Advice for a First Time Homeschooler

Advice for a First Time Homeschooler

Homeschooling advice, advice for homeschoolers, first time homeschoolers, how to homeschool, help homeschooling

Even though my last of three graduated high school last spring– having never been to school– and started college this fall, I still find myself on some homeschooling lists, where I can lend a bit of support or some occasional hard-won piece of advice.

Recently, on the Connecticut Homeschool Network, a first year homeschooler solicited experienced homeschoolers to share one piece of advice, and I thought it was such a great thread, I have copied, rearranged, and consolidated it here, so it can be easily be referred to by others.

Only the first bullet is mine; the rest was expressed by others. I’m not sure exactly what I would have said if I had written this list all by myself, but I concur with all the outpouring of wisdom shared here, which coming from a diverse group of people, highlights what common ground we all share. I hope this is encouraging and helpful; please forward it to whoever needs it:

  • Prioritize your relationship with your child rather than what you think should be accomplished.
  • Don’t fret and most of all have fun, and enjoy your kids! Relax! Don’t panic. Chill. No pressure. Just breathe. Kids are very resilient and parents worry more than they need to, while the kids are just fine! Don’t forget to have fun, it’s okay if your list doesn’t get all checked off, ask your kids what they want to learn about, forgive yourself for all kinds of things. Don’t worry when things don’t go according to ‘the plan’. Don’t sweat it. Just go with the flow. God will cover all that you do not. If your kid is interested in something, learn all you can about it. And, have fun! Really, don’t worry so much. They are learning every minute. Relax, breathe, they do learn even if you don’t think they are. Have fun. And remember homeschooling is more of a lifestyle.
  • Start slowly. You don’t have to start everything at once. It’s ok to just focus on one or two things to start. Don’t compare your family to other families. It’s ok to ask for advice or ideas from other parents (in fact, it’s great!) but don’t try to copy everything they do – take the parts that will work in your family and leave the rest. Don’t put other homeschool parents or families on a pedestal. Everyone has their own struggles and no one is perfect. Be willing to adjust or change if something isn’t working – but give it a decent chance to work first or you’ll be jumping around constantly and always frustrated.
  • Don’t compare your achievements with the achievements of others. Don’t compare your homeschool journey to anyone else’s.You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing. Each family is unique in it’s own way. Each child is unique.
  • Go outside as much as possible. Since you pulled your kid(s) out of public school so they don’t have to sit inside a school all day, don’t sit inside the house (or other buildings) all day either! Get outside!
  • Read books, play games and go out and explore the world!
  • Read as much and as often as you can – you’ll learn and have fun! !
  • When in doubt or things don’t go right, just go to the library for a few hours.
  • It’s not possible to stop kids from learning, so no matter what you do or don’t do, it’s all educational and good.
  • Your home doesn’t have to function or look like a public school classroom. Be flexible and spontaneous if your kids take an interest in something! They will retain what they are interested in.
  • It’s not about how we want to teach but it is more about how our kids learn.
  • It’s okay going back to the drawing board.
  • You will change your mind about how you want to do things, and that’s okay… it’s great in fact! I changed my way of thinking multiple times in the first year (last year) and I fully expect to change it again a few times this year too. Finding what works for you and each kid (might not be the same thing for each one) is why homeschooling is so great!
  • It took me ten years (out of 23 now) to feel really confident homeschooling my kids.
  • Forced learning doesn’t work…“Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to discover the child’s natural bent.” -Plato
  • Make sure you enjoy it! If you or your child are feeling frustrated, stop what you are doing. Take a break. Children learn better when not stressed and they need to see a happy parent.
  • Super qualified and successful homeschooling parents feel lost and confused too. Somehow, homeschool kids emerge into adulthood well educated, regardless of how lost and confused their parents felt many times along the way.
  • Relax! If you feel anxious about what you are doing, know two things. One, that anxiety surrounding your choice is normal. It means you are paying attention and trying to do the right thing for your child. Breathe. Two, you are not alone and you don’t have to go it alone. If you are struggling, ask for help or advice from other homeschoolers. Every family has their struggles. No one is perfect, even though others may appear to have it together more than you do. And one last tidbit. Whenever I get freaked out about what I am doing, I read some John Taylor Gatto, Alfie Kohn or John Holt. That always snaps me out of it.
  • I totally let my kids have full input on the science and history this year and created an awesome plan. I’m just as excited to teach it as they are to learn it.
  • When my kids were young, we almost never learned at home. In the car, at the beach, in the park, the woods, the grocery store…don’t discount the educational TV shows, even shows like Arthur (is that still on?) had learning opportunities in it. Most of all, enjoy watching your kids learn a new thing!
  • Utilize all of the free and inexpensive stuff. Libraries, museum passes, bookstore story times, etc. Have lots of play dates with other kids. Stay involved with the people in your area. Your kids don’t have to only have homeschool friends. Don’t segregate yourselves based on style of schooling or you and your kids may miss out on some special friendships.
  • Focus on socializing… the academic part is easier. Keep a balance between academics and all other things (like social time, field trips, friends and family, etc). Don’t limit friendships. My kids had Church school, Scouts, karate, baseball, just to name a few places they made friends at.
  • Have dance parties, allow for spontaneity, say yes to play dates or co-ops even if you want to say no… you never know where you will find your best friend or your child’s in this crazy journey. Change your schooling if your curriculum isn’t fitting your child. The first 2 years I must of changed it at least 4 times.
  • Find your tribe. There are many many many groups of homeschoolers around. Get involved and find a few people to hang out with and talk to. Being with other homeschoolers (and seeing how different we all are!) has really helped me be confident in the choices for my family.
  • Remain FLEXIBLE!!!! Can’t stress that one enough!
  • Give yourself and your child grace. But most important love and have fun. Learning will happen naturally when you come from a place of love.
  • Slow down and enjoy your family. 
  • Enjoy your children in the process!!!

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I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.

4 Comments

  1. Joe Herring 2 years ago

    Polly, I often wondered how homeschooling copes with learning foreign languages(s). Joe

    • Author
      Polly Castor 2 years ago

      Classes, interactive computer programs, travel, and our youngest had a one-on-one tutor through Skype in another country who was a native speaker and did not teach in English.

      • Casey 2 years ago

        That is amazing! I was thinking about how fun that would be to have a native speaker living in a different country teaching their language…how did you find the tutor to work with?

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