Hi everyone! I’m Amy from bura ellen. I was really excited and honored when Alison asked me to contribute a post about homeschooling to this series. And then reality hit me and I panicked a little. I am by no means an expert when it comes to homeschooling. There are so many seasoned veterans out there. But, I have been doing it for several years and have definitely learned a few things during that time.
When I first started to homeschool, I waited until the summer before kindergarten to start figuring out what I was going to do. That July I went to a homeschool conference book fair, and an hour into it I was crying. Moms were all around me full of direction with their checklists and their rolling carts full of purchases. I had no direction, no idea what I was doing and my purse with a wallet, a phone and lip balm. I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. I needed a lot of help in the beginning. I was kinda flying by the seat of my pants.
So whether you are considering homeschooling, or are just starting out, hopefully these tips can help you.
Five things I wish I had know when I started my homeschooling journey...
1. Attend a homeschool conference. I have been to several conferences over the years. Conferences usually have a book fair, workshops and speakers. For years I only attended the book fair portion (usually you can get a cheaper ticket if you only attend the book fair), but this past year I finally attended workshops and listened to speakers and I must say that I can’t believe I waited so long! It was very encouraging and I learned so much. But, I have to admit that I absolutely love the book fair portion. I love to be able to get my hands on curricula and books and really examine them. It is so helpful to really see what a particular one has to offer. I have even changed my mind about a curriculum after getting to see it in person.
2. Make a schedule. And then completely abandon it. Not really. Well, kind of. Each week, usually on Sunday night, I sit down and plan out our week. A few years ago I developed a spreadsheet for myself and I fill it out each week. There are many different ways that people plan and there are many ideas online. Find a way that works for you. Once you get your plan, your oh so lovely organized plan, you have to be prepared for it to get completely squashed. Things happen. People get sick. Opportunities come up. And you have to be ok with that. While having a weekly plan definitely helps my sanity, it can also ruin it if I get too rigid about sticking to it.
3. Have a support system. When I started out homeschooling I had one friend that had been homeschooling for years. It was so helpful to get ideas and advice from her. I don’t think I could have survived without her. Later I joined a local homeschool support group. There were activities for the children and the moms met one night per month. Sometimes those mom meetings covered particular topics and other times they were just for socializing. Either way, it is important to have people with whom you can relate and bounce ideas off of. Some of my best friends are fellow homeschool moms. And some of the greatest homeschool encouragement and advice I have gotten has come from these friends.
4. Become an expert about your child. For me, this is two-fold. First you should learn your child’s learning style. (The three main types are visual, auditory and kinesthetic.) Every child is different. And there is a chance that your child has a different style than you. You will save yourself a lot of headaches if you pay attention to the ways your child learns. It used to drive me crazy that while I was reading to my son he would walk around the room and seem to be ignoring me. But, every time I would stop and ask him about what I had been reading, he always knew exactly what I had said. He is an auditory learner. I am a visual learner so it was hard for me to relate to his style in the beginning. I didn’t understand how he could be listening while doing other things or why he wouldn’t respond to something that I found helpful.
Also, pay attention to what your child finds interesting. For example, in science earlier this year, we were reading about bats. My children always love science but for whatever reason, they were all about bats. They never wanted me to stop reading. So, we went to the library and checked out lots of books about bats and went online and looked at tons of images of bats. If your child shows a great interest in whatever you are studying (even if it is grammar), take the time to go in depth with it. Don’t let the pressure to “get through the book” keep you from exploring their interests with them. Children will learn a lot more this way than if you just skim the surface of every subject. At the same time, if my children hadn’t been so interested in bats, I wouldn’t have forced it. Don't go in depth with something just for the sake of it.
5. Have fun. This seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it? But, it can be very easy to lose sight of this basic need. I feel like this point is at least two-fold. First, don’t be so focused on lessons that you don’t stop to have fun with your child. So often, one of my children will get silly during a lesson and I have the tendency to get frustrated and just want to finish our work. However, I have found that my children actually focus better if I stop and get silly with them. Also, have fun built in between lessons. Play games. Dance. Bake cookies. Do things that make you and your child smile and laugh.
Also, not all lessons are exciting and fun. Everyone has a subject that really doesn’t float their boat. And that is ok. However, if you are finding that a curriculum isn’t fun for you, chances are it isn’t fun for your child. Children pick up on your attitude and usually imitate it. If I am rolling my eyes as I pull math out, my child starts complaining about having to do math. In other words, if both of you are dreading a subject, change curriculum! Just because a particular curriculum has gotten rave reviews, or works great for a friend, doesn’t mean it is for your family.
I hope these tips are helpful. Just remember that homeschooling looks different for every single family. You have to find your family's rhythm. Sometimes that takes a while and sometimes it changes. Just remember to have fun and don't feel pressured to do things a certain way.