1. There is no perfect homeschool curriculum.
Seriously, this one is huge. It took me a few years to figure this out. I spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out which homeschool curriculum is the best one out there in my price range. Every time I came up with the same answer. Every curriculum has its problem areas. The best way to handle it is to use the curriculum as a guideline and go from there. You can modify and adapt any curriculum to meet your needs. So, pick the one that you like the best or can afford and make the changes as you go along.
2. This is homeschooling, not public schooling.
You are homeschooling. This is your time to shine. You can make school whatever you want it to be. It is NOT public school in your home. You do not have to set up a classroom in your home filled with desks, and timers, and endless rules. You can school on the couch in your pajamas if you want. The kids can lie around on beanbag chairs while doing their math problems. You can practice spelling words to the beat of every jump on the trampoline. This is your school, don’t let anyone else tell you how to run it.
3. Do not compare yourself to other homeschooling families.
This one is hard. You want to make sure you are doing the best for your children so you seek out other homeschool families. It is fantastic to have a support group but when you start comparing how smart their kid is to yours or how much time they spend schooling compared to your family it ends badly. You feel like a failure if your kids can’t spell as well as their kid. You realize you are not doing very well because the other family spends 8 hours on school and you guys were finishing up in 4, or 3, or 2 even. Don’t do this. Don’t compare. You never know what is truly happening inside their home and what may seem perfect on the outside might not be perfect on the inside.
4. Your kids will need help.
For some reason, ever since I started homeschooling all those years ago… (Wow it has been 8 years) people have come up to me expecting us to have loads of free time. As soon as they find out you are a stay at home Mom or Dad and are homeschooling your children, apparently it means you have TONS of free time. You will be asked to volunteer for everything from baking cookies to babysitting every kid on the block.
But the problem is you can’t. Your kids need help. You can’t pull them out of public school and let them fend for themselves and expect it to go well. Now you have to roll up your sleeves and get in the middle of it. You need to be there for your kids when they are struggling with math or science projects. Believe me, you won’t have time for much else.
5. Set a schedule.
This is for your sanity. There are no rules and that can be really difficult for someone who needs structure. Kids need structure the majority of the time. It doesn’t have to be complicated just a guide. We start school at 9 and break around noon for lunch. My boys then finish up after lunch around 2 or so. Sometimes later, sometimes earlier. If you lay out what is expected of them each week and set a start time, they will get the picture. Eventually, as they get older they will self-start and be motivated to get it done. They eventually realize if they finish their school work, they can get more free time. And who doesn’t want more free time?
6. Do the science experiments.
Many times, we come across science experiments in the homeschool curriculum and we debate whether or not to do them. Some of them seem fun but some of them are a lot of work or seem lame. But I am telling you just do them. It will turn out to be the best part of school that week. We usually drag out the science supplies and do the assigned experiment and it leads to something else. Suddenly looking at dirty water under the microscope leads to everyone running around the house and yard looking for cool stuff to view under the microscope. I order a set that goes along with our curriculum from https://www.homesciencetools.com/ each year. It saves me SOOO much time in finding supplies and they have a fantastic selection. They even allow you to modify the kits if you don’t need everything in it.
7. Don’t be afraid to take a day off.
Life happens. Some days no matter what you do, everything seems to go wrong. These are the days I call it quits early. Or I assign reading to my boys or a scavenger hunt in the yard. Sometimes you need a mental health day. You don’t have to justify it. Just do it.
8. You don’t have to finish the entire curriculum.
I wish someone had told me this, it would have saved me so much stress. Inside each book or homeschool box set curriculum is “seat work”. Some have more than others. “Seat work” means just that, butt in seat. It means that when you are trying to help one child with his math and you need something to occupy your other child, use this. This is also the stuff you can throw out if you want. Sometimes it is nice to have the extra math problems if one of my boys is struggling with a concept. Other times, it is repetitive and goes on endlessly. You are Teacher and Principal. You decide what needs to be done. That also means you don’t have to finish the books by the end of the school year. That is up to you.
9. There will be tears.
There will be moments in your homeschool endeavor where it feels like you are failing. You will feel like you have made a mistake and it is too hard. You will second-guess your decision to homeschool and feel like you have ruined your child. It will happen, I guarantee it.
My son is dyslexic. It took me 4 years to teach him to read and another 2 to catch him up to grade level. During that time, I was convinced I was making it worse. Looking back now, I know I wasn’t. The teacher in Kindergarten that got angry enough at my son for not being able to read that he hid underneath his desk from her. She made it worse, not me. I spent hours and hours with him sounding out words. I spent endless days making sight cards for him with pictures to help identify words. We read each night for years. Slowly and painstakingly he learned to read.
10. Enjoy the successes.
Along with the tears, there will be times that you succeed. Suddenly a concept clicks for your child and it will make you feel like a millionaire. It is a beautiful and amazing thing to watch a child learn. To see in their face the excitement of getting it right, of achieving a goal, and seeing the results of their hard work. These moments are brief and don’t come very often so when they do, enjoy them. Celebrate them with a special dinner or a phone call to Dad at work. Celebrate them because it is what homeschooling is all about. It really truly is.