beginners guide to homeschooling

The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling

Homeschooling is not so crazy anymore. From one mom to another, yes, it’s normal to have a million thoughts about it. Education is important, it’s about the future and it deserves careful consideration.

First off, what comes to mind when you think of homeschooling? Breakfast in PJ’s, lazy days of very little bookwork and a fear of having your child turn into a tech-addict rather than a well-prepared citizen of the world? Or maybe you have something a bit more rosy in mind… Spending quality time with your child, conquering lessons together, exploring interesting themes and subjects with loads of outings, and having your child simply breeze through their studies.

Neither one of these pictures is accurate. There will be good days and there will be hard days, no matter what you do. The key factors in homeschooling are:

  • Correct perspective on what it is and is not,
  • an appropriate approach,
  • your child’s learning method
  • and your WHY.

The HOW will be determined by the above, your circumstances and your resources.

What is homeschooling?

Homeschooling is educating your child in the home. This may include having a tutor help your child with the more challenging subjects at higher levels.

It’s about educating your child in a way that best suits their learning style, your values and beliefs as a family, and in a way that equips the child for their career choice. This may include a mix of different resources, curriculums, study aids, online studies and more.

An educational approach tailored to what works for you and your child and the goals you are aiming for.

Beginners Guide to Homeschooling

What homeschooling is not

Putting your child in a private school or a cottage school.

No learning is facilitated.

Reproducing the typical school system/environment at home.

A cottage school/learning centre. This is where parents team up to teach a small group of children and they may hire a tutor to help. This is normally for children using the same curriculum.

An escape from the real world, but an opportunity to be better equipped to handle it.

Free. There are still costs involved, whether it’s getting tutoring help, paying for outings, paying for curriculum, books and extra-curricular activities, you will still be spending some money. You will just spend it a bit differently. DO budget for this!

How to get started with homeschooling

Read, read, read.

Read what other parents post on homeschooling groups on Facebook. See if some of their stories are similar to yours and find out how they approach it.

Listen to YouTubers who homeschool to see how they do it.

Find other homeschooling parents in your community.

Meet up with them and ask them all the questions you have on your mind. Ask what they use, how it works for them and their children, what their routines are like and how they handle different challenges. This will give you a good feel for what is possible and how you can make their suggestions work for you.

Research different approaches to homeschooling:

DO NOT RUN OUT TO BUY CURRICULUM! (Unless your child is switching to Cambridge in their teenage years and you have your plan in place.) All-in-one box sets look so very promising, but they are expensive and you may very well end up using only a part of it, or not using it at all!

Start with what you have and go from there, one resource and tool at a time, as your budget allows.

Figure out your child’s learning style.

Do they need to move around to learn?

Are they visual, preferring books and pictures?

Or do they remember everything they hear?

Your child could also learn best by a hands-on approach – touching, making, shaping and working with an object. Let them explore and show you what they are interested in and go with that. Try different methods of learning the same lesson and see what works. This will give you direction on what tools, books and programmes will give you the best success.

10 Tips for success in homeschooling

When you ask other parents what they wish they’d known when they first started, these are some of the most common tips you hear:

  1. Remember that the relationship is more important than the curriculum. Don’t be a slave to the curriculum.
  2. If you are taking your child out of mainstream school, give them time to adjust. Give yourself time to adjust to the new routine. Breathe. Start slow.
  3. Learn to be flexible.  Try new things. Adjust your expectations and enjoy the journey.
  4. Figure out what is most important to you and your family as you start. Let that goal guide you.
  5. Socialization doesn’t mean every day. Sometimes family time is better.
  6. Get a great planner. Ask for help. Get creative. Have fun.
  7. Know your limitations and outsource what you can through online or Co-ops. Find ways to laugh together as much as possible. Teach them to help you with cooking and chores as much as possible.
  8. Playing is learning, especially for little children. It’s crucial to their development in every way.
  9. Don’t overdo it and have too many outside activities.
  10. Read together often. Think poetry, biographies, classics, fun stories, plays and more. There are so many reading lists for different ages and interests, and many ways to make it fun.

Beginners Guide to Homeschooling

Common questions about homeschooling

  • What if I suck at teaching my child?

    • You are your child’s God-given, chosen parent and you are capable of learning as much as your child is. Who taught your child how to say “please” and “thank you” before any teacher did? You teach your child every minute you are together by the way you do and say things. Children naturally want to learn from and admire their parents. You will not be brilliant at everything, and that’s okay. But you can learn along with your child and get help when you need it. Just ask! There are so many resources available today.
  • My child is too hyper and will drive me crazy

    • For many parents, this is a major concern and feels like an added burden to an already stressed life with work and economic pressures. That said, after giving yourself and the kids a chance to adjust, you may find your child calming down because they are getting something every child craves: TIME with you. You can teach your child to do more peaceful activities, just give it a shot! Routine, routine, routine…
  • I don’t know what curriculum to look at first, there are so many!

