I never thought someone would come to me and ask, "How do you homeschool? How do you make it all work." But that is exactly what has happened. Several moms new to homeschooling have asked, "How do I get started?" I'm no expert. I am however, an expert on my own children. We've only been doing this homeschool gig since our children were preschool age. So in that time frame, I've learned a few things.
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1. Every state is different, so know your state homeschool laws. The laws may include submitting a declaration of intent, yearly tests, or portfolios. Know what is legally needed for your homeschool journey.
2. Research the different homeschool philosophies. I don't believe there is any one way to do homeschool. Or any one philosophy that is better than the others. There are far too many options and grown homeschoolers who are successful members of society. So, what sort of homeschooler do you believe yourself to be? Are you Classical, Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, Traditional, Unschooling, Thomas Jefferson Education, Eclectic or Unit Study. I love this quiz from Eclectic-Homeschool. Click here to take their quiz. It will give you an idea of where you stand. We identify as Eclectic Homeschoolers with Unschooling, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, and Unit Study tendencies. Most homeschoolers are not one pure philosophy but a blend of several or Eclectic in nature. Use what works best for you and your children. You can see our curriculum choices for the new school year here at Eclectic Homeschooling Curriculum.
3. Join your local homeschool groups. You need a tribe. We all need a tribe of other homeschoolers to help get us through those crazy times (Yes, there will be times when you question your sanity). Or to answer questions about local laws, education opportunities, or field trips. These groups can also be more in line with a particular homeschool philosophy such as Montessori, Classical, Unschool, Waldorf, etc. My own tribe is online in a collection of Montessori, Unschool, Charlotte Mason, Gifted, and Eclectic groups. Did you know there are even homeschool groups for Dr. Who and Harry Potter homeschool fans? There is something for everyone!
4. Know your child's learning style. As a parent you know your child better than anyone else. Every child learns differently and at different times. Do they learn better with pictures (Visual), audio (Auditory), or movement (Kinesthetic). Or do they learn best with a combination? Our son is a Visual Spatial learner. He does best with colorful videos, pictures and drawings. He does not do well with a text book. Teach in the way that works best for your child. Here is a great breakdown of the different learning styles from Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
5. Find the thing that excites your child. Find their passions. Everyone gets excited about something. We all have our unique interests. Your child's interests are a fantastic place to start your homeschooling journey. If you are unsure of your child's interests, take them to the library and let them pick out any books they want. This is a great way to see where their interests lie. If you don't already have a library card, go get one! For our son it has been dinosaurs. Since the age of three paleontology has been his passion. At eight years old he is now taking an online Paleobiology course through Coursera. This is what excites him and because of this I am always on the lookout for ways to expose him to paleontology, biology and zoology.
6. Curriculum or Not? Curriculum is a wonderful tool for many homeschoolers. For others it can be a waste of time and resources. Some homeschoolers prefer the structure that a boxed curriculum brings along with knowing they are covering the "required" material. Others (like myself) prefer the freedom to follow the interest of our children. Some homeschoolers piece together curriculum. Then there are the homeschoolers who use a mixture of both. They may use a math curriculum but follow the interests of their children in all other areas. There are many combinations of curriculum use. Use what works for your child.
7. Be Gentle with Yourself and Your Child. Be gentle with yourself as you figure out how you want homeschool to look for you and your family. It looks different for us all. We are all unique individuals with unique families. Be gentle with your child as they transition as well. There is a saying in the homeschool community that it takes one year for you to find what works....and don't be surprised if what works this year does not work next year. So be gentle with yourself and your child.
8. Be Flexible. Be flexible with your schedules, planners, curriculum's and your time. If something doesn't appear to be working, change it. Be flexible with your child. If they are not learning what you are trying to teach, change the way you teach. Remember, your child is constantly growing, learning and changing. Your homeschool must be flexible.
9. Take Time for Yourself. I've seen countless homeschoolers who give everything they have to their children with no regard to their own well being. In order to give to your family you must have something with which to draw from. You cannot give something that isn't there. Take time for yourself. Exercise, yoga, knit, garden, go on a date with your significant other....whatever it is that you need. Recharge. This is so very important.
10. Just Breathe. You can do this.
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