I have flirted with the idea of homeschooling for a while now. It sounded so appealing to me, yet seemed fairly unrealistic. It seemed like a challenge that I would not be equipped to take on. Since we have all been hit with this Covid pandemic, homeschooling is trending more than ever. I have taken this opportunity to jump into the home school life. It was really a no-brainer for me. There was no way that I was allowing my kids to sit in a building wearing masks all day. I hated the idea of being on someone else’s schedule and not knowing what the lessons were in advance. Since I wasn’t working, I was lucky enough to take advantage of pulling Bentley out of the public school system and give homeschooling a try. I was in school myself, though, and had just been accepted into a nursing program that I had been working so hard for. Nonetheless, I decided that my 2nd grader’s education was priority. Elementary school is such an important foundation for them, and I wanted to dedicate my time into providing him with as much of a normal, fun, and stimulating experience as possible. I decided to decline my nursing acceptance, and put it on hold for the year. I wanted to be available and focus my attention on this important job. I have since launched a business and this blog as well. I’m grateful for the opportunities that I have at the moment.
We’ve never done this before and had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Fortunately, I recently became close to a homeschooling family, and this friend has been an incredible source of information and inspiration. The internet is a limitless supply of information as well. Here’s how we decided to transition into homeschooling (and what you really need to have and know):
- An accountability association
- There really is no need to chose the most expensive association. You likely won’t need the association for much, other than to figuratively check a box within the state’s schooling requirements. The association can provide you with important documents and information, as well as helping you attain discounted trips to places such as museums and so forth through your association membership. I have heard of others having great local accountability associations where they can go for resources such as access to books.
- A curriculum
- Making the decision to home school practically last minute and with no expendable income to throw at school, left me having to do a lot of research and get creative. A curriculum is so important to have. No matter which schooling style you go with, a curriculum is going to be your guideline. I wasn’t able to buy an individual curriculum. What I ended up doing was reading as many things as I could about curriculum and lessons that others were following. I printed out my state’s standards for the grade level and I based my lessons off of that. I researched and checked reviews for textbooks for each subject. I purchased the books as well as the student workbooks (a few of which I discovered that we really don’t even use). When our books arrived, I dedicated one night per subject and reviewed the contents and skimmed the chapters. I planned out one unit at a time. So far, we’ve decided to follow the lessons in the book as they are. I also found short video clips to play to supplement the material. I try to plan as many projects, or hands on experiences to help them gain a better understanding, rather then just having them sit in front of a textbook or computer. They do enjoy having some computer time, and there are some helpful games and learning apps, such as: Epic, Rivet, Mystery Science, Math Seeds, etc.
- Again, doing this last minute without a set-aside budget, I was just armed with my Amazon credit card, and I had to find a way to make it work. I was so excited going through all of the classroom supplies. It instantly took me back to childhood, and the magic of sticky tack and cardboard clocks. I wanted all of the manipulatives. Though I obviously couldn’t purchase it all, I selected things that I thought would be most beneficial and stimulating. I feel it is so important to give them the best educational opportunities possible. My goal was to create an environment for him/them that was was familiar and colorful and packed with resources. I wanted fun, engaging hands-on learning supplies. I think children learn best this way. They need to be able to touch and see what it happening and why. They need creativity. Don’t go overboard, though. Work with your budget and curriculum, and plan as much as you can before buying supplies. I am currently working on compiling a list of the supplies that I purchased to post, and discuss how they are working out for us.
- A teaching style
- There are lots of different approaches you can take when it comes to teaching, expectations, and the roles your child(ren) will play in their education. You may opt for a more traditional, classic schooling experience. Conversely, you may choose to “unschool,” and allow the child the freedom and independence to learn. Most of us are likely to try a combination and see what works best (generally opting most for the traditional education style that we likely grew up with). You may choose to do unit studies (I would like to try this later), where all of the subjects are studied cohesively in a themed approach. I feel like this method makes a lot more sense to the children, especially if they are elementary age. Another popular method is Charlotte Mason, which relies heavily on “living books” over textbooks. Are you going to teach each subject or break it up? We’ve decided to do an every other day schedule. Math and Language arts on one, and Science and Social Studies the other. We do spelling everyday.We have one special class per day (i.e. art, stem, health). We don’t do much in terms of music class, but we do play music daily as long as it’s not a distraction. An internet search can provide detailed information on all of the popular options if you need some direction.
