Tonight I’m taking part in a panel of other homeschool moms talking about what it’s like to homeschool. Like many other groups, we’re putting together an introduction to homeschooling to help all of the many other parents who suddenly find themselves homeschooling. As we queried the people coming we found three big questions to answer.
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Help, I don’t even know if homeschooling is legal in my state!
The good news? Homeschooling is legal in every single state. It just may be more restricted in the state you live in.
Go over to HSLDA and find out what the rules are for your state. You can also look to see if your state has a state homeschool association. Texas has two: Texas Homeschool Coalition and Texas Home Educators (I personally prefer Texas Home Educators). From there, Texas even has regional groups, and then any sizable city has at least one homeschool co-op (don’t worry, I’ve got a link to terminology further down).
Homeschooling groups on Facebook– each of these groups will help you figure out how to homeschool, and will have someone in the same state as you.
What does your homeschool day look like?
First, let’s talk about ideal days. It very rarely will look like this. Next, you need to know it changes depending on the age of your kids and what your family style is. When my kids were in elementary school we didn’t start school until 9 or 10 and were frequently done by noon. The early years don’t take as long to cover all of the material. As the kids get older, it takes more time.
Here is what our schedule looks like now:
8:00-9:00- Reading hour, split into 3 parts: 20 minutes of required reading for the month, 20 minutes of whatever they want to read, 20 minutes of reading the Bible.
9:00-11:30- 25-minute school block, they create their own schedule (check it out on the homeschool schedule) followed by a 5-minute break. This is a further variation on my 20-minute schedule we started using in elementary school.
11:30-12:30 Lunch, this gives them a little bit of extra time, we frequently watch educational videos during this time
12:30-3:00, continuing that 25/5 minute schedule until the day is over.
What curriculum do you use?
Anytime you get a bunch of homeschool moms together, they’ll discuss homeschool styles and homeschool curriculum (this links to a post covering my curriculum picks from kindergarten to 10th grade, and reviews of lots of different curriculum we’ve used).
I can’t tell you what curriculum to use, there are probably over 200 curriculum companies, and that is a low estimate.
So, let’s get you some information to narrow this down:
- Homeschool Terminology– homeschoolers speak their own language, so let’s get you started knowing what different terms mean
- Homeschool Abbreviations– not only do we use a lot of terminology, we also use a lot of abbreviations. If you’re creating weekly lesson plans, after a while you don’t want to write out Handwriting Without Tears, you start typing “HWT” or maybe “HWOT”
- Homeschool Style Quiz– find out what you might want to try, now look at
- Homeschool Curriculum– this site has reviews on hundreds of curriculum and can point you to different curriculum styles
If you want to, you can find a homeschool curriculum that involves absolutely no work from you, but the more hands-off you are, the more money you are paying.
Some more resources to help you figure out what to do, that we’re sharing at our Introduction to Homeschooling event
Is it possible to work full time and homeschool?
I’ve never done it, but I know several moms who are doing this, some working in the home, and some outside of it. It takes a lot of creativity and planning, but you can totally do it.
In the tips for new homeschoolers PDF, we’ve got an entire page of tips from a working homeschool mom, who’s homeschooling five kids from high school all the way down to a toddler. If she can do it, then you can too.
But, there are a few blogs and Facebook groups that can help you with this:
Working Homeschool Mom Club– This is run by my friend, Jen, and she’s got great advice in there
How can I make sure my kids transition back to public school
Now, I’m obviously biased towards homeschooling, since I’ve been doing it for a decade, but that may not be the choice your family wants longterm.
First, you need to realize no matter what school your kid goes to, there will be gaps in their education. It does not matter, home, private, or public school, it will happen. Put that part of your heart to rest.
Next, there will be lots of problems this year in public school, and even the most amazing public school ever will not get much done this year because of the challenges.
Finally, as long as your kids complete curriculum for the subject matter for their school year, they’ll be fine. If they missed something taught normally at their school, it’ll be just like they moved in from another school district that uses a different curriculum than your school.
Seriously, it’ll be fine.
If you’re really truly worried, look at whatever your state requires to be taught in the grade your child is in, and cover more or less that same material. Or pick up a copy of “What a fifth grader needs to know,” pick your child’s grade level.
What kind of extracurricular activities are there for homeschoolers?
If you could do it with your child in public school during quarantine, then you can find something similar for your homeschool child. Seriously, here in Texas, there is an entire homeschool football and cheerleading squad, and my friends’ kids went to a couple of different homeschool proms last year.
Gyms and dance studios create special homeschool classes so you can have PE (though many I know go to the normal after school classes).
Homeschool co-ops create classes for bands or special interests like LEGO robotics.
Pretty much every homeschool mom I know has to turn down opportunities for their kids rather than participate in all of them. We’ve joked about how we’re really carschooling as we drive our kids from activity to activity.
How do you homeschool older kids with lots of little ones at home?
This was the most common question after how do I work and homeschool put to our Introduction to homeschool event.
Now, my kids are all within 20 months of each other, but I still had to keep young kids busy as I worked one on one with a kid.
Here are a few things I did (on the video, we’re going to have a bunch of suggestions):
- Centers– I created a series of preschool stations my kids could cycle through while I worked one on one with them
- Homeschool toys- I kept special toys only to be played with during homeschooling
- Technology time- judicious use of tablets or videos help keep a preschooler busy (and there are so many educational shows and apps to use)
Polling my friends who still have little ones as they teach older kids, their big thing was to give the younger kids attention first and their own one on one time before working with older kids.
Where do I get the patience to homeschool?
Bwa ha ha ha ha
You think I’m patient.
That’s so cute.
All right, that was enough with the sarcasm. Contrary to popular belief, homeschool moms are not an endless font of patience, who love to be with their kids nonstop and get up before dawn, to cook a fabulous breakfast.
My kids will disabuse you of the notion I make them breakfast very quickly. They’ve learned not to expect any sort of conversation from me until I’ve had my morning tea and time to blink for an hour or so.
You learn to exercise your patience muscle. You make mistakes and yell at your kids and have to apologize. Then you start over and try again.
Here are my three big tips for new homeschoolers
- A few years ago I read a story from a woman who’d grown up with a single mom, and one day she recalled a memory she loved. Rough quote, “Sometimes we would have a little things dinner. You would get out small crackers and cut small pieces of cheese or slices of hot dogs, and little cookies. It was such a cool thing.” Then she looked up and her Mom was crying, “Those were the nights I felt like the worst parent in the world. I was at my wits end and barely had any food in the cupboard, and I tried to make it better.” You may think you have totally screwed up and done the absolute job and how could your child ever think you’re doing good. That may be your child’s little things dinner. It’s almost a guarantee you are not doing as bad of a job as you think.
- When you get to your little things dinner day, take time to unplug. Pick out a movie your kids love, go into your bedroom, and close the door for an hour. Take your drink of choice in with you and something you love to do. For me, I’m disappearing with a Dr Pepper and a good book. Recharge and come back ready to try again. Read more on recharging when it’s all terrible.
- Take a reset day. Sometimes you need to step away from the books and go somewhere. Leave the books behind, grab a notebook, or just go by yourselves and go to the park. Take some time to observe nature. All of your kids will learn something from your littlest toddler all the way up to your high schooler.
And that’s it
And that’s more or less what we’ll be covering, or at least what I’ll be bringing up in our Introduction to homeschooling event. Now there are five other ladies on this panel, including a full-time working mom who used to homeschool, then put her kids back into public school, and is now homeschooling again because she’s not excited by more of the same from quarantine schooling. I’m super excited to see how this all goes.