If you are just starting the homeschooling journey for the year (no matter what that means for you), I have some tips that will help you. If your children have previously been in public (or private) school, there are a few tips specifically for you. I learned the hard way during my ninth year, tenth year and eleventh year. This will be our thirteenth year. So, veterans, there could be something for you on this list too.
- Make a list of the reasons you have decided to homeschool. You are going to have tough days and it’s good to remind yourself why you believe this is the best choice.
- Prepare to have one week of adjustment for every year the child was in school. When we took our foster son out of the system, he didn’t have any adjustment, but I had been his teacher before, so I think that really made a difference (you can read a bit Daniel’s story here). Seeing Mama as teacher and aclimating to a new learning environment often take time, so don’t set yourself up for disappointment if your child(ren) don’t adjust the first week. Or three. 😉
- If you are in Texas, be sure you have curriculum (visual: books, video monitor, etc) for reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and good citizenship. These may be tucked into other curriculum, of course. You must be pursuing these subjects in a bone fide manner. Be sure to check the HSLDA site for information on your state. Also, knowing/deciding your educational philosophy can really help you not waste money on curriculum that isn’t a fit.
- Be sure you have at least one week worth of lessons prepped. Since this will be a new gig for you too, it’s best if you prepare in advance as much as possible… but…
- Know that schedules almost always need tweaking. I make our daily schedule every August for the first day and then I post a paper next to it that is titled: Things to Tweak. Then I make a new schedule for the second day and I put a paper next to it… you get the idea. Remember: the schedule is supposed to work for you, you are not supposed to work for the schedule.
- Read your materials before your kids do. Familiarizing yourself with your curriculum will help tremendously once you are in the trenches, I mean the benches (I learned this the hard way three years ago… read that link and be encouraged that even veteran homeschoolers have hard first days sometimes.). You don’t need to read your entire math book, but reading the intro and lessons for the week will prevent you from feeling stage fright.
- Have positive reinforcement planned. I reward for positive attitudes, obedience in sitting still & quiet when I am teaching/reading aloud, as well as assignments that are completed on time for the first two weeks. You don’t have to be the candy fairy or anything, but I think it’s good for training in a new routine. This year I’m going to be giving raffle tickets that they can use to “buy” some items at the end of the day (last year I used silly bands). I also reward them for a week well done.
- Remember the goal of the first day. 😉
- Consider putting a sign on your door and a message on your answering machine like this: “We may not be available from 9 am until 2pm because we are homeschooling. Please feel free to leave a message or visit another time. Leaving chocolate is optional. Thanks!”
- If you are in Texas and your children are already enrolled in the public school for this year (for example, if you registered them this spring and then decided to homeschool this summer), withdraw them by sending a simple letter (certified) to your public school like the one described here. You do NOT have to go up to the school. (If you are reading this post sometime after its original post date and during the school year: send the letter one day and keep your child home the next.) If you receive a phone call from a secretary (which is actually very common) or other school official stating that there are other things you need to do, tell them you need their requests/demands in writing. Then call the THSC for help. Which leads to the next item…
- Consider joining the HSLDA and, if you are in Texas, the THSC. These organizations work tirelessly for homeschoolers and the rights of homeschoolers. They offer support in many different ways, including legal, to their members. If you happen to be in an area that is less than friendly to homeschoolers, the legal help could end up being priceless. Membership in the THSC does the same thing, plus you get into the convention free.
- I suggest the following books for fun, encouraging and helpful reading: A Survivor’s Guide to Home Schooling and Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe (and your husband should read, Help! I’m Married to a Homeschooling Mom!). Tips on your housekeeping, grandparents, and more.
- Have easy lunches planned for the first week (or, like me, for the rest of your life). You will be amazed how quickly time will fly by in the morning, especially if you are schooling more than one child.
- Consider going out to eat dinner the first day of school or getting take out. Make it a celebration! This is a new and exciting time of your family’s life. Just as people often celebrate the first day of public school in some way, celebrate your first day of homeschooling! (Ok, going out to eat dinner also really helps the mom since you may have little time left at the end of your first day. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the teacher’s efforts either.)
- Give each student a little treat and a note the first morning of school (no matter when you start: August or mid public school year). We have these waiting for the kids at their spot at the meal table. We write about what that child will be learning and how excited we are for them. It’s a wonderful way to show them that you have taken the time to think about each of them and that you have a vision for them.
- Have chocolate almonds on hand for yourself in a secret place. Oh, wait, that’s specifically for me. Well… if chocolate almonds aren’t your thing, have another kind of treat for yourself to spur you onward during your first day/week/month. I definitely don’t want to be the one to limit you to chocolate covered almonds.
- Take a deep breath and smile. It’s going to be ok. Actually, it’s going to be GREAT!
If you are a beginner, I’m so excited for you! Homeschooling is a wonderful, wonderful journey. Get ready for the ride of your life!
If you aren’t a beginner, join me in prayer for those just starting the journey!