- An attendance sheet and a portfolio of your child’s work
- You are required to attend 180 days of school per year. Make sure that you print off an attendance sheet and check off each day that they attend. I keep all of our plans and lessons in my planner, but you can also keep a journal of notes regarding what your child is learning on a daily basis. Make sure to also keep a folder of some of the work that they have done.
- One of the biggest challenges is that your child knows that they are home. They know you as mom, not a teacher. They may try to push a bit and see what they can get away with. It will take a little practice to establish school roles at home until everyone is comfortable and accepting. I like to have firm boundaries; yet, provide an open, loving, and supportive environment. The kids know what is expected of them, but we also get to laugh and create. We have fun–as long as they are respectful and learning.
- This is going to be so beneficial in encouraging them to do their best. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant at all. We have a “Fuzzy Reward Jar” that we put fuzzy balls into for special, helpful behavior. Once the jar has been filled, they get to select a pizza or ice cream party. We also get to select one toy out of a box each Friday if they have completed all of their work for the week. It is just an assorted box of cheap party favors–but they love it.
- You are going to be on your toes. This is especially true when you have more than one child to teach. I have a 2nd grader and a preschooler. My teaching priority is my 2nd grade son, but I do give short lessons and activities to my daughter as well. She enjoys participating–well, she more so insists. You also have to be motivated to take on the day even when you’re feeling like just getting back in bed. You will probably be learning just as much as them. Just remind yourself that you will be able to do this!
- Some things are simply not going to work out the way that you planned. Life happens. Things come up. Your child doesn’t move as quickly as you had hoped. You have to be willing to accept and adapt. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Other times you have to revamp the entire process. For instance, it has been a massive eye opener to find out difficulties that my son was having. I did not realize that he was really struggling with spelling. I think because he was smart, quiet, and well behaved, it sort of went unnoticed. I just thought that he didn’t want to put in the time to write, but I now believe that the root of all of this is that he just wasn’t grasping spelling. He was relying purely on memory. This, coupled with the fact that he seems to have some inattention challenges. I am having to reevaluate lesson plans and come up with creative ideas to keep him engaged and teach him in a way that he understands. I found that he appreciates discussion. He also loves when we turn learning into games–like spelling races.
- Patience and Love
- And in abundance. I love this about teaching from home. I know that they are truly being accepted for who they are, and everyday that they go to school, I know that they are being loved and cared for. I am not saying that this doesn’t happen in traditional school at all. Bentley had an incredible 1st grade teacher, and I am so grateful that he had her. But, nothing compares to the love and support that a Mama can offer, and equipped with the desire to teach and a willingness to learn on the child’s part–it’s an unstoppable team. There are learning opportunity everywhere! So you don’t have to push the textbooks and schedules so hard. Take the time to give hugs and play, bake, and run free. Go work in the garden and talk about how plants grow. Cuddle on the couch and watch a science documentary and talk about how it is similar to the lesson you learned earlier. Have a picnic outside while you read.
With some time and experience, you will get it down. It’s always a learning process–for both of you. We are still experimenting and learning what works for us. The beauty of homeschooling is that your child is the center of the teaching. You get to teach them in ways that they understand. You can speed it up, slow it down, take it to the park, etc. Find learning experiences in everything. Just engage them and talk to them. It is such a rewarding experience that can bring you even closer as a family unit. I mean, we get to go read outside, sketch pictures of nature while sitting under a tree (that covers art and science if you discuss it), pick up worms, help in the garden, have car races while we spell, learn how to stitch and sew, take yoga breaks, and bake cookies during class. Ya’ll it’s beautiful. I’m with my most favorite people all day (even if they burn me out sometimes). If you are on the fence about homeschooling, I would really suggest that you just take the leap and test it out. I am so grateful that I am getting this opportunity.