One of my passions is helping moms who are new to homeschooling. I well remember how intimidating that first year can be (and sometimes subsequent years, too!) and I was blessed by so many wonderful homeschool moms who were willing to share their wisdom with me. In my five years of homeschooling, I have met with countless women who were beginning their homeschool journey. It has been my joy to answer some of their many questions and give them some tips for a smoother transition. Beginning homeschooling is an awesome task, but one that will bring innumerable blessings to your family. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed, I offer these simple suggestions to make your life easier.
• Don’t take on too much. Keep it simple until you get your bearings. My first year, I tried to have too many different subjects, separate subjects for each child, and made way too much work for myself. I remember weeping in exhaustion after our first day (I think we spent 7 hours doing school, and then I spent another 3 or 4 grading and planning for the next day) and tearfully telling my husband I couldn’t possibly keep this up. While public school spent the first day unpacking their backpacks and sharpening their pencils, I was trying to teach the entire first month in one day! I soon learned how to do certain subjects with all of my children at once (such as history or science) and how to judge how much work was appropriate for one day (the legal requirement is an average of 4 hours a day). One of the best commitments we made that first year was to not JOIN anything. We were encouraged to join the local homeschool group, to form co-ops, and to participate in every homeschool activity available in our town. While none of those were bad things, it was just too much. We decided that we needed to spend that first year AT HOME, and not driving to multiple activities and commitments. We needed to transition into a homeschooling family by protecting our time at home and figuring out exactly what homeschooling looked like. While I am not saying you should reject all of these activities, it was the right choice for us.
• Godly character is the subject of first importance. When I became my children’s teacher, I quickly realized we had some character issues to work on. They had to respect my authority not only as “mom” but as “teacher”. My oldest had been in school for 5 years and had some adjusting to do. She was also unhappy about our decision to homeschool, and had to learn to accept our choice cheerfully and to trust that Mom and Dad knew what was best for her. I have had many moms tell me that their children would never listen to them or obey them as their teacher. I tell them that they have bigger problems than choosing how to educate their children. If we can’t teach our children because they are resistant to learning from us, we have failed to teach our children to respect our authority. Whether or not you homeschool, you ARE your child’s teacher. Sometimes, book learning must take second place to instilling godly character. And as an academically-minded person, that was a VERY hard lesson for me to learn.
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The homeschool community tends to be a very supportive group. Find a mom whose children you respect and ask her for advice. Take the time to look at curriculum choices from several people. There is so much material available and you have to find what works for you and your kids. I’ve known people who absolutely loved curriculum that I hated, and vice-versa. Read a book on learning styles and identify how your children learn (I have one visual, one auditory and one kinesthetic—lucky me!). Choose your curriculum carefully, and don’t buy too much at once. Other homeschool moms can be your best resources. Ask them where they buy their materials and what they have liked and why. My sister-in-law was my “homeschool angel”, even traveling to Colorado from Indiana to take me to my first homeschool conference and walk me through the overwhelming process of choosing curriculum. I don’t know what I would have done without her. This didn’t mean I had to choose all the same curriculum as she did, but having someone to help me evaluate the choices was priceless.
• Finally, understand that there is no one “right” way to homeschool. If I introduce you to a dozen different homeschool families, I will show you a dozen different ways to homeschool. How you teach your children and how you spend your day doesn’t have to mirror mine for it to be “right”. One of my favorite homeschool books is called “So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling” by Lisa Whelchel. In her delightful, conversational style, she eased my fears about being the perfect homeschool mom (what can I say, I’m an over-achiever!) and showed me that no two homeschooling households look alike. Rest assured that if God has called you to this amazing lifestyle, He will help you find the “right” way for your family.
More to come, including curriculum recommendations and practical tips…please check back soon!
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