Once you decide to homeschool your children, your brain tends to concoct all sorts of wondrous ideas about what they will learn. What you don’t realize is that you will wind up learning as much or more than your kids. At least that’s the way it was with us.I homeschooled my youngest son from kindergarten to halfway through first grade. After that, he entered the public school where his brother, three years older, attended. When the youngest was in fifth grade and the oldest in eighth, my husband and I decided to homeschool them both. The oldest boy graduated and began attending college. The youngest is a senior this year. Today I’d like to share with you ten things I’ve learned from fifteen years of homeschooling. Some of them might surprise you because they certainly surprised me!
Homeschools don’t have to mirror traditional school structure. As a former public school teacher, I started out believing I had to keep the same schedule at home that my boys had at school. Nope. Some states will require you to log the hours and days spent schooling, but you still have a fair amount of flexibility. If you’re homeschooling because your child didn’t thrive in a traditional school setting, remember you now have the chance to change the things that didn’t work. You don’t have to adhere to the same calendar as public schools. In the last few years we’ve been on a year round schedule.
Don’t spend a ton of money on curriculum, especially in the first year. Take your time in selecting learning materials. Do your research, browse through curriculum at your local educational store, or ask to see the materials your homeschooling friends are using. There are many different types of homeschool curriculum, including Charlotte Mason, Classical, and Waldorf. Explore a bit to see which method is the best fit for your family before spending hundreds of dollars.
Fit the curriculum to the kid instead of the other way around. You don’t have to ram your square peg kid into the round hole of the curriculum. You find the curriculum that most easily facilitates learning for your child. Some kids learn by watching or listening. Others absorb knowledge through experimenting and making things. Tailor lessons to your children’s learning styles and watch them bloom. Unit studies, which can be purchased or homemade, are a homeschool staple. Several subjects are combined while exploring a high interest topic such as the solar system or ancient Egypt. They are great for kids of multiple ages and learning styles.
Making breakfast, feeding the dog, and going to the grocery store count as math lessons. Counting, measuring, basic math calculations, and estimation can be taught through these everyday activities. And yes, you can use algebra in real life situations. If my kids wanted chips at the grocery store, they had to figure out a math problem first.
The library is your friend. Atlases, biographies, science, history, stories, even books about homeschooling are available to borrow for free. With a little effort you can create most of your curriculum around books found in the library. My boys especially enjoyed the science activity books written by Janice Van Cleave. Plus, many libraries host weekly story times and other kid friendly activities.
Finding a good homeschool support group or co-op is golden. Different groups have different focuses. It may take a few tries to find a good match. Homeschool groups typically offer field trips, park dates, academic fairs, sports teams, dances (including high school proms), and a whole host of other things of interest to the homeschool community. Co-ops offer academic and enrichment classes taught by volunteer parents or paid tutors. Most co-ops meet once or twice a week. If you can’t find a group that fits, think about gathering like-minded friends and starting your own. I ran a small science based activity group for a few years.
Some days you’ll feel like a homeschooling flop, but other days you’ll feel like you’ve conquered the world. Just like everything else, there are good days and bad days in homeschooling. Roll with the punches and learn from both your mistakes and your victories.
“Homeschooling” is a misnomer; you’ll seldom be at home. Some people envision homeschoolers as hermits who huddle around the dining room table conjugating verbs and doing long division all day. Instead, most homeschoolers I know are running back and forth between Tae Kwon Do lessons, debate team practice, field trips, and co-op classes. Car-schooling, working on lessons while on the road, is a real thing.
Homeschooling is not a competitive sport. Now, your kids might play sports as part of their homeschool activities, but you don’t need to get caught up in comparing you and your kids to other homeschoolers. Some homeschoolers can be a little overbearing about their way being the only right way. Don’t let them get to you. Do what is best for your family.
Listen to your kids. When lessons aren’t going smoothly, have a heart to heart with your kids about what they are finding difficult. My boys often brought up issues I hadn’t considered. They would pinpoint difficulties they were having, for instance, figuring out an abstract math concept. I started using more manipulatives and math games. Lessons learned for all of us. When you figure out their stumbling blocks, you can research and find different ways to present the material.
Every homeschooling family could come up with their own Top Ten list. But when it comes down to it, the thing we all learn most is how to infuse a love of learning into our children.