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RELEVANT AND PRACTICAL HOMESCHOOLING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS THAT WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER
A mark of a good mom is the one who spends the right amount of time researching homeschooling tips for beginners when considering a transition away from public school.
There’s a big, scary (and understandable) fear for most of us when it comes to transitioning to homeschool, which can be paired down to this – what if I don’t do it right?
Thoughts like this can, of course, be followed up with other unhelpful thought patterns….what if my homeschooled kid ends up being one of those “socially challenged” kids you hear about? Can a homeschooled kid really get into a prestigious university? What if they grow up without friends?
I wish I could say these fears are unfounded – but they’re not.
Homeschooling has a unique set of issues that can negatively impact your child’s education (and life) if you aren’t careful. But the reality is – that’s true of every situation in life.
Everything has potential risk, everything has potential reward. Traditional schooling has downsides too. Your job is to educate yourself on these risks, and do your best to circumvent them – with the understanding that you will make mistakes. We all do.
HOMESCHOOLING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
I wanted to provide a list of homeschooling tips for beginners – homeschooling tips and tricks that I wish I would’ve known before delving into the world of homeschooling.
This article is probably more relevant than most you’ll find out there right now though, because this is from the perspective of a mom who worked through virtual schooling and the trials that came with it.
I’m also going to specifically examine the transition from traditional schooling to homeschooling at the elementary school age level, but this advice will be applicable to most families who are considering homeschooling – regardless of age.
I hope you enjoy these homeschool tips!
1. Homeschooling is NOT the same as mandatory virtual schooling
I think drawing a clear distinction between homeschooling and mandatory virtual schooling is important.
Any parent with school-aged kids who has lived through the pandemic knows what I’m talking about when I use the term “virtual schooling”. When things started to get scary, most schools moved from traditional schooling to online schooling. While in many areas schools have returned to traditional schooling (with some stipulations), there are still many others still doing virtual school.
Many parents are afraid of the idea of homeschooling because virtual schooling presented such disastrous outcomes for many of us. Our teachers, school districts, and kids weren’t ready for the transition – and neither were we.
I have a friend who’s a kindergarten teacher. She’s a middle-aged woman who was preparing to retire, suddenly spending upwards of 80 hours a week between lesson plans, virtual classrooms, instructing parents, and all of the other duties our teachers were forced to adopt when the crisis began.
Make no mistake: she’s a phenomenal teacher and she never missed a beat.
On the other hand, I was very disappointed in my children’s experience. I felt like my children were failed by the highly rated institution that we moved away from our previous home just to attend. I know there are many of you that see and understand one or both sides of this.
The biggest difference between homeschooling and virtual schooling is one of these things is a choice and something we can prepare for, and the other is not. The other was thrown at us in a time of high anxiety and fear.
It’s as simple as that.
With homeschooling, you are empowered to make the right choice for your child, and provide the structure and instruction they desperately need.
2. Familiarize yourself with your local state laws
This part causes a lot of discomfort for some of us. Just finding the right information is difficult – and once you do, there’s a new set of problems. Law text is usually vague, filled with jargon, and difficult to read.
Every state differs a little on what their rules are regarding homeschooling. Some states provide absolutely NO requirements when it comes to paperwork or procedures to follow, while others are incredibly strict. Some of the common regulations you’ll want to check out include the following.
- How many options for homeschooling exist?
- Are there required teaching qualifications?
- How many hours is your child expected to attend homeschool?
- Does your school district require notification that you intend to homeschool?
- Does your state have immunization requirements?
- Are there specific records that must be maintained?
- Are there state-mandated subjects you must teach?
- Does your state require yearly (or more frequent) assessments?
- If your state requires assessments, what are the rules surrounding them?
- During what range of ages are kids required to attend school in your state?
- Are there any health and medical requirements for homeschooling in your state?
Only four states have what you might consider high regulations for parents wanting to homeschool, so don’t let this list overwhelm you. You can find all of your state’s homeschool laws at Home School State Laws – a site started by a homeschool mom who knows how hard it can be to track this information down.
Not only does she break down each individual state’s homeschool laws in layman terms; she also includes links to important websites that you’ll need to reference in your homeschooling journey.
3. Find a community of other homeschool parents
Whether you’re a single parent working full time or stay at home (or anything in between), there are SO many other parents in your situation.
Homeschooling communities are rampant on Facebook (and I mean that in a good way!) There are undoubtedly homeschooling groups dedicated to your specific state, and for most of us there are even more localized groups (there are at least two for my specific county).
Often these groups will organize meetups so that your child obtains the socialization they need. They’re also a great place for talking through your frustrations and/or questions that come up (which is especially helpful since many things are state-specific).
If Facebook isn’t your thing (which makes you think this homeschooling tip isn’t for you) – I’m telling you that you have other options. And even if you or your kiddo aren’t the “social” kind of person, it’s still going to make your life easier in the long run.
You can contact your local school district to see if they have any resources. There are also other platforms, such as Clubhouse and Reddit, which host homeschool communities, albeit smaller ones.
