Let me just start off by telling you what an interesting first year of homeschooling it turned out to be! I remember last summer, my husband and I were faced with 2 options for schooling our daughter who would start Kindergarten. We both went to public schools all of our education, and no one in our families have homeschooled before, but I love teaching. It's the career I was pursuing while in college. I was definitely willing to give homeschooling a try!
My husband supported my desire to homeschool my daughter, as well as my son, who would be doing preschool homeschooling work. What we didn't know at the time we were making this decision was that all families would be forced to homeschool later on that school year. I was so glad that we had a homeschooling curriculum and school we partnered with in place already. Still, the situation with the pandemic did take an emotional toll on us, not to mention I became very ill for about a month. It was a difficult year, but on a positive note, I learned some lessons that I can now share with you dear reader.
Here are some practical things I wish someone would have told me at the beginning of my homeschool journey, and I hope that if you are new to homeschooling because of what is still going on around us, you will find them helpful in some way.
Lesson #1: Discover what works for your home.
Before I get into the more practical tips, let me just point out that after watching multiple youtube homeschooling videos, and hearing about other people's systems, like their schoolroom, choice of curriculum, schedule, and so forth, I realize this second year around that homeschooling is something you will need to personalize for your child's individual needs. Anticipate learning through mistakes your first year around, and get excited that you're getting closer with each mistake to discovering your own system that works for your home.
Lesson #2: Keep a consistent record of attendance.
Especially if you are required to keep records of attendance, put your attendance sheet somewhere you will remember daily to stay on top of. You want to make sure you document every hard earned day that you and your kids worked.
Lesson #3: Buy a planner!
A planner will help you better organize the school year and give you a feel for how long you are spending on a curriculum or unit. Make sure your planner includes a weekly section where you can write down what you expect your child to get done each day. At the end of each week, this will also help you to see if you are meeting your goals, or if there's room for improvement.
Lesson #4: Be organized!
Create a system that will keep all of your child's books and worksheets in order. It will be so much easier at the end of the school year to sort through all of the work and choose what to keep and what to toss. (By the way, this would also make it easier if you want to make a Kindergarten graduation party, end of the school year party, or a family back to school night, where your children can show off how hard they've worked to their family!)
Lesson #5: Have a rewards and consequences plan.
Rewards are great for getting your children motivated to have good behavior and complete their school work early! Also, consequences should be clear, so that students can hold themselves more accountable for their wrong behavior. Remember to mean what you said. Grace is great here and there, but too much would defeat the purpose of having these things in place.
Lesson #6: Allow school to be fun!
In the first year, I wanted to run our homeschool like I would have as a teacher in a school. However, do kids that go to school really come home feeling they loved their learning experience each day? I didn't. I remember not wanting to go to school. We had to sit and listen quietly, raise our hand, not talk, stand by a fence during recess if the class misbehaved, and the list continues. Homeschooling however doesn't have to be that way. Schools outside of the home face their own challenges and have created their own solutions. This system works for them because if they did not manage their classroom well, no one would learn anything. However, homeschooling does not present these same challenges. Your child can learn without having to remain as quiet, or needing to raise their hand just as much or more as a student that goes to a school. Embrace their learning at their own pace. Read fun books snuggled on the couch. Find fun ways to teach things as often as possible.
Lesson #7: Don't worry about unsupportive voices.
With time, people will either see what a wonderful opportunity your child has of being homeschooled, or they will learn that their unsupportive comments won't persuade you to stop homeschooling. Do what you know is best for your family. It's your decision. Learn to politely disagree with those voices, and not think about what they say if it's things you have already taken into consideration and have a plan in place.
Lesson #8: Keep lessons to the point.
What I mean by this is, if your child gets distracted or wants to do more work if they see a whole book in front of them, I suppose one could go with the flow. However, what I found is that the students should follow the teacher's plan, because the teacher has spent hours planning out the school year and knows the best way to proceed. What I ended up having to do with my kids is placing only the worksheets that I want them to work on that day. This helped them stay focused and kept us on schedule for completing the rest of the day's assignments.
Lesson #9: Keep a flexible schedule.
A schedule will help the kids know what is expected of them, and it will also keep you from creating a schedule each day in your head. However, a too strict schedule is unrealistic. Make sure that your schedule fits with your lifestyle and does not put too much pressure on your kids or on yourself. Allow for sick days, breaks, but also don't be too loose to the point where your education goals fly out the window.
Lesson #10: Be an example to your student.
Remember, behavior is something that is also learned in school. Your students will learn from your example. Spend more energy prayerfully asking God to help you be a good example to your kids in difficult situations, rather than only telling your kids what their behavioral issues are. Love them. Your students will always respond to your love. That's one of the best perks your kids will have in homeschooling: they have a teacher that can love them and give them affection just like their mom can.
Please let me know in the comments if you'd like me to write more blogs on homeschooling! Here's a video I posted on Instagram today, you can follow me there too! thisisme_susamor