Updated: Aug 29
My sons’ community college classes started off slowly the first week of school mid August of this year. There hasn’t been much going on for a week and a half except ensuring the students have their required textbook and that all of the software kinks have been worked out. The few short assignments have been very easy; introducing themselves and commenting back to others. One teacher indicated she’d let them know in another week or so what books to purchase for the readings. Two classes don’t even start for a few more days. In grade schools and high schools it’s much the same; everyone is settling in, learning the rules and new routines, and substantive work won’t be assigned until later.
When considering launching into homeschooling for the first time and beginning the academic year, why then, do parents assume they must have every single detail figured out and planned for, every curriculum, class, software program, and supply decided upon, purchased, and ready to go, full steam ahead, on day one?
Why do we put this pressure on ourselves? We have the whole year ahead of us. Taking a few days, a week, or longer to settle in and figure out the plan moving forward is an important step and one that shouldn’t be rushed. Considering various resources, researching classes and curriculum, gathering reviews and input, and thinking about “how” to homeschool successfully for your family all take time. I assure you, taking that time to decide upon a schedule and what you will actually do with your children every day will not put your child “behind”. During this time of exploration and planning your children could be “deschooling” and leaving behind school centric expectations and thinking. Think “summer” for a bit longer. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
In my free Homeschool 101 sessions, I advise nervous parents not to worry about having everything set on day one. Lists of homeschooling resources abound and just one social media post asking for curriculum ideas or recommendations can often elicit dozens or even hundreds of suggestions of what worked for another family. Wading through the possible options for just one subject can be overwhelming, let alone planning out the whole semester or year when you’re new at this.
So how do you figure out what homeschool approach will work for each of your children for any given subject? After choosing, you ultimately have just to jump in the water and start swimming to truly know that answer, but here are some tips to get you started.
New homeschoolers can become overwhelmed by the never ending list of options when it comes to curriculum, classes, and resources. They can become paralyzed by having too much choice as well as by the pressure and weight of being solely responsible for their children’s education. There is a simple way to get moving. Start by basing your choice for what to implement for the major subject areas on your knowledge of each your kids…do they love workbooks, prefer real life learning, or online classes? Do they prefer recordings so they can rewind and view it again, a software program that is self paced, or are they self directed and just need lots of books to learn? Do they work better with one or the other parent, or by themselves or in a group? Is morning the time when they are at their best, or afternoons and evenings? Do weekends and nights work best because both parents work? Are they more hands on learners, self directed readers, love checking boxes and filling out forms, or are they free spirits?
Once you zero in on a good place to start, look for one resource for each subject area that fits the bill. Show it to your child and make sure they like it! The older the child, the more they should be involved in the process, taking ownership of the process and buying into what they’re being signed up for. Don’t spend a lot of money buying the whole set of something you’re trying, and certainly don’t buy an all-in-one, expensive curriculum you don’t know for sure you’ll all love yet. Try to get samples and trials, use free resources to good effect, and use trial and error to see how things go those first few weeks or months.
As you try things out, you’ll know fairly quickly what’s working and what isn’t. Did the worksheets have you both pulling your hair out? Do less of that. Did that live class go beautifully because your kids thrive on interaction? Do more of that. See what works and adjust as needed and as various things work or not. You’ll soon find your rhythm! Also, don’t be afraid to quit something. Knowing when something isn’t working isn’t the same as giving up, or not developing “grit”. (Why do we always go straight to the shaming?!) If it isn’t working, drop it. Be open to changing the method, the environment, or the resource rather than coercing the child. There are a million choices, so you don’t “have” to stick with the first one you choose.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention unschooling, a method that promotes self directed and child led learning. Please check out three self directed learner/unschooling leaders HERE, HERE, and HERE. Even if this doesn’t appeal to you, please read up on it, as it will help you be more relaxed in your school-y approach. But if you’re a bit like me (type A personality, a planner, and a bit school-y), or you are stop gap homeschooling for a short time during the pandemic and feel the pressure to stay on “track”? Here is my very scientific approach to choosing what to do: Eeeny, meeny, miny, mo…. just pick “something” from the long list of recommendations and suggestions for 1. history, 2. language arts (reading, writing, grammar), 3. science, and 4. math. That’s it! Get those core subjects covered in one way or another on the assumption that you’re a bit school centric and want to conform somewhat to typical school standards. You can always switch things out later if what you picked isn’t working or choose to be more relaxed and change educational paradigms and methods as desired.
There is no need to get bogged down by what you “should” do. Stop comparing what you’re doing to what you think schools are doing, what you’re missing, or what you “ought” to be doing. Homeschooling does not have to look like school at home. In fact, homeschooling works so much better when you really embrace the opportunity it gives you! (You get to sleep in, have infinite flexibility, stay in your pajamas all day, learn outside, or deep dive into one subject all day long, for instance!)
So let’s do things in a new way. The homeschool way. Create new traditions and expectations around “school”. Embrace new ways of learning and interacting as a family around education, and take the pressure off of being perfect, or having everything in place on day one.
As they say: take the leap, and build your wings as you go. Everyone will be happier.