I remember being a new mom to the homeschool scene, and how confusing and overwhelming this new world seemed to be.
I remember being gullible, believing that homeschool veterans had all the answers because they knew everything about teaching kids. They knew ev-er-y-thing and I knew NOTHING. Sound familiar?
I’ll let you in on a little secret: we don’t! But we do have wisdom to share, and I do hope that you are able to glean from my experiences.
Here are some of the best pieces of advice that I have received or learned the hard way, and all of which I share with new homeschool moms:
1. It’s YOUR SCHOOL.
Let me say that again. It’s your school. You can run it the way that you want to. Your kids, your schedule, your challenges, your home, your life. What works for me (or your best friend, sister, neighbor, or Super-Suzy Homeschool Group Leader) may not work for you. Don’t pattern your family and your homeschool after someone else who is probably completely different than you, with entirely different kids. It’s a recipe for disaster.
2. Don’t bring the school home with you.
This goes back to it being your school, but I did it and I’m sure most of you will too, at least to some extent. Homeschooling is not like a regular school classroom. Don’t turn it into one, unless you’re okay with your kids hating homeschooling after a while. They don’t have to sit at a desk, you don’t have to have a homeschool classroom, and you don’t even have to start school at 8:00 in the morning. Do what works for YOU.
3. You have to be HOME to homeschool.
Yes, I know we do school on the road sometimes. There are always field trips, activities, shopping, and friends. There are also kids who depend on you to give some sort of structure to their days. Be sure you are spending enough time at home to let that happen. Outside activities are wonderful, but if you run yourself ragged going from one activity to the next, eventually something will give. Possibly your sanity.
4. Sometimes you have to just pick one thing and work on it to completion.
There are days around our house where I know that if we can just get my son through his math today (we have special needs) then it will be a good day! If your child is struggling with one particular thing and it just seems like he can’t move ahead, then don’t. Drop the other subjects and come up with some creative ways to help him learn that one thing. The world won’t come to a screeching halt if you skip science and grammar for a day or two.
5. Take breaks.
Lots of them, especially if they are younger or have special needs. They don’t need to be long, but everyone needs a brain break once in a while. Plan for them and you won’t need to take emergency breaks when one of your kids decides to declare mutiny for the day. The average 5-year old has a 5-minute seated-attention span. Don’t forget that.
6. Take advantage of local resources to add variety to your education.
County, state and national parks often have kid’s science and conservation programs running from spring through fall. There are also many other possibilities that are only limited by your imagination (and maybe funds, but if you plan carefully you may still be able to do them!) Here are some places to find local educational options. If you’re in Washington State, I put together a guide packed with local resources for you. Click HERE to grab that guide!
7. Kindergarten is not an academic year.
Don’t burn out your 5-year old with 7 subjects and rigidly scheduled days! I taught Kindergarten to 4 of my kids, and it took no more than an hour a day. And that hour was NOT consecutive. Math was about 20 minutes, and manipulative-based. Handwriting practice was worksheets from the Hearts and Hands workbook, placed in plastic sheet protectors. They would work on them until they got tired, no longer than about 10 minutes. Phonics was about 15 minutes. The rest of the time was spent with me reading aloud not only to my K’er but also to the older kids. We read nature magazines and historical fiction, science books, and funny poetry. Kindergarten should be easy and fun and very gentle. Don’t push.
8. Buy composition notebooks a case at a time when they go on sale in the summer.
Seriously. We use these things for everything! Ideas: Science lab notebook, handwriting practice, spelling lessons, nature notebook, math practice, journaling, historical timelines, freewriting, Zen Tangle drawings, unit studies, and anything else you can dream up. You can also get primary-lined (dotted center line) composition books too!
9. Always write lesson plans in pencil.
Just trust me on this. No matter how great your plans are, something will force you to change or rearrange. Don’t stress yourself out by trying to do everything you wrote in your planner just because it’s staring at you in bright blue ink. If you need to change it, erase it and change it. No harm done. If you need help finding the perfect planner, see my Ultimate Homeschool Planner Review page, where I have reviewed around a dozen for you.
10. When it gets stressful, just read.
Grab a good read aloud, put your kids on your lap or close to you, and read a good book. This will really take the load off of your shoulders as well as your kids’ and help you reconnect with the why of homeschooling.
Relationships are the key to homeschooling!
If what you’re doing is raising your stress level and making your kids hate schoolwork, take a step back and re-evaluate what you’re doing. If you are forging relationships, homeschooling won’t raise the stress levels significantly. But when you do stress out about things you are NOT forging strong relationships.
Relax. Enjoy your kids!