5 Tips for New Homeschoolers
When I withdrew my oldest son from kindergarten and my youngest son from preschool to begin homeschooling, I considered it a temporary situation. I had no intention of homeschooling long term. My plan was to continue homeschooling as long as it was still working for our family. Well, it never stopped working, and my oldest son begins college this fall.
Perhaps you are considering homeschooling as a temporary solution for your family. If so, here are five tips for a successful homeschool experience.
- Figure out where to begin. Your child already has knowledge and skills, but you need to know what they are. If your child was previously enrolled in a school program, you can look at past assignments. You can also look at curriculum standards to learn which skills are typically taught at each grade level. Your state’s department of education website should have this information. Then check whether your child has achieved each standard. For instance, suppose the standard says a student should be able to count to twenty. Can your child count to twenty? If so, move on to another standard. If not, write that skill down as a learning objective. Testing is another option for pinpointing where to begin. Alternatively, you could just purchase a grade-level curriculum. However, one of the benefits of homeschooling is the ability to cater instruction to the specific needs of your child. You don’t need to bore your child by reteaching skills and topics already learned or frustrate your child with skills that are too difficult because the prior instruction was insufficient. Homeschooling will be much more enjoyable if the instruction meets the specific needs of your child.
- Don’t try to replicate formal schooling. There are certain aspects of a classroom education that exist because of the number of students involved, such as sitting in desks for many hours, strict schedules, and filling time with busywork. Your homeschool does not need to resemble a classroom. I suggest following a daily schedule for consistency but allowing for flexibility. Some of our best learning experiences have happened when we explored topics beyond what we were studying. If I had stopped teaching a subject just because our “time was up,” my children would have missed those learning opportunities. Similarly, we did not fill time with busywork. Worksheets have their place, but they can be overused. Also, keep in mind that learning happens all the time and is not limited to the school day. Reading stories together at bedtime is invaluable, and family activities in the evenings and on weekends can provide marvelous learning opportunities.
- Manage your expectations. It is easy to expect too much or too little of your child. Once you have gathered a list of learning objectives for the year, try to stay focused on meeting them. Some skills will come easily, and you may be tempted to add more to the list. Try to resist. Other skills will be more difficult, and your child will need more time for instruction and practice.
- Assess your plan often. Whether you use tests or other means of assessment, check your child’s progress regularly. You are the teacher, and you should know whether your child is struggling. If your child is having difficulty, address the situation right away. That may mean allowing more time for that subject, adding additional curriculum materials, varying your instruction style, or even moving on to something else and coming back to the skill later. Children learn skills when they are ready, and you may need to adjust your plan.
- Have fun! Be sure to include fun in your homeschool. You have a wonderful opportunity to provide an enjoyable learning experience for your child at home. Use your imagination and plan some activities. Get creative with your instruction. Go outside to explore nature. Play a game. Create something together. Visit a museum or historical site. There are endless possibilities.
Homeschooling is a wonderful blessing. Even if your plan is to homeschool temporarily, there is no reason you can’t do it successfully and enjoyably. I pray that your family will be blessed by the experience.
Heidi Kinney is a freelance writer from Massachusetts. She has been homeschooling her children since 2007. She shares homeschool resources and lessons at SharedLessons.org, and inspiration for runners at WhySheRuns.com.