I was not homeschooled growing up. I was enrolled in an inner-city public school most of my childhood, and both of my parents worked multiple jobs outside of the house to make ends meet for my brothers and me. Homeschooling was never an option for our family. My husband also did not have any homeschool experience. However, we both knew that we wanted something different for our children than the traditional secular education we were exposed to. We had a desire to give our kids a well-rounded, Christ-centered education with a Biblically-based worldview that would have a lasting impact on their lives.
When my daughter turned five, we started homeschooling. She was ready for kindergarten, and we figured we would just dive in and figure it out as we went.
Needless to say, we had no idea what we were doing, and we learned a few lessons the hard way. If I could go back in time, I would do a few things differently.
Following are the 10 things I wish I’d known before I started homeschooling:
#1. Find your family rhythm.
Before finding a homeschooling curriculum, it’s important to understand your family’s rhythm and desired lifestyle. Do you want to travel five months out of the year? Do you want to stick with your county’s school district calendar and plan around that? Do you want to just knock school out in six months and have the rest of the year to focus on learning the oboe? Or, like us, do you prefer to homeschool year-round and take breaks as you see fit for your family?
Understanding your family’s needs will help you hone in on the type of homeschooling option that is best for your family. Abeka provides multiple options when it comes to homeschooling. There’s a parent-led option and a video lesson option. Within the video lesson option, you can choose from an accredited program or independent study. You can also purchase individual books from Abeka’s curriculum or supplemental materials — whatever fits your family’s needs.
#2. Create a schedule.
Creating a schedule establishes a structure for your homeschooling. Our family time-blocks our day, and that works really well for us. We set out our morning, afternoon, and late afternoon tasks. (I have a time blocking video that talks about how we do that, if you are looking for tips.) Having structure allows us to focus on the task at hand. It keeps our homeschooling days consistent and allows us to hit our lesson goals for the school year.
#3. Be flexible.
Although schedules are really important and create structure, it’s also important to know how to bend before you break. When I first started homeschooling, I wanted things to be very rigid. All I knew was my public school upbringing, and I tried to imitate what I thought school was supposed to look like. Nowadays, flexibility looks like taking school outside, switching from a video lesson to a parent-led lesson, or cutting everything off and spending more time on one specific subject. The beauty of homeschooling is that we are building lifelong learners who desire to understand the world around them rather than just to pass tests. This gives me, as a parent, the autonomy and responsibility to assess the needs of my children and focus my attention accordingly.
#4. Get connected.
Finding connections with like-minded families is super important for Christians and for homeschoolers. We do this primarily through our church. Our kids are involved in our church choir, Sunday school, Bible study, and homegroup. Having multiple connection points with other families throughout the week helps with accountability and socialization. It also helps me as a homeschooling mom to bounce ideas around and find support from other parents who understand what we’re going through.
#5. Take advantage of the perks.
There are museums and galleries that allow homeschoolers to visit, and often, they offer a discounted entrance rate. This is wonderful for a family like mine, with four kids at home. This also allows us to beat the rush and meet up with some of our homeschooling friends. Scheduling field trips, exploration days, and educational playdates also allows us to reinforce material while spending quality time with one another.
#6. There’s no room for comparison.
There is no one right way of homeschooling. Our homeschooling experience is tailored to our family’s rhythm and needs. It may look completely different from yours — not better, not worse, just different, because we all have different kids with individual needs. When I find myself comparing our homeschooling to that of another family, it leads to a lack of contentment that robs my joy. There is no room for that in homeschooling!
#7. Figure out your strengths and outsource when you can.
Arts and crafts are not my strength. At one point, I wanted to be the artsy homeschooling mom who had bins for every art supply and blank canvases for my kids to use in expressing themselves. I quickly realized that glitter, and I don’t mesh well, that paint gets everywhere, and that I’m more of a glue-stick-and-colored-pencils type of art teacher. It’s sufficient to say that I no longer try to dive deep into the world of art on my own. Instead, I outsource! Abeka has a great art book that we purchased, with detailed crafts and lesson-oriented activities. I also swing by our hobby store and purchase packaged supplies that the kids may need throughout the year and call that a day!
If I could go back, I would tell myself to outsource art instruction from the outset, and life would have been more simple.
#8. Remember the bigger picture.
At the start of every school year, we write down our homeschool mission statement. On those really hard days, I reread it and reminded myself of the reason why we started homeschooling in the first place. Some days can be difficult and frustrating, leading you to question WHY you decided to take this task on. On those days, I find it so important to take a minute to remind myself of our WHY and continue to move forward.
#9. Plan ahead.
We start off the school year by looking at our entire calendar and setting out our homeschooling plan. Abeka provides an academic calendar where we can plug in our family’s schedule and activities for a 12-month, nine-month, or accelerated six-month program.
The academic calendar is a great tool to use once you’ve figured out the length of your homeschool year. You can also zoom in a little bit more and plan for the next day. I like to look through my video manual and see what my kids have coming up the next day to prepare mentally for it. This allows me to set reminders for them and plan out the next day’s supply list. Planning ahead is super helpful!
#10. Prioritize your own prayer life.
It’s easy for me to overlook my own prayer life. There are demands on my time, my thoughts, and my energy all day long, and taking time to pause in the middle of my day seems counterproductive. But I’ve learned — and continue to learn — that I can’t pour into my children’s lives if I am running on empty.
When I am intentional about my quiet time and internal growth, I can see Christ displayed in the external work I do throughout my day. I encourage you, too, to spend time reading the Bible, praying, and filling your mind with the Word of God so that you can be strengthened and have the love, joy, peace, and patience that you need to homeschool your children. Depending on how much time you have or the season of life you’re in, I’d suggest a devotional book or app on your phone. Personally, I’ve also found so much encouragement reading through the Psalms and Proverbs. As we read and focus our attention on Christ, we grow in our understanding of who He is, and our lives are transformed.
Thank you so much for reading! If you have any questions, you can chat with me on Instagram @withlove_tere!