Thursday

I'm a Homeschool Newbie: Part 2

In case you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

Homeschool Newbie Lesson #3

If you've done any kind of research at all on homeschooling, then you quickly realized that there is A LOT of stuff out there. If you want to give yourself a panic attack just do a search for "homeschool curriculum" and prepare to have your head explode!

So how are you supposed to wade through all of it? The short answer: you can't. There is just too much. Reading through the book I recommended in Part 1 is a good way to start, but even then there might be something perfect for your child that is not in the Top 100.

The first thing I suggest is to attend a homeschool convention if at all possible. I don't care if you go to any lectures (you can if something really strikes your fancy!), but you do need to go to the vendor hall. This place is like heaven on earth to a homeschooler, all the booths, the beautiful books, the curriculum. A homeschool convention vendor hall is the perfect place to begin your research on what is out there.

But you do need to follow a couple of rules:

1. Do not take any money and do not buy anything! It can be overwhelming and exciting and that equals impulse buying. Most homeschoolers do not have unlimited funds for their school, so make your purchases count. Remember you are here to research not to feel remorse one month later when that "perfect" math program that the vendor assured you would work miracles for your 8 year old is causing tears everytime you even glance at the book.

2. Bring a notepad, cell phone, Ipad, etc. to write down notes. Hopefully you have figured out your educational philosophy and your child's learning style already, so you should have some idea of what you would like. If you want a more traditional type of school, then you know to stay away from the unit studies, etc. Walk around the vendor hall and jot down anything that looks interesting and fits with your criteria. Feel free to ask the vendor questions about their product. BUT DO NOT BUY ANYTHING! I don't care how good of a deal they are offering. It is cheaper to buy something that you know will work, then to buy something that might not because it is on sale.

3. Take your notes, get on the computer, and look at reviews. There are quite a few curriculum review sites, but my favorite is this one. All of the reviews are written by homeschooling parents that have used the products. Keep in mind that just because something has some bad reviews doesn't mean that it won't work for your family. I usually learn more from the bad reviews than I do from the good ones! What one family hated about the program is exactly what I'm looking for!

4. Find people who you can pick their brain in "real" life. Remember in Part 1 where I told you to find some fellow homeschoolers? Well, those folks aren't only helpful for understanding homeschool laws, but they are great for telling you about curriculum too. Use online sources or face-to-face sources, but find someone you can carry on a conversation with who has used the curriculum you are thinking about, even if they hated it. I usually use online sources for this because there aren't a lot of homeschoolers in my area, especially ones who homeschool the way we do.

This leads to...

Homeschool Newbie Lesson #4

You know the old saying, "There are no stupid questions only stupid answers." Well, this is especially true when it comes to homeschooling. Do not be afraid to ask. In fact, ask so many questions that people get annoyed! There are no rule books to homeschooling. If you have a problem or a question, the only way you will find the answer is to ask.

If you can't get Susie to focus on her work, then ask someone. I guarantee that they have dealt with something similar unless their children are robots. If you need a language arts program that is very hands on for your Wiggly Willy, then ask for recommendations. If you can't figure out how to balance housekeeping with homeschooling, then someone will probably have some good tips for you, but you won't know unless you ASK.

I really enjoy the internet homeschool forums for these types of questions because I can be anonymous and not feel like a dolt if I do ask something obvious. It also allows me to ask questions about my specific children without the responders knowing us personally. Sometimes it is easier for me to hear from strangers, "Your kid is being a brat about school," than to hear it from a close friend.

Which brings up our final lesson...

Homeschool Newbie Lesson #5

Homeschooling is like the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities; it will be the best of times and it can be the worst of times. One of the hardest things to do as a homeschooler, either a vetran or a newbie, is to give yourself and your children some grace because you will make mistakes. 

1. This is not a life commitment. Just because you decide to try homeschooling, it doesn't mean that you will be forced to homeschool your children from now on. If you realize after a year, that it is just not working out, then you can put them back in public or private school. The powers that be will let you do that, I promise. Many times I think that people don't try homeschooling because they get too caught up in the future. They worry about teaching Johnny algebra in 8th grade when he's only 6 years old. They think that if he misses one year of school because they try homeschooling then he will be behind forever and wind up working at McDonald's for the rest of his life (not that there's anything wrong with that!). None of this is true. You can homeschool just for elementary and then put them back in for high school, or you can homeschool until they graduate. If homeschooling doesn't work out, I promise your child will be fine. There are all levels of abilities in a classroom, so he won't be behind.

2. but do give an adjustment period. Turning your family into a homeschooling family takes some adjustment, even if this is what you want. I started homeschooling Chipette when she was in Pre-K. I did this on purpose so that I would have two years until it "counted." Where we live children aren't required to attend school until first grade. It took until the end of Kindergarten until I really felt that we were starting to get this homeschool thing working for us. That is almost two years! So while homeschooling isn't a life commitment, don't quit too soon either.

