I have noticed in the last few weeks/months that a LOT of my friends are exploring homeschooling. I am not sure why this is happening, maybe it is just because most of my friends have kids that are school-age now. Most of these friends have kids that are in the public school system (like Big Kid was) and are leaving it for various reasons. A lot of them seem nervous and overwhelmed, much like I was a year ago. I figured since I had a free second, I would write a quick little post about what I have learned in my year of homeschooling and give a bit of advice to those that are considering homeschooling or about to take the leap.
1. It is NORMAL to feel nervous. I even used it as a positive thing to help keep me on my toes and make sure I stayed on track, whatever that track was at the time. You are taking your child’s education COMPLETELY into your own hands. If that doesn’t make you at least a little bit nervous, I would be worried. Most of us went to public school ourselves so it is completely new territory. It is a big change and it is normal to bee a little nervous and stressed during that time, the same goes for your child.
2. Feeling overwhelmed is also normal. The world of curriculum out there is ASTOUNDING. Full sets, partial sets, math, science, history, secular vs religious, other languages, etc, etc, etc. It seems endless. My biggest piece of advice here, and what I wish *I* had done at the time, is to pick what you want your child to learn. For science does he want to learn about plants/spiders/ earthquakes? For history does he want to learn about the moon landing/Native Americans/Plymouth Rock? For literature what type of books does he like? Start by picking out a few books on whatever topics you decide on from the library. Read them together. Look up information on the internet about them. Go to google and type in “leaf projects” (or whatever you are studying) and pick a few neat projects to do with your child. This will help to transition you both to the world of homeschooling while giving you a really good idea of what TYPE of learner your child is so if you want a full curriculum later on, you know what works well for them.
Example: Big Kid is very much a reader. He has been for a very long time. He gets tons of information out of books and reads anything he can get his hands on. For this reason I picked the Build Your Library curriculum for him. It suits him PERFECTLY. Little Kid on the other hand, she would do fine with BYL but is very into crafts and learns a LOT more that way. For this reason if I get to homeschool her next year (if that is what she chooses) I will likely be getting her the Oak Meadow curriculum because it is geared much more toward her interests. She will still listen to the books that I read during lunch but otherwise they will have different curriculums because they are VERY different learners. She will need a phonics program where he never did. He needs a different approach to math than she does. These are things you can learn about your kid(s) as you take a month or two trying different (free) things out.
3. Don’t go too schedule happy at first. I know one of the biggest concerns homeschoolers hear from “the outside” is “What about socialization?”. Honestly, that question is rubbish, but it can be hard to feel confident in that at the very beginning. As a result some homeschoolers over-schedule their kids to “make up” for that. That first year is a good chance to learn what is available for your kids. Big Kid hadn’t ever done an after-school program when he was IN school because by the end of the day he was *done* and he needed the weekend to recover, so “extras” were totally new to us. Pick one or two things a season (or none at all!) until you get a feel for how your day runs and when you are able to fit things in. Right now Big Kid is in acting for 8 weeks, drawing for 6 weeks (this is the last week), and we have homeschool group every other week. When acting ends, Basketball starts and for the winter it will be just basketball and homeschool group as I am not much of a winter person AND with the holidays it gets hectic enough without the extra stuff.
When you ARE ready to schedule an activity or two, check the local library, your parks and recreation department, and look for local homeschool groups on yahoo groups and Facebook.
4. It is OKAY if you don’t know everything. If you are reading this, then you have access to Google to look things up. When your child says, “What does a hippo sound like?”, you can look it up on youtube. There is no shame in learning right along with your child, even if he is only seven years old. I am the first to admit I know next to nothing about chemistry and physics, but I am not afraid to look things up and learn about them either. If you think you suck at math (one of the biggest things homeschool parents seem to worry about, from my understanding) that is totally fine. Find a program that will help you explain it. You could even sign up at Khan Academy and brush up with their videos and lessons. One of the biggest things that impressed my kids was when I told them there is ALWAYS something new to learn. Even when you think you have learned all there is to know about a subject, you can find more. All I am doing when I learn along with my kids is reinforcing that wonder of learning.
5. Try to relax! There will be days that suck. There will be a lot more days that are awesome. Don’t be afraid to call a mental health day or a “good weather” day. Conversely don’t be afraid to have school on the weekend if there is something neat happening locally. Remember you have a WHOLE YEAR to fit in whatever it is you think you need to, not the 175 days that a lot of schools get (my district being one of them). If you don’t make it to that page of math today, there is always tomorrow to fit it in.
Those are my biggest points for input. I know it can seem daunting but know there are others out there that have done it and survived. Also, if you try it and it REALLY isn’t for you, don’t feel bad about sending them back to school if you need to. Every family and child is different and just like public school doesn’t work for every situation, homeschooling doesn’t work for every situation either. Public school is always there for you later if you need/want it. <3