Ten Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Homeschooling

Ten-Things-I-Wish-I-Knew

I first trifled with the idea of homeschooling when our oldest was getting ready to start kindergarten.  At the time, I really couldn’t see how I could do that and keep working, so I put it on the back burner.  Fast forward to the start of 3rd grade and due to a really bad teacher, it seemed like homeschooling was the only viable solution.  Even though I talked to as many people as I could and read all the how to books I could get my hands on, there were a number of things I know now that I wish I knew then.  For those of you who are getting started on this amazing journey of educating at home, I hope these will help and encourage you as you begin.

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1. Once you find a book you like, stop looking at others. There is A LOT of great curriculum out there.  I was overwhelmed at the size of the Rainbow Resource catalog!  How do you possibly choose from all of that? My advice is to limit yourself to 3 books for each subject you want to teach, and then look through those to make a final decision.  Then STOP looking.  Otherwise you may find it hard to commit and get started for fear of  a better curriculum choice out there.

2. People will not understand your choice.  I live in a city that has one of the largest concentrations of homeschoolers in the country.  Of all places, you would think people here would understand homeschooling.  Not at all.  I get a lot of strange looks or condescending remarks whenever people find out why my kids are ‘not in school today.’  Like most everything else in motherhood, shrug it off and do what you know to be best.  YOU know YOUR child better than anyone, and as a result you know what is best for them.  If you have decided that homeschool is the best, then don’t worry what anyone else thinks.

3. Homeschooling can be lonely. As with anything in life, it can be hard to be the odd one out who isn’t doing what everyone else does.  If possible, find another homeschool family or two and do things together.  Read blogs of other homeschoolers.  Go to homeschool events at local museums.  You’ll soon realize that there are a lot of us out there!

4. Your school will be very different from everyone else’s.  I think when I got started I imagined that there would be lots of other homeschoolers doing things similar to us.  I was using the plan and most of the books laid out in The Well Trained Mind, and I figured I would find many others doing the same.  Well, what I found was that I was the only school who had these 2 students, so naturally I was the only one doing school in our particular way.  This is OKAY.  Find your confidence in what you’ve decided to do not in what everyone else seems to be doing.

5. The curriculum of today may not work next year.  I tried very hard to find a science and math curriculum that would carry us all the way through high school.  My thought was that it would be easier on them to know what to expect from their books from year to year.  That plan worked great for science, but not so much for math.  As we progressed in our studies, we found that what we liked in the early years was not working at all in the middle years.  Let it go.  Move on to what does work.  If the kids are constantly bored and confused as they do their studies, are they really learning anything?  Don’t be married to your curriculum.  It’s okay to change.

6. You probably won’t get through the whole book. I always feel this ridiculous pressure to finish every lesson in every book we have.  It took me a while to cut myself some slack.  First of all, I can’t remember a time when I was in school that we actually made it through a text book.  Secondly, most books are designed for 180 lessons.  If you take field trips or stop to do a project, you’re not going to have 180 days available to do each lesson.  It’s okay.  Next year, the first few weeks will cover anything that you didn’t get to.

7. Consider what mastery really means. When I first started I heard the term mastery and had this idea of it meaning ‘completion’.  For example, if we completed our 180 science lessons, then we mastered science this year.  What it really means is that you don’t move on to the next topic until you have fully and completely understood the one you are on.  This means that sometimes a spelling lesson can be done in a week, and other times it takes 3 weeks.  The calendar is not there to race against.  If you think that mastery is important, then understand that your lesson plans will have to be written in pencil.  Mastery is concerned with WHAT they learned, not how quickly they learned it.

8. ‘Mommy Guilt’ will still appear.  We women have a horrible habit of measuring ourselves against others.  When my kids were in public school, there was always some mom who had to tell everyone how her kid was smarter/faster/more accomplished than our kids.  There were also times when I felt guilty because we weren’t together all day like homeschoolers were.  Now that we homeschool, there are homeschool moms who like to tell everyone how their kid is smarter/more of a prodigy/fluent in Latin by age 5, etc.  And there are times when I feel guilty that my kids aren’t getting to experience certain things in school.  My encouragement is to: 1. stay away from ‘me monsters’ who have to brag all the time, and 2. concentrate on the great things you are experiencing with your kids.  Everyday is not rainbows and roses, but I wouldn’t trade anything for getting to watch my kids learn.

9. Homeschooling is harder than you think. I love to learn and I love to teach, and I really thought this homeschool thing would be pretty simple to get going.  For me, the academic side of it was for the most part.  I did not expect the emotional trials that homeschooling can bring.  It took a while for us all to understand our new roles as not just mother, daughter, son; but now teacher and student.  You never know how things will work out when you get started, but just be prepared to run into a few growing pains as you transition into homeschool.  The difficulties are REALLY worth it!

