Are You a Homeschool Newbie? Here’s What You Need to Know…

– Join your local Facebook homeschooling group to find local support.

– Check out HSLDA to learn about the legal requirements for your state.

– Find a local co-op to join if you are concerned about socialization. Some are just playdates for moms and kids. Others are academic with classes that your kids can take.

– If you have a high schooler, consider dual enrollment options. We started this last year and it went well! Dual enrollment credits add a full point to GPA and your child gets both high school and college credit.

– It’s okay to have short lessons. You can get more accomplished in 15 minutes with a child’s focused attention than you can in an hour in a classroom of 20 kids with scattered attention. And short lessons allow for more time to play and explore the world!

– You don’t need to give grades unless they are in high school. Grades are to show the parent where the child is at. You will know where your child is at, where she struggles, where she excels. (Plus, there are many good reasons to NOT give grades!) Yes, they can go back to school next year without grades.

– There’s no reason you can’t “do school” in the evenings or on weekends if both parents work! Think outside the box!

– Have a “Not Back to School” party on the day public schools start again… because you can!

– One of the biggest homeschooling benefits is the ability to tailor your child’s education to his specific needs. Meet him where he is at in the skill subjects of Math, Spelling, Writing, Reading, Grammar, etc. Then expand his horizons in content subjects by reading (or having him read to himself) meaningful, “living” books about History, Geography, Science, Art, etc. and exploring the world through experiences.

– Rotate between input/output subjects and physical/mental subjects throughout the day. “A change is as good as a break.”

– Start your day with exercise if you have active/unfocused kids!

– Start your day with one-on-one time with your toddler if you have older kids. Your school day will likely be less stressful.

– Your kids can do school in their pajamas (or their underwear!).

– You can do school on the couch, in a hammock under the kitchen table, in the backyard, at the park, in bed, in the car, by the pool, anywhere you’d like!

– You can take the whole month of December off if you want to! Read Christmas books, bake cookies, decorate the house, watch Christmas movies, learn carols, learn a new skill, volunteer, enjoy each other.

– If you have to do 180 days, you can school 4 days per week for 45 weeks instead of 5 days per week for 36.

– You can totally put chores on the school list!

– The #1 thing you can do to help your kids academically is create a literature-rich environment of high-quality books and lots of free time to explore. The books and play will do the educating!

– Use different voices when reading aloud. You get better the more you do it! And let the kids play with fidget toys if it helps them focus! Asking for a narration (telling back what they remember) afterward will let you know if they were actually listening or not.

– Create a plan, a routine, a checklist, or a schedule. Your days will run more smoothly if the kids know what to expect. But be flexible, especially if you have little ones in tow!

– Use loop schedules if you get stressed out trying to “get it all done!” You don’t need to do every subject every day! (There will be an upcoming post about this.)

– Some helpful supplies: Pencil Grip, an inflatable wobble cushion, specific colors of pencils for each child, a globe and/or map, a small or large whiteboard and dry erase markers, a special shelf or bin for each child’s books and supplies.

– It is better to do a little bit that “makes sense” to your child than to just “get through” a book in order to check it off as completed. It is OKAY if you don’t get through everything by the end of the year. Steady progress with UNDERSTANDING is more important.

– Combine kids as much as possible to save yourself loads of time! This is easiest in content areas (History, Science, Geography, Literature, Poetry, etc.). See my previous post about this for links to curriculum.

– Have activities for toddlers/preschoolers to do while the big kids are doing school. These should only come out at school time.

– Have a quiet time every day (usually done after lunch) where the kids listen to audio books and play quietly in their rooms. This is a sanity saver!!!

– Periodically (every 6-12 weeks) re-evaluate what is working and what isn’t in your homeschool. Don’t switch things up based on your emotions in the moment. You will save yourself and your kids a lot of hassle by having set times to calmly evaluate.

– Consider using audio books during lunch for 1-2 read alouds. Check your library app!

– Consider having dad read a history or literature book to the kids at night. Mythology is a fun place to start!

– Consider having grandparents or babysitter help out with some of the schooling. They could read a book or take the kids for a walk in the woods or watch them do handwriting practice. Ask them what they’d like to do! Maybe they like science experiments. Maybe they’re good at math and want to help you there! Maybe they want to bake cookies with your kindergartener – and that totally counts as school! If you are concerned about face-to-face interaction, grandparents could read to the child over Zoom at a set time each day.

– Have an older kid play with baby/toddler while you work with your middle child.

– You don’t have to jump into every subject on the first day of school. Feel free to start slow with just one or two things and add something new each week!

– The best kept secret of homeschooling: you, the parent, will fall in love with learning. (And if you don’t, try a different homeschool style!) Homeschooling can make you a different, better version of yourself.

– Academic progress is not always linear or steady. Some kids learn at a slow and steady pace. Others learn in leaps and bounds and twists and turns and you just hang on for the ride!

– Start your first day of school on a Wednesday, not a Monday morning.

– Take lots of brain breaks.

– Most days can be saved with brownies, a documentary, and a read aloud.

– Get out in nature as much as possible. It’s good for everyone’s mental health!

– Curriculum made for schools will likely not work as well at home because it is a completely different environment. If you find yourself or your kids struggling, consider other styles of learning before jumping ship on homeschooling!

– Consider a mix of teaching method options. Maybe virtual school for Math and Language Arts, then family-style learning for History and Science. Mix it up! It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

– It’s okay to tweak curriculum to meet your child’s or your family’s needs. Curriculum is a good servant but a horrible master. If it is a year-long curriculum but your days are too full, feel free to do it every other day for two years instead. If it is meant for a single grade level, but you think it could work for all your kids together during “Morning Time,” go for it! If you like all of it except for the writing prompts at the end, skip the writing prompts and find some that will work better for you. If your phonics curriculum spends 26 lessons teaching the letters of the alphabet but your child knows them already, start at lesson 27! Teach the child, not the curriculum.

– You DON’T have to do crafty projects and messy science experiments if you don’t like that sort of thing. And, if you do, then you can do loads of them!

– Is there anything you really wish the public schools would have covered but didn’t? State capitals? Diagramming sentences? Memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution? Reading great literature? Cursive? Japanese? Now is your chance to get that done!

– Is there anything your child has struggled with for years? Paying attention? Math facts? Spelling? Writing neatly? Reading fluently? Caring about anything of substance? Now is your chance to tackle that difficult area without having the burden of extra work needing to be turned in to a teacher at a particular time!

– Has your child been bored at school because she understands things quickly and has to wait for the rest of the class? Has she started acting out because of it? Has she learned to be a compliant, people-pleasing perfectionist because A’s make her feel good about herself? Now is your chance to let her soar! Let her face real challenges and overcome. Let her see that the world is wider than the walls of her classroom.

– Look up the term “Morning Time.” It may save your sanity and change your family dynamics for the better.

Thank you to Jennifer Porter, Tiffany Hernandez, and Brienne Sessa for helping me come up with this list!