Have you been considering homeschooling but you’re a little nervous because you don’t know what to expect or where to begin? Hopefully this post will help shed some light and give you some encouragement.
The first thing to know is that homeschooling is not school at home. That simply means you do not need to recreate a school day in your home. You don’t need a desk or a plethora of books and resources. You don’t need to have a set timed schedule each day that must be adhered. Homeschooling is a constant state of learning. It’s developing a curiosity of the world in your child by creating an atmosphere where learning is fun. It’s forming children to become free thinkers that seek answers instead of just being told the answers.
But How Are You Supposed to Homeschool?
There are a variety of ways to homeschool! No two homeschool families are the same! Some families are more structured and some are more go with the flow. Some families incorporate a lot of hands on resources and some families use a lot of books. Some families have a strong focus on academics and some focus more on the arts. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is doing what’s best for your family.
“From the day you became a parent, you also became a teacher, and you are equipped to teach your child.”Anne Campbell
You are equipped! You know your child best and know what works for them. Search for whatever curriculum and resources that meet the needs of your child and family and use it. Also make sure to check on your state’s homeschool requirements. We live in Ohio and only have to give a notice of intent (NOI) to our local superintendent along with an assessment from the previous year. The assessments can be either from a final exam or portfolio review. We typically do the latter. Here is a website for all of the homeschool requirements for each state.
How Do I Choose the Right Curriculum?
I highly recommend taking these quizzes to help you find a good fit for you and your family. After taking the quizzes there will be recommendations on curriculums that fit your particular needs and interests. It’s a great jumping off point in choosing a curriculum!
The first one is a learning style quiz that will help you determine which way your child learns best.
The next one is a homeschool style quiz that will help you determine what you want your homeschool to look like.
How Much Should I Spend on Curriculum & Supplies?
This is entirely up to you and your family! There are so many types of curriculums at every cost. There are even many quality curriculums that are free! If you enjoy the Charlotte Mason approach to teaching, Ambleside Online is completely free. There truly is a curriculum for every situation and every family.
We are a one income household so we don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on things. We do have a homeschool budget every year that consists of the main curriculum and other resources and supplies. Typically we use the money we receive from our tax return to purchase curriculum. I am also a Tinkergarten leader and have a small Etsy shop where I sell digital homeschool resources. I use the money I earn from those to go towards any additional supplies or resources I would like to add to our homeschool. A good way to start a budget is to find the curriculum you would like to use and any other supplies for the next year and calculate how much that would cost. Then just start saving money each month until you are able to purchase it. And remember, you don’t need all the things!
What If I Choose the Wrong Curriculum?
Sometimes a curriculum might not work out and that’s ok! The beauty of homeschooling is not needing to have a set curriculum to use forever but being able to pick and choose what’s right for your child. My oldest daughter struggled last year with the Math and English curriculum I chose. But now I can re-evaluate and find something that fits better.
What About Planning?
That all depends on the curriculum you choose. Some are open and go, meaning you don’t have to plan at all. We use an open and go curriculum that has a teachers manual that lists every subject and lesson for each day broken down by week. Each week has a list of supplies and materials needed that you can gather before the week begins. I typically check a week or two in advance for any books I might want to include so I can reserve them at the library. I usually check Saturday or Sunday to gather supplies for the week. But honestly a lot of times I check right before it’s time to actually start the lessons that week!
If you don’t have an open and go curriculum you’ll have to do some planning. I would highly recommend a good quality homeschool planner to make the process much smoother. Anna Vance Paper Company has some very well organized planners! Definitely check it out to see all of the beautiful options. And of course there are many other planners available at various places.
As far as planning time goes, do whatever works best for you. I know some families plan each week, some plan a whole month, and some even plan out a whole semester. It all depends on the time you have to dedicate to it.
What Does a Typical Homeschool Day Look Like?
This also is very dependent on your homeschool style. An unschooling family’s day is going to look much different than that of a classical style homeschool family. I will say though that homeschooling does not need to take a full 7 hours like a traditional public school. You also don’t have to start at 9am everyday and have a set schedule of subjects at certain times throughout the day. If that works best for you than that’s great! Just know it’s not necessary. Also remember that learning is always taking place. If you live in a state that requires a certain amount of hours logged each year know that the field trip you take includes learning time. And the trip to the library, or reading aloud. There are so many things that are considered learning even though your child is not writing in a workbook at the time.
