I wish I had been given more advice about homeschooling when I first started about eight years ago.
I didn’t know the first thing about home education. I felt unsure and nervous. The weight of responsibility on my shoulders was nerve-racking.
I can’t say homeschooling is easy, but it is rewarding. If you are thinking about homeschooling or have recently started homeschooling, I can promise that as the years go by, your children will grow in their education.
As long as you show up daily, put in the work, and remain persistent with their education, their growth will shine through. Trust yourself and the process of learning. Here are four tips to help get you started.
1. Make sure you understand your state’s homeschooling laws
Make sure you have met the legal requirements to homeschool in your state. You can find out what is required by looking on your state’s Department of Education website or check out Home School Legal Defense Association. It will bring you peace of mind to know exactly what is legally required to homeschool, and to know that you have all of your bases covered.
It’s important to ensure that you are bona fide homeschooling and not just saying you are. Most states will not require you to keep time records, attendance records, portfolios, or test your children. Make sound judgements on what you would like to keep track of.
My advice would be to invest in a homeschool planner. Write down the days and times that learning is happening. This can be a challenge, especially when homeschooling, because learning happens all the time — but do the best you can. Make portfolios of their work throughout the year.
With homeschooling, it’s better to have more than enough to show that learning is happening. The majority of the time you will not need to prove anything to anyone but ultimately it depends on the state you homeschool in. If your homeschool is ever called into question, you will be relieved you kept track of all the things listed above.
2. Figure out your child’s learning style
Throw what you know about schooling out the window. Homeschooling is meant to be a completely different approach to education. You will want to learn your child’s learning style.
That begins by spending some time “deschooling.” I know the thought can be difficult to grasp but you must first learn that homeschooling isn’t public schooling.
Deschooling is a transition period that a child goes through while adjusting from public schooling to homeschooling. It is can take days, weeks, maybe months to get accustomed to home learning. It can be a confusing time for children. They may say things like, “That’s not how we did it in school.” They can resist the new learning environment and it takes some adjusting for both parents and children.
Do you have an auditory, visual, or kinetic learner? Understanding your child’s learning style will help in the long run. It will give you the ability to teach more effectively in the way that’s best understood. If you both are on the same page, you will be less likely to bump heads.
3. Get a curriculum as a safety net
Find a curriculum that caters to your child’s learning style. Treat curriculum as a guide. It will help you stay on track with your child’s education but by no means should a curriculum cap your homeschooling teaching style.
Mold the curriculum to fit your family — not the other way around. Nonetheless, having a curriculum will ease your mind that things aren’t slipping through the cracks, especially when starting out.
Just remember, even if something does slip through, we aren’t meant to know everything. When you think back to your school days, do you remember it all?
A great book for helping you stay on track with home education is Rebecca Rupp’s Home Learning Year by Year. If you plan on homeschooling, it’s a great reference book. It gives a rough estimate of what children should know by the end of each school year. Think of your curriculum as a safety net, but the sky is the limit.
Don’t be afraid to stop using what isn’t working. You have a world of resources at your fingertips, so use them. You don’t need the most expensive curriculum. You just need something that works. Use more than one curriculum if you’d like. I use two or three different ones and make them work for us.
Check out used bookstores and yard sales and join a local homeschool group on social media. Many times, other families that homeschool in your community can be wonderful resources and can be very helpful in directing you.
As the years go by, you get a good sense of what should be taught, and you will be able to change the curriculum to meet your child’s natural interests.
If they have a passion in an area of their education, you can nurture it. It can determine what they will do in the future. That passion is what set apart those who simply learn the trade but do not thrive in it from natural talent.
You can tell when someone has a passion for what they do. You can see it in their work. They are dedicated masters in their fields. It will give our society experts in their fields, which is something we need more of in the United States.
4. Test your child independently
Many homeschoolers may disagree with my next piece of advice because they want to get away from standardization. Testing your child isn’t about standardizing them … it’s simply about knowing where they are in their education.
The truth is, one day your child will need to know how to take a test. As much as tests can be awful — especially since you can’t measure a fish by how it climbs a tree — it is something they will nonetheless need to know.
Tests serve as a form of measuring a person’s abilities. They aren’t going away anytime soon. Testing serves as practice. There are placement tests out there that remove the pressures that standardize tests give as well. Look for them.
Some states require testing after certain grades. Don’t fear this. Your children will surprise you with how much they have learned throughout the year. It is rewarding to see how children develop each year.
I feel like testing my children has attributed to my success as a homeschool parent. I know where my children are in their education. I can homeschool confidently knowing where they place, which, as a homeschool parent, is essential. It’s what keeps you going. Doubt will more likely make you want to give up.
Learning is a process
Always remember that learning is a process. They will not learn everything in one day or one year for that matter.
The best advice I can give throughout this entire article is to have grace with them and yourself. Learning is lifelong. Instilling the desire of learning should always be the goal.
Get ready for another education yourself. You’ll be amazed how those concepts you didn’t understand in school now make sense as an adult.
Learn together as a family and enjoy it. Be thoughtful of that as you teach your children.
Originally published at The Daily Signal.
Eve Deborah is a homeschooling mother of three. She blogs at The Homeschooling Mama of 3.