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Thursday, January 15, 2015

7 Tips How to survive (and thrive) your first year of Homeschooling

 Our first year of homeschooling was a lot like my first year of marriage; much harder than I had expected, but also more rewarding than I had dreamed possible.

 Below are tips I learned the hard way that helped me survive, and thrive, through our first year.  Many of the tips include studying because let's face it, when you homeschool you must be willing to learn new things right along with your kids.

1. Study Yourself 
You are unique; therefore your homeschool room, organization, methods, and routines will also be uniqueNo homeschool looks the same, because no family looks the same. The fact that you are homeschooling testifies that you know your child should not be pushed into a one-size-fits-all-mold, so don't do it to yourself.  While sometimes I wonder how moms did it before the resource of the Internet, I can also see how the temptation to compare can kill the confidence of a new homeschool mom. 

Study you first, before other homeschool moms. What are YOUR strengths and YOUR weaknesses?  My strengths and weaknesses came into play in many ways.  In regards to curriculum, I am not musical or mathematical, so we use a Math Curriculum that has a DVD teacher (Math U See) and an FREE online music curriculum that has a DVD Piano and music teacher. 

It also took me way too long to accept that I am not a morning person. Starting school at 8:00 a.m. like my teacher's manual suggested was just a bad idea for all involved. I also fought battles over silly things, like thinking we had to change into "real clothes" to start our day. I am not saying PJ's are are a must for homeschool, but they aren't a failure either.

 Do what works for you as the teacher and family.   You will need to tinker to see what you need as they ear goes on. Some moms need to put on "real" clothes to feel like they started the day, some moms need to feel the freedom of PJs.  

Once I accepted that our homeschool should reflect our home, not our home reflect our school, our homeschool life was much more pleasant. Now I have a glass of sweet tea and eat breakfast while my kids play with their toys and enjoy each-other's company (for the most part) in the morning.  We start school around 9:30am or 10:00am.  My kids stay in their pajamas & I put on comfortable clothes and a bra (so I can answer the door with some decency). Our Homeschool Schedule is usually book/seat-work until a  few hours after lunch, depending on the day and what subjects we are covering.  

2. Study your kids MORE than your teacher's manual

 teacher's manual is not god. 
If that is the only thing you take from this post, please remember it!   Just because your teacher's manual says they should be able to write that sentence that week doesn't mean your child is ready to write that sentence. It is OK to stay on a Math concept for two weeks, even though your manual says they should learn it in two days. 

When you get "stuck" try to count it as a blessing because if your child was not one on one with you are home, they would not be "stuck", they would be "left behind".

I personally love our curriculum , My Father's World, because it combines a few different learning styles that fit our family.  That said, we ignore one third of what is in the manual because it just doesn't "fit" where we are, or that academic need is met elsewhere (we skip their Bible many times because we do to a Bible Study that has it's own homework for my kids, and their art because we take art classes outside the home). 

What Do You Know About Your Child?
What are your children's weaknesses?  What are their strengths?  What kind of learner are they?

I have identical twins who were reading and writing at very different times, and if that doesn't teach you ALL kids learn at different paces, I don't know what will.

This is not something you will necessarily know instinctively (and that is OK!), but you have the very special privilege as a homeschool mom to learn your children on a new and deeper level. 


In kindergarten I learned the boys were much happier writing on dry erase boards instead of the worksheets provided. This year we also learned one of my boys has what we dubbed  "reading-induced deafness", and I have to be patient and make sure he truly hears instructions if he is in the middle of a good book and shuts out the world around him...he gets that from me. ;) 

Study Your Kids, not other Homeshool Kids
Remember to study your kids, not the kids of the other homeschool families. For example, one my favorite homeschool families starts kindergarten at 4 years old. I almost gave into the pressure of comparison, but I knew in my heart my kids needed another year of playing and low-key preschool. We started very slowly when the boys were five. To be honest, we all needed that extra year of preschool. 


3. Study Your House

Homeschooling Styles- What's the Flavor of your house?
Many moms make the mistake of looking for curriculum before first spending a little time researching homeschool styles. Not many curriculum are purely one style, but knowing your personal bent can take hours off your curriculum search. 

See this post for an overview of some basic Homeschool Teaching Styles. 
  1. Traditional 
  2. Classical
  3. Unschooling
  4. Unit Studies
  5. Charlotte Mason 
  6. Eclectic- A mixture of a few or several of the above by putting together your own curriculum from several different sources 
 How does knowing homeschool styles help? If your child hates to read on their own, you can avoid an entirely Charlotte Mason approach. If your child hates to sit or do worksheets, you would probably not do only traditional or classical. If you only have one computer in the house, you won't pick an online school for your 3 different kids. If you like schedules and predictable curriculum, you may not like Unschooling.

You DO NOT HAVE TO PICK YOUR STYLE RIGHT AWAY, just familiarize with them before you search for curriculum. Not many people are entirely one style of homeschool, but you most likely lean towards certain styles based on your own personality, the needs of your children, and overall family unit.

We personally tend toward Unit studies, with a lot of living books from Charlotte Mason Philosophy.  See more about how curriculum meets a few different styles by visiting the My Father's Page on my site. 

That said, be prepared that your  style will change as you homeschool!  We recently had an unexpected season of unschooling due to medical reasons.  Life changes all the time and our homeschool has to change alongside, but knowing your basic bent will save you a lot of time in your curriculum search. 

My favorite book to learn homeschool styles is "First year of Homeschooling your child" by Linda Dobson because she not only describes different homeschool styles, but has a "Week  in the Life" of seven different homeschooling moms. I re-read this book EVERY YEAR for the first FOUR years of homeschooling!!!! 