10. Be careful of trying to do this in your own strength.  My type A personality gets me into all kinds of trouble in this area.  I have a tendency to put my trust in all the planning and research I’ve done, and then I get upset when these plans are derailed.  God has shown me time and time again in this journey that I have to trust Him and not all my plans.  I pray James 1:5 over and over.  I realize that I only have this one shot with these kids, and the only thing that matters is that I teach them about Him.  They can always learn quadratic equations, but if they miss who He is and who they are created to be, it will all be for nothing.  Pray, pray, and pray some more.  He will guide you through.

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Top 10 Tips for Working And Homeschooling

Top 10

There’s a growing trend in the homeschool world of parents who are homeschooling their kids while still working. It’s a very tricky balance, but one that has been well worth the effort for me and my family. For those of you who are thinking of taking that plunge, here are my top 10 tips for finding the balance of working and homeschooling.

1. Be creative with your work schedule. I run my own business, which for the most part allows me to set my schedule. I am home in the mornings and then I go into my office after lunch. If you work in a corporate setting, don’t be afraid to approach your boss about an alternative arrangement. Can you work from home in the mornings? Can you work an earlier shift so that you’re home in the early afternoon? Or maybe you go in later but your spouse comes home earlier? It never hurts to ask – most employers want to keep their good employees happy.

2. Buy a really good planner. Actually several, one for you and one for each of your kids. I write down my to do list as well as any ideas that pop into my head into my planner. This frees me up from the stress of trying to not to forget things, and keeps me organized. Write down the weekly assignments for your children in their planners so that they always know what they need to do, even if you aren’t there to tell them.

3. Have a designated spot in your home for all things homeschool. A cabinet, bookshelf, or bin on the floor where the kids can put their school books and binders is a must for keeping your sanity. Disorganization is a stressor that wastes precious time and can make homeschooling feel like a chore.

4. Look for curriculum that has lower teacher involvement. Many publishers today write their curriculum directly to the students. For example, our Apologia science books require very little interaction on my part as they are designed to be read and worked through by the kids. Especially in the beginning, these types of books will help make the transition easier for you. You can always add more teacher led projects once you settle in to your routine. (Here is more detail about which homeschool curriculum I use)

5. Look for ways to incorporate things the kids already like to do into your lesson plans. Sometimes my kids get bored when they finish their assignments early and I am not done with work. By having fun projects for them using the video games or legos they already like to play with, I can keep them learning and entertained at the same time. For example, if we are learning about Ancient Greece, they can build a temple out of legos – a fun project that eats up a lot of time.

6. Plan ahead. Most curriculum comes with a suggested lesson plan for the year, which can be a huge help. I used to plan out the week’s lessons on Sundays, but I found there were times when I didn’t have something on hand that we needed and we had to skip an experiment or activity because of that. I am spending the summer laying out our year, but even planning a month in advance can help you out. The more you have done ahead of time, the easier each day will be.

7. Understand that you can’t participate in everything. In my hometown, there are tons of co-ops, conventions, and classes for homeschoolers. Problem is, most of them require time commitments each week that I just can’t make with my work. IT’S OKAY. Just like your kids don’t need to be in every sport offered, they will still have a wonderful, fun, and enriching education experience even if you can’t be in the local homeschool group. For most of us who work, there will be sacrifices made to be able to homeschool. Whatever those are, the benefits outweigh the costs!

8. Seek encouragement. It’s lonely sometimes feeling like the only one who is trying to work and homeschool. Let me assure you that you are not the only one. There are lots of us out there who understand the unique challenges this brings. Every now and then stop and reflect on why you homeschool and the benefits you see. Encouragement is vital for any homeschool parent, and it really helps to remember why you are doing this when the going gets rough.

9. Take advantage of learning opportunities unique to your situation. In my ‘day job’ I work on building custom homes and remodeling, so when I can I bring the kids along. They love to see the ‘behind the scenes’ work of how things are built, and what it takes to run your own business. Are there ways to incorporate your job experience into your homeschool?

10. BE FLEXIBLE. This should probably be #1 on the list. Homeschooling requires flexibility anyway, but when you are trying to handle a career and all the surprise phone calls and meetings, you have to understand that your best laid plans are always subject to change. No public school teacher ever has everything go exactly the way they thought and you won’t either. It’s okay. Just go with it. Tomorrow is a new day!

If you’re interested in more in depth information on how to work while homeschooling, I have an ebook on the subject available here.

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