I have a couple friends new to homeschooling this year. It’s very exciting. If you haven’t made friends with a new homeschooler lately, go find one. Their enthusiasm, trepidation, hesitancy, and faith will remind you why you are doing this in the first place.
To my friends embarking on this glorious new enterprise — great job! You are well on your way. In hopes that your first year goes smoothly, here are some tips I wish I had practiced my first couple years. If you can do some or all of these, you’ll be well on your way to being a veteran homeschool professional!
How to Homeschool Like a Pro
1. Stop trying to homeschool like someone else.
Experienced homeschoolers know that no two homeschool families look alike. Wise homeschoolers don’t even try to imitate. Be brave right off the bat and forge your own path. You are the expert on what works for you, your children, and your family.
2. Take advice graciously, but let most of it roll off your back.
As soon as you say “I’m homeschooling!” you are an advice-magnet. Everyone from your well-meaning homeschool buddy across the country to the chatty cashier at the supermarket will suddenly feel obligated to tell you how to teach your children. Get used to smiley, nodding slowly, and making “hmmmm” sounds pleasantly. “I appreciate your sharing that. Thank you!” also helps close these conversations. Don’t, by any means, feel obligated to follow it all.
3. Find your teaching style.
This isn’t as mystical as many make it out to be. After a few weeks, you are likely to fall into comfortable patters. What do you like best — planning and executing crafts, or reading aloud? Lecturing, or demonstrating? Working alongside, or handing assignments and waiting for questions?
Once you start to recognize your own teaching personality, feel free to adjust teacher’s manuals, curriculum, and assignments to fit you better. Don’t compare your methods to those of someone else in your co-op. She ain’t you! You are most awesome when you teach the way God made you to do it.
4. Find your child’s learning style.
This may become more apparent after a longer period of time, but watch your child carefully to find how he learns best. Does he enjoy projects or reading more? Does he better remember stories he read or books he listened to? Does he quickly finish worksheets or does he stand on his head, lay across the table, and kick pencils across the room for an hour while finishing one?
Again, when you see his pattern, you know how to both help him learn new concepts in his own language and you know what study skills he may need help with. Remain flexible in how you use assignments, curriculum, and methods to keep your child moving forward at his own pace. Stay flexible!
5. Adjust your family schedule.
No one I know teaches their children at the same time. I have always homeschooled in the morning; it’s just what works for me. But I have friends who don’t start until nearly lunch time, others who do school work in the afternoon. I prefer to finish my active teaching before noon and let everyone work quietly and independently through the afternoon. Another friend is extremely flexible with the homeschool routine over the course of the day. Another military wife I know has her day strictly scheduled from before dawn to after dark.
Same thing for your school year schedule. I have personally had numerous types of school calendars, from following public school schedule, to practicing year round schooling, and now following a modified bank-schedule/school year schedule. Let your family comfort and creativity determine what works best in your unique situation.
6. Spend less money.
If I have one major regret, it’s how much money we spent the first ten years we homeschooled. I wish I could go back and say no to a lot of the bells and whistles I thought I had to have. It just wasn’t necessary. Except office supplies. More office supplies are always necessary.
Homeschool pros don’t make their materials and book lists at the conventions, off the websites, or from the “complete set” of anything. Instead, they start with the child, what he needs to learn, and what materials fit both the teacher’s style and the student learning style. So don’t feel pressured to buy so much. You can always order more! Or better yet, find something at the library!
7. Change your expectations.
When we first start homeschooling, we often come with lofty goals. We will raise a genius, cure his learning difficulty, win science fairs and music competitions, travel to every state park, build a life-sized tabernacle in the back yard, and win the spelling bee — while eradicating sibling rivalry, worldwide poverty, and gluten-intolerance.
Homeschool pros know that none of that happens. You start with a sinner and his family and at the end, you have a larger, stinkier sinner and his very tired family.
Some days, you love learning and light bulbs go off. Other days, you watch Netflix and clean up vomit. Most of life is in the middle of those two places.
Homeschool pros are comfortable with that. They have their own groove, they follow their own routine (or lack of it!), and they take each year at a time.