When You Don’t Know Where to Begin
Knees knocking as I walked out of the principal’s office with my 5 year old son happily skipping beside me, I didn’t feel any great big rush of empowerment. I could hardly breathe as I thought to myself I am going to mess this child up for life.
How will I know I am covering everything? Where do I find curriculum? How am I going to test my child? All of these questions were just the start of what I didn’t know as I started on my homeschool journey, which seems not so long ago.
I wish I could put to rest all your fears now. But, in my many years of personally helping new homeschoolers I have come to appreciate that struggling is part of the process. Sure, nobody likes to struggle, but like all things treasured, a bit of struggling can build a priceless value. Homeschooling is no different.
Changes take place during the homeschool metamorphosis. Learning how to lesson plan, understanding the basic approaches to homeschooling, determining whether or not a support group is a good choice for your family, choosing curriculum more carefully, homeschooling to high school, understanding the importance of capturing a child’s heart for learning, instilling Godly values and taking time for self are all issues new homeschooler’s struggle with during the change.
It is exhausting to say the least when you think of the many issues thrown at you at one time. Short of infusing you with a big dose of all the practical tips a seasoned veteran has, it takes time to cull over which tips work for you and which ones do not.
When you know which areas to focus on first, the change from struggling homeschooler to empowered home educator can be less daunting. The tips below are based on not just what I have personally gleaned, but based on my own experience from guiding new homeschooers.
4 Short Cuts For New Homeschoolers
- Focus on the Needs Of Your Children. You may think this what you are doing, but it has been my experience that most new homeschoolers are researching every curriculum provider known to exist. If you know that the textbook approach is not working in public school right now, then focus on Unit Studies, Charlotte Mason or curriculum that allows for a relaxed approach. If your child is a pick up and read the book child and prefers more hands off learning, then look at textbook providers. Energy zeroed in on the immediate needs of your children instead of the plethora of wonderful curriculum out there gets your school off the ground with minimal steam and stress.
- Adjust Your Expectation Ruler to Acceptable. Keeping your expectations for both yourself and your children to acceptable during the first year brings a peace to your new year that sometimes many new homeschoolers do not experience. For example, if your child is struggling with reading, an acceptable goal is instilling a love for the delight of reading instead of worrying about bringing him up to grade level with his peers.
- Avoid Socialization Over Load. No matter how many articles are written on the abundant amount of socialization opportunities, new homeschoolers still may overcompensate for the perceived lack of it by joining every club, field trip and activity that they research. Instead of having meaningful time at home where you can build a relationship with your children, much time and energy that should be spent on educating yourself this first yearis spent appeasing this perceived need. Take time in your first or even second year to educate yourself on the how to of homeschooling. Carefully select activities that allows the whole family to be together and learn. One or two activities a month as you begin are enough for now. As you move to the status of expert and you will, you will be able to schedule exactly for your family’s needs.
- Plan With Purpose. Instead of floundering around in my first few years of homeschooling, I wished that I would have clearly defined my purpose for homeschooling or my goals in each subject. I was so busy picking out curriculum without a purpose that some of my early choices ended up being a waste of my energy. For example, I used a curriculum to teach writing and knew that writing structure was important. However, equally important was the subject matter. Because I wanted my children to write thoughts worthy of filling their learning minds, learn the art of persuasion and not write what is necessarily in vogue, writing topics mattered. It took me a whole year to articulate the problem. Had I focused more on my objectives instead of thinking I had to make curriculum choices so soon, I would have weighed out my options better. Pen your homeschool goals to paper and preserve them. Use your goals as your guide to planning with purpose.
During times of doubt, a well-defined plan will give you a clear sense of direction. Many new homeschoolers fail in the beginning to have a plan of action. Then when confidence lacks and questions come up about their ability and conviction to homeschool, they can’t take the next step or change directions.
Instead of starting out by following what you know about public school and bringing that to your home and children, step out of your comfort zone. Investigate what is nothomeschooling. Do not use the model of public school because then you are only changing the geography of where your children learns instead of learning what it means to homeschool. Do you have a clear grasp of the definition of homeschooling?
True, homeschooling is about the parents making the decisions for how, what and which subjects the children will learn, but that only touches the fringe of the homeschooling lifestyle.
Homeschooling has been my lifestyle now for the past 15 years or so. My then five year old, Mr. Senior 2013, has now graduated and I am still learning how to homeschool. I have learned there are no quick solutions and empowerment comes by doing. Failure is part of learning, then move forward. Focus on the big picture so you don’t lose your way.
Go slow and breathe. You can do this!