4. Figure out your child’s learning style
This is one of my FAVORITE homeschooling tips for beginners.
Every person learns differently, and this is definitely true for your kiddo, too. Having a good understanding of your child’s learning style will be paramount, as this will influence many upcoming and important decisions (which we’ll talk about soon).
There are four sensory modalities that are used to describe learning styles. Nobody fits into a singular bucket, but most of us tend to absorb information better with one or two of the modalities than we do the others. Depending on your child’s age, some learning styles may be more age-appropriate.
For example, a preschooler will likely learn best by doing in lieu of hearing because this is what’s age-appropriate.
That said, please try to avoid putting your child in a box because their learning style may change throughout time.
Here are the four types, as well as a brief description of what they are.
- Visual learners
These are students that learn best from visual graphics. This is not to say they learn from photographs or video, though, because video/photography does not present information with the same intentional visual hierarchy that learning graphics do.
Visual learners retain information easier when it is taught via charts, diagrams, patterns, and other means of visual representation.
- Auditory learners
These students learn best from information that is heard or spoken. Most of us know our younger kids love to speak – but this doesn’t mean that’s how they learn best.
Students with this preference learn best via lectures, talks, speaking things through, and group discussions. These learners are typically the people who talk first and think later, or they may repeat what has already been said to them. They have to say it themselves to learn it.
- Read/write learners
This type of student learns best when information is displayed as written language. Reading and writing things such as reports, essays, manuals, and assignments will allow them to internalize the information easier than hearing it described aloud.
Students who learn this way end up with a preference for lists, diaries, quotations, and words in general.
- Kinesthetic learners
These learners learn by doing – and this can be in relation to real or simulated experiences. These students prefer that their learning experience is connected to their reality through personal experience or physical examples. This might such things as simulations, videos (of “real” things), case studies, practice, and examples.
The reality is that most kids start out as kinesthetic learners while they’re learning about their world – which is a good reminder of why we can’t put our kids in a box.
If you’re interested in figuring out your kid’s learning style, you can help them take a quiz from Education Planner. It won’t work for all age groups, but it is age appropriate for most elementary aged students.
5. Learn about & choose a homeschool teaching model
There are SO many different homeschool teaching models out there, but only about 8 are widely accepted and popular. My best advice for a beginner homeschooler is to read a little about all of them and then narrow it down from there.
Here are the eight main types you’ll want to look into.
- Classical Method
Heavy emphasis on learning the Bible. Classical method homeschooling is one of the oldest and most popular homeschooling methods. It focuses a lot on reading (especially texts from history), language, logic, and critical thinking. It is one of the most rigid approaches to homeschooling, and has some of the largest homeschool networks.
- Hybrid Method
The hybrid method is definitely becoming more popular. It is basically a combination of homeschooling and traditional schooling. In some ways, this can be the best of both worlds. Your kiddo gets a chance to socialize with peers, but it keeps you empowered to make sure they’re getting the individualized education they need.
- Eclectic Method
The eclectic homeschooling method is the most popular method of homeschooling – and it’s basically just a relaxed combination of all other methods. It’s about NOT fitting into a box and making an education plan centered around your child’s needs.
- Montessori Method
Montessori incorporates a lot of free movement, unstructured time blocks for play/learning, interest based learning, and multi-grade classes. This is a GREAT option for young learners and has been proven effective, although it has not gained the same level of popularity as some other methods. It’s also special needs friendly.
- Charlotte Mason Method
This method is considered a Christian homeschool style of learning. It uses very short periods of study (around 20 minutes for elementary students) in combination with nature walks and journals, narration, memorization, reading plays, and observation.
- Unit Studies Method
For Unit Studies, the parent typically picks a theme and each school subject is studied from the perspective of that particular theme. For example, you could do a Halloween unit. You would need a Halloween-themed lesson for math, literature, geography etc.
- School At Home Method
This method is modeled from traditional public school (sometimes even making use of the same program as your public school). This is probably the method most similar to virtual schooling, except you’ll have time to prepare (which makes a HUGE difference). This tends to be one of the more expensive options.
- Unschooling Method
This homeschooling method is the total opposite of the School of Home Method and is centered around projects and activities that are focused on a child’s passions and interests. There is still some rigorous teaching when it comes to skills like reading and writing, but it is somewhat unconventional, completely foregoing the use of things like testing.
6. Make a plan
This homeschooling tip for beginners is definitely an important one, and the tip that I think a lot of parents skip because it’s frankly a little overwhelming. My best advice would be to take the following questions and spend the appropriate amount of time to think about your answers.
If you have a partner, now’s the time to sit down and have a conversation with them about it.
After answering the questions, go through the pros and cons of your top 2 or 3 methods so that you can figure out what fits best for your situation.
- What hours of each day can you realistically spend teaching?
- How many hours can your partner or another support person help you every week?
- What method of teaching do you gravitate towards? Pick three.
- What is your child’s learning style? Pick no more than 2.
- How long can your child stay still in one sitting?