4. Find Support Online

Many new moms I meet tell me 'I am not not patient enough to homeschool!'  Well guess what, I am not either! I NEED HELP.  I can use my strengths in homeschooling, but I need the community of homeschoolers can come around me and help me with my weaknesses! 

 Like any other rewarding, yet challenging, journey in life, you will need support!!! Seeking out like-minded families in your area will truly make your first year immeasurably better.  It is OK to not be OK in this homeschool journey, and you need to know that others are  right there will you.  

 Use  Facebook  to find a local homeschool group.  This was crucial to our first year of homeschooling.  I am in a Facebook group that consist of 1200 plus homeschool families, all within a 40 miles radius of me.   Just seeing the member number of that group reminds me of a very important truth, I am not alone. This local group also helps me find many activities to find support in person....


5. Find Support in Person

Friends for Mom
Mom needs friends too!  Parenthood can be lonely, and as the teacher/principal/administrator, you need to have a support system to succeed. Online support is easier than finding in-person support.  To find in-person support, you have to be brave, for your kids sake and for yours. Homeschooling changes your friendships a lotyou need others to come along side you who share the same homeschool lifestyle. 

Solitude is not the same as isolation. Isolation is dangerous. Even introverts need the support of like-minded people in person every now and then. Use your online support groups and be brave; show up to field trips, organize play-dates, etc where you know you will meet other homeschool families.

Meeting other homeschool moms in person shows you how truly diverse this community is. I felt the tug that God was calling me to homeschool, but I did not grow up in area with any homeschooling families. This lack of exposure meant I harbored a lot of the common homeschooling misconceptions.  It was life changing to walk into a room of homeschooling women at a Co-Op Open House and think, "Wow, they look like me!"  I remember the freeing moment when I saw another mom had a nose-ring like me.  It may sound superficial, but trust me, it is so important to meet like-minded families in person.  

 Home-school Classes, Field Trips Groups, and Activities
Use your online support and ASK QUESTIONS about what is in your area, and if others will go with you!
  • Most YMCA's in the country has some type of homeschool program. 
  •  Our area also has The Kroc, a community center from Salvation Army, that has homeschool classes for gym, health, music, and art.   The boys met friends in their classes, and I was able to meet some homeschool moms in person at drop-off
  • The boys attend AWANA  and Bible Study Fellowship weekly with several other children
  • If you plan it, they will come!  Ask families to the park or a local museum! 
Join a Homeschool Co-Op 
See this post to find out what exactly a Homeschool Co-op is. We have attended a few different types and sizes. We now attend a weekly co-op that meets once a week for 12 weeks each semester, it consists of 50 families. My kids can take classes I can not offer at home. As a former Preschool teacher, I  teach the younger kids, while talented singers teach choir and the athletic-minded teach gym.  

6.  Study the laws of your state

We are lucky in  Indiana to have a homeschool friendly atmosphere, but even that depends on your district.  To find more about Indiana Homeschool Laws, click here. Stay informed and do not rely on the public school to give you the right information. I have learned the people who know the LEAST about homeschool laws are public schools. 

 The Home-school Legal Defense Association is best place to start.  You can browse their website without becoming a member.  Membership is  encouraged, especially if you are in a state or school district that is not homeschool friendly, or if you have any problems transferring your kids out of public school. 

So many new moms stress themselves over how to inform the school, or what they need to keep to document.   Seek support, and you will do fine!

I'm not patient enough to homeschool, and neither are you!


Maybe this should be #1 tip. Homeschooling is HARD because PARENTING IS HARD! No one is perfectly patient enough to homeschool, just like no one is perfectly patient enough to parent! You learn by doing it. 

You will have days that are hard, and days that are great.  You will work to find the balance between being a Mom and a Teacher.  

You will have kids cry over math, and then you will cry over math. 

 You will rejoice with them when they learn something new, and get frustrated with them when they can't read the word they read only TWO MINUTES BEFORE. 

These problems are not exclusive to homeschooling!!!  

Many Moms hesitate to homeschool because they don't want the responsibility of their child's education.  I hate to break it to you, but you are in the end responsible for your child's education, no matter what school they attend. When kids are in public school, you are responsible, but not fully in control. The beauty of homeschooling is you have the responsible AND the control.

Moms with Public School kids cry over math homework too.  They loose their temper when their kids aren't ready for an event.  I REPEAT, PARENTING IS HARD, but you as a homeschooling Mom get to be there for them in the moments they need you most.  

You also get to model the process of forgiveness by having to ask for forgiveness for losing you temper, again.  Just because it is hard doesn't necessarily mean it was the wrong choice. Resistance is part of learning. 

Give yourself grace and seek support! You can do this! Good luck during your first year!


What is a Homeschool Co-Op?

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  1. Great post, thank you! I'm finding myself paralyzed with fear about picking the wrong kindergarden curriculum and shoving us into a mold that doesn't fit.

    Meanwhile, my just-turned-five-year-old is starting to read, without us ever "officially" doing school, so I probably need to just chill! But wow, we HS moms so want to get it right, and help our kids love learning!

    1. You are not alone. Know that many of us have felt the same thing. The beauty of surrounding yourself with other veteran HS Moms is they can tell us how they went through several curriculums, and their kids survived!!!

  2. I think deciding to homeschool is one of the hardest decisions. I like the way you have provided 7 tips for surviving the first year of homeschooling because people need these kinds of tips especially for those who have their initial year of homeschool. I agree with each and every point you have provided but I would recommend you provide some more tips regarding this such as Let go of insecurities, Expect trial and error, Expect interruptions, etc. Before going for these tips, everybody should go for the pros and cons of homeschooling just to make sure whether they are ready for homeschooling or not.