This school year many parents are homeschooling, not by choice, but as an only option. If you are one of these parents and you are looking for practical help this year, I encourage you, along with the direction you are probably already getting from your child’s school or teacher, to seek out other homeschool moms who were homeschooling pre-COVID. Homeschooling is very different from learning in school. On the other hand, if you are a homeschool mom with experience, please consider how you could offer help to parents who have been thrust into a school year at home against their choice. Let’s come together as communities to help each other. Although these are difficult times, if there was ever a good time period to be required to teach our kids at home, the Internet age is it. With a Google search just a click away, you can learn about anything you want to learn. We have unbelievable access to unlimited information.
The tips in this article are not entirely my own. This is “our” life homeschooling, after all. I’ve collected the thoughts of several homeschooling friends and compiled them for you. If you will be homeschooling next year, either temporarily, or possibly long-term, I hope you find these helpful.
1.Familiarize yourself with the homeschool laws of your state. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is an excellent resource for new homeschoolers. Their website offers details on the homeschool laws by state, resources for getting started, help for special needs, and information on homeschooling high school.
According to their website,
“We believe every child is unique. That children should learn in ways that meet their needs. And that you want the best for your child. Homeschooling gives you the freedom to personalize their education so they can realize their potential.HSLDA passionately advocates for the freedom to homeschool and offers support for every stage of your homeschool journey.“
2. Pick a curriculum and just start. You can be choosy, get some material in hand to look through, take your time, but understand that you will never be completely satisfied with your choice. I highly recommend Kathy Duffy’s Homeschool Curriculum Reviews. Use caution though! Finding a homeschool curriculum can be very overwhelming. There are so many great options available. Ask another homeschooler or use curriculum reviews, but pick something and just get started. You will learn as you go.
2. Remember the 3 R’s. Make sure they are reading, writing, and practicing math every day. These subjects are skills. Do not short-cut these! They should be progressing in these three areas daily. This is the work we start with every morning because it is often the most challenging. Have them conquer these when they are fresh. The other content areas can have some flexibility, but reading, writing, and math should be a priority.
3. Read. A Lot. Read to them, even if they are already readers. Find a good book list and start purchasing or ordering from the library. Many homeschoolers use Sarah Makenzie’s Read Aloud Revival booklists. Kids of all ages can enjoy someone reading to them. When you make this a daily habit, it is one chance you both get to sit together, to look at one another, to explore places, ideas, words, feelings. This will mean more to them than any cheap thrill or gadget you buy them. In addition to reading to them, allocate time in your day for them to read quietly. We have a time right after lunch when everyone drops everything to read something purely for enjoyment. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time. We do 15-30 minutes. Audio books are another great option, especially for struggling readers. Let them listen to an audio book every night in bed. Bedtime is a great time for audio books because they are not as easily distracted as listening to a book during the day.
4. Find a community of other homeschoolers. This is a biggie in my book. It’s the difference in sinking or swimming. If you have support and your kids have great friends, you might start loving this. Many homeschool co-ops meet weekly or biweekly to offer classes, field trips, concerts, book clubs, dramas, sports programs, music lessons, and much more. There is one caution that I would give. Be aware that if you choose a type of virtual learning that requires kids to be on the computer at certain and/or random times, and if you have more than one child, it will be very difficult to be available enough to be part of a regular homeschool community.
5. You don’t have to teach individual subjects for each of your kids in all areas. Although math, reading, and writing are subjects at which they must progress at their own level, other subjects can be combined for multiple ages. History, science, other content areas con be covered as a group. For example, in history, pick a time period and explore that for a year. Pull library books, cook recipes, watch documentaries, visit museums, if your kids are crafty, let them make costumes or dioramas. For science, ask your kids what they have always wondered about…the human body, simple machines, weather? Find a book of experiments on that topic and let them discover! Use this as a chance for them to learn about things that interest them! What do you remember from history and science in school? You remember the things that interested you.
6. Use this time as an opportunity. Do things with them that you’ve always wanted to do, but never make the time to do them. What is that one thing that you never have enough time to do with them? Try asking the kids, “What is one thing you have always wondered about?” Or, “If you could pick one thing you would really like to learn about, what would it be?” Then, take them to the library and find everything you can on that subject. Go places and talk to people that can teach you more about that topic. Watch documentaries on it. Is there a skill they want to master? Have them watch YouTube videos to learn how to do it. I guarantee you, if you try this, your kids will learn things that they will never forget. In addition to that, they will love learning this way.
7. Don’t worry about what they are missing in school. If children across the board are supposed to be learning and achieving certain skills or material at a certain age or grade, we are forgetting that children are unique individuals. While we should have high expectations for them and we should be requiring daily, diligent progress, here is what happens when we set specific objectives for all children of a certain age. In some areas a child might be ready to move on, but held back by these limitations and in other areas of study, he might be struggling and need more help or a slower pace, but be forced to move on. In my opinion, when we try to fit large groups of children into “what you are supposed to know in X grade”, we ignore the uniqueness of the child. Your child is an individual. Do not underestimate the headway you can make working one-on-one with your child! Do not worry about what they are missing in school. If they are progressing every day, they will be fine.
8. Pray. Pray about your school year. God gave your child to you and you to your child. He thinks you are the one person who is best equipped to raise him or her! Ask Him for help with practical things… how to schedule your day, how to help your child in areas of struggle, how to teach math. Watch Him direct your steps and lavish His grace on you. Don’t doubt God’s ability to do “abundantly more than we ask or think.”
I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.Psalm 16:8
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.Psalm 37:5