about homeschooling.
I have been receiving lots and lots of emails, texts, calls and messages about homeschooling these past 3-4 months. I get it. If your children were in public school in the last academic year, by the time they return to school this fall they likely will not have received instruction from their teachers in 5 months. That’s a really long time! And when they return to school – if they return to school in person – what will it looks like? And what’s the plan for moving forward? What if there are spikes in positive diagnoses of covid-19 or the flu?
Again, I don’t write these things to scare you or freak anyone out. These are the questions I’m getting on almost a daily basis. And here are some of my thoughts. . .
If you are concerned about sending your kids to public or private school and if you would like to consider moving to homeschooling your children then read on! I’m going to share 10 thoughts and recommendations I have to begin homeschooling your kids and to encourage you along the way.
1. Register with an umbrella school. That’s the first thing I would do. I recommend Home Life Academy http://homelifeacademy. I have been a member of their organization since I began homeschooling and I have worked with numerous parents who have used Home Life as they transition from public school to homeschooling. Home Life is great. They will work with you every step of the way, from record keeping to attendance to making sure you are offering classes your children need. They will keep you on the right path and help you move forward. You also have the choice of using your local school district as an umbrella school and if your children play sports with the district that is your best choice. Otherwise I recommend Home Life Academy.
2. Find the type of homeschool that works for you. When I began homeschooling Marshall I thought I would just choose homeschooling and get a packet in the mail. That’s not how it works! There are tons of options for types of homeschooling parents.
Some people are more unschoolers, which is where you allow your children to decide what they’re really into and study it. Dinosaurs? Check. There are tons of great science, geography, history and literature curriculums on the study of dinosaurs. Guitars? Oh yeah! Sign little Johnny up for music lessons and build a set of curriculums using math, literature, history, geography and the science of sound. This style of homeschooling can also be known as (or related to) unit studies.
Some people use more of a Charlotte Mason approach. Here’s a funny story – when I started out homeschooling I was at a get together at a local park with experienced homeschool mamas. They started talking about how great Charlotte Mason is and I said, “is she a member of our co-op?” Literally the air got sucked out of the park from the gasping. It turns out Charlotte Mason was an English gal in the 1800s who reformed education using narration, copy work, living books and nature studies. But I didn’t know that and was very rudely told I needed to know who she was and should be ashamed that I didn’t! (I didn’t feel ashamed. I just didn’t know who she was.) So if you want your kids to participate in more hands on learning and activities get to know old Char! Now that I’ve read a bit about her I know she really was amazing and I love hands on learning. We do lots of it around here.
Other folks are more of classical educators and use classical literature, mythology and the likes. There are 3 basic stages in the classical education model – grammar, logic and rhetoric.
Another style is eclectic. Most experienced homeschoolers I know use this model because they’ve tried everything else! They take what works for them and use it and throw out the rest. And I guess that’s what you could say we use around here. We do a lot of hands on learning in science, geography, math and music and we read living books almost continuously. We also do unit studies and let Marshall decide subjects or places he’d to study as time and schedules warrant.
3. Whatever your style of education you’re gonna need curriculum to use. RESEARCH. Find what works for you. Ask around. I know there are tons of homeschool groups around you and on Facebook and/or instagram you never knew existed until now. And those homeschool parents are PASSIONATE about what they like (and don’t). They are very willing to share good and bad. My house sometimes has a revolving door with parents coming to look at curriculum I have used. I’m always happy to share and let folks look before they buy. Curriculum can be expensive and once sweet little Sara has colored pages before you even use and find out you hate that curriculum it’s hard to return. So research, ask questions and see if you can look it over before you buy.
There are companies that do an all-inclusive curriculum for each grade as well as companies that offer one or two subjects. You’ll just need to see what works for you. We did the all-inclusive for kindergarten and then moved to buying curriculum from different companies based on what I found to work with us. I have my favorites and my least favorites and am happy to share if you wanna call and chat.
