11 Tips to Get You Started – Homeschooling 101

So you’re probably here because you’re considering homeschooling your kids, but I’m sure the question on your mind is, “Where do I even begin?”

I had the same issue when I first started homeschooling. Luckily I had a few friends that were already deep in the trenches to guide me along my path. Maybe you do as well or maybe you don’t, but no worries, as I’ve got your back.

Here are my tips to help you along your journey.

Tip #1: Take a deep dive and research

I know, I know. It’s so much easier to just have someone tell you what to do, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed, but the reality is that educating your child is not a one-size-fits-all case. That’s why I advocate to take a deep dive into the topic of homeschooling and do your research. Be well informed so you can make the best decisions for your child’s education.

Here’s a list of topics with links to help you begin your research:

Take a few days or even a few weeks to read, watch videos, listen to podcasts or audiobooks to become well-informed. It’s okay if your school year has already started before you finish or even begin!

And while you’re in research mode, check out this article: Lessons From a Homeschool Researcher

Tip #2: There’s no need to recreate school at home

It rarely ever works, and if you’ve read the interviews on this blog, you’ll notice a pattern. Most of us have tried to recreate that one room schoolhouse, sit in your desks, follow the detailed schedule, and do your work in a set amount of time routine with utter failure.

Home should be your children’s sanctuary, a place they want to be, especially if we want to foster a love of learning in them. You don’t need to be inside to learn, you can do it without a textbook, and you, the parent, do not need to be all knowing.

Tip #3: Create a general plan for the year

I’m a big advocate for backwards planning or goal making. Having a general idea of what you want your children to accomplish helps guide your homeschooling, and working backwards from the big picture to the small goals that will make it happen makes life simpler. And with three kids, family that lives far away, and a husband that’s always working, I’m all for simple and easy.

Tip #4: Start the year out slowly

At the beginning of the school year everyone is excited and you just want to dive into all of the subjects that you have carefully planned over the summer. Maybe it’s great for the first week or so, but then soon enough you all crash and burn and want to quit.

Avoid that crash by easing your way into the school year. Our first week of schooling usually involves a celebration. Back before COVID, we’d visit a museum and go out for the kids’ favorite meal. This year, I have no clue what we’ll be doing, but most likely it’ll involve the outdoors.

Once you’ve celebrated the beginning of your school year, introduce one new subject a week to get your toes wet and ease everyone into homeschooling. By the end of a month, you should all be in your groove.

Tip #5: Develop a routine

I don’t know about you, but meeting a deadline by a certain time makes me STRESSED! Now imagine trying to meet multiple deadlines within a day via a schedule replete with times and activities and more. My anxiety level is already going up just thinking about it, now imagine how your kids feel.

So let’s just throw the schedule out the window and instead focus on creating a homeschool routine. We all need structure in life, and routines are essential in creating a safe and stable home environment.

Our typical routine (COVID-style) includes morning tech time, breakfast, Morning Basket, play outside, lunch, play outside, independent work, quiet time, play outside, dinner, evening tech time, and night time read aloud. Notice the lack of scheduled time frames? We also only school 4 days a week and rotate our subjects (see tip #6 for more.)

Tip #6: Rotate your subjects

There is no need to do every subject every day. That’s a lot of stuff that needs to be checked off from your to-do list, and it doesn’t allow for your kids to really immerse themselves in a topic.

Instead, consider either looping and/or blocking the subjects. For example, looping is where you create a list of subjects you’d like the kids to tackle and whatever you don’t get to will just roll over to the next day becoming first on the to-do list. Blocking is where you choose a period of time to tackle a subject. It could be certain days or even a term.

We do a combination of both. We study subjects in 4-6 week terms, alternating between history, science, music, and art. It gives us more time to take a deep dive into a topic. With our independent work, we will loop the subjects. For example, my son may be consumed with writing his comic book and I don’t want to ruin his mojo, so we’ll just rollover whatever subjects he didn’t get to for the next day.

Tip #7: Drop the curriculum that doesn’t work

If the curriculum you bought was highly recommended by friends and featured on all your favorite homeschooling Instagram pages, but is making your child’s life miserable, it’s OKAY to drop it.

Homeschooling is trial and error, especially in the beginning, and finding what fits both your teaching style and your child’s learning style in a packaged curriculum will take time. And sometimes you don’t want to take that time and the money to figure it out, so you’ll develop your own curriculum (which is not hard to do!)

On top of that, your educational philosophy will evolve over the years. So what worked in the beginning, may not be suitable for further down the road. It’s okay to make changes and pivot, as one of my good friends likes to say.

Here’s a list of resources for you:

Tip #8: Utilize the library

It’s FREE and it’s fun! No need to break your homeschooling budget buying all the beautiful new books you see being highlighted on some homeschooler’s Instagram page. With COVID regulations, you may not be able to visit the library at the moment, but you can still go online to reserve your books and do a drive-by pick up.

But if you must buy, I recommend used. Amazon, eBay, your local used bookstore, your homeschool co-op, or the Homeschool Curriculum Marketplace group on facebook.

Homeschooling does not need to be expensive!

Tip #9: Limit technology

I admit, once this pandemic hit the ground running, the kids have been getting a copious amount of tech time. Normally they would only have screen time when I’m making dinner during the week and after 3pm on weekends (I grew up playing video games, and I’m not going to deny them the joy.) But now I’ve been letting them have an hour or two in the mornings, a couple hours in the afternoon, and an hour or so after dinner. That’s about 5 hours of screen time per day?!?!

That’s more than I’m comfortable with, but it’s summer and I’m just going to let it ride. Come fall, we’ll slowly transition back into school mode, which means less tech time for the kids. Below are helpful links to transition the kids off the TV or their devices.

Tip #10: Get out of the house

Going outside is a great way of keeping the kids off the screen and your house clean. (Who here is tired of cleaning their house EVERYDAY?) Not only do you and the kids get a break from being at home, but you get the psychological benefits of being in nature – reducing stress and promoting healing.

While you’re out, why not go on a field trip to the zoo, a botanical garden, a state or national park, or if you’re lucky and they’ve opened back up in your part of the world, to a museum.

Tip #11: Take breaks, lots of them

Finally, one of the MOST important aspects of homeschooling is rest. Without rest, there will be burn out. Without rest, there will be rivers of tears. Without rest, you cannot homeschool let alone be a good parent.

Daily rest, weekly rest, and long term rest are important for both our mental and physical health. Plus, making time for rest will help teach your children about finding balance in life.

Homeschooling 101 - Practical Tips to Get You Started

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