- What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses?
- List your own strengths and weaknesses
7. Make a peer socialization plan
I think many parents (including myself) are attracted to the idea of the level of influence and protection we can offer our children by homeschooling. I want to hide under a pillow when I think about the increasing rate in child suicide and the dangers of social media.
The fact of that matter is that society puts a LOT of pressure on our kids to fit into a box. When they don’t – they risk being bullied or left out by their peers.
A friend called me the other day wanting to know how to get started with homeschooling because her five-year-old was in tears after dealing with mean kids at preschool. I get it – there’s NOTHING more painful than seeing your child hurt.
But, as you already know, we can’t protect them from everything. They HAVE to experience life, and sometimes life is cruel. Not allowing them to experience social interaction with their peers will cause even more problem as they enter adulthood.
Sit down with your child, and talk with them about their interests. Do they enjoy dancing? Gymnastics? Football? Art? Once you have a good idea of what they want to do, you can make a plan to tailor social interaction around that.
Getting out at least 2-3 times a week is best, although this amount may be more or less depending on how introverted or extroverted your child is (and remember – shyness is NOT the same as introversion!)
Some homeschool groups do meetups with other parents/kids. While this will likely give you the most control over who they socialize with, experiences without you are JUST as important. My best advice would be to keep the conversation open-ended. Make sure you ask about how activities went after they go to an activity without you. Ask about their friends. Help them problem solve when they have a conflict. Encourage them to invite a friend over every once in a while.
Socializing is HARD, but it will only get harder the less they do it.
8. Pick a curriculum
This may be the most difficult part of the preparation involved in homeschooling because it’s incredibly complex and very individual. Regardless, it’s also a very important step to prepare for homeschooling. At this point you should have an idea of what homeschooling method you’re going to use, and after that you’ll find there are hundreds of curriculums for each method to choose from. Here are a couple of checkpoints to help you rule out curriculums.
- What can you afford
Right of the bat I think it’s worth considering your budget. I would keep this as flexible as possible so that you don’t end up ruling out a potentially perfect option, but it’s important to remember that your child can get a quality education without it breaking the bank. It’s likely that all (or the vast majority) of teaching materials needed are available for free online, as long as you take the time to look. Paying for a program is in part paying for the amount of time saved by not having to look everything up. There are definitely other benefits to a paid curriculum, but these additional benefits are rarely a “need”, and more a “want”.
- What do the reviews look like?
I would definitely recommend going with a well-known curriculum that has reviews available. Because information on the internet can be manipulated so easily, I would ask around in homeschool Facebook groups and/or family and friends. Some of the more well-known programs have their own Facebook groups, and this can be a great way to get some insight into individual programs.
- Ask for a sample
Many programs offer a sample unit for free to potential purchasers. Ask the programs you’re considering for a sample of their curriculum. After this, I would ask a trusted educator (maybe a current teacher of your kids, or another teacher you know) to look through it with you. Even if it is not the area of their expertise, they’ll likely have an idea on whether the information appears to be organized well, and whether it’s a quality program.
- What benefits does that curriculum offer?
Do the programs you’re looking at come with a community? Live customer support? Subscription boxes that have materials delivered to your door? These and many more benefits are available depending on the curriculum you decide to go with. After completing the “make a plan” tip from above, you’ll have a better idea of what benefits you want for your situation.
- Is the curriculum accredited?
Accreditation is not a state requirement for homeschooling. Furthermore, there are over 40 questionable accreditation companies in the U.S. right now that a program can be accredited by. It’s important to remember that accreditation jus means that a program has been evaluated by a third party and been found to meet or exceed certain standards. With that being said – if your child ever plan to transfer back to public school, there are states that only recognize certain distance learning providers so accreditation may become more important. Colleges and universities typically care less about this, but schools can change at anytime.
9. Embrace your mistakes
When researching homeschooling tips for beginners, I found a Reddit support forum for prior homeschool students. I thought I would find a bunch of people with the parents like you and me – who, despite their best efforts, had screwed it up.
What I found instead was a group of people who had likely experienced borderline abuse. Some parents left their kids to figure it out on their own. Some of these students didn’t learn to read until they were in their preteens. Others were even further behind.
Most of them did not have socialization outside of the home, and many did not have any sort of structure to their education.
While this was heartbreaking to read about, it was also a bit of a relief to find that homeschool had not failed these kids – their parents did.
NOW SPEND TIME PROCESSING THESE HOMESCHOOLING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Look. You won’t do this perfectly – you can’t. You will mess up, and you’ll probably mess up a lot.
That being said, you’re also going to do a lot of things RIGHT. You’ll get a chance to bond with your kiddo in a meaningful way, and you get to tailor your child’s education according to their needs.
Keep learning, keep getting support, and keep adapting to your child’s needs.
The combination of these things will keep you moving in the right direction, and in the end that’s what counts. It IS enough. Your child will thank you someday for it.
Have a great experience homeschooling your children, or being homeschooled? Let’s talk about it below! We all have so much to give and I’d love to hear about it!