I often get asked by moms just beginning their homeschool journey what advice I have to give.
My answer? Find what works for you, go with the flow, be flexible and open to change.
I’m not sure that is the answer most expect or are looking for. Maybe they would like something more concrete, a curriculum I recommend, a schedule they should stick to, more of a how-to plan to get them started.
While those things would be helpful, at the end of the day, they are not what makes homeschooling successful.
What does is finding what works for your family, finding your groove, and being comfortable there.
I offer this advice mostly because it took me awhile to figure it out. I had these preconceived notions about what homeschooling was “supposed” to look like, all the things I should be doing, should be getting done, and that left me feeling stressed and like I wasn’t actually doing anything right.
I looked to other people, other moms, experts, and tried to mimic what they were doing, because obviously they knew more than I did. It wasn’t all bad, some things worked beautifully for us, others… not so much.
Now, looking back over the last 11 years I can attribute much of our homeschooling success to letting go of those notions and finding what works for my family.
When you let go of what you think things are supposed to look like you allow them to become even better than you thought!
So how do you do it? What is the practical advice to finding your homeschool groove, it’s actually pretty simple!
– Get the idea of “school at home” out of your head– If you were raised going to “regular” school you may feel inclined to approach homeschooling much like school was for you. You feel the need to structure your time and learning, to follow a rigid plan and schedule. It’s easy to look at it like when we were little and played school, there is a teacher, students, a chalkboard, and everyone needs to raise their hand to answer a question. But that’s not how homeschooling works. So first thing first, kick that idea out of your head. I’m not saying that model may work for some people, but if you go into the whole thing with that expectation you are limiting yourself to the possibilities that come with approaching learning a whole different way.
– Schedule vs. Routine- So your saying, “Ok so I don’t stick to a schedule like regular school, how do I get anything done.” I’m not saying there isn’t a place for structure in homeschooling, you just have to build that structure around your family! You also want to look at developing routines vs. schedules. What’s the difference? With a schedule you need to start at a certain time, make sure everything gets done, and move on to the next thing. It is rigid, inflexible, and needs to be stuck to. Inflexibility has no place in homeschooling. Developing routines that work for your family will make all the difference. Maybe you spend some quiet time in the morning reading or watching an educational tv, then you move on to book work, take a break for lunch, and end the day with some hands on activities or outings. Each day may look remarkably similar, but if you’re not stuck to lunch having to be at 12:30 every day, you have room for taking a little extra time in the am if you had a rough night, taking that extra 10 minutes during book work to help your child truly understand their math concept, packing up lunch and taking it to the park to enjoy a beautiful day. While you can stick with a routine that helps your children (and you) know what is coming next it can remain flexible!
– Work when it’s best for you- Are you not a morning person, does your husband work weird hours, maybe your kids get super grumpy around noon every day?? Guess what? You can work around all that! My 14-year-old takes a good hour to get moving in the morning. So I let him. It is much easier to let him wake up, get his breakfast, take a shower, and become fully awake before we start school work. Sure I could get him up earlier, get him moving to start working, but let’s face it, teaching pre-algebra is hard enough, why add to it with a sluggish grumpy student? For us a major part of homeschooling has always been family time. We work around daddy’s schedule. If he has Mondays off so do we, if he works afternoons, so do we. Maybe your kids are morning people and you get their best attention between 6am and noon, by all means work then! Working around your natural rhythms and flow and around your family needs makes it so much easier!
– Be ok with making changes- This one can be hard. You’ve found this great curriculum, spent a good amount of money on it, and think it’s perfect for your kids… then it flops. Your child is struggling, it’s boring, too fast paced or not challenging enough… It’s tempting to muscle through it, you’ve paid good money for it, it’s what you have to work with, you don’t know what else to try… It’s ok, maybe keep the parts that are working and replace the ones that aren’t. Maybe you’ve got it in your head that you’ll do 1/2 an hour of school work then let your kids have a 15 minute break, but you find that they lose focus, or don’t want to go back to working, that’s ok, change-up the routine a little. With homeschooling what works for one season may not in the next. That 14-year-old of mine who is slow-moving in the am used to start his school work by 8 am! Get comfortable with changing, tweaking, and trying new things!
-Strive for balance– As homeschoolers we’re responsible for teaching our kids, making sure they get time to socialize with friends, get physical activity and time to develop their hobbies and interests. Sometimes we feel like we’re not getting out enough so we sign up for ALL. THE. ACTIVITIES. only to then panic that we don’t have much time for book work. We might worry that our child is having trouble in math and focus so hard on it that we don’t have time for other subjects. It becomes easy to freak out a little about what we’re doing too much of or not doing for our kids. Just remember that balance is key. No need to panic, no need to overcompensate, no need to stress… just seek to balance out working on each subject, activities and book work.
Remember that the heart of homeschooling is learning, and often that goes for us too, we’re learning right alongside our kids how to navigate this homeschool experience. With a little awareness, a little flexibility, and a willingness to find what works, you’ll hit your homeschool groove easily!