You might be just starting to homeschool with your young child(ren) and are excited about the possibilities ahead!
You might be just starting to homeschool with someone who has already attended school.
There are some many reasons for “why” you may have decided to homeschool but you’re now at the stage of planning,
“How do I begin?”
Our family began homeschooling sort of three times and you can read about that if you’re interested at the bottom of this page after these tips .
1. Science is so important! It naturally helps to develop logic and critical thinking skills, has so much practicality/real life application to the things you learn about, and helps us discover and take care of the wonderful world which God designed for us to enjoy and work in! There are tips at this link for how to include science in your homeschool. (I will add a note here about when our family was going through some challenging times, we tried “school” two ways – one was essentially following the popular philosophy of “just keeping to the basics” without much science. THAT was a very boring and we weren’t as happy with school life! Then we did the OPPOSITE – we purposely set aside the “3-R’s” – the spelling, the literature (other than whatever the kids wanted to read in their spare time without pressure to discuss or write about it). We reviewed math skills. We reviewed writing skills. But we didn’t worry about doing much at all for the “3-R’s” that year. We focused our academic education on science instead (and geography and a few other things of interest). Wow – what a difference in our days AND in overall understanding and maturing in all other subject areas (minus French but that is a subject area that needs to stand on its own.) Art is also important – for fine motor coordination, for easy expression of thoughts (“a picture is worth a thousand words”, right?!), and fun. When my mom homeschooled me in kindergarten, yes, she taught me the 3-R’s but she also did A LOT of art with me and had me participate in a lot of practical science too (e.g. I helped with gardening, washing wool, looking after a pet, and made a couple of little fun story/notebooks about science with her as well as had a consumable science reader/worktext.) (Look for my story about when my mom taught me for kindergarten on another post.)
2. Remember to give some extra space and freedom at the beginning – more than what you are aiming to do for the rest of your homeschooling year(s). (BTW, classroom teachers do this too at the beginning of each year for a few weeks. It helps young people get used to new situations.) Point #2 I think is especially important if you are in the situation of adjusting a student who is changing from a classroom environment. At least for the first little while until you have a better idea of your direction, this transition period, I think, is best spent if there are NOT tons of reading and writing assignments. Again, since science is so useful in real life, perhaps just begin with this subject and then add the other ones (like math (application of science such as measurement), reading (for literacy reasons/learning how-to-read plus for information or enjoyable stories), writing, geography, and then history) as you get more comfortable with your homeschooling style. If you want to include these other subjects right away, you might want to consider using things like audio books, field trips which relate to topics you’re studying, hands-on curriculum (the kind that isn’t overly difficult to get out and put away) and having students briefly write about what they are learning (in contrast to an official writing program with heavy grammar). I’d leave history/government to the second last thing to add, unless it is audio or hands-on based. (Note: I keep “Bible” separate from “history” so I’m not saying to set aside your Bible-time.) The last subject to add when you are just starting out (in my opinion) is the analysis of reading comprehension – the longer read-alouds take a lot of time so I would set those aside for future times if you are wanting to have long reading times as part of your schoolday. Just give some more freedom and space instead of reading and discussing tons of things together for this starting period of time (unless the one-on-one discussion is what your child is craving or perhaps if young hands are also busy building, eating, or sewing at the same time). Yes, of course you’d read some things together regularly and talk together but you will likely find it less stressful if you also plan on moments to be across a room or in a separate one while you get used to having young people around you 24/7. And a happy mom and happy child make for happier days! You love your children and want to share many experiences together but you don’t have to squeeze all that togetherness into a short period of time. (You love spending time with your hubby too but imagine what it would be like if he were to be beside you and read to you and then discussed it with you everywhere you went in your house for a whole morning…all week…)
3. and 4. are straight-forward but good reminders for every one of us. I have used pockets hanging on walls or crates on a shelf away from a desk to hold various subject materials. Doing this purposely encourages the student to have to get up and walk in-between subjects. This is very helpful to have wee stretch breaks! One of my children used a big exercise ball to sit on at her desk for a while. This allowed her to wiggle safely (and longer before leaving her desk). I like to have school outdoors whenever it is good to do that. A deck, a screened porch, under a tree, on a wagon, by a picnic table, even in a tent in your yard are all places where your “homeschool room” can be during at least the warmer weather months in Canada! What can you take outdoors to learn? What can you learn from the outdoor world itself? Try it! This is so good for anyone, regardless of how long or short they have been homeschooling! ♥
5. When I first began homeschooling, not much was organized because it was just kindergarten stuff for one child and we were in the midst of building and moving. When we decided we would be homeschooling for the long-term, I arranged my resources in grade levels. Many moms who have been HSing for a while can tell you that, if you are enjoying the benefits of a self-paced learning style, your child will not likely be in the same grade level for all subjects. I learned the hard way. After a few years of this and as our house became smaller and smaller (the family grew), many of my resources had to be stored in the basement instead. Now I had begun to teach multi-levels (due to her siblings growing) plus had had another baby or two. I remember one day at lunch phoning Rob and essentially crying that I couldn’t stand the organization of my stuff! (It’s kinda funny now but wasn’t at the time.) I just couldn’t find my teaching stuff when I needed it and had had enough of that experience being repeated over and over and over. My dear hubby came home over his lunch break, helped me move a few heavy things I needed his help with, and I stopped “school” for that day so I could organize my resources much more usefully – by subject, not grade. That made a huge difference for me! Now I even organize according to sub-topic and that is helping me even more. I highly recommend it! (More to be shared in photos about how I arrange shelves and boxes to help me stay sane 🙂 – later. Stay tuned!)
