Considering Homeschooling? Ten Things You Need to Know

Making the decision to homeschool will be one of the most important decisions of your life. It can also be a confusing, stressful time as you try to figure out exactly what it is you’re supposed to do. The term “homeschool” often conveys images of a perfectly dressed mother pointing at a chalkboard as her perfect children are eagerly taking notes on Mother’s fascinating lecture. I’m here to tell you today that, err…it’s not like that. Here are ten things to consider before (or while already) homeschooling.

Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. You do not have to recreate school at home. Speaking from experience, this is a mistake that many parents make. The vast majority of us are products of a public school system. This brings memories of desks, raised hands, strict schedules, and homework. These things are not necessary in homeschool. Once upon a time, my poor children had to raise their hands and sit quietly at their school desks completing worksheet after worksheet. I’ve known fellow homeschoolers who doled out homework to their children (um…isn’t it all home work??) and others who became so strict with their schedules that they missed out on other life opportunities. If you feel yourself being pulled in this direction, ask yourself this question- Why try to recreate something that obviously isn’t working?

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2. Books are not the only way to learn. This meshes very well with #1 because when you think of school, you think of textbooks, right? What if I told you that not all children will learn well this way? Like adults, kids are unique individuals, all with their own learning styles. Pay attention to how your child does things. It’s a great way to pick up clues on how to best approach educating your child. The better you tailor your curriculum to your child, the better they will learn.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3. The television is not your enemy. I know so many parents out there are completely against screen time, but don’t sell this resource- yes, resource- short. Educational television, such as PBS, History Channel, Animal Planet, etc. has a plethora of programming that your kids will learn from and enjoy. Don’t have cable? That’s okay. Netflix is what my family uses for the vast majority of our TV time, and the variety of movies and documentaries you have access to is astounding. We’ve watched so many fabulous movies to supplement things that the kids were interested in. This is an excellent resource to use to bring to life books you may have been reading.

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4. As with television, computers can also be very valuable. Let’s face it- most of us parents haven’t grown up completely immersed in electronics like our kids have, and change can be difficult. I know; I was there. At first, I was dead-set against my children having access to their own devices, until I gave it a shot and watched what actually happened. My kids use these devices to write stories, write blog posts, make YouTube videos, look up science experiments, research just about anything, and connect with their friends. Lastly, gaming is a big thing with our older kids. Games such as Minecraft teach so many things, including geometry, logic, science, map skills, and so many more that I’m probably missing. The question of whether or not to impose time limits on these devices is your choice. Just don’t completely rule this method of learning out without doing some research.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5. Learning to read is not a race. Children are being pushed to read at younger and younger ages these days. Wait for them. Some children are ready to read at four, while others may not be interested until several years later. Look for cues, and when you do start teaching them, take your time and let them take the lead. At first, I was so concerned with trying to keep up with what kids in public school are doing that I made it a very stressful time, and I was completely taking the fun out of reading. Don’t do that. Reading can be a wondrous place where the imagination soars, or it can be a tedious chore that brings no delight. Their experience while learning to read can be a giant determining factor in how your children feel about reading. Thankfully, I learned from my mistakes and use a much more hands-free approach now.

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6. Your kids will not always cooperate. They’re human. These are the perfect days to shake things up a bit and do something different. Don’t get discouraged; we all have our bad days, don’t we? And if you have more than one? Well, that just multiplies it, but, again, relax. The beautiful thing about homeschooling is the freedom to be flexible in our days. Use that freedom liberally!

Image courtesy of pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7. Don’t play the comparison game. This can apply to children in public school or to other homeschooling families. Things always look better from the outside. The grass is always greener, right? Keep in mind that every family is different with its own set of challenges and circumstances that we can’t see. Yes, there are families that do portray their lives as if everything is a piece of cake. You can do two things when it comes to families like this. Look to them for inspiration and ideas, or, if they are making you feel inadequate, look the other way. This is why I had to stop watching the Duggars because, while I love that family, I was feeling more and more inadequate with every new episode, so I said no more and gave myself a respite.

