A large part of my job as a homeschool blogger and advocate is helping new homeschoolers get started. Newbies have so many questions and feel overwhelmed with information. How do you navigate through it all to find what will work best for your child? I am no expert, but I have been homeschooling for more years than I can count on one hand now and have made plenty of mistakes along the way. Here is the best advice I can give to people who are just beginning their journey with home education.
1. Plan less than you think you can do.
It’s normal to want to do everything, everyday. In the beginning of my homeschool journey, each day included crafts, games, and hands-on activities. Each week included at least one field trip. And by field trip, I don’t mean letting my kids play with their friends at a specified meeting point. I mean taking your colored pencils and journal and discussing every single sign in the museum. Needless to say, I burnt out really fast. Go easy on yourself. Not every day has to be newsworthy. If you have a complete curriculum like BookShark, you have plenty of options to choose from. You aren't expected to do everything.
2. Don’t play the comparison game.
Oh, this is a piece of advice I still remind myself to follow! We homeschool so our children can learn on their own level and at their own pace, not so they can be the best and brightest at everything! When you hear about the twenty-five extracurriculars that your friend's children are participating in while your kid is currently running feral through the yard, it’s hard not to feel you come up short as a homeschool mom.
But comparison is counterproductive. By trying to do exactly what others are doing, you will stress out both yourself and your child. Give your child the best education for him or her, and don’t worry about what your neighbor is teaching.
3. Appreciate the time you have.
Because homeschooling is such a big responsibility, it is easy to get anxious. In addition to being responsible for raising decent human beings, we’ve also signed on to make sure they’re intelligent as well. But time with our children is so fleeting that we must consciously choose to appreciate it, moment by moment. Math will still be there tomorrow. Today, play the board game, read the extra book, cuddle on the couch and watch a movie while they still want to.
4. Don’t expect each child to be the same.
I thought I had figured out this homeschool stuff with my firstborn. Then I began homeschooling my second child who was only two years younger. Nothing worked the way I expected!
Each child has a different personality and a different style of learning. Some things will work; some won’t. Just be prepared to switch things up. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but once I figured it out, homeschooling the second child became a lot easier!
5. Be honest with your kids.
Don’t get me wrong — children don’t need to deal with adult issues. Being honest doesn’t mean not having a filter. But it does mean treating your children as young people. If you’re having a bad day, be honest about it. Just say, “Look, I’m grumpy today; I'm having a bad day. Let’s get through this together then go watch a movie.”
Be transparent when you don't have the answer. There’s no shame in searching the internet for the answer to a question. You don't have to know it all. As you model the reality of lifelong learning, your children, too, will maintain their natural sense of curiosity and stay humble about what they don't yet know.
6. Have fun.
Homeschooling is so much fun! Your kids are the most interesting and entertaining people you will get to know, and you get to spend your days with them! Yes, it can be exhausting. But remember to take time out of your days to enjoy the curiosity and playfulness that are bubble forth from your children. Interrupt your reading to answer a question and see where it takes you. I, as the adult, have learned the most interesting things from a simple question that came from a child.
About the Author
Stephanie Black is a writer and homeschool mama of two boys in Indianapolis, IN. Along with her husband and feisty rescue dog, they enjoy hiking, road tripping, and loudly singing 90s rock music. You can follow along with her adventures and keep up with her local homeschool scene at her blog Indy Homeschool.