10 Tips for New Homeschool Families

Homeschooling is hard y’all! Luckily I’ve had some great mentors to help me along the way. But in our post Covid world, that might not be true for many of you reading this. So here I’ve collected my most favorite advice and tips for new homeschooling families.

1.) Don’t have strict lesson plans with rigid scheduling. This ensures you will be disappointed and behind. Schedule in plenty of breaks and spread your curriculum out over the entire school year, rather than planning on doing “a lesson a day”. This way if you get behind you should have plenty of free days to catch up.

2.) Don’t plan exact times. One of the worst things about homeschooling is that everyone assumes you are available. Do not be surprised at the amount of disruptions you will have throughout the day. Planning strict times for subjects, or exact blocks for learning is a futile endeavor. Even during quarantine you will be surprised at the various things that come up during the day.

3.) Have a backup plan for bad days. There will be days when you absolutely cannot read one more page to your kiddos, complete one more art project, fight over one more math problem. There will also be days when you or the kids are ill. You need a backup plan! Have a few educational videos up your sleeve for days when you need a few minutes peace. And plan a couple of lessons that another family member may be able to teach them.

4.) Never underestimate the importance of “real world skills”. Homeschooling is more than rigorous academic schoolwork. We are, after all, raising them to eventually leave us. Children need to know how to do simple household chores like doing the dishes and sweeping the floor. Making dinner is a great time to apply math skills by measuring, timing, and following detailed instructions (recipes). And laundry! Did you know that one of the biggest difficulties for college freshmen is doing their own laundry? Now is an excellent time to show them how to remove simple stains, treat, sort, dry, and iron their own clothes.

5.) Administer a skills test. Yeah, I know. This is the one thing everyone complains about and one of the major problems with public schools. HOWEVER, if you give your child a test you will have proof, for yourself and school officials, of your child’s skill levels and knowledge. We use the California Achievement Test, primarily because it is so cheap and they provide very quick results. You can get it here: https://www.shopchristianliberty.com/special-service/ The results help me determine the holes in my instruction and give me a boost of confidence in my ability to teach these tiny versions of myself!

6.) Weekends are sacred! No matter how behind you are, resist the temptation to work through the weekends. Children need a break and parents do too! No matter what, save at least one, if not both, days in the weekend for rest.

7.) It’s tempting to micro-manage everything your kids do. But, it’s not only unrealistic, but it is a disservice to your kiddos. Unless your child has learning disabilities and REALLY need constant instruction, it’s best to have some assignments that they must complete entirely on their own. Children who are homeschooled are insanely independent! Working on their own gives them more discipline, and guides them into being more responsible adults.

8.) Encourage independent time management. In my household we do not have bedtimes. I’m a serious night owl and have no interest in getting up any earlier than I have to. This has resulted in a fair amount of criticism from others, but after a healthy talk with my kids’ pediatrician and a careful examination of what I am and am not willing to do, I completely stand by this decision. And, the decision to nix bedtimes has resulted in one positive side effect: my children are very good at time management. Both can and do set their alarms for times they want to get up, and are independently responsible for ensuring that I know what they need from me for their activities. Modern work environments are rarely ever the 9-5 schedules of our parents, the boomers. Encouraging time management now, and responsibility for their own activities, is a sure fire way of giving them a leg up for when they begin working.

9.) When all else fails, read! The most important thing you will do during homeschooling is reading to your child. It is more important than math, history, science, handwriting- everything! Almost every subject can be caught up on, but a robust vocabulary takes time and pays out pretty impressive dividends. When you can’t do anything else, read!

10.) Don’t be afraid to trash bad curriculum and start over mid-year. Ask lifelong homeschoolers and they will all tell you the same; we’ve all had that one curriculum that we paid money for, but turned out to be a horrible choice. Don’t be afraid to toss out anything that doesn’t work for your family! There are plenty of cheap (sometimes free!) curriculum out there. There is no reason to feel guilty about trashing it and starting anew! Staying committed to finishing a book or program that you or your child hate will only result in burnout and bad attitudes. We had a history curriculum once that was so boring that almost every time we pulled it out one of us fell asleep in the middle of it!

Bonus tip! When homeschooling gets to be too much, follow the example the Lord gave us in 1 Kings, Chapter 19. Elijah was so bummed he asked for the Lord to take his life. What followed was a series of naps and snacks (delivered by an angel no less!) until Elijah could cope. Moral of the story? There’s not much that a snack and nap won’t fix!