The uncertainty of the coming school year has led to many people switching to homeschooling or at least considering their options. I have gotten a number of questions from friends and readers about what homeschooling is really like, and what resources I recommend. As a result, I decided to sit down and write out my top homeschooling tips based on my 5+ years of homeschooling, including favorite resources and how homeschooling is different from traditional school. If you have any additional questions, please ask in the comments!
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Homeschooling Tips and Resources from a Veteran Homeschooler
What is homeschooling really like?
1. That depends.
One of the great things about homeschooling is that it is so flexible. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers, so exactly how you go about it is really up to you! Structure, more flexibility, or no structure? Mostly online, some online, or none at all? You get to decide! While that freedom is wonderful, for many it may also be daunting. Read up on different types of homeschooling, such as classical (which we mostly follow), Montessori, Charlotte Mason, etc. and see what works for you.
2. Instruction time is less than you think.
With all of the homeschooling styles, however, one constant is that homeschooling instruction time is generally less than you’d expect, especially when compared to traditional schools. Consider that you are given more individual attention to their child than they would receive in school and that less time is taken up in administrative tasks like roll call and paperwork.
3. Your classroom may look very different.
While many new homeschoolers try to recreate a traditional classroom in their home (nothing wrong with this, some children work best in that setting!), oftentimes a homeschool work environment may look very different. While some of my friends are lucky enough to have a separate room in their homes that they’ve set up as a school room, my children usually do their work at our kitchen table (or, in the case of my oldest son, on the couch). But that is only some of the time. While we do a lot of book work, a lot of our instruction time is done outside our home – either in our backyard or at the park as we explore nature, or (when we are not in a pandemic) on field trips to museums and art centers.
For new homeschoolers, this may not “feel” like school, but trust me, your kids are learning tons! I’m sure my kids remember Alice in Wonderland much more because of the play we saw, and they always grasp a concept through hands on learning more quickly and fully than through lecture. And don’t discount the practical lessons they learn from helping with meaningful work around the house.
How do I get started?
1. Take time to figure out your priorities.
What is important to you? If you are planning to homeschool only for a short time, are there certain goals that you’re trying to achieve before your child returns to traditional school, such as improving math or reading skills? Does your child need more or less structure? Are you hoping to give your child more flexibility than she would typically get? Do you want to connect your child to nature? Do you want to read great books together? Do you want to focus on issues, such as racial justice, that aren’t well addressed in many schools? Once you are clear in your priorities, it is easier to pick a homeschooling method (see above).
2. Join a network.
I have done lots of research on educational methods and homeschooling, but still I’ve learned the most by talking with other homeschoolers. They are a great source of information as well as (also very important!) sympathy. Only another homeschooler can really understand what you’re attempting to do or what you’re going through while you do it.
It is easy to find Facebook groups for homeschoolers. My advice would be to join at least two of them: one local group and one specific to the method of homeschooling you are going to use. The latter will help you with homeschooling tips for putting your philosophy into motion. The local group can help you navigate local requirements as well as clue you in on local resources, like upcoming events or the best place to buy school materials. You may even start teaching together cooperatively. And of course, once we are able to mix more freely, you can get together for park dates!
3. Give yourself time to figure it out.
As with parenting itself, you won’t really know the best method for you and your family until you try some out. Keep your priorities in front of you, but allow yourself to change how you are going to achieve them. Over the years I have changed which curriculum I use with which child, how I organize our schedule, and what I have emphasized in our studies. To some extent this reflects my own evolution, while it also reflects how our family has changed.
When I began homeschooling, I had a five year old and a toddler. I only intended to homeschool my older son for about six months. He had outgrown preschool, and I was just biding my time until he was old enough for kindergarten. But as we began, I saw how he was blossoming in a way he never had in preschool. And (as my husband likes to point out, especially on the tough days), I discovered that I really enjoyed it! Now I am homeschooling all three of my children, ranging from TK to 5th grade. I am also much more clear about my homeschooling philosophy than I was when I started. But it takes time, which can be frustrating, but there is also a lot of joy and discovery in the journey.
What curricula do you recommend?
As with everything stated above, this really depends on your philosophy and your child’s needs. Below is what has worked for my family, which encompasses two very different learning styles. Most of what I am recommending is based on the Classical method, though most would work for other methods as well.
Here are the curricula, materials, and other resources I recommend:
Our top recommendations for:
On classical homeschooling: The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home
More homeschooling tips:
Ask any further questions or share your own homeschooling tips in the comments!