Image courtesy of varandah / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of varandah / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8. Your house will get messy, and your laundry will pile up. It’s a given, especially if you have more than one child. Having your kids home around the clock can be awesome, but they are also children and will make messes. This is why it’s so important to delegate chores to your children. This is a great way to teach a sense of responsibility, along with a healthy dose of life skills. Children who are raised with responsibilities while they are young will grow to be responsible adults.

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9. Let your kids be kids. Children learn through play, and it is a great way for them to learn life skills. Children today are expected to grow up too quickly. By the age of five, many children are expected to sit still, listen quietly, and complete worksheet upon worksheet for hours every day. Take it easy. They’re just kids. I once read that you can learn all of elementary math in about 18 months time. That’s it. 18 months. This is why I, myself, do not start formal math with my kids anymore until they are in 3rd grade. It’s just not necessary. They’ll learn majority of these skills through life, anyway. As for playing? Other than being educational in itself, it has another benefit that I cherish. It preserves innocence. My 12-year-old still enjoys playing house and school with her younger siblings, and it brings me such joy when I realize that if she were in school, that childish innocence would have been long gone.

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10. Let your children take the lead. They are naturally bright, inquisitive, and determined. Don’t undermine that by requiring only topics that they have no passion for. Ask them for suggestions, or, if you’re brave enough, just sit back and watch where they’ll head on their own. Kids who haven’t been trained to believe all learning has to come in a school-like fashion are resourceful and confident because they know how to learn without limits.

Homeschooling is such a wonderful blessing, and, just like each of us, it will look different in every home. But the one thing we have in common is our dedication and love for our children. Those are the two most important ingredients to a successful homeschool.

What would you add to my list?

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Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

22 thoughts on “Considering Homeschooling? Ten Things You Need to Know”

  1. Ahhhh…High five! I love these, but #7 is the one that means so much to me. I have learned and learned and learned that comparison is dumb for SO many reasons…but I still keep doing it. I guess it is just so much easier to see my flaws then others. I KNOW that it isn’t real…that things are NEVER what they seem, but I am a perfectionist..and I have always been. I know it. I am working on it. And.. I AM making progress🙂

    Your list is wonderful. If I were to add anything (and maybe you did say this in other words), I’d say that as a parent we should always assess ourselves and our desires with what we are trying to do with our children. What are we wanting to accomplish as a homeschooling parent (or parent, for that)? Keep visiting that place. It is easy to get distracted and try to go on a journey that you don’t ultimately want to go on. I believe knowing what you want your “end” to be, and having as clear of a vision as possible (and constantly learning) makes all the difference in the world.

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    1. Most definitely a good point Virginia. I’ve yet to write a full years curriculum as I’m just preschool unschooling and truly a novice. Even with an unschool mentality I think I would very much have a clear goal for the end of the year and do my best to make sure plenty of opportunities present themselves to reach that goal.

      Of course perhaps on the other end, letting go of the idea of failure if that goal wasn’t reached is probably just as important.

      If I might add, learn to use the library.

      From my computer I can plan a curriculum for the week using only the library. Pick a subject and then put all the movies, books, videos and books on tape appropriate on hold and pick them up with out much fuss. I can not imagine trying to homeschool without making use of a library. It can be done, but why try?

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      1. Definitely have goals, definitely have flexibility. It will keep you on the right path…maybe a sort of crooked type path (like mine), but heading in the right direction anyway.

