5 Essential Tips to Know Before Starting to Homeschool
Interested in homeschooling? But intimidated by the thought? You can homeschool! Here are the 5 essential tips you need to know before starting to homeschool! These tips will help you stay the course, avoid a few traps, and enjoy the journey you’re about to begin!
There Is No Perfect Curriculum
One of the biggest misconceptions I had was that there was a perfect curriculum. There was a curriculum that would magically teach the kids. Keep on track. A curriculum that was better than all the rest. If you just used this one curriculum, all your problems would be solved.
But there isn’t.
There is no perfect curriculum. All curricula have their pros and cons. Some are gentle; some are rigorous. And you’d think the rigorous ones would be the best. But I found that sometimes kids are overwhelmed by the rigor and don’t retain a thing. While they enjoy and learn from the gentler curriculum.
And then you run into kids who are bored by the gentle curricula and thrive under the rigor of a more challenging program.
Then there’s math. You’ll run into the debate of spiral math programs versus mastery math programs.
Spiral math programs include a constant review of the material already learning. So if you’re learning about fractions, 5 problems may be on fractions, 5 division and multiplication problems, 5 word problems, 5 on addition and subtraction, and 5 geometry problems. Many of my kids thrive on the diversity and review.
A mastery math program concentrates on one type of problem, such as addition or fractions or division. The child may see 25 addition problems and nothing else.
Use the one that works for you! Most of my kids loved spiral math programs and hate seeing the same type of problem over and over again. But one of the kids needed mastery.
And that’s okay. Because there isn’t a perfect curriculum.
So use what works for your family.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Have you ever sat down with a curriculum to figure out how quickly you can move through it and on to something more interesting? Or had a kid running behind and sat down to calculate how quickly you can catch up?
I have! And then you take the information and run with it. Do two lessons instead of one. Because you’re trying to move through the material faster.
You’re sprinting through your homeschool. But the problem is that homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint.
Kids have 13 years from kindergarten through the 12th grade and you can’t keep up the pace if you sprint. You wear your kids out. You exhaust yourself.
I’ve also found that kids don’t learn the material as thoroughly if you’re trying to push, push, push all the time. After pushing, you hit a brick wall. And have to go back to relearn the material the kids didn’t understand the first time through.
What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s faster to be the turtle and not the hair. Because slow and steady wins the race.
You don’t need to rush through the lessons. Just take them one at a time. And don’t put your plans ahead of the kids’ learning. Sometimes you need to spend a few days on one concept. Or spend a week debating the character of various revolutionaries of the late 18th century and early 19th century.
Homeschooling is a marathon. So pace yourself accordingly.
There is No Perfect Way to Homeschool
Another secret you need to know before starting to homeschool is that people tend to get the idea into their head that there’s a perfect way to homeschool.
You may hear:
- Unschooling is best. Unschool or you’ll ruin your child!
- Classical education is the one and only way to go. Anything else is subpar.
- If you don’t do Charlotte Mason right, you’re leading your kids astray.
That’s not true. There isn’t a perfect way to homeschool. And your kids will turn out just fine.
Now, you can’t just throw books at the kids or turn them loose in the backyard and expect that they’ll learn everything they need to go. Kids need parents. Kids need mentors.
But you’re not going to ruin your kids if you pick and choose from the various homeschool methods and end up with an eclectic homeschool.
And you’re not going to lead your kids astray if you vary from the path laid out in a homeschool guide.
- Spend time in prayer.
- Spend time considering what works for your family and why.
- Chat with friends about how they’re homeschooling their kids.
And do what works for your family.
Less Is More
Have you run into the advice to use two math programs? Or to pile on materials until the kids are sitting down and working 5 hours a day?
At times, during my 20+ years of homeschooling I’ve tried it. And it’s always failed. Because piling on the work is trying to sprint through the homeschool.
Math becomes endless and hard to complete. The kids sit down and work. We don’t have time for the kids to see their friends. And the kids exhaust themselves.
At the end of the day, the kids sit down on the sofa and become zombies.
But when you concentrate on doing less… less mind you, not nothing, the kids thrive. The school day covers math, language arts, history, science, Latin, and the fine arts. And the kids end the day excited about learning more.
In my case, I see my kids
- Checking out books on ants, rabbits, or World War 1.
- Running out into the backyard to crawl around with the ants to find the colonies.
- Sitting down to write a book.
I’m not an advocate of no-schooling. Kids must learn to read, write, and do math.
But at the same time, I’m not an advocate of extremely long school days. Kids need time to play, explore, and learn about the world.
Kids need time to be kids.
Make Homeschooling a Lifestyle
Another trick you need to know before starting to homeschool is to make homeschooling a lifestyle. And to remember that you can move homeschooling away from the kitchen table.
Just because a curriculum says you need to read books aloud to your kids doesn’t mean you need to read them aloud during the official school hours. You can read the books aloud to your children in the evening before bedtime!
You can start a tradition of reading aloud to your kids as they eat lunch. Begin your day reading good books aloud.
And the same goes for other areas of the homeschool.
- Make Fridays your field trip day.
- Head out for a nature hike.
- Spend the afternoon at the museum.
- Check out the reptile museum.
- Go to a bakery and learn how bread is made.
Teach the kids that schoolwork begins after morning chores. Once it becomes part of the normal routine, kids don’t fuss as much about sitting down to complete their daily lessons.
Remember, you’re not stuck to homeschooling just from 9am to 3pm. You can homeschool throughout the day. Read to the kids before bedtime. Save science experiments for the weekend.
Homeschooling is a lifestyle.
In the end, what you need to know before starting to homeschool is that you need to slow down, build a homeschooling lifestyle, and enjoy the fascinating journey your family is taking.
You can do it!