6. It helps everyone in the family (dad, mom, kids) to see a big picture, to have some idea about what you hope to learn over a year. Some of you will also want to jot down some general ideas for several years’ worth of accomplishments-to-be. Some publishers offer a scope-and-sequence which gives this sort of information. You can make your own too. We offer some free planning guides to help give ideas for this in another blog post (click here). (And here too.) I also have a post about a favourite way of seeing the “big picture” that really helped us when life required us to be super-flexible. (Click here for that.)
7. Enjoy shopping for stuff! If you are making a decision about homeschooling and have months to plan it, of course this is most ideal. If you can, attend a conference/convention about homeschooling to learn all you can; try to be with a good friend and have fun! (See my post about the blessings of those here.) You need to give yourself some dedicated time to think your supplies through and be patient with yourself. Panic doesn’t often get you things that you love to work with! So take your time, even if that means that you don’t start a school year until the end of October! This is the same advice given to me by an older mom in our church when I was gasping over my search for materials after our decision in mid-August before Weigela (her webname) was to be in grade 1. I did start homeschool right after Labour Day weekend but in hindsight, I should have given myself more time before starting, simply to peruse through curriculum and send it back before we cried over it in frustration. Be aware of some big-company-marketing – like the kind that says “complete” or promises that “you can get everything done in such a short time”. “Complete” might mean “complete review” of skills, not complete teaching of new concepts, especially so if it wasn’t developed FOR homeschooling. And, lessons can take longer in real life than they do in testing a product in some office somewhere. Not everything that is “popular” will fit your family. Some of the most effective/useful books and supplies I have found for us (that I didn’t design and don’t have to tweak much or at all) were NOT front and center items. They might be from little-known companies or in small print at the bottom of a catalogue page. I’d sometimes get the comment from a customer service person, “I never knew we sold that. You must really read details. It does look really neat ’cause I just took a look at ____ too!” (To get highlighted for sale or for positive reviews in many places it costs a significant amount of money or “free products” given away by the person who made the product. Or if one puts their products for sale through a distributor, the distributor is the one who makes much of the profit in comparison. And printing books in small amounts have a higher-per-book expense. So a product might be very good but the business behind it might be small in comparison to the big guys who can afford those kinds of advertising or printing costs. Small businesses (like us) generally grow much more slowly, partly because they have to advertise slowly to keep costs low enough.) Example: When what was commonly available for FSL didn’t fit us well enough, looking for the uncommon, small business is how I found the French program that our family loves!
So take a reasonable amount of time, talk things over with a few others if you can,
and aim for a gentle and fun-filled start to your homeschool days! ♥
To the Christian parents reading this, like all other impacting decisions, we all are to pray for the Lord’s direction. He promises to lead into good things. As Christians, we have the privilege of coming to our God and calling Him “Abba Father” (literal meaning “Daddy”). Trust Him for all aspects of life, not just educational matters. Through His Spirit, He will be your peace in any situation He leads you to experience. Your overall focus should not be on what is temporary but rather, what is eternal. A question to consider when planning home education: “Will this matter in eternity – will learning _______ (you fill-in-the-blank here) matter in my child’s future testimony to interact with other people who need to know about our great God and Saviour?” And finally, as you begin (and continue) your homeschooling experiences, walk in faith with the Lord Jesus Christ, seeking to know Him more and more and put His desires first. (Of course, do the same regardless of where your children learn their academics.) ♥
To the non-Christian parents reading this, God still daily blesses you with His care for you and your children, even though you don’t yet acknowledge it in the same sense as people who personally know Him. He will allow circumstances and people to come across your journey to show His love and truth to your family. You will notice these things at times. Your Creator longs for you to talk to Him and have a relationship with you so that you can know His comfort and peace. So do we. ♥
It is a privilege and practice of ours to pray for our customers, as we serve you and when God brings you to our mind. May you all know HIS blessings!