Now with that said, don’t be afraid to switch curriculum if it doesn’t work for you. There’s a reason there are so many different companies out there making so many different curriculums. And that’s because there are different strokes for different folks! So if you don’t like it and Susie is crying every morning, then by all means get rid of it! And show her you’re getting rid of it! It’s empowering for you both and it’ll re-energize both of you to begin again. A fresh start.
4. Once you have your curriculum(s) set a routine. It is my firm belief that we all do better with a routine. Especially kids. When you are homeschooling you need to set a routine for your day and week or else you’ll look around at 8pm on Friday night and realize you didn’t do a lick of school all week! Our daily routine is to begin school between 8-9:00 and hit it until we’re done. Marshall and I are both fresher and receptive in the mornings and first half(ish) of the day. So after morning farm chores and breakfast we hit the school books. We’re usually done by 1-2:00 depending on experiments and papers. And we try to keep weekends free for family time so our loose rule is that all homework needs to be done by Friday evening. Now that doesn’t always work, especially as he is getting older with more writing and reading as well as harder classes with more involved independent work through our cooperative school, but it’s our loose rule and goal for the week.
5. Be flexible in your schedule and routine. You’ll be surprised at how many activities and events come up. There are lots of educational and fun field trips to take. Lots of activities will pop up on your schedule and require flexibility on your part so don’t be afraid of changing up the routine. Just don’t let flexibility become so common place you forget to actually educate your kids.
6. Read out loud to your kids. No matter how young or old. It’s one of our favorite times of the day – reading. I have read to Marshall almost everyday (let’s be honest, we’ve missed days here and there for sickness, traveling, fun activities and the like) since he was an infant. We read all kinds of books. One type of book (not really a genre) is called a living book. If you’re not familiar with living books they are books that have generally been written in a narrative, flowing style by one author who has a passion for the subject or time period. Think Little House on the Prairie books. They are fabulous for all kinds of things – great stories and life lessons but also history, geography, social studies. I mean if you don’t get a life lesson from learning about how mean Nellie Oleson was or how hard Caroline (Ma) worked I don’t know how to teach you. Robert McCloskey is another author I’d recommend, especially if you have elementary-aged kids. He is one of my favorite authors. His writing as well as his art inspire me everytime I read his work. We used his Make Way for Ducklings for geography (Boston), science (ducks), spelling (alphabetical lists), math (counting and adding) and social studies (policemen).
7. Which bring us to VISIT YOUR LIBRARY. We are frequent visitors (and hopefully friends) to our library. We go at least weekly, even in the summer. We read fiction and non fiction. Everything from graphic novels to science fiction to history to maps to cook books to audio books. Your library is your friend. And they often have great hand outs for kids, too. Word finds, cross word puzzles and coloring pages. Check them out and support your local library.
8. Find connection. For you and your kids. We are active in our homeschool cooperative school which has been a great source of friendship, encouragement, wisdom and joy for Marshall and me. It’s also gotten us involved with the local soup kitchen and various other volunteer opportunities for Marshall. Connection is important and will help you in all the days, especially the hard ones. Because life is not a Disney princess movie. And there’s no one going to feed you grapes from a silver platter. You need connection to those who are traveling the same path as you. Connect in the fabulous celebrations and with the hard questions and discouragement you’ll feel during the dark days.
9. Give yourself and your kids grace. Some days are party days. They are such fun and you bake and play and read and think, this is education? Why didn’t I do this earlier? But some days are hard. Some days you’ll feel like all you’ve done so fuss and argue, break up fights and maybe even scream at your kids or spouse. Yeah, that’s when you need grace. Sprinkle it like confetti. Throw it in the air and let it cover everybody in the room.
10. Believe in yourself. You can do this! There’s no one who loves your kids more than you. No one who wants them to succeed more than you. You can do it! You are more invested in your kids’ futures than any teacher would be. Believe in yourself.
There you have it. My 10 tips on beginning this homeschool journey. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call me. My number is 423-823-1397.