For our family, our days always look different, but we do have a bit of a routine. Our schooling typically lasts 1 to 4 hours depending on the lessons for the day. Some days my girls like to start right after breakfast. Some days I’ll let them play first. Some days we don’t even do schooling at all and head outside for the day. We use homeschool schedule cards as a visual of what needs to get done for the day. I let my daughter choose the order of subjects because I don’t care what order she does them in as long as they get done. She likes them because she can see what is expected for the day and not get discouraged when I keep giving her more work. This is just what works for our family. Yours may look different. And that’s ok!
What About the Difficult Days?
There are some days that just do not go right at all. My girls are not cooperating with me or each other. They won’t attempt any schoolwork or they will attempt it begrudgingly. It’s those days that I scrap it all and do something entirely different. A lot of times it’s simply going outside, whether it’s in our backyard or to the park. Or sometimes we do some baking in the kitchen. Other times we break out a bunch of art supplies and create together. I have found that if my daughters are struggling to do work it’s best to not force them to do it. It never ends well. And typically they’re so focused on being mad they’re not even paying attention or learning what they’re “supposed” to be doing. Usually spending time doing other things gets them in better moods and then they actually don’t mind completing some school work.
What About Socialization?
This is the question that inevitably comes up when talking to someone who doesn’t homeschool. Homeschooling provides so much more socialization than traditional schooling in that children are exposed to more people of all ages. Whether it’s at the grocery store, library, or on a field trip homeschooled children meet a variety of people. Not to mention co-ops, extra curricular activities, and other homeschool group meet ups.
For us personally we have several instances of socialization each week. We attend a local co-op once a week with children of all ages from preschool to high school. There are several classes throughout the day and we all eat lunch together collectively. I also lead Tinkergarten classes at least once a week for ages 18 months to 8 years. My girls also used to take dance classes as well. Although we decided not to this year. It turned out to be fine since the whole quarantine shut everything down. We also go to church every Sunday and Wednesday. And not to mention all of the various play dates and field trips we take throughout the year.
What About Preschool/ Pre K?
I was a preschool teacher for more than 8 years before I had my daughters. I also have an associates degree in Early Childhood Education. When it comes to early childhood education I truly believe children learn best through play. Charlotte Mason says children should have no formal schooling until age six. I wholeheartedly agree!
So What Do I Do With My Younger Child?
All you need is just provide lots of open ended toys and play experiences for your child to explore. This could simply mean setting out some various blocks or loose parts and inviting them to create something, playing pretend with some baby dolls, or playing outside with friends.
“When the atmosphere encourages learning, the learning is inevitable.”Elizabeth Foss
When children play with others they learn social skills, collaboration, and empathy. When children are able to play on their own they develop problem solving skills, self reliance, and persistence. When children are given various materials and not told what to do with them they develop curiosity, creativity, and foster imagination.
But what about teaching my child to read? If you want your child to be a good reader, just read to them. If you want your child to do well with writing when they’re older, have them practice fine motor skills. Play with clay, pick up small items with large tweezers, or stack blocks. If you want your child to be good in math when they’re older, let them play with small loose parts and manipulatives. If you want your child to learn well, just let them play.
Provide quality, open ended toys and resources. A nice set of wooden blocks, some loose parts, or clay. Things that they can use in whatever way they want and in more than one way. Let them be creative. Let them explore. Let them play.
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”Fred Rogers
With all that being said, I know there may be some who still would like some sort of curriculum for preschool and pre K. There are many beautiful curriculums available right now. Here is a wonderful blog post from Sarah at The Silvan Reverie that breaks down a few different ones.
Avoid the Comparison Game
Whatever you do don’t get sucked in to the comparison game! It can be so easy to feel like you’re not doing enough when you’re just starting out and seeing so many curriculums, resources, and homeschool spaces while you scroll social media and Pinterest. You might start to second guess your curriculum choices or even just your decision to homeschool. Please remember you are your child’s best teacher! You know them better than anyone. You are beyond capable of teaching them at home.
You don’t need all of the newest curriculums or resources. You don’t need all the printables, books, or games. Find what works best for your family and stick with it. If you would like to add more resources, do so because it will add to your child’s learning experience not because it’s pretty. Believe me, I know it’s hard to not want all the things! But I am very mindful about what types of resources I bring into our homeschool. I have two criteria when buying resources. The first one, can I use this more than once? And the other, can it be used in other ways? I go more in depth about homeschool resources in this blog post if you want to check it out.
Just remember you are equipped and you can do this! It may be difficult at times, we all have those days, but they don’t last forever.
“The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things.”Jean Piaget
Make your home an atmosphere of relaxed learning. A place where your child is free to think, explore, and ask questions. And enjoy your homeschool journey!