“And if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds victory in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.
Then you will understand what is right and just – every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”
Proverbs 2:3-10 (NIV, 1984)
Starting to homeschool for our family was like this…
First, we chose to homeschool our children for the preschool/kindergarten years, mainly because I had been homeschooled for kindergarten by my mom and it could be very enjoyable and relaxed. We felt that the kindergarten age was too young to be going off to school. Initially, I thought homeschooling beyond kindergarten would be too overwhelming for me and I simply wanted to be a stay-at-home mom who would be involved as an active parent in the school system (like my family had been).* So when our oldest was ready for grade 1, we enrolled her in a small, local school.
Situations over the summertime made us realize that public school would not be the best fit for her and as a result, with the strong encouragement from the secretary in August, we took Weigela’s name off the list of students there and made a mad dash to find curriculum and come up with a quick plan to homeschool her and her siblings for most of the school years which followed. This second start for homeschooling was much more challenging because it was at this time, we had to pay attention to learning styles, discover tons of curriculum options, look into various approaches, and try stuff out. The bathroom became my most ideal teacher’s lounge – it had a long countertop and a lock on the door. One problem – it was our only bathroom so if my kids or my hubby needed to use the facilities, my “professional development” time was suddenly over! 🙂
A number of years later, Weigela took a few semesters over her high school years in town. In the midst of that, our middle grade son was curious to see what public education was like in our local school and we believe that God worked in his heart to really desire a contact with the principal to see if he (and his sisters) could have a school tour. I’ll leave the detailed findings for another time but suffice it to say that, in general, the local staff appeared to really try to educate their classes but it seemed that they faced a lot of limitations and interruptions from beyond local control and so, not much actual learning was being accomplished in comparison to what we do for homeschooling. (In high school, other than math class, most classes also seemed to go at a snail’s pace for Weigela but, as a Christian student, she did enjoy the opportunities she had to interact with the school staff and teens there. For 3 years, she completed one semester in school and one semester as a homeschooler – all on purpose, with the school begin fully aware and in agreement with our plan.) So, for the third start of a homeschooling adventure, we went through the official process of de-enrolling after about 3 weeks so that our elementary kids could return home for their education. Our children remain very thankful and thrilled with being homeschoolers!
Note * regarding the above comments about our early years: My reasons for not homeschooling after kindergarten at that time were, in part, due to the fact that I just did not want to become a “teacher marking papers” (although I didn’t mind the “designing and teaching of the lessons” part of education – that would be fun!) By the way, I still procrastinate horribly for marking a lot of stuff (sigh). “Evaluating” if a child/teen has caught a concept well enough is something I tend to do in my head (e.g. ears – listening to them and eyes, glancing at them working on something, maybe even my nose smelling something :-D) and not as much something written down. One perk of project-based learning is less time spent marking and I like that! :-)) We also had not seen much success or the idea of having Canadian resources beyond the basics and had a concern about those things. Our other main reason for not homeschooling was due to the blessings we had experienced ourselves in being Christian students in a secular world. Roots can grow deeper and stronger when there are winds of adversity. Having said all that, we have since also learned more about the blessings of homeschooling and for us, it has been the better choice/fit for our family.
Note **: Bachelor Button wanted to compare/study what it was like now in comparison/contrast to what it had been like according to the stories he had heard from his grandparents (who had taught off and on in the 1950’s-90’s) and his parents (who had attended in the 80’s and 90’s). The staff at the local school were very kind and very accommodating not only to give them a tour but to allow B.B. and 2 of his sisters to enrol for a short time, attending the classes like “real students”, even though they knew that this “field trip experience” was going to be a brief one. (The staff knew I published homeschool curriculum so like, um, they knew we would eventually de-enrol our kids. ;-))