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Many parents are finding themselves preparing for homeschooling in the coming weeks. Mind you, homeschooling is not the anomaly you may think. Homeschooling has seen annual substantial growth since 2010, and it is not hard to see why. Statistically, homeschooled children grow up to be more actively involved in community service, have stronger leadership qualities, go on to achieve equal or greater success in college and typically score 15-30 percentile points above their public schooled peers. This may be due to the flexibility that homeschooling offers: say your child is struggling with long division. In a homeschool setting, you have the freedom to spend extra time on this until your child finally “gets” it, whereas in a public school setting, even if they ask for extra help, the class will move on as scheduled, whether your child truly understands the concept or not. Teachers simply do not have the time or resources to give one-on-one attention to each child.
That’s not to say this success doesn’t come with hard work. To homeschool, and to homeschool well, requires a degree of self-discipline, organization, creativity, and yes…patience. No parent is going to tell you that being a mum/dad is easy. However, I would argue, as a homeschool parent myself, that your most valuable tool is a genuine joy for learning. Teaching your children should excite you. In the last year, as a homeschooling mum with small children in the house, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to make the days run more smoothly.
1. Read up on homeschool philosophies.
There are as many homeschool theories and curriculum as there are viewpoints in the world. Take time and think about what excites you about homeschooling and what your goals are for you and your children. There is no right or wrong way, but the path you choose should ignite joy and passion. Think about the best teacher you ever had. I’m willing to bet they did not stand in front of the class and deliver monotone, factual monologues day after day. There are many quizzes you can take to try and narrow down your style. If nothing fits, you can either keep looking or combine several different methods. Learning is an experience that is as unique as the child. Finding your homeschool style will be key on selecting a fitting curriculum, if you use one at all. (Many homeschoolers use no set curriculum. This is commonly known as child-led learning or “unschooling”.)
2. Forget the idea that your Homeschool should look like Public School.
Any seasoned homeschool parent will tell you and tell you again: STOP thinking that if your school doesn’t look like public school with a child sitting at a desk, worksheets, tests, a blackboard, and rigid lesson plans that you are a failure and your child will be forever doomed. This is a ludacris but somehow common misconception. The reality is that you are the Principal and Administrator of your own home-based school. It’s going to look like whatever you want it to.
There may be days when you spend all day reading books. Days when your lessons turn outside due to an unseasonably lovely day. It’s okay. Schedules may be thrown to the wind. It’s okay. Regroup and use it as a learning experience for everyone. Maybe you can find something that works better. If that’s sleeping in until 9am, having a lazy breakfast, and not starting school until 10am, that’s fine! One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that you get to tailor it to your family and your child. Child sick? There are many interesting National Geographic documentaries on Disney+. Cuddle up, eat saltines, and watch together.
4. Get to Know your State’s Homeschool Laws
Every state has their own homeschooling laws, and if you go on this journey, you need to familiarize yourself with yours. This is not only essential for you and your children, but for the protection of all homeschool families. You need to understand that once you become a homeschooler, you become part of a great, vast community of passionate, smart, families. Ignoring or abusing your state’s homeschool laws means putting thousands of family’s way of life at risk. What do I mean?
Simple: Mrs. Sprout (you) decided to homeschool her 2nd grader (Petunia) this year as opposed to sending her to public school in a mask. That’s great! You emailed Petunia’s Principal of your decision and you decide to go with the homeschool method of “unschooling”. Also cool! You and your beloved Petunia learn through nature hikes and browse your local library’s section of encyclopedias together for 3 hours a day, and at night you cook nutritious meals together-that’s math and science after all! Fantastic! However, since you didn’t read up on your state’s homeschool laws, you never filed your PI-1206 form for Petunia, so she is marked as truant from the public school she was previously enrolled in (your Principal got 43 other identical emails that day and anyway, he assumed you did your research). Also, come the end of the year, you and 16 of those other 43 families in your district that decided to homeschool are now informed that you didn’t meet the required 875 hours of learning, and that’s just in your school district. The same thing happened all across your state and now your Governor and the Department of Public Instruction have assembled a committee to create stricter homeschool laws for your state. Now, for the 50,000 other homeschooling families in your state who abided by the laws have to face extreme upheaval and they are no longer given the freedom to choose their own curriculum. And they’re all mad at you. Shame on you. Read about your state’s laws here:
*Disclaimer* The previous scenario was completely fictional and meant to show how not following laws can create serious problems for existing homeschoolers. Unschooling is a valid method of teaching that works for thousands of families and children. Also, the thought of 50,000 homeschooling families in your state may seem like an exaggerated number, but in fact it is based on the face that currently 2.5 million students are being homeschooled in the U.S. (approximately 4%). We are a small but mighty number.
Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, there are probably a million gears turning in your head, trying to figure out where your home classroom is going to be, where the desks will go, and wondering what else you’re going to need. Stop. Go back and read #2 again. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Okay. First of all, you don’t need a whole classroom. Many families have something as small as a closet to store their supplies. However, I’ve assembled two lists: The first is items I’ve found to be essential in making life easier for our homeschool. The second, some of my favorite homeschool books for parents. Enjoy!
1. Printer -I've NOT had a printer. Yes it can be done, but this involves a lot of trips to the library to use theirs (for a fee) and working around their hours. *Ain't nobody got time for that*
2. Laminator -This is wonderful because you can you re-use any worksheets you print off by using dry erase markers. Also, if you have younger children, you can store and save these worksheets to be used again!
5. Chalk and Chalkboards -Yes, I know you can find sticks of chalk very cheap or in all white, but chalk pastels are such a fun material to work with, and I love introducing kids to new art materials as much as possible. You never know what will ignite a passion in your child!
7. Flash Cards -We have a number of games that we play with our flash cards, and they’re also good for an impromptu, on-the-go lesson if say, you need to go to a doctor appointment that day.
8. Ikea FLISAT table -I love the storage bins that can be stowed underneath, it’s perfect for my older boys (5 and 2 ½ ). This is a nice option for any elementary school-aged child for a cheap, multifunctional desk.
9. Planner/Calendar -Many curriculums will include a parent planner, but if not, it’s essential for any parent with a million things on their mind to have a concrete one-stop planner to reference.
Favorite Homeschool Parent Books:
1. Kindergarden Stories and Morning Talks -Sara E Wiltse
2. The Brave Learner -Julie Bogart
4. Homeschool Adventures: Learning Through the Power of Field Trips -Melissa Calapp
5. A Year of Forest School: Outdoor Play and Skill-Building Fun for Every Season -Jane Worroll, Peter Houghton
6. The Creative Family Manifesto: Encouraging Imagination and Nurturing Family Connections -Amanda Blake Soule
7. Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to your Child’s Education -Raymond S. Moore, Dennis R. Moore
8. The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling -Durenda Wilson
9. The Call of the Wild and Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education -Ainsley Arment
10. Homeschool Bravely: How to Squash Doubt, Trust God, and Teach your Child -Jamie Erickson
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