The Best Advice for New Homeschoolers

The Best Advice for New Homeschoolers

With the number of public school pullouts happening this week all around me, I thought I would pose a highly relevant question to those of you who correspond with me by email. (If you read my blog and would like to be part of this group please sign up by entering your email address in the space to the right of this blog.)

What advice would you give someone who confided in you that she was pulling her kids and beginning homeschooling tomorrow? This is a woman who does not believe she has time to read about homeschooling – she has to jump in right away. What would you say to her? 

The responses were great. There was such an outpouring of the wisdom of the homeschooling crowd, it was fantastic to see.

Here are my favorite responses:

“Just pick something. It’s not going to be perfect – no curriculum is – so, just get started. You’ll never know what does and doesn’t work without doing SOMETHING first.

“Don’t worry about stumbling through things that don’t work in the beginning. Modify what you can while you find what fits you and your child(ren).

I’d also drop names like Susan Wise Bauer and John Taylor Gatto, and suggest attending a homeschool convention in time (if only to peruse the exhibit hall.)” – Stefani from Dallas, TX

“I would share my own experience of pulling my 6-year old out of first grade. It was four months into the school year and I didn’t have a clue about how to homeschool. I just knew it was what was best for my child. I had one homeschooling friend so I watched her in action.

Mostly, for the first few weeks, my son and I visited the library often and we took a lot of nature walks and we snuggled up together with books. During this time I read up on different philosophies. I was drawn to unschooling or letting my child take the lead.

One thing I would emphasize is to not even try to keep up (or down?) with what the public schools are doing. It’s simply not worth it and it’s completely unnecessary. Even if the child eventually re-enters public school, chances are they will be ahead of their peers in many areas and considered behind in a few areas but in the end it honestly doesn’t matter! I have 3 kids in college now to prove it.” – Camie.

“I would say that you shouldn’t start right in on your kids where they left off in school. If there was some sort of rush to get them out of a bad school situation, they probably need some downtime to recover. Even if there wasn’t a bad situation, everyone could use a break.

Your child will not be behind forever if they take a month off to get used to a new routine of being at home and responsible for their own education (with your help). You are more likely to last if you read the books as many as you can.

Talk to other homeschoolers or unschoolers if you can. Read their blogs. Then put it all away and live your homeschooling/unschooling life, which will not be perfect, which will change over time, and remember not to get so wrapped up in “schooling” your kids that you lose sight of their wills, desires, and personalities. Adapt your method to your child, don’t try to force your child to conform to your method.” – Cheryl.

“I would first recommend them looking into their state’s laws to see what requirements their state has set forth for homeschoolers and to see what organizations are available for their state. (For Texas it is THSC – Texas Home School Coalition that will give the help that can answer many of the legal questions they may have). If I have just a few minutes to talk to that person, this would probably be the primary advice I would give. All states are different, and have different legal requirements for homeschoolers.

If their child is older and is planning on college I would suggest they talk to their colleges of choice to see what specifics they require in terms of transcripts, etc.

I would also give them the list of the resources I have found locally. For example, the homeschool opportunities at the local library, museums and groups I know about.” – Amy.

“First, I’d say go spend the days together doing whatever comes to mind! Have fun! De-school yourselves! Write down all the things you see your kids doing everyday and learn to see that through an unschooling lens. Learn to translate that in your mind into educationese. Then RELAX, because you are going to see a wealth of education and growth happening without you, mom. 🙂

Then I’d tell them to work through the book Educating the Whole Hearted Child  that has some workbook aspects inside to help them craft some of the important things in their homeschool. It will jump start them quickly in the right direction that lends them to the path to those awesome other titles: a baby step that helped me get on the path that doesn’t recreate school at home. ” – Laura.

“When I decided to homeschool,  it became evident that I was crossing into/over some imaginary line that either I believed was a wall or it was just a line.  Along the way, I discovered that every book, everywhere will guide you it will tell you best approaches, best curriculum, grade levels, etc.  But the bravery lay in creating the best homeschool that fits not only familial dynamics but also your children. Because if homeschooling chose you and not the other way around, it gave you freedom to explore all curricula, all schools of thought.

“My favorite idea is taking a year off especially if they’re used to school and the routine.  You will never replicate school in your home.  Simply, home is home.  Life happens at home.  Messy, complicated,  life. School happens at school, structured, ruled school.  

“I took the year to discover how all this fits in to my life and my child’s. That not to say we did nothing.  I knew he likes science so, I found hands-on lessons, lap books, until I found my footing and my confidence. It is a marathon. Slow and steady.” – Candace.

“We have four children who are home schooled, 5, 7, 9 and 12, we also have two older 12 and 17. The older two, our 12 year old daughter, (the princess!) is off to an all girls high school which only accepts gifted and talented children. The 17 year old has always been mainstream schooled and now enjoys his 6th form freedom. The four home schooled children are helped with their learning by my wife and myself, together with our excellent network of home schooling families and groups.

So, on to your question, if home schooling was mentioned, our children would prick up their ears and excitedly tell you all about it, what they like, how they like to learn, how its great to learn through just looking around, experiencing life, expressing their feelings and opinions and recording all these by taking pictures, writing stories, doing research and creating their files and diaries which they can read later and remember their life experiences.

My wife or myself would share the joy of our children learning without boundaries, living their parents’ values (rather than someone we don’t even know), having the freedom to learn without the constraints of a some brand of learning for their age, not feeling pressurized to do things they object to, not just learning during the week and being too tired to even communicate at weekends – but, instead realizing life experiences are all around and through them anything can be understood, learnt and used to equip our children for a successful and rewarding future in life.

Sometimes however it becomes stressful, persuasive tactics don’t work and it seems like your not getting anywhere. These are the moments when your own determination, commitment to ensure your children ‘are the best’ and your love for them wins – and perhaps a glass of red wine, hehe! – Michael.

“If I were to meet someone in that position I would say, take it one step at a time, don’t be too hard on yourself or your children. Research on the go, if you have to. Don’t be afraid to change resources as you see fit. It’s not about completing any set amount of work or meeting any requirements, but your own.

As long as something positive has happened that day, that enriched your child as a human-being, that day has been productive. And soon enough you’ll see, you’re on a roll! Oh, definitely there are those horrible days, self-doubting days, I-can’t-seem-to-be-able-to-keep-up-with-the-house-work days, but truly homeschooling is the most rewarding experience between parent and child!

I could go on for a while yet, but suffice it to say that our kids are little for a short time only, I for one prefer to spend maximum amount of time with them, instead of sending them away for the largest portion of that time, to be conditioned in the hands of strangers that other strangers have told me I should trust.” – Name withheld by request.

“The most helpful advice I’ve received so far is to deschool for a good length of time when you pull your kids out of traditional school. It was suggested to deschool 1 month for every year your child was in traditional school.

I was not homeschooled so it is a new mindset for me as well as for my son. A little background – we adopted our 13yo son in December and withdrew him from middle school on the last day before Christmas break. Our motivations are as much or more so about building attachment as they are about academics. We gladly took the advice to deschool and get to know each other better and go on field trips, go to the library, enjoy the outdoors, etc.

It’s also given me time to read about various homeschool philosophies and methods and observe how my son learns. We’ve tried some things out, but we’re staying flexible, keeping things light and fun as we develop a rhythm of schooling that will serve us best.” – Susannah.

“I have given this advice many times to moms who are pulling their kids from school. You have TIME. More time than you realize.

Once you pull them from school, take a few months and get to know your child(ren).  Start developing a routine for living at home together all the time. It will be an adjustment. Spend time at the library, the zoo, the park, in the backyard, etc. If they can read, encourage them to read a lot.

Your child needs to de-school. You can use this time to start educating yourself on homeschooling philosophies and ideas. After a few months off, maybe introduce one subject at a time and get to know how your child learns. Pacing yourself is the best thing you can do to ensure success in homeschooling. Finally, and maybe most importantly, find a community of homeschooling moms near you that you can talk to and get together with from time to time. You will need the support and your children will love the time to play with other homeschooled kids. You have TIME.” – Meredith.

“Take your summer break now. Relax and enjoy time with your kids. Talk about what they know and find out what they want to learn about next. Go to zoos and museums before the summer crowds and without the field trip mentality. Play board games and have fun worth each other. Read books together. A strong relationship with your kids is foundational to successful homeschooling. And then you’ll have time to research a couple months and make a plan. Start homeschooling when you and your child are ready. There’s no rush or reason to follow the traditional school schedule.” – Christa.

“I’d have to say to that mom that she can absolutely do it! And, she needs to know that every doubt she is having, the public and private school teacher has also had at the beginning of her career.

Know without a doubt that you can provide AT LEAST as good an education for your child if not a significantly better one!  I speak this as a former public school teacher with 3 grown children who attended public and private schools and a 7-yr-old who I now say will be sent to public school only when you pry him from my cold, dead hands! Yes, I’m a bit dramatic about it! I’ve experienced the inside of public school as both a teacher and a parent.

Trust me when I say that if you have Internet access, a library card, and can find a group of like-minded mamas with kids somewhat close in age, YOU ARE GOLDEN!  The most important of those three, I believe, is the group! If you are pulling your kids tomorrow, I’d say find a group that suits you as soon as possible!  They don’t have to do school the way you do school. They don’t have to have the exact same educational philosophy. They simply need to be supportive and available to interact with on a regular basis. ALL mamas need interaction and support, and the ability to ask questions, share ideas and struggles, and do life together makes all the difference!

If you can’t find a group that fits, start one. That’s what I did 3 years ago, and we now have over 30 families. Several, but not all, meet weekly. We do field trips together. We have monthly Moms’ Nights Out. Our kids love each other, we love each other! I don’t know how I’d make it without them.” – Rhonda.

“Find out what matters most to you and focus on it. Everything else can wait. When we began homeschooling, I focused on character. The kids read, I read to them and we focused on their piano lessons. That’s it. In the next quarter they had outdone years of work at the public school!” – Linda.

So there you have it! The best advice from homeschooling families.

Now, go forth in confidence, new homeschoolers! Welcome!

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Author: Purva Brown

Writer / blogger at http://TheClassicalUnschooler.com - unapologetically blending two seeming opposites.

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