Whether your children are still younger than the required school age or whether you’re thinking about taking your middle/high-school child out of school, homeschooling can be a daunting reality. What do successful homeschool families do that you should consider?
Ten Rules for Getting Started:
- Thou shalt not future-trip. It’s one year, that’s all. Resist the urge to think things through to medical school.
- Thou shalt not dis’ the local public school. For most people it is only a few pay checks away. You might not be a fan of public schools, but there may come a time when you do not have a choice. Keep it neutral around your kids. Never threaten any kind of traditional school as a punishment.
- Thou shalt allow time for kids who have been in school to “un-school” for at least one month for each year they’ve been in school. This does not mean give your 6th-grader a case of chips and unlimited video game time. It just means the day after you have pulled him out of the school he’s known his whole life is probably not the day to start Latin.
- Thou shalt not dwell on the concept of “gifted” children. While there are children who are truly exceptional, do not convince yourself that your child who began reading fluently at 3 to remain exceptional. He might. More likely, he will be nearly indistinguishable from his peers when he is 13. Do not overestimate your child’s development or abilities. Remember that school, any kind of school, is not a race!
- Thou shalt not try to convert others or try to hard to please friends and family who are not thrilled with your choice. Family should stick with you no matter what you do. Give homeschooling time. Do not make your kids perform party-tricks at family gatherings. It takes a while, but homeschooling will shine through and you’ll find yourself with parents bragging to everyone who will listen about the virtues of homeschooling. That’s fine. Leave it to them.
Friends? That gets a little trickier. Many people go on the defensive when they learn a friend is going to homeschool. Put them at ease. Make it clear that your choice is what works for your family and assure your friend that you know her choice is the same.
Beyond that, avoid the urge to brag about mummifying a chicken or other cool
homeschool projects. Do not let your friendship dissolve into a competition.
- Thou shalt not join a homeschool group just to say you’ve joined a group. It is easy to buy into the myth that homeschooled children are “unsocialized.” Unless you’re planning to keep the kids locked in the basement, they will get more than enough from neighborhood and family friends. If you find a local group that meets your needs, join. If you find a group you “think” you can work with, think again. It’s okay, more than okay, to start your journey as a family. Do not rush in to join anything you feel less than 100% about.
- Thou shalt not make their children examples for others. It’s bad form. And, everyone has a child that can model exemplary behavior at some point. No one has a child that can do it consistently for years and years. Just know in your heart your child is amazing and bite your tongue.
- Thou shalt not make everyone stay inside on a perfect day to do grammar. The beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility. Learn to go with the flow. Some days you wake up and it is so beautiful and brilliant outside that it is just wrong to keep everyone locked up doing lessons.
Some days you wake up and you know mid-breakfast that nothing is going to get done because your kids are: too excited about an upcoming event, recovering from illness/winter; just being weird. These are the days to break routine and do something unexpected and fun. Go to the zoo or the park or the beach or whatever is close. Pack a picnic, take the camera and don’t worry about formal school.
- Thou shalt look around a do a reality check – it’s easy to expect too much! It is easy to get wrapped up in the homeschooling world – particularly if you are a member of one or more online communities. It’s the internet – not everyone is being completely honest. If their eight-year-old is truly excelling at Wheelock’s Latin (an advanced high school/college course) there should be more to their story. Check yourself now and then by looking at online public and private school scope and sequences. You’ll mostly find that you are performing above and beyond.
- Thou shalt take pictures, write notes on the calendar and HAVE FUN. Have fun. You are about to embark on a journey where you will be learning at least as much as your kids! Take pictures, make messy projects and write down the funny/weird things your children say as you’re doing all this!