11 homeschooling tips for beginners
Did you know that homeschooling has been around since the 17th century? New settlers were coming to America at that time and they wanted their children to learn how to read and study other subjects as well, and since no schools were built for them to attend, they started homeschooling.
It picked up steam in the mid 1960's as parents became dissatisfied with public education. At that time educational reforms and alternatives started to actively come up in response to public education.
While homeschooling gained a lot of followers in the last five decades. it has become much more popular the last couple of years. We have been pushed to homeschool during the pandemic as children were needing to have school remotely, and many parents have continued to homeschool even while public schools have opened up.
More and more families are recognizing homeschooling as their best educational choice. Since you are reading this article, you are most likely heading on the same road. As the benefits of homeschooling is a completely separate conversation, today we are focusing on real hands-on tips for beginners in homeschooling. Let’s dive in.
1. Get to know your local homeschooling laws
As uninteresting as this part may be, it’s one of the first things to take care of. Knowing your local homeschooling laws is one of the prerequisites if you want it to be successful for your child and your family.
2. Figure out your family’s homeschool philosophy
The first step after deciding to start your journey in homeschooling is to clearly define what kind of homeschool philosophy fits your family. Your preferences could vary from a very structured “school at home” approach to a more free and “go with the flow” way of homeschooling.
3. Get to know your teaching style and your child’s learning style
This is quite a challenging step but could define the success of your whole homeschooling process. Do not underestimate it. Make sure you have a good idea of both your and your child’s styles and attitude so that you could start working from a solid base.
Looking at your child could often be easier than looking at yourself. Cathy Duffy has published several books on picking curriculum. Look for the section that helps you evaluate your child's learning style and your teaching style. It's a great place to start and make your choices based on your insights.
4. Create a homeschooling schedule that will work for you
You don’t expect that your children will sit and focus for eight hours on bookwork, right?
But since it’s still homeschool and not free play all day, it’s also not recommended that you leave it all without setting any rules or schedules.
What usually works is that you set up a general schedule. Start by having a certain period of school work (for example 90 minutes) followed by a break. Then you plan for another period of school work, followed by lunch and some recess time. A last school work period marks the afternoon session. A slot should always be dedicated for arts and crafts or anything creative that your child may have interest in.
Depending on the kids’ age, the above structure could be modified in many ways so that it could serve your family’s preferences and goals. It’s important that both you and the homeschooled child are well aware of the schedule. It’s also very important that you leave some space for modifications but certain things should be consistent and at a predictable time (like lunch, or breaks, or arts and crafts, or daily reading).
5. Follow your child’s interests
Since the core purpose of homeschooling is usually to provide our kids what a regular educational system could not, following their interests should be at the heart of our homeschooling process. Finding the way to implement them as part of the curriculum you have chosen could be a major difficulty. But with time most parents find their ways to do it well so start working towards it.
6. Know your abilities and focus on priorities
Homeschooling is not about doing everything you want when you want it and how you want it. It’s about finding the perfect rhythm between you, your children and any tutors and/or educational materials you choose to include.
Some days won’t feel successful. Some days won’t feel smooth and worthy. That’s why this point here comes in to let you know that it’s okay.
What you can do is to get to know your abilities, give yourself grace and focus on what’s important. Sometimes it’s just sleeping in and cooking with your child a nice meal for the family. Sometimes it's playing together or taking a walk in the park. And that's perfect.
7. Use e-learning services to your advantage
We are lucky to be living in a time when we have relatively easy access to so many useful resources that it’s a great pity not to turn this to our advantage. Research e-learning services and pick whatever serves your homeschooling goals and style best. Do not build your homeschool around a single e-learning service but make sure you make the most of their existence. It will save you so much time, money and effort that it’s often worth it.
8. Create a designated learning space
It could just as well be the kitchen table but make sure that when school time comes, the space is clean and well prepared to be helpful and not distracting.
9. Use nature and seasons at your benefit
Homeschool gives us the great opportunity to mix & match our schedule and curriculum depending on our mood but also on the season or the weather outside. So if it’s rainy and gloomy, we could always do some more reading or an indoor science project. In sunny weather, make plans to go hiking in the forest to discover and talk about nature, plants, animals, etc.
10. Use everyday topics for school topics
Budgeting for the month? Include your child and talk about family finances. Planning the weekly meals? Do it together, plan the groceries you will need and decide what you can cook together. Organizing a birthday party for a family member? Work on handmade decorations in the arts and crafts slots of homeschool.
Almost any daily activity could turn into a great foundation for a lesson or a practical exercise. Think a little outside the box and make sure you prepare your kids for real life situations and not only for curriculum purposes.
11. Join/Form a local homeschooling community/group
It’s always so much easier when you have someone to discuss your challenges with. A local community with regular meetups could be a great way for you to develop your homeschooling knowledge. There you broaden your perspective and share some useful resources. What makes it really valuable is the way you can help each other out when you face any issues or difficulties in the process.