3. You will not ruin your child. Unless you do absolutely nothing with your children and call it homeschooling, I promise that they will learn something. It doesn't take hours upon hours to teach your children the three R's, especially when they are young. The general rule of thumb is 1 hour for each grade level, maxing out at around 6 hours. That means if you spend 1 hour teaching your first grader basic math, phonics, and handwriting, you have done a great job that day. Anything else you get added in will be bonus! In the public school, no one gets 1 hour of individualized, one-on-one instruction in math, reading, and writing, so you are already ahead of the game.

4. and they will have friends. Ahh, socialization. The worry of homeschooling parents everywhere: but my kids won't have any friends, they will be socially awkward, they won't know how to act around other children. Here's the truth: It's true we've all known children like this, but guess what? They weren't all homeschooled. I knew lots of loners and weird kids in public school, but nobody blamed their behavior on the public school system. It's also true that if you homeschool, you can stay home so much that your children never get out, but you would have to really make the effort. In one week my children attend three church services, dance practice, library time, and homeschool co-op. Not to mention when they play seasonal sports such as soccer, softball, and basketball. We are socialized to the max. In fact, there is only one night a week (other than the weekends), when we are all home together in the evenings!

5. You will have bad days. I know that as you get ready to begin homeschooling, you envision your children sitting engrossed around your feet as you read to them from Shakespeare, then you will make a craft, practice writing sonnets, and work on your science fair project. They will be excited and interested in everything you teach them. They will eagerly begin each day with excited pleas of, "What do we get to learn about today, you goddess of knowledge that we call mother?" Okay, maybe that was just my homeschool dream, but the truth is that homeschooling is work, hard work. There are lots of days when your children will not want to do school. There are lots of days when you don't want to do school. There will be tears, temper tantrums, and complete meltdowns (and that's just you!). You might think that you are patient, loving, kind, self-controlled, and any other fruit of the Spirit you can think of...until you start homeschooling. Then you realize how far you and your children have to go in these areas!

6. but you will have good days, and even amazing days! Now that we've gotten the scary, reality stuff out of the way, you also need to realize the joy that homeschooling brings. I have taught one child to read (quite well, if I do say so myself!) and am working on teaching kid number two. There is nothing like seeing their eyes light up when they sound out their first word, read their first sentence, and finish their first chapter book. It's wonderful to watch them get so involved in their science experiment or art project that they forget they are even doing school. It's humbling when you are studying the Bible with them and they say things that convict you in your walk with the Lord. It's encouraging when your child pushes through a lesson in math that is difficult for them because you were there reminding them that they could do it. It's these days that make it all worthwhile.

Hopefully something I've written in these two posts will bless you as you begin your homeschooling journey. It is not a trip for the faint-hearted, but then nothing worth doing ever is.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This post covered all of my fears (and I have a lot of them!) and couldn't have been brought to my attention on a more perfect day. My gals are 2 1/2 and 14 months, and the hubs and I are going to a convention next month to see what it's all about. Heart of Dakota is my top pick for now. :) I really appreciate your post and your reaching out...you "spoke" to the right mama today!

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    1. I'm so glad! I'm not a veteran by any means, but I wanted to write something about what I've learned so far. I'll be praying for your family as you begin this homeschooling lifestyle. Also, if you have any questions about Heart of Dakota, please ask. We love it!

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  2. I second the thanks! I've been to a couple of conventions, read scores of forum threads, dozens of curriculum and book reviews, and have begun teaching my oldest the 3R's (albeit imperfectly and sloooowly). This still spoke to me and I wish I'd read it two years ago (well, if it could warp back in time, anyway!). Well said and well done!

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    1. Thank you very much! I wrote these posts specifically because I wish I'd read them 4 years ago when I first started homeschooling. I'm glad they were an encouragement to you even though you've got a couple of years under your belt. :)

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    1. You're very welcome! Thanks for stopping by and blessing on your homeschool journey.

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  4. Jessica DonovantJuly 15, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    Thank you so very much for sharing these encouraging words and your (in my opinion) expert advice on the beginnings of homeschooling. My husband and I have been praying about and discussing homeschooling our sons, almost 4 and 2, and have basically decided to give it a try, beginning with PreK for my oldest this fall. I have been so fearful about venturing into this "unknown" (to me) territory, but very excited at the same time. You addressed several of the thousands of questions that have been swirling in my mind, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your "pearls of wisdom" to those of us parents who so needed to hear this. Thanks again!

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    1. You are more than welcome! My venture into homeschooling was a "try it and see" approach as well. And we are still going strong!

      I hope you and your family have a wonderful year.

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