You’ve taught your little one his alphabet. You’ve made sensory bins, explored with play dough, and even made a light table. Now it’s that time for your little one to venture to Kindergarten — but instead of sending them to school, you’ve decided to try homeschooling for a few years.
But where do you start?
What curriculum do you have to follow? How many “days” of school do you do? Do you have to do standardized testing, complete a portfolio, or something else? What if you aren’t adequate?
All of these questions are common first-year homeschooling questions. To help out those “new to homeschooling” parents, I’ve created a list of some things to consider when you are planning out your first year of homeschooling.
1. Know your state’s guidelines.
Every state is different, with entirely different regulations. Check with your local state department of education to find out how to declare you are homeschooling, how many days and hours in a day you need to complete, and what you need to do/submit at the end of the year for testing, grades, and attendance.
2. Keep curriculum simple.
My first year homeschooling, I knew my son would become an art aficionado, learn to play the piano, be reading at least 2 years ahead of where he should be, and would be able to identify every country around the world. I had big plans on what we would study and learn. Boy, were my expectations off! Not a single one of the these goals were met, and I’m not sure they ever will be. In addition, I had spent hundreds of dollars buying curriculum. I even bought 5 different reading programs for that year!
What I learned from that first year was to keep it simple. Just focus on the basics – reading, writing, and arithmetic. Does this mean you shouldn’t teach history, science, or music? Well, that’s up to your family. We did talk about history and science, but it was based upon on our field trip adventures and questions my son asked. For instance, he would mention that he wanted to learn why the sky was blue. From that one question, we studied the different types of clouds, talked about the stratosphere, and even started learning about space exploration. We visited science centers and planetariums. We checked out books on these subjects. He learned quite a bit from that one question, but it wasn’t in a “curriculum.” We spent the bulk of our days learning the basics, and then spent the extra time going down the rabbit holes of my son’s own interests.
3. Make time for playdates.
My son is an only child. Because of this, he loves to play with other kids. In fact, what kid doesn’t enjoy playing with other kids? Unfortunately, homeschooling doesn’t have a set “recess” time with friends every day. Instead, I’ve learned that I have to be intentional about building in playtime with friends.
Some ways that we’ve learned to incorporate playing with other kids into our schedule include:
- participating in co-ops and tutorials
- setting weekly park dates with friends
- going on field trips with other familes
- attending fine arts classes
- playing sports
- being active in weekly religious (church/synagogue/mosque) activities for kids
- attending story time or other activities for kids at our local library
4. Find a great support system.
No matter how well-organized you are, how well you plan out the day, or how amazing an activity looks on Pinterest, you’ll still have bad days. Whether the kids aren’t cooperating or you just didn’t get enough sleep because the baby cried all night, it’s imperative that you keep a support line of friends that you can lean on. Find a group of friends — both veteran homeschoolers as well as those who have kids the same age as yours. Don’t be afraid to talk with them about the problems you are having. Despite what your friends may tell you (or what you see online), everyone has days — or sometimes even weeks — when school didn’t go as planned. Your friends will be there to help you though those times. Many times, they will give you the best advice that will help you through that situation.
5. Stop worrying about what everyone is saying.
Even though I’m a former teacher, my family was not supportive of my husband and I’s decision to homeschool. We’re starting our third year of homeschooling, and even though they think I’m doing an amazing job; they still think I don’t need to be homeschooling. In fact, I guarantee, there will be people who will doubt YOU and your decision, your curriculum choices, and your abilities. Regardless of whether you have a teaching background or just a high school diploma, I believe that if you feel you should be homeschooling, then you should! Only you know what’s best for you and your family… don’t worry about what the others say! There will always be naysayers. Take it from someone who is in the trenches with you… they don’t go away with more years of experience. Learn to believe in yourself and your abilities. You can do it!
Remember, keep it fun. Keep it simple. It’s homeschooling… it doesn’t have to “look” like public school in order for your kids to be learning!
So, please share with me! Have you decided to homeschool this year? Are you excited? Fearful? What’s on your plans for your first year of homeschooling?