With COVID fears and our current world situation, there have been numerous families making the choice to homeschool for the first time over the last year.
The National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI.org) gives the following homeschool statistics:
There were about 3.7 million homeschool students in 2020-2021 in grades K-12 in the United States (roughly 6% to 7% of school-age children). There were about 2.5 million homeschool students in spring 2019 (or 3% to 4% of school-age children). The homeschool population had been growing at an estimated 2% to 8% per annum over the past several years, but it grew drastically from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021.NHERI.org
Maybe you’re one of those parents that recently decided to start homeschooling and you’re feeling like you’re in over your head, overwhelmed and floundering. I want to encourage you that it will get better with time and practice!
If you’ve dived into homeschooling head-first and you’re feeling frustrated and ready to quit, don’t give up yet!
Here are some tips to help you transition more smoothly:
1. Don’t try to imitate the public school at home
Homeschooling is more of a lifestyle, where learning becomes integrated into your daily life in more enjoyable ways than just sitting at a desk doing bookwork. A lot of learning happens as you live life and as children play with one another. You’re in a time of transition and you all need to adjust to a different and more relaxed lifestyle. You may need to set aside your curriculum temporarily and try less formal ways to learn so your children can see that learning is fun! (see #2 below)
Some people say that for every year your child was in the public school you’ll need to do a month of deschooling. Pull away from anything that looks like school to your children. Help them realize that learning can happen in a variety of ways, and should be a lifelong pursuit. Don’t worry, they will still be learning!
2. Cultivate a love for learning in your children
- Read aloud fiction or non-fiction books to all your kids together and enjoy this wonderful time of bonding. This develops listening skills, comprehension skills, literacy skills, and helps with grammar and vocabulary learning for older kids. (Check out Read Aloud Revival for book ideas)
- Ask them what they’d like to learn about, then go to the library and check out books or movies on that topic.
- Go on hikes, bike rides, or field trips to interesting places.
- Look for learning opportunities all throughout the day and take advantage of them.
- Go on nature walks for learning science. (Keep a notebook of what you learn and find)
- Reading historical fiction is a fun way to learn history. All Through The Ages is a great resource for finding historical fiction books.
- Use educational games for learning and reinforcing skills learned.
- Discovery learning happens when a child asks a question about something they’re interested in, and you take the time to find the answer. This type of learning leads to a higher rate of retention because they were already interested.
- Have them help you make dinner, clean and organize a room, or care for a younger sibling. These things are all important life skills that they’ll need someday and are valuable to learn.
3. Foster deeper relationships with your children
Homeschooling provides a wonderful opportunity for you to build closer relationships with your children. Children need to feel loved and valued, and we can do that if we’re not rushing out the door to the next thing all the time. Make it a priority to spend quality time with each of your children doing things they enjoy but also having them help you around the house.
4. Focus on building godly character in your children
Compliment good behavior in your children. Watch for areas they might need to improve on and help them grow in that area.
Choose a character quality to work on as a family for the week (E.g. kindness, obedience, responsibility). Memorize verses related to that character quality and find ways to encourage it. Read my blog posts on developing godly character for more ideas on this.
I recommend starting your school days with prayer and time in God’s word together. This sets the tone for the day and helps everyone have a better attitude.
Check out Growing the Fruit of the Spirit ~ A Guide to Family Bible Time as an option for studying God’s word and helping your children develop godly character.
5. Give yourself time to figure out a routine that works well for your family
The beauty of homeschooling is that you can set a schedule and routine that fits your family. You don’t need to do school from 9-3 like the public school, and you’ll likely only need a few hours (or less for younger children) for formal learning time.
Plan for frequent breaks between times of studying. Active breaks will help children refocus. Younger children need breaks every ½ hour or so. As they get older, 45-minute lessons with 15-minute breaks works great.
If you have more than one child, teach all your children together in as many subjects as you can. Math and language arts both usually need to be taught to each child individually because they follow a specific scope and sequence. All other subjects can be taught together as a family with follow-up projects or assignments given to fit the age and abilities of each child.
6. Allow time for delight directed learning
Look for what interests your child and help them learn more about that topic by providing resources. Encourage them to share what they learn with the rest of the family or have them write about it.
Our daughter loves dogs, so she read almost all the books in the library on dogs. After studying and writing papers on what dog breeds she liked, we let her get her own dog. She was involved in dog obedience and agility training in 4-H. From this, she learned responsibility, leadership, self-control, and her reading and writing improved.
Delight-directed learning helps your child learn and grow and fosters a love for learning!
7. Find support
As homeschoolers, we need the support of our family, and we need other homeschool families to come along side us and encourage us. It can be a lonely experience for the whole family without this support. Join a homeschool co-op or support group so you and your kids can make friends who are living this lifestyle. Facebook support groups are helpful, but real life, in person friendships are best. MACHE.org can direct you to a homeschool group in your area if you live in MN.
8. Seek the Lord for wisdom each day…rest in Him and let Him guide you
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your steps. Proverbs 3:5-6
God cares about you and your family. He gave you the children you have because He knew you’d be the best parents for them, and He can give you the wisdom to raise them and teach them each day. Seek His guidance for every decision. You’ll find He provides some excellent learning opportunities as you give Him your day!
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Please share any tips that have helped you as you’ve transitioned into homeschooling below.