Are you thinking of homeschooling this year, but don’t know where to start? It can be overwhelming to say the least. Homeschooling isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us. In fact, its a lot of work. But with a few helpful tips, you might feel more at ease in starting your homeschool journey.
10 Things You Need to Know Before Starting Homeschooling
- Do ask questions. Asking questions is always a good place to start. And you’re sure to have many as you embark on this new journey called homeschooling. There is so much information out there its easy to confuse a veteran, let alone a newbie. But where do you start? I suggest starting with your friends who homeschool and those who have similar family values and philosophies. They are more likely to line up with what you want to do in your own homeschool and it will give you a good place to start. Some questions you might ask are:
- Do you follow a homeschool methodology?
- What is your favorite curriculum and why?
- What subjects do you teach?
- How do you structure your homeschool day?
- Do your kids participate in any extracurricular activities?
- Don’t over research. A dangerous trap that many new homeschoolers, including myself, fall into is over researching. Asking questions is one thing, but asking and asking and asking without making any decisions. While researching more and more might seem like a good thing, the old saying, “too much of a good thing is bad,” comes to mind. I did this before our first year and found myself scrambling at the last minute to find curriculum and products to use. Do your homework and then make some decisions. The good thing about homeschooling is you can change things up if you find they’re really not a good fit for your child’s learning style.
- Do write out your philosophy and goals. Sit down and write out the reasons why you want to homeschool. What is your goal? What is your philosophy about homescholing – both in general and personally? Then discuss them with your spouse and/or a homeschool friend. Tweak them as needed and then post them somewhere you will see them. Not only will this help you in your curriculum choices, it will also help you stay focused on why you are on this journey. It is also a good way to refocus on those difficult days, which will happen. Every year, re-evaluate your goals and philosophy to make sure they are still in line with what you want for you homeschool. This will keep your homeschool fresh and new as well as productive.
- Don’t wing it. Although I’m sure there have been some very successful homeschoolers with this philosophy, I don’t recommend it. This is where I got into trouble our first year. I thought we could just pick out some age and grade appropriate curriculum and then go for it. Did my son learn? Yes. Did he learn all he could, if I would have had a plan? I don’t think so. Since then I have outlined our philosophies and goals as well as our curriculum and we have accomplished much more than I ever thought possible.
- Do make a plan for the year. Even though we follow a somewhat child-led philosophy, we still make a plan for what we want to study. Whether you plan weekly, monthly, semi-annually or by the year, make a plan for what you want to cover. What subjects you want to teach. And what you want to accomplish by the end of the year. Keep in mind this may change throughout the year, but at least you have a plan from which to work and move forward.
- Don’t over plan. In the beginning I would spend hours and even days writing out plans for our homeschool. And with one child, it worked. We stayed on track pretty well and we covered quite a bit of subjects. He learned at a quicker pace on some subjects than I expected, but that was easy to remedy. However, once I added in our two middle children, the plans I had outlined didn’t work. We didn’t cover the subjects I wanted to cover in a day, let alone each week. We fell further and further behind and all it did was frustrate me and the kids. So I learned to follow their lead and take my cues from them. If they wanted to do more “papers” that day, we did. If they wanted to work on math, we did. While I have a goal in mind for each day, we now spend more time where its needed rather than on “completing assignements” for the sake of a checklist.
- Do keep records. If your state requires you keep records, this is a must. However, some states do not require records be kept or submitted, so some parents just don’t worry about it. I would highly recommend you keep records – even if just for yourself. First of all, there is no guarantee that your states laws won’t change in the future, which means they can come after you for past records. Second, it helps you and your child see how far they have come. It shows where they have improved and where they still need to improve. Records can also help you see where changes might need to be made in curriculum and/or structure.
- Don’t throw everything away. Even though you might not keep records, that doesn’t mean you should throw everything away. In fact, I highly recommend you don’t. I don’t keep everything, but I do keep certain things for nostalgia reasons and certain things for the sake of record-keeping. For instance, handprints and footprints. I keep all art projects involving their handprints and footprints and I make sure to date them. As for their tests, I keep all spelling, grammar and math tests in these early years. I imagine that will grow as we do more subjects and take more advanced subjects. I also keep their handwriting papers – partly for nostalgia and partly for record-keeping. When they complain that their handwriting is awful or isn’t getting better, we look back on past papers to see just how far they have come. This is a great encouragement to them and me both.
- Do watch for sales. Once you have outlined your goals and philosophies, it is time to start shopping. First, make sure you ask around and find out where to find curriculum on sale and the best times to buy. Some homeschool groups offer sale dates at their meetings and some offer sales on their Facebook pages. If you’re looking for a specific curriculum, sometimes there are Facebook buy/sell groups for them and you can pick up some pretty good deals. Homeschool sites have deals throughout the year, but most of them you can find sales in April/May and during the Christmas holiday. I usually try to plan our next years curriculum in time to hit the sales in the Spring and then if we need to purchase more or change our course, I can buy on sale again during the holiday sales. It has worked out nicely for us and saved us quite a bit of money too.
- Don’t overpay. Watching for sales is key to keeping your homeschool costs to a minimum. However, sometimes it is not possible to get curriculum on sale or at a discount. And that’s where price comparison comes in to play. Do your research and find out what prices each competitor offers. My usual sites are Amazon, Timberdoodle and of course, the individual curriculum sites. As I mentioned before, I can be a bit of an overplanner, so I have a spreadsheet set up where I track prices. That way if I see a product come up for sale during the year, I have a point of reference. It also helps me when I’m tracking the sales and Facebook groups. I know what the original prices are and I know what I’m willing to pay on sale.
Being a homeschool family doesn’t mean you need to take out a second mortgage on the house. It also doesn’t need to be stressful. With these 10 tips, I’m sure your homeschool year will be a success!