        It’s great that you mentioned using the library. I didn’t even think of it, because to me it is like breathing. I have been a library lover my entire life. I think it is the best use of tax dollars!🙂 But since you mentioned it… I HAVE talked with folks who WERE unaware of what the public library has to offer. So, yes, to whomever may stumble across this post: DO NOT TRY TO DO IT WITHOUT THE LIBRARY!! Life that is. Don’t do life without the library. Whether you homeschool or not..🙂

        I heart Libraries ;p

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  2. Both of you ladies are exactly right. It is so important to know what you expect to come out of this adventure and not jump in without thinking of long-term things. As for the library, that is one of my favorite places to be. My daughter and I always say, “Add a snack bar, and we’re moving in!” The library is our primary resource for books and we often get great DVD’s there too. Great additions!
    As for comparing ourselves to others, this was one of my biggest flaws. I first discovered blogs last year, and many of the homeschool bloggers I followed seemed to have perfect lives. I would read them in the morning, then do school with my kids with a sick feeling in my stomach because I was starting to feel like my kids and I would never measure up. It was a depressing time. Thankfully, I ran across some blogs that were completely down-to-earth, and I realized that maybe we weren’t so bad. When I started this blog a few months ago, I made it my goal to speak the truth and not sugar-coat anything because that’s the encouragement that people truly need- to know that they’re not alone.

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    1. This is precisely why I love this blog and you. I do not understand why women think that portraying their lives as perfect is in anyway helpful. It may be pretty to look at, but it does women a disservice. Why have a platform and use it to make yourself look like something you are not? What’s the point in that? I actually really would like to know why they do it. The fake blogger knows it’s not real, the women reading it know it’s not real, so why pretend? I don’t know, but they still do it and some have a massive following. Seems like such a waste, when it could be used to help and support a community of women.

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      1. Thank you. The biggest problem is that some people don’t realize that it’s not real. I didn’t at first, and it made me feel horrible. Maybe they do it because they don’t want to put homemaking or homeschooling in a bad light, but it’s these Stepford wives attitudes that make people second-guess who we really are. We are real people with real issues, and I’m happy to admit that.

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  3. This post makes me happy. We did try to recreate school at home the last few years but its not working for us so we are excited to try unschooling… or as my kids are excitedly anticipating and calling it funschooling!! Ps… youtube has a lot of great videos… we use it to supplement boring science lessons in our online public school when we can’t find an appropriate documentary on Netflix.

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  4. You’re right. Youtube is great, too. Yesterday I was trying to find a video about how moss grows because my kids found some on a rock over the weekend. I didn’t find one. Did you ever see the video showing an octopus walking on land? It’s amazing!

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  5. I think the thing that I never realized was just how much they learn from everyday things. Grocery shopping, cooking, baking, banking. All valuable life lessons that I teach on a very regular basis but had never realized how much more my daughter (whom is homeschooled) learned via my boys (who always attended public school).

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  6. This is a great list!! I was just talking to a new homeschooling family and encouraging them to do just these things. God has really pressed on my heart recently that the main purpose of schooling my children is in developing their relationship with God and with each other. Everything else will fall into place.

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  7. This is a great list! It’s really affirming to see other moms out there, with lots of experience, doing what I am just starting out with. The part about learning math really stood out to me. 18 months? That’s it? Wow. This is a great post. I’m your newest follower!

    I have a blog over at http://lydiashandmadelife.blogspot.com if you want to check it out too.

    Again thanks for sharing.

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  8. I am having a hard time convincing my two friends who will start homeschooling their 4th graders next year that it is a time to explore and make your own decisions, not a time to replicate and copy our local public school system. If they were doing such a good job you would want to homeschool and plus isn’t there beauty in people having different knowledge. They try to make you think everyone has to have the same knowledge base to function but if every one know all the same things how will we learn from each other as adults? So your first point is great. Here’s how we are ending this lovely year- http://www.notquitewonderwoman.com/how-to-end-your-homeschool-year-like-a-hippie/
    And then we have a great field trip planned for the summer. 20 days in Ecuador, now there’s a real education.

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  9. This is a wonderful list of advice for new homeschoolers and for those who have already started homeschooling. I’m learning so much as we continue our homeschool journey, and agree with all that you have shared here. Thanks for stopping by and joining in with Throwback Thursday Blog-Style. Glad to have you joining in. I am sorry it has taken me so long to stop by to check out your post. Trying to do a better job of this. Hope you have a chance to join in this week.
    Will be sharing and pinning your post.

    Liked by 1 person

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