It seems strange to share tips when you’re a rookie. It would make more sense for someone to seek advice from a traveler who’s walked the road a while. Had more experience. Gained long-term perspective. And yet, I think there’s value in hearing from those who are still pretty fresh to a new venture. Someone who, only 8 months ago had no idea where to start or what to think. Someone who could help narrow down the priorities in what seems like a very daunting task.
I’m less than one school year into the adventures of homeschooling, but I have learned some lessons that I think would be helpful to those just getting started or those who are also still finding their way. These are my top 5 tips for new homeschooling parents:
1. Set your face to the long haul.
If you’ve decided to home school, give it a decent shot. It’s not always going to be easy, you will face doubts from yourself and others, and it takes time to really settle in to home education. If you tell yourself that you’re going to give it a few months and see how it goes, your mind will already be preparing to bail. The first sign of difficulty will affirm what your brain was already expecting. Particularly if you are pulling your kids from traditional school, this will be a big adjustment for everyone. Give it time. Find the things that work and ditch the things that don’t, but don’t throw in the towel until you’ve given it a chance to blossom into a beautiful new way of life.
2. Start with a few key routines and build on those.
There is a lot to tackle in educating our kids. So many subjects to cover, so many activities to sign up for, so many field trips and outings, so many dreams and possibilities. Don’t try everything at once. Choose a few essential subjects and activities, schedule them into your week, and run with that for a while. Then, as you figure out your family’s rhythms and preferences, you can add a piece at time. The subjects we started with, that were easiest for me to schedule, were Bible reading, math, language arts, and geography. We added history, then science, then French, then piano. Eventually we incorporated silent reading, memory work, typing and read alouds. If I’d tried to tackle all of that in the first week of September, we would most likely not be still doing this today.
3. Dive into the world of homeschooling resources.
Find blogs that resonate with you and read more about their philosophy. Search for ideas and activities that fit well with what you’re doing. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. There are AMAZING resources out there, and tons of places to be inspired. Spend a bit of time each week exposing yourself to articles, tips, and ideas so you can refine what you’re doing and add in the necessary pieces. BUT…and this is a HUGE BUT:
4. Don’t paralyze yourself with overexposure.
It is great to look around at what others are doing and be inspired and even walk away with a new idea or two for your own family, but you need to remember that you can’t do everything! There are hundreds of methods, styles, curriculums, and activities. I would have great intentions to go online and look for something specific, like a great book to read aloud to the kids, and end up spending 4 hours, up waaaay too late, experiencing what I call Pinterest Paralysis. Where all the ideas, suggestions, and possibilities leave me feeling like I’m not doing enough, am failing miserably, and couldn’t possibly find time to learn all I need to know to home school my kids well. So instead of walking away with a list of 2 or 3 great books to sign out from the library, I’d fall into bed overtired and defeated. So, by all means, look around. But limit yourself to maybe once or twice a week, and shut it down when you start to think you can’t do this. Because you absolutely can. No single family can follow all the methods out there, so give yourself time, and the most suitable one will rise to the surface and before you know it, you’ll find you’ve all hit your stride.
5. Determine your education goals
Maybe not right at the beginning, but when you find yourself a little way into homeschooling, process or re-process what you really want your kids to learn. Not just “in school,” but in life. What do you really want to pass on and teach to your kids in the two decades you have them in your home? We took some time to do this, and it was really revealing. (Click here to read our 5 goals.) I was reminded that the subjects I spent the most time stressing over were really only a small part of the picture. And when I keep the big picture in mind, I worry less about math, science, or the perfect writing curriculum. I focus more on what kind of people my children are becoming and the joy of witnessing and influencing that process every day.