5 Tips for New Homeschoolers - momgineer

Monday, April 6, 2015

5 Tips for New Homeschoolers


We are coming to the end of our fourth year of homeschooling, so while we are still learning and finding our groove, there are some tips I'd love to share if you are just starting out. I know this is nothing revolutionary, but I do hope it is reassuring or helpful for those new to homeschooling.
1.  Use your library! If you are just starting out, you might be tempted to purchase tons of boxed curricula. I know I did.What I didn't know is that, especially in the early years, it might just be better to borrow a huge bag of books with every library visit instead of buying tons of curricula that might never get used. Use resources that are available to you for free or almost free before investing money elsewhere. Use interlibrary loan. Use digital library resources. Here in Massachusetts, any resident can get a free e-card for the Boston Public Library and borrow digital books. Their selection is better than our local library consortium's selection, so we have access to thousands more books (all for free). It's great for ebooks and audiobooks. Ask your local librarian what resources are available to you. In our town, we can borrow Kindles from our library, learn a foreign language with Mango, and get passes to local museums.
Low-cost considerations: Speaking of museums, consider a family membership to a local museum. There are also numerous inexpensive websites that I could not come close to listing them all. Before investing in high-priced textbooks or workbooks, take time to explore what is out there for free. Try going to a homeschool fair with gently used resources - you'll be able to peruse them and pay a lot less than new. Here are a few websites to look into:
BrainPOP
Discovery Education
Coursera or edX (free)
Homeschool Buyers Co-op
Khan Academy (free)
Mathletics or IXLTeachers pay Teachers (also follow them on Facebook for some amazing flash freebies)
Teacher Made Freebies (free)
Thinkwell 
Seterra Geography or GeoGuessr (free)

2. Join local homeschooling groups. Try out different activities to find out what works for you and your kids. This might change over time. We belonged to a co-op in the past, but don't participate in one right now. If an activity doesn't exist that you'd like to see, try to set it up yourself. There are often great rates for homeschoolers at museums, zoos, and places like gymnastics and art studios. I set one up at our local Audubon and the kids get three hours of farm school each week. Where should you look to find a homeschool group? Try Yahoo, Facebook, and Google groups. Hopefully you will find some like-minded homeschoolers to share your journey with. You will also find a wealth of knowledge about your state's homeschooling requirements and BTDT advice.
You can set up an informal co-op in your home or connect at a playground with other families. In time, you may wish to do something more formal or join some paid classes as well. You may also be able to trade off teaching subjects with another family. You are not in this alone.

3. Do less. Throw out your ideal vision of homeschooling. However you THINK it will be, it probably won't be that way. For us, we do a minimal amount of traditional school work during the "school year." Why? We are very busy with classes outside the home! Music, foreign language, swimming, farm school, etc. all take a lot of time during the week, and most of the rest of my kids' time is spent playing or reading. So when do we do the fundamentals? Generally we do them on summer mornings. It doesn't take much time, but all of the "extras" are not in session, so it's the perfect time for us to take care of things like math and handwriting. That doesn't mean we do zero math or handwriting during the September - June months, but we definitely don't do it daily. It's what works for us, so we are sticking with it. If it works for your child to spend one month doing only science, and the next month only art, try it out! Immersion works for foreign language, why not other subjects?

Children are curious by nature. Leave them alone with some great learning toys and a stack of library books and see where it takes them.

4. Be flexible. You know if your kid(s) had a good night's sleep, a solid breakfast, and if anything else might be affecting them that day. If something else is going on, like illness or just a THNGVBD (terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day), give yourself the space to let it go. You don't have to do school every day. The great thing about homeschooling is that because you aren't trying to educate 27 kids, you can do it when the time is right. That means it will take less time. If it's taking all day, try something else. Do you know your child's learning style?
Remember, you can always reevaluate your decision to homeschool. If it isn't working out for some reason, you can always consider sending your child to school. 

5. Make time for YOU. Even if it's 10 minutes of deep breathing, you NEED to take time for yourself. For me, that is a run 4-5 mornings a week. For you, it might mean shutting yourself in your room with your favorite book, or waking early to have some quiet time and tea/coffee before the day begins. Many families have success with quiet time after lunch, where little ones nap and older ones retreat to their rooms to read. Find what works for you. Carve out the time. You are worth it, and it is essential. If the homeschooling parent isn't happy, homeschooling will not be successful. Here are a few more tips on how to take a break when you homeschool.

Do you have a tip that helped you in your first years or homeschooling? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

2 comments:

  1. Great tips, Meredith! I'm excited to check out the websites you listed for more resources. So far I've just been using TpT resources instead of purchasing a larger curriculum. My 3 (almost 4) year old has been learning her letters by looking at books. She just started writing letters on her own (without me teaching her) by doodling on her magna doodle!

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    1. Thanks, Kelsea! It's so amazing to watch them learn, isn't it? I forgot to mention that the library often has boxed curricula that you can borrow. Several libraries around here have Story of the World, Engineering is Elementary, and more. I'm so glad you have family to share your journey with - it will be so nice to have that community!

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