Some things I wish I had known when I began homeschooling:
1) Put homeschooling first, for your kids sake
When I began homeschooling, I thought that I would somehow just add homeschool to my already busy life. It didn’t take long to realize that is impossible. There are only so many hours in the day! I came to the realization that in order to give my children a good education, it would have to be my first concern during “school hours.” I had to commit to the priority of educating my kids. I had to turn off the phone, avoid interruptions, and focus on my children—a very joyful occupation!
2) Consider patience as a wonderful virtue homeschooling teaches
As a new homeschooler, I was excited and wanted to tell everyone about my happy new discovery! People seemed to respond to the subject of homeschooling by commenting that they didn’t have the patience for it. That puzzled me some, as I didn’t suggest that they homeschool, but just wanted to share my own enthusiasm. A thought began to form in my head whenever I heard a response of “I don’t have patientce.” When would I really learn patience, if not now? If I am striving to have a happy family, it seems like a good idea to begin right now. Patience is a skill developed through practice and homeschooling—being with your children daily, gives you lots of practice.
3) Realize you are your child’s best teacher
It’s a good idea to abandon too-difficult learning tasks until the child is more ready, avoiding trying both of our patience! Organization and preparation will really diffuse a lot of problems. Even with your best effort, sometimes you’ll have a difficult child. In that case, it really helps me to think: “If I feel annoyed— I, who love this child so much, who have his future and well being at heart— how would a school teacher feel? I have a vested interest, he is better off with me.”
4) Routine is incredibly helpful because everyone knows what to expect.
Get organized. We have an opening exercise that begins with a pledge, patriotic song, prayer, fun oral quizzing, and me reading aloud. It feels secure to my children to have school start with the same pattern every day. I don’t try to do every subject every day, nor do I think it is wise to break a child’s concentration by changing subjects every 30 minutes. That is not the way you and I enjoy learning. We would rather pursue our interests uninterrupted until our curiosity is satisfied. If you keep getting interrupted, you begin to wonder if it is worth starting anything interesting.
5) Set some ground rules
Some of ours are:
- All work must be done before play.
- Doing your best is required.
- Sloppy work must be redone.
- A cheerful, helpful, willing attitude is the most important thing you can bring to homeschool.
- Don’t interrupt while Mom is working with another child. Go on to something else if you’re stuck and Mom is not available.
6) Learning to obey is one of the most important lessons your child will learn in homeschool
Obedience is a hard lesson for all of us, and yet an undisciplined person is not as useful to anyone—not himself, others nor God. Learning to be the master of your own self (self-control) begins by learning to obey your parents. Homeschooling, unfortunately and fortunately, compels us to come to grips with the issue: who is in charge? God gave parents the responsibility to train their children, and part of that training is to be obedient to parents. I tend to be overly tender towards my children, as many mothers are, but children learn best when we are consistent in helping them mind us. I do think you need to listen and make allowances. Sometimes children are truly tired and need a break or a change of program but repeated choruses of “I don’t want to do my schoolwork” can undermine your efforts.
7) Education comes in many forms
Flexibility is so important! We drop everything if there is a sunny day in winter and go hiking by the river instead. There is a lot to be learned from visiting the neighbor horse’s new foal. Working on an Eagle Scout project, a 4-H project, baking or sewing, watching birds make a nest— are all very valid learning experiences.
8) Be gentle as your children adjust
If you are just coming out of the public school system, expect a detoxification period. Usually kids are pretty burned out by the regimentation and busywork routine of school. When I brought my children home, my 5th grader could be turned into tears instantly by the thought of reading. I finally decided to totally forget reading for awhile (for that child) and just read aloud to all the children so he could begin to enjoy reading again. Within a year, he was an avid reader who really couldn’t remember ever hating it.
9) Slow and steady
Choose your activities wisely. You can’t do everything! Field trips can be fun, educational . . . and sometimes overly exhausting. Some homeschool moms seem to try to make up for the lack of public school activities by setting up a dizzying round of choir, soccer, scouts, art, gymnastics, etc. . . . rush, rush, too much time driving here and there. We brought them home because we wanted them home and near us. Remember?
One trip that we do deem important is a regular trip to the public library. I ask each child to consider what they want to learn about and make a list. Once in the library, we go to the computer and get the titles and numbers so each child can get their own stack of interesting nonfiction and fiction reading. I think a child could get alot of his education via the library, just following his interests!
10) Don’t rush into buying lots of curriculum
What to buy first? As a new homeschooler I think I made up for lack of confidence with stacks of books. Now, I try to encourage new homeschoolers to begin with the very basic necessities: a journal, Bible, a hymnbook or songbook, a good phonics program, a language arts program and a math program. Basically, that is all you need. There is so much on the market that really can make homeschool easier and more enjoyable but you can also use library books for reading, history, science, health, etc. and buy other things you may want as you have the money. Take care to choose carefully at the library. Not everything at the library’ is worthy of reading! As your first year progresses, you will see what is working and be able to buy the things that are best for your children.
Enjoy the journey! Homeschooling is a wonderful lifestyle!
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