Deciding to homeschool for the first time can be a scary thing. Whether you’ve decided before your children have ever set foot in a school or have resolved to pull your children from their current schools, the world of home education can seem like an intimidating and confusing situation to find yourself in. In the past year, I’ve had quite a few frazzled mothers ask me the question, “How do I homeschool?”
That question in itself can be answered in so many different ways because there are so many different ways to homeschool, so I’ve narrowed it down to, “What should I do as a new homeschooler?”
That question is a bit simpler and a bit more relevant for those new to the journey. Let me start to answer this query by telling you what not to do.
If I was only given the opportunity to tell you one thing about homeschooling, it would be this: Do not plunge head-first into a school-at-home routine from the very beginning. Just don’t do it. Seriously. I promise you, it will bring you more heartache than joy.
Let me emphasize that I said, “…from the very beginning.” After finding out more about how your children like to learn, you may well decide that this is the best method for you. But I implore you, please do not do it by default using the reasoning that “this is how it’s done in government schools.” Think about it. Why would you try to reproduce something that isn’t working?
The second thing I would tell you not to do is to run out and spend a ton of money on curriculum. If you are new to this, you probably aren’t familiar with how your children prefer to approach things. Watch them. Observe them. Interact with them. Once you’ve spent some time intentionally paying attention to the way in which your kids do things, you will have a much better idea of what will benefit them the most.
So what should you do? Live a full life with them. Go to the library often. Enjoy the park, the bike trail, and the creek down the street. Read to them. Take them with you on your errands and explain to them what you’re doing and why. Bake cookies for the elderly neighbor or the librarians who, more than likely, will soon become indispensible to you.
Keep your eyes open for resources that sometimes seemingly fall into your lap. When we first began homeschooling, I used everything from pamphlets from the electric company (science and safety) to newspapers (current events) to keep my children engaged until we had a more concrete plan in place.
Find out what they’re interested in and provide opportunities for your children to pursue them. If they like to cook, cook with them. If they’re natural artists, buy some good quality art supplies and/or look into a local art class. (The art school that my children attended actually have a class specifically for homeschoolers.) If reptiles are their thing, visit a reptile house or check out one of many awesome documentaries on Netflix or YouTube. Use your imagination to come up with ways to support your children’s hobbies. With the internet and the library as resources, you can literally find information on anything.
And while you’re accomplishing all of this for your kids, spend some time reading about and researching learning styles, and homeschool approaches and philosophies. Check the end of this post for a list of great resources I’ve used.
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If there is anything I would recommend that you purchase from the get-go, it would be:
-lots of paper, writing utensils, and arts and crafts supplies
-a deck of cards, a pack of dice, and some board games
-a library card (this is free, but it’s a must-have)
-and, if it really bothers you that your kids aren’t doing “schoolwork,” some spelling/phonics and math workbooks at Barnes and Noble (make sure you apply for the educator’s discount!), Five Below, or, depending on the ages of your kids, Dollar Tree.
Some people begin their homeschool journey doing activities like these and find that it is enough for them and continue to do so. Others, over time, may transition towards other types of learning methods that appeal to them and are very successful with them.
What’s most important is to ease into this lifestyle. Homeschooling can be a rewarding and exhilarating way of life, so remember to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.