Dear Brain Trust,
I’ve decided to take the plunge – now what? What advice can you give a new homeschooling mom to help me navigate this first intimidating year?
With fear and trembling,
Intimidated in Indiana
My encouragement when you first start homeschooling is to make a list of goals. What do you want to accomplish your first year of homeschooling? Educationally? Responsibility-wise? Character-wise? I tend to be over-zealous and want to do it all. A girl can dream, can’t she? But, this is where I get in trouble and get exasperated if my ideals are too lofty.
Second, keep your first year simple. Get your core subjects worked out: math, english, history, science and reading. Most of us try and do it all in the first year. We don’t know where to stop, and this can quickly wear out a homeschool parent. Go simple. For your first year, use a tried-and-true curriculum; no need to try to invent a curriculum!
Third, attach yourself to some experienced homeschool moms. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and lots of them. There is a plethora of resources available, so don’t get overwhelmed, but do your research. Learn homeschooling philosophies, and read, read, read.
Fourth, relax! Please know that it takes time to hit your homeschool stride. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will your child be completely educated in a year. Education is a life-time process, and fostering a love of learning is the goal, and that love will develop over time .
I believe there are two main goals for the first year: 1.) Establishing your authority and the discipline that accompanies that. 2.) Helping your kids “buy in” to the idea of homeschooling. It’s a tricky balance, to say the least. Some moms tend to think that if they make homeschooling a boatload of fun, then their kids will love homeschooling, and they’ll be all set. Unfortunately, though, some moms equate “fun” with “undisciplined,” and that’s a recipe for future heartache. Your kids must obey you when it comes to doing their work, otherwise the schoolroom will become a battleground, and at some point, you won’t be able to withstand it.
Obviously, your kids will be doing some subjects that are challenging and require discipline, and they may complain that it’s not “fun.” Keep doing it. Daily. Don’t allow complaints. But, also work in daily at least one activity that helps you connect with each other, preferably something that they wouldn’t be doing in “regular” school. For us, that activity is a read-aloud; we love to snuggle in with each other and read a great book! Some artsy families do art projects; some families play with Legos; some play outdoor games. Just find something that you all enjoy – it will nourish your souls!
Peace be with you,
I look back and chuckle at my first year. I was a deer in headlights! AND we survived! I honestly had NO IDEA what I was doing, but I learned. I spent the year pushing through a curriculum I wasn’t crazy about and learning what I did like. I talked to other parents on the same journey who were a few steps ahead of me and picked their brains. I visited their homes to look at their school space and check out different curriculum. I read books about education and learned about things that I thought were only meant for professional educators. It was a year of learning, inspiration, and perseverance.
Give yourself some room the first year. There will be things you don’t like. There will be lessons to learn about how much to commit to and what curriculum makes you want to pull out your hair. There will be moments of discouragement and moments of great triumph!
My one fail-safe piece of advice is to make sure you have a community of other families around you for support. We were created to thrive in community. Community offers you encouragement, accountability, and refinement. I adore my children, but I’m pretty sure if they only had me and I only had them day in and day out, we would all get pretty bored!
Grace & Peace,
I’m with Hyacinth: establish your authority! Your children know you as their parent, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to respect for you as their teacher. Your first order of business is to establish your expectations and instill the discipline of a daily routine. While it doesn’t take long to develop these goals and an accompanying game plan on paper, it’s likely to take a wee bit longer to implement the system. Let me remind you that those angels you will soon call students are not your ally. The moment you expect math facts over nature study they will turn on you like a loaf of unpreserved bread. So, set your rules and consistently enforce them — everyone will benefit!
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