Homeschooling Tips For The First-Timer

Caregivers, Education, Homeschooling, Parenting, Tips

In our ever-changing world, many parents are choosing to homeschool their kids. Homeschooling can be overwhelming and daunting, even for the parents who have been doing it for years. If you are doing it for the first time, it can be even more scary. Don’t let it get to you. Mom and Dad, you’ve got this and the Oily Housewives can help.

Find Your Homeschooling ‘Tribe’

We all need help! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. That is why we have to seek out, find and recruit our homeschooling “tribe.” You aren’t in this alone and you never should be. Contrary to what you’ve heard, it does not “take a village.” You only need a small tribe of supporters to get you and your kids through your homeschooling journey.

Pick your tribe wisely. Obviously, the other adults in your home should be part of your tribe. They don’t have to like your decision, but they need to support it and be willing to help when needed. Traditional teachers often support homeschooling. Recruit a couple of them to help, especially in subjects where you are a bit ‘iffy” about teaching. Math is not my thing (I think I’m actually “mathematically stupid!”) so I have a math teacher on speed dial.

As a homeschooling parent, you will need a personal cheerleader. My cheerleader has always believed I am insane for homeschooling and would never attempt to homeschool her kids. However, she also knows I am insane enough to pull it off. Having a cheerleader who thinks you’re insane may not be the best choice for you and your family, especially if you are a first timer. Find a cheerleader that meshes with you and your family. Whoever you find to be your cheerleader, has to love you, your kids and know in his/her heart you can do this. They have to be supportive and behind you 100%.

You will also need a critic. I’m so sorry, but you really need one. Find yourself a “Negative Nancy” that is going to balance the peppy and perky positive cheerleader in your life. You need someone to mention (and not harp on!) “but you aren’t doing X” and “you should be doing Y.” Homeschooling is all about balance and your homeschooling critic will help keep you in check and on the road to success. Keep your critic relatively close, but not too close. I don’t recommend having them on speed dial. Chances are, you are already on theirs.

Choose Your Curriculum

There are so many choices in curricula out there, your head will spin. My head popped up, rolled down the street and our PE class for the day was chasing it down. Do your research well in advance. If you don’t have time for a lot of research, hit up your tribe. They’ve probably done a lot of it. Pick a couple that come highly recommended and decide which is best for you. FYI – a real shocker here, you can change your curriculum any time you want!

Of course, there are the online charter schools. Those are actually “public schools” you do at home. It is still homeschooling. You can still put your spin on it. In these crazy days (for the future readers, it is currently 2020), many (most?) schools are offering “online,” “distant” or “virtual” learning. These are all valid choices, if they work for you and your family. Usually these are more rigid than traditional homeschooling (does that sound strange to anyone else – “traditional homeschooling?), but you still have some control on how it is done.

We were always an ABeka family. I recommend it to everyone! We love their curriculum and it worked great for us. Then, my daughter decided she wanted to play the French horn and study art. We couldn’t help her with that. And, I can’t leave out the fact I am mathematically stupid (something I am actually proud of – the math teacher I have on speed dial can’t diagram a sentence so there!) and algebra, geometry and trig would have sent my head rolling down the street again. Anyway…we chose public school for a few years and now will be going with blended learning. Basically, she will be taking band and geometry in her brick and mortar school and studying everything else online at home. As always, we are still supplementing her public education with ABeka classes. We still homeschooled – just in the time behind band practices, student council and this grant writing thing she got involved with to help the school.

Develop Your Homeschooling Schedule

First time homeschoolers – you do not have to have school from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. You just don’t! Even if you have chosen a virtual charter school, chances are, you can still set your schedule. Think about the times when your kids are at their best, their minds are the sharpest and when they are in the best moods. Consider the same things when it comes to you. Then, create a schedule that is the best for both the teacher and the student. My daughter and I are not morning people, so we started homeschooling about 11 a.m. and ended around 3 p.m. Something else you need to know – homeschoolers can usually get things done in a more “timely fashion” so expect to finish faster than you might think.

Here is a big hint every first timer should know…When it comes to math, what you learn tomorrow is based on what you are learning today. Today’s lesson is based on what was learned yesterday. For the sake of retention, math should be taught every day. However, that isn’t chiseled in stone. You do you. Let your kids do them. Find what works best for your family and run with it. As for the other subjects, if you want to do a week’s worth of English on Monday, more power to you – if it works best for you

Create The Environment

You have to have some sort of homeschooling environment. Don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be an entire room. It can be one desk or corner of the dining room table. As long as there is enough room for your kid(s) to spread out and be comfortable, it should be fine. And, of course, it has to work for the rest of the family. Make sure it is well lit – no eye strain that way.

Please don’t think it has to be a “100% quiet environment.” It doesn’t. It does help to have a space where your kids can be seen by you. Something else you need to know – you don’t have to hover so factoring in room for you isn’t necessary. If you do hover all the time, stop it. Kids need their space and they need to work on their own. Be around to help when needed and to keep them on track, but hovering isn’t usually necessary – especially for older kids.

Don’t forget about your space. You will need to have a place for all your “teacher stuff” – finished assignments to be graded and those that are graded, lesson plans, etc. Just going to tell you – my teacher’s space is a big cardboard box Chewy shipped our dog and cat food in. I’m not ashamed – it works for us! I have it in the laundry room. That is weird, but it is quiet there. I can go in the laundry room, do what needs to be done and leave. And, my family rarely goes “visits” the laundry room. I don’t have to worry about papers getting mixed up or lost.

Remember to set the mood in your homeschooling space. If your kids like inspirational posters, go with that. Soft background music can help with learning. I always have a diffuser going at the dining room table where our daughter does the majority of her work. A few drops of GeneYus, Common Sense and/or Joy and she is good to go. 

Pick Your Homeschooling Battles

Trust me, there will be homeschooling battles. They don’t have to turn into all out wars though. The three hardest lessons in life to learn, and they can only be learned the hard way, are “let it go,” “roll with it” and “rock it.” As a homeschooling parent, you need to master those lessons so your kids can master their English, math and science lessons.

Homeschooling parents do not (and should not) be rigid. Even the most experienced teachers realize some days are just not meant for traditional learning. Yes, there are rules. Generally, those rules should be followed. However, if following those rules becomes a battle, break them. It isn’t worth it. There is nothing productive about homeschooling parents getting angry or yelling and having kids who are crying and upset.

Ask yourself “What is the worst thing that could happen if I did/didn’t do X?” The answer is never “My kids will never graduate high school, never go to college and never lead a fulfilling life.” I came up with that answer too many times until it finally hit me “I can do X in a hour” or a day or next week. Pick your homeschooling battles, fight them valiantly, always remembering the world will not end and your child will not be ruined if things do not go as expected.

Have Fun Homeschooling

One of the most important things to remember about homeschooling is to have fun, family fun. Yes, education is important, one of the most important things in life, but you kids will not learn as well if it isn’t a fun experience. Without the “fun factor,” it will become an added stress in your life and a dreaded chore for your kids.

Finding the balance between fun and work isn’t that hard to do when you always remember to include the fun factor. Unlike a traditional school, your homeschool doesn’t have the rigid schedule that must be adhered to. There is time for fun. Give your kids an educational experience they will back on with fond memories. They are only kids once.

Homeschooling can be the bomb, the most rewarding and fulfilling task you have ever undertaken. Let it happen. Let it flow. Something I see on social media all the time is “you do you.” That is excellent advice for homeschooling parents. Don’t leave out “let your kids do them.” Take these homeschooling tips, pick and choose from them what works best for you and your family. Remember – the Oily Housewives are always around for any extra help you might need. Join our Facebook group and ask all the questions you have.

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