Entering our 4th year of homeschooling, I feel like I can provide you with 20 A+ Tips for Homeschool Success.
Many people are turning to homeschooling for the 2020-2021 school year who never would have considered it before. Amazing how a global pandemic and forced homeschooling can do that. I believe having this group experience many more parents feel empowered to make the switch permanent. This is a collection of my top 20 A+ Tips for Homeschool Success that I have learned along our journey.
20 A+ Tips for Homeschool Success
1. Know Your Why
It is so important to know why you want to homeschool your child. Have a clearly established reason for homeschooling can get you through the long days and the struggles setting you up for homeschool success. Our why is that our oldest daughter learned best in less traditional ways. She is very hands-on and can retain information very well from learning apps and games. She also seemed to be ahead and we felt like we wanted to try to keep her learning at her pace. Your why can be as simple as more freedom for your family or want to have more control over what your child learns.
2. Prepare Your Response
People will have very strong opinions about you choosing not to send your child to public school for your own reasons. Basically, people can be very unkind judgy jackasses about stuff that is none of their business. You will get the worst comments from people who are closest to you. Don’t get offended, they don’t know your path and they certainly don’t know your child the way you do. It is very hard for people to understand not doing something that seems so normal to them. I have never felt that public schooling is bad but it is not the best for my eldest child at this point. The only people who need to be onboard are the parents and the child to some degree. Everyone else does not have a say. Your life can be made much easier if you have a canned response ready to go when you need it. You will hear many questions about socialization and your long term plans. What we say, “These are our plans for now. We reevaluate often. She is thriving and we will change course if we ever need to do that and this becomes anything other than what is best for our child.”
3. Research and Plan
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, however, each state has different requirements of their homeschoolers. Luckily here in Texas, they are pretty lenient. Some states require monitoring and testing to check the progress of students. It is very important that when you decide to homeschool you plan ahead for the requirements of your state. Be sure if you are transitioning from public school to homeschool that you properly withdraw your student to avoid any issues with truancy. Each state has some sort of organization devoted to protecting the rights of homeschoolers and guiding them through this educational path. Google them, find them, and comb over their websites for the things you need to know before beginning.
4. Predefine Homeschool Success
Before setting out on our homeschool journey, we had reservations. I knew and believed in our why. My husband was less on board. I knew that by choosing to homeschool I wanted to provide her with the best education for her. She was ahead of her age level. I knew that if she did not stay ahead then we would need to reconsider. If we begin to do her a disservice or if she is losing ground, this is no longer the right choice. We have a very clear picture of what success is and having it established before beginning helps keep us on track.
5. Choose Curriculum
One of the easiest ways to start curriculum selection is to decide between Secular and Non-Secular. This will divide the large selection into two smaller groups and make it easier. You may be hand-selecting each subject or going with a complete kit. Get an idea of direction and then research it, look for reviews and experience. Many areas have homeschool bookstores and even second-hand offerings. One of the most helpful review sites I have found is Cathy Duffy Reviews (https://cathyduffyreviews.com/#)
6. Schedule for Homeschool Success
Once you have an idea of the pieces that you will be using, you will want to get an idea of a schedule. Some homeschoolers follow a public school schedule with summers off and some year-round school. This is entirely your preference. You will want to plan accordingly to be sure that you are completing the correct number of units, lessons, or pages to wrap up your schooling at the correct time. For example, If you choose to school for 36 weeks and see that your history curriculum has 42 lessons, you would need to do more than 1 lesson some of those weeks.
7. Don’t Over Schedule
While there is a vast array of subject choices in the homeschool world and no limit to what we can provide to our children, do not try to do it all. Certainly don’t try to do it all right now. Many people struggle trying to plan out a full 8 hour school day for their children in an effort to emulate a public school day. There is no reason for this. Children in school have a large amount of filler time built into their day. Time for bathroom breaks, lunch, recess, and even just getting ready to begin learning. They do not learn for 8 hours a day. You do not need to have yours or your child’s day planned out to the minute. Free time is great for play or reading, even chores. By all means, provide extra information to your children in areas that they are interested. This is one of the wonderful aspects of homeschooling. Please do not overwhelm yourself or your child with doing too much too often for too long.
8. Take it Seriously but Relax
When you are in charge, you are responsible! Don’t get lazy! If you have chosen to be the education that your child receives, that is a big responsibility. Be sure that you are up to the challenge of both finding the curriculum and then ensuring that they complete it in a timely manner. Homeschooling can be gloriously flexible to allow for new babies, travel, and extracurriculars but do not forget that the primary goal of homeschool is the schooling! Homeschooling is flexible. It can fit into anyone’s life and allows for wiggle room. If you miss a lesson today, pick it up tomorrow. Give yourself and your child grace. There is a large amount of freedom that comes with homeschooling and you should be able to enjoy it.
9. Devote a space and Supplies
Having an area in your home that is a school space is ideal. If you use the dining table, try to have a cabinet nearby with what you will need. Try to have a space for books and supplies so that your children know where to find what they need but also where to put things away. I recommend a table or desk and chair, especially for writing. Their penmanship is much better when properly seated.
10. Change the Venue
Do not be afraid to take a backpack to the coffee shop and work there. Go outside and read under a tree. We do most of the history in the car. Amelia reads along to the audio CD and we all learn together. This can be very helpful if you are having a struggle. Also, it can make your kiddo feel very special to get a juice and croissant but still keep you on track. They think they’re getting a super special treat and they are still getting schooled!
11. Include the family for Homeschool Success
While I am the primary teacher, my husband tags in when we need him to. Sometimes I am not the best at explaining. Sometimes, she just wants to do something with dad. Most science experiments are a family affair. We enjoy all settling on the couch for read alongs or save them for bedtime. Littler ones will also enjoy being able to participate in school and it helps to train them for their turn. Learning can easily be shared and enjoyed.
12. Focus on their strengths and what brings them joy
Homeschooling provides you with the freedom to teach to your child’s strengths. If they learn very well with manipulatives, choose a curriculum that uses a ton of them. If they love reading, choose a literature-based language arts curriculum. If you have a very artistic child, be sure to include some sort of art in every day. You have the ability to tailor your child’s entire educational experience to them, to the ways they learn best. You also have the power to ensure that they can have what they enjoy most in every school day.
13. Get Creative with Struggles & Ask for Help
There will come a time when your child struggles to learn or retain something. Get creative. You are not at the mercy of a school board and can choose whatever it takes to help your child through. As we have already mentioned you could change the venue, you could bake to help them understand fractions, you could find an app or video that may have a different explanation. Don’t get stuck, ask for help. Maybe Uncle Timmy has a math degree. Call him! Get him over to explain algebra.
14 Use Outside Resources for Homeschool Success
We have taken an art class at the art museum. Many places near us offer homeschool days that include discounted admission and offer special classes. We enjoy visiting our zoo to learn about animals. We were lucky enough to attend a rehabilitated sea turtle release. There are many apps that can provide valuable homeschool resources. Streaming services and games can help your child both learn and retain information. Don’t discredit the large amount of resources available to homeschoolers.
Homeschool Resources we love here
15. Become A Member
Consider purchasing a membership to attractions and venues that you visit frequently. Most places offer annual memberships that can be paid for in as little as 2 visits. These memberships often can be tax-deductible. They also frequently offer special members-only events or discounts. Our Zoo membership is actually partially honored at other zoos across the nation participating in the AZA reciprocal admissions program. Being able to take the kids on daytime homeschool field trips really helps to break up our schedule and can be an asset to home educators.
Our Travel and Field Trip Blog Can be found here
16. Take advantage of perks
Many people don’t know that you can receive perks for homeschooling. Some places will provide you with the same benefits they offer teachers. Examples are: membership discounts, book discounts, supply discounts.
17. Get Social
The first question or complaint people have about homeschooling is about how your child will socialize. Many studies show that homeschool kids are actually out in their community more. Most kids will do some sort of extracurricular, ours dance. Some areas have homeschool field trip groups, homeschool sports, clubs, and even dances. Be sure that you are getting them out of the house and around others. While socializing is not the primary goal of public school, it is a latent effect. One that is very important.
18. Find Your Tribe
Having a network of fellow homeschoolers can get you through the hard days and struggles. They also will celebrate your wins. It is very easy to socialize when you have people you want to be around. I was lucky enough to happen into my homeschool tribe through our dance studio. Granted, I did make a convert! May I suggest area Facebook homeschooler groups, co-ops, sports groups, your local homeschool book store may know of some groups, and most of the state homeschooling organizations will keep a list of homeschool groups in their state. It can be awkward and hard to find, but worth it to have!
19. Reassess Often for Homeschool Success
My husband and I discuss every year whether we are committed to continuing to homeschool. Some years have been a closer call than others. Whether or not what we are using is still a good fit. If we would like to try something new or head in a different direction. It is important to just take stock of what you are doing and if it is still serving your family and most importantly your child well. Be honest with yourself.
20. Know when to Quit
Somethings are meant to serve us for only a season. If you try and it isn’t working, that’s ok. It is so important to know when to walk away. Your child’s education is the goal here and if there is a better way to do that other than homeschool, please be wise enough to choose it. There is absolutely no shame in changing the game! If something doesn’t work, quit. Change what does not serve you. If that means not using a curriculum you bought, so be it. If that means enrolling in public school, great. So few people can recognize when to quit and then actually follow through on it. You do not have to know or be the best forever. You can change your mind. You can try this and decide it does not work for your family. That is 100% ok. Do not stick with something that makes you unhappy or leads to your child suffering. Just call it a loss, right your ship, and move on!