My 15 Rules for How to Homeschool Well

My 15 Rules for How to Homeschool Well





I’m pretty sure at some point in my youth that I thought people who homeschooled were crazy. And their children must be backward, unfortunate beings who would never be able to function in society. I am so glad I proved myself wrong. Somewhere between college, marriage, and motherhood, I started to realize that I had just one chance – one chance to provide my child with love, guidance, an education, and skills for the future.

For me that meant treading down the path of homeschooling. While my intentions were to help my daughter, and soon the sons who followed, to learn as much as possible about life, I ended up being the one who learned invaluable lessons along the way. Homeschooling is not an easy road paved with books, quiet mornings at home learning Latin, or a sheltered life free of societal pressures. In order to homeschool well I have found 15 imperative rules that help keep this education choice working for us.

  1. Love being with your kids. You will spend a good deal of time with your children, and if you find yourself thinking that 4-8 hours a day of adult conversations or interactions is what you need to be content – homeschooling is not for you.
  2. Learn about your state’s laws and regulations. Many states have homeschooling groups that monitor legislative changes and can help answer questions. Some families choose to connect with the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a national advocacy program for homeschoolers.
  3. Follow the law. Nothing is more irritating to me than parents who know the law and don’t think it applies to them. Sure – it might be just one more form to fill out, but I consider it the least I can do when I look at the struggles that people fought just to make homeschooling legal in the United States. If you think the law in your state needs to change – do something about it. In my state our homeschool laws have become less restrictive and demanding, all due to the efforts of parents who have pushed for change within the confines of the law.
  4. Be ready to say, “I don’t know” and learn along with your kids. It is better to admit that you don’t have all of the answers than to partially invest in their education. There are times when my kids, especially those in high school, ask a question I can’t fully answer with information – from science experiments to the random “Where and when was the first road built in our town?” But I do answer it by telling them what I know to be true, what I think might be the case, and what we can do to find the complete answers together.
  5. Be prepared to hear the sounds your children make – all of the time. They will chatter, they will giggle, and they will just make noise. Homeschooling is not for those who cherish silence. I do own ear plugs for a reason, but those are usually on reserve for dire moments of deadlines looming.
  6. Be proud of it. Children take our cues from us, and it is a great opportunity to teach others about homeschooling. There will be questions, but if you answer those with pride, especially in front of your children, you will teach your kids and those around you that homeschooling is a valid, productive choice for education. 
  7. Find a support group. You will need the support group, not because homeschooling is something to overcome, but because there is strength in numbers. I couldn’t find a support group when I started, so I formed my own by placing an ad in the paper – seriously. We went from 6 families at the first meeting to more than 180 in our area. We share field trips, gym time, art classes, park days, and moms’ night out.
  8. Get your partner on board. Homeschooling can be challenging enough, but if your partner has his doubts it can make your efforts even more difficult. There will be days when you struggle and having a back-up person will be essential.
  9. Plan financially. Homeschooling doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but by the mere fact that one or more parents are committing to directing a child’s education, there will be time invested in the educational process that won’t be able to be invested in a career. Parents of older kids can sometimes swing work and homeschooling, but often even a part-time job is difficult to maintain while effectively homeschooling. I do work part-time from home, and it has its own benefits and drawbacks.
  10. Maintain a good relationship with your school. Unless you have a crystal ball that actually works, you can’t predict the future. As much as you might want to know that you will always homeschool, you can’t predict that reality. If you storm out of the principal’s office as you pull your 7th grader out of school to homeschool, that burned bridge might be hard to repair if your child ever wants to go back or if your life situation changes and it becomes a necessity. Maybe it will just be the fact that your child, like mine, wants to participate in school sports. Keep a good relationship so all of these options can be open without tension.
  11. Don’t select a singular, expensive curriculum package your first year. Give yourself time to get to know your child’s learning styles and experiment with different pieces of curriculum. Find another mom who has the book you’re considering and see if you can borrow it for a couple of weeks to see if it is the right fit.
  12. Be flexible. Your child’s learning styles, interests, abilities, and goals will evolve, and it is essential to adapt to those changes. If one science curriculum was a great fit with the first 2 children it doesn’t mean that your 3rd will react to it the same way.
  13. Find a schedule that works for you. Some families choose to follow the public school calendar so that when neighborhood friends are off for vacation their kids can run through the yards with them. Some families have a less formal plan they follow all year, while some dedicate 6 weeks on and 2 weeks off as a rotating schedule year-round. We prefer to start in the fall, have 4 planned days of lessons or activities, and use Friday as our catch-up day. The kids might work on a project, we might take a field trip, or just use the time to be a family. Schedules can depend on specific state requirements, so always make sure you check with those first.
  14. Give yourselves options. People inevitably ask, “How long do you plan to homeschool?” to which we have always said “As long as it works.”  So far it has worked long enough for our oldest to start college. We never wanted our kids to look back and say, “I wish you would have let me try public school.” Parents also shouldn’t continue homeschooling if they aren’t enjoying the process, because their kids will pick up on it and the family unit will suffer.
  15. Know why you are doing it. When you stay focused and you know why you are homeschooling, you keep your goals in sight. My goals are many: teach my children how to learn, show them the love of learning, allow them to be individuals who pursue their passions, help them overcome hurdles, and grow together as a family. Homeschooling is my path to reaching these individualized academic and life goals with my kids. What path are you travelling and how are you getting there?

 

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