Intro To Homeschooling
If you're navigating these homeschool waters for the first time, it is my hope that this blog post will encourage you and help you to not feel alone. And if you're in these homeschool waters and it wasn't your choice, then this blog post is especially for you! I hope that what I've learned will help you to enjoy the time you have at home with your kids. And if you're lucky, maybe you can even look back on homeschooling with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude!
We are in our sixth year of homeschooling and I continually learn new things as we go along. I don't want to bore you with a long story of each of those six years but, one of the most important things to remember is that it always changes and looks a little different!
5 Important Things to Remember:
School doesn't have to take all day! If you start by 9 and stay on task you can easily be done by lunch time. Or you can have the core subjects (like math and language arts) finished and let your kids work on anything extra after lunch. (Just remember that as your kids go into junior high and high school the workload will probably require more time.)
It's ok if grade levels don't match up! You will ultimately know and decide if your kids are where they need to be. For example, we switched math curriculums mid-year and ended up not liking the quality of instruction with the one we switched to. After realizing that it just wasn't going to work, we switched to yet another math curriculum. Since it was new I didn't want any important math concepts to be missed, so we started at a lower level and worked up to where we should have been. As a result, my kiddo is way more confident in math and is now working at the correct level and often doesn't need help with daily lessons. The most important thing here is for your kids to have a solid foundation of the basics to build on in each grade level, no matter the grade level! So don't get too wrapped up in grade levels if you're trying to do it all on your own. One last thing to note here, if you're homeschooling part way through the school year (or out of necessity), it might work best to stick with the same curriculum and let your kids finish it out. They'll already be familiar with the style of teaching and you'll simply act as a facilitator.
Don't be a slave to schedules! I learned early on that I couldn't put each subject into a time slot. Something else always seems to come up and disrupt my best laid plans. Instead of a strict schedule each day is flexible, fluid, and easily moved around based on what the needs of the family are. We have an on-going list of what needs to be accomplished everyday. Each kid has their own list of school subjects to complete and chores to do. We have a chart with sections that include "To Do, Doing, and Done" and everyone takes care of their own responsibilities. This gives the kids autonomy and responsibility for their day. They can choose to do "fun" stuff first but they know that eventually they will need to have their school subjects completed.
It can be tricky to manage different ages and grades when you're the only teacher! Most days I have a constant tug between helping one kid with their math, and another with their language arts, while yet another requests a snack. This is the moment you wish there were two of you! Since my kids range in age from 10-4, I try and pair up my 4 year old with an older sibling so he gets extra one-on-one instruction. He loves "doing school" and it's great for the older siblings to experience helping and caring for a younger sibling. I use that time to help with directed instruction in math or language arts. For most of our other subjects I try and choose curriculums that we can all do together. I've found that science, reading chapter books, history, character building, and geography can all be tailored for every age student to enjoy together. We love doing school together. Think smarter, not harder!
Socialization, the elephant in the room! There are plenty of things to worry about with homeschooling but I promise you this is not one of them. There are limitless opportunities for kids to socialize and it doesn't have to be in a classroom setting. Thankfully my kids can socialize when we go on walks, go grocery shopping, hang out with friends, go to karate class at our local community center, and their favorite - go to our homeschool co-op once a week. You can be creative and look for opportunities in your local community for your kids to experience life and socialize with the people around you. We have to remind ourselves as parents that we provide a perfect opportunity by our own example, albeit sometimes unknowingly, the social skills that will follow our kids into adulthood.
Our Favorite Parts of the Day:
Outside Time! This is the one that I make sure happens nearly everyday (whether it's a school day or not!) Time outside, even when it's cloudy and raining, is so important for kids. And as I tell my kids - it's important for my mental health, too. I'm a better mom when we've made time be outside and explore together.
Quiet Time/Rest Time! Our days have a natural rhythm to them and our quiet time usually happens after lunch. If we've been working hard all morning the early afternoon is the perfect time for everyone to have a refresher so we can finish the school day well. We also use this time for silent reading. Reading is a very important part of the school day and everyone loves this restful time.
Family Read Aloud Time! Speaking of reading, this has become one of our favorite ways to start the morning. We are currently reading through the Little House on the Prairie Series together and we love the shared experience of learning about Early American Life. Another series we are looking forward to reading together is Harry Potter. And believe it or not, The Hobbit is a family favorite, too! Read aloud time can be a great way to share one more part of the day together.
Activity of Choice Time! When all of the required school subjects have been completed it's great to be able to give your kids the opportunity to choose what they would like to do. Older kids often know exactly how they want to spend their free time but if you make it a part of the school day they will be even more encouraged to stay on task and get all of their school done.
Friend Time! This is probably my kids' favorite time. Due to where we currently live it never happens nearly as often as we would like but when it does, we all love it! It usually involves meeting somewhere fun with lots of space to run and play. We get outside time and socialization and friend time all at once. It's also great for me to be able to connect with other moms and encourage each other as teachers. The relationships and connections are so important in this lifestyle!
What my kids have to say about homeschooling:
Elle, age 10 - "I don't have to wake up super early in the morning. I can sleep in a little and start school later. It's very flexible and can change with my schedule. Homeschool is also cool because we get to go to co-op on Fridays and do school the other days of the week. And I get to have my mom as a teacher instead of some random old lady!" 🤣
Eric, age 8 - "Our math curriculum is really fun and I enjoy that. Also, I learned that if you have confidence in yourself it helps a lot and makes school fun. It's really cool having free time!"
Will, age 4 - "I love doing preschool at home and I like doing my math ummm... I love doing school! I love co-op and I love my friends. I like having outside time."
If you only remember one thing from all of this, remember that I see you and you're doing a great job! You won't mess up your kids - I promise! If you went through the public school system like me, I'm sure we all remember that old teacher that should have retired years ago... So whatever damage you think you might inflict on your kids, they will survive! You will have hard days that make you question what you're doing or why you're doing this. Take some time away, give yourself a breather, go for a run, and know that tomorrow is a new day!
I hope you have been encouraged for the homeschooling road ahead of you! I'm always here to answer questions and help you find answers to your homeschool questions. If you need someone to talk to, send me a message on Instagram or Facebook and we can help each other feel like we're not going crazy! I'm truly excited to see all of the fun you will have with your kids while you're at home together!
If I've piqued your interest in homeschooling, you can find more information in some of my older posts.