    • Yes, this is overwhelming when you’re starting. Read this post on how to choose the right curriculum. Talk to other parents whose families seem similar to yours. Read reviews. Remember the goals you have in mind. And take your time. Buy second-hand to save costs. Go to a homeschooling expo and get all the flyers for each curriculum so you can read through each one in your own time.
  • I’m worried about coping

    • There will be tough days, for sure. But there will also be days that you will know you’ve invested time in your relationship with your child and in their education that is worth it. You will sacrifice time to yourself, yes, but eventually, your kids will grow up and leave home and then you’ll get plenty of time to yourself.
    • Ask yourself, what do you need to cope? What tasks can you get help with? Can the kids help you with meal prep and planning? Let them help you with chores. Ask other parents what they do for self-care. Do your planning, and plan time for yourself to take care of your body and mind. Your kids need to know what healthy self-care looks like. (And no, it doesn’t consist of surviving on coffee alone!)
  • Will my child still be able to do sports?

    • Yes, you simply need to plan it. Plug into your homeschooling community, talk to the local schools, find out how homeschoolers can participate and go for it!
  • How will my child socialize and make friends?

    • Socializing does NOT mean your child needs a daily play date or entertainment! Join local homeschooling groups and attend their planned get-togethers. Your child will make new friends at sports activities or other places like art or a dance class. You can help your child find friends that share their interests, just look around and meet up!
  • Will my child be able to enter university and excel as a homeschooler?

    • YES! There are so many studies on this subject and so many stories of homeschoolers who are high achievers, excelling in their studies, winning bursaries and shining in their careers.
  • What if it doesn’t work out?

    • Just because you feel that it’s not working, doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Don’t make an emotional decision. Talk to another homeschooling parent and get some objective input. Consider whether you maybe just need to take a break for a few days? Maybe it’s the curriculum, the learning method, or a confidence issue? Sometimes all it takes is tweaking one of these things and then something suddenly clicks for your child.
  • What if friends and family criticize us?

    • Nobody likes criticism and confrontation, so this post here on dealing with it is a big help. Thanks to social media and the internet, criticism abounds, no matter what you do, how you do it or why. Your family is YOURS. If you know WHY you’re homeschooling and you’re convinced this is a good decision for YOUR family, don’t let anyone else ruin it for you. Enforce boundaries and don’t engage in discussion with those who set out to criticise. Support is welcome but not criticism from the uninformed! You don’t need to explain or defend or prove your homeschooling to anyone (except to authorities and the law, where applicable of course). Focus on your family and the results will speak loudly enough in time.

The last thing you need to know about starting homeschooling

You care about your child and you love them. Homeschooling or public schooling do not determine your love and success as a parent. They are simply different avenues of education.

Homeschooling is better than public education in most cases, BUT it does not make you a superior parent and having your child in public school does not make you an inferior parent either.

Your reasons for homeschooling will not be the same as other families. That’s okay because every family is different. Every homeschooler’s journey will be different. But we ALL care about our children.

You CAN do this. It’s just so much better if you don’t do it alone, so get support.

Are you looking for something practical to work through to get a handle on how homeschooling can work for your family? The Startup Guide can help you get answers quickly regarding:

  • what style or homeschooling approach to use that may work well for you and your child,
  • what curriculum fits your child’s needs, your available time AND your budget,
  • and how to create a work-and-homeschool routine that works for you.

If you could give a newbie homeschooling parent any advice, what would you say? Comment below and share this post to encourage others.

10 thoughts on “The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling”

  1. Excellent post! You’ve really broken down the core of what homeschooling is and what it is not.
    If I could give a newbie some advice, I would say to take it easy and enjoy the process. Our homeschool journey has gone from trying a “homeschool in a box” program to being very fluid and adapting to each of our children. No one way is right. Remember it is all about the fact that you love your children and know what is best for them. The rest will all fall into place!

    1. Thanks Susan! Yup, I think parents should have more confidence and just allow themselves to give it a shot without so much criticism and self judgment from the start. It can be beautiful when you align your expectations with realistic limitations.

      1. What a wonderful site! My advice to a newbie would be to enjoy yourself with your children, keep you ears and eyes open as to who they are and what they enjoy. Spend as much PRESENT time with them as possible. No formal learning. Read to them while they are doing things they enjoy.

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