Homeschooling dos and don’ts

The possibilities are endless when it comes to home schooling, as are the mistakes that can be made. As with other things, trial and error will have to be used when finding out what works for you and your family. Seeing that there are no guidelines to follow or a set of rules that can not be broken, how to go about home schooling can seem like a daunting task. Despite this, there are several things that should be done as well as many things that should not be done.

Do your homework before you start assigning homework to your child. Research as much of the information available as possible. This includes checking into the local and state regulations for home schooling. These guidelines will vary from state to state, so be sure you understand what the governing authority expects from you. Be willing to follow the rules they have set. In all honesty, there is too much information for all of it to be researched, but after reading nine books, watching four videos, talking with fourteen other established home schooling families, you should have a good idea what you are in for. As well as what you want to do.

Do not take criticism to heart. Many people will jump to the conclusion that home schooling is play time. There is no need to argue or even debate the issue. This is your choice. You made an informed decision and their opinions should not matter to you. Be sure to explain this to your children, if they are present when the comments are made. If they were not present, do not mention it to them. Telling them others disagree with your decision can make them doubt if home schooling is best for them and the rest of the family. This can make them doubt themselves, especially if the comments were about home schooling being a sub-standard education. Do not let others destroy their sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

Always remember the reason you made the decision to home school. Keep this in mind during those rough patches you will go through. No matter what your reasons for home schooling, remember that you are doing what you feel is best for your child and your family. This was not a choice you took lightly. Feel good about your decision and yourself. Be proud of the entire family for taking on this astronomical task.

Do not start home schooling if the entire family is not supportive. This is a demanding job and the support of both parents is necessary. The child and the teaching parent will need all the support possible as they work together to make home schooling successful. The extra time spent preparing and teaching can strain even the best of marriages. As with all marital problems, the child can sense the tension.

Do a lot of research on the different types of curricula available to you. Remember that they can mixed and matched to meet your family’s specific needs. Even if you are not wanting to be a Christian home school, look into the Christian curricula as well as the secular ones. They can be adapted to fit your needs. Be sure you know what your goals are as you look for a curriculum. This research can be done on-line, at the library, and some bookstores even carry home schooling curriculum.

Do not underestimate the time needed to home school. It isn’t just class time. Remember to figure in time for making lesson plans, set up time for the next lesson, clean up time and field trips, as well as many other time consuming details that should not be forgotten. Even if the actual class time is relatively short, there are many other things that must be done when home schooling.

Make choosing the curriculum a family decision, within the objectives you have set as the home schooling parent. If the child being home schooled has certain interests, be sure to listen to his/her input, implementing those interests as much as possible. Consider you child’s individual learning style. Some children learn best with hands-on activities while others excel doing worksheets.

Don’t forget to test your home schooler to be sure h/she is at the expected level. Many curricula offer such tests. If not, the local school or Department of Education for your state may be able to help you. Developmental pediatric specialist can test to make sure your child is at the proper educational and social level. Keep those test scores on file. They will prove to be useful if you can’t continue home schooling or it comes time for your child to go to college. Of course, they also will provide you with the peace of mind knowing you are succeeding as a home schooling parent.

Flexibility and an open mind are necessary to having a successful home school. Be willing to let go of those mindsets you are sure to have developed if things do not work out just as planned. Home schooling is a fluid and ever-changing endeavor and you must learn to go with the flow. Nothing is chiseled in stone. You set the rules and you can bend (and even break) them if need be. Think of home schooling as a road trip. Some of the best memories can be when a wrong turn was taken!

Don’t turn your entire house into a classroom. Set aside a room or a specific area for your class time. Be sure that it is properly set up, with all the necessary supplies for that particular lesson. There will be things that are best done outside or even in the kitchen, but the majority of the teaching should remain within one particular area. That area should always be treated as the classroom, even when it is not being used – no playing games or taking naps in that area.

