There are as many ways to homeschool as there are ways to be a mother. I am still learning and growing myself, but I am often asked, “Where do I start?” In this article, I would like to share what I have learned so far.
Having met many successful homeschooling families over the years, I have watched them carefully. The main elements I see them all apply are clarity, preparation and dedication.
Write a mission statement. Businesses do this all the time—it helps them know what their goals are and gives them a measuring stick to know if they are successful. Deliberate parents, no matter what education system they choose, can also do this to make sure their children are getting the education that is best for them.
What is the purpose of an education to you? What does it look like? How will you know if it is successful? Are you focused on Ivy league preparation or a particular talent (music, science, sports, etc.)? Is your goal just to get them through thirteen years? Is it to teach them life skills or prepare them for a career? Only you can answer these questions, and the answers might be different for each child. This is the foundation against which you will examine everything else.
Warning: this will take some time. I recommend reading as many books and resources as you can find in order to answer these questions for your family and situation:
Legal: What are the homeschool laws in your state or government? What do you need to do to comply with them?
Philosophy: There are a variety of philosophies for homeschooling (take this quiz or this one), and you need to know the best one(s) for your family. Is it classical, Charlotte Mason, unit studies, unschooling, or others? Which fits best with your lifestyle, time constraints and circumstances? What does your family enjoy?
Curriculum: Once you pin down your philosophy, then start looking at curricula that fits it, or even make your own. The options are literally endless. Instead of allowing yourself to be discouraged about this, try to be excited! And remember, you will probably not get it right the first time, or even the second. Usually one size or one box does not fit all—that is probably one reason why you considered homeschooling in the first place. Most people I know pick and choose between different curriculum companies for different subjects. And then they explore some more.
Time Use/ Practicality: Now look at how this will work in everyday life. When will you do what? Who needs help with what and when? I love time-mapping for this. I get a daily and weekly calendar and write down what everyone does and at what time. For example, Katie needs my help with math, so I will make sure that Gideon is practicing the piano at that time, because he doesn’t need me for that.
You also might want to consider what subjects you can do together as a family. For example, we do science, history and art together—I just assign more or less depending upon age. Other questions you might ask yourself are:
I don’t mean to say that you need to have everything planned for every minute of the day, but at least have a rough schedule that you will try to stick to.
Extra Help: Please remember—no one needs to homeschool alone. (And no one should!)
I know this can seem like a lot. But really, it gets better. Before beginning school that first year, I spent a long time researching and answering these questions. Now it is much less time-consuming. I simply hold periodic interviews with my kids and re-evaluate at the beginning, middle and ending of each year to see how everything is working or if the answers are changing.
My motto is “Be brilliant at the basics,” and I shoot for consistency. In successful homeschooling families, schoolwork comes before everything else. But that does not mean it has to be drudgery; it can be fun and meaningful! Try reading Charlotte's Web and then going to the State Fair. Learn about World War II and interview some veterans or watch some movies about it. Make a model of the earth and it's core out of cake and frosting!
Being brilliant at the basics–and not the extras–is what matters. Your family does not need a seven-course meal for dinner. Sometimes cereal is just fine. Just focus on doing what is needful until you get adjusted to this new lifestyle.
As you consider or begin homeschooling, please be gentle with yourself. You were given the conviction and passion to educate your children for a reason. The burden of educating them can be very heavy sometimes, and we are prone to compare our worst to the best in others. None of us is perfect, but if we are a little bit better today than we were yesterday, then we are a success. What ensures success in homeschooling? Passion, clarity, preparation, dedication, and a teacher who constantly learns and uses outside resources. You can do this, do it extremely well, and bless your children’s lives. Good luck and have fun!
If you homeschool, what principles and resources have been the most helpful for you?
Hi, I'm Jen! I adore chocolate, I'd rather read than clean my house, and I haven't seen my abs in I-don't-know-how-long. But I love my husband and kids to death and try to Raise The Good within myself and my family by making wise and uplifting media choices and having a deliberate family culture. You are probably doing the same thing. Let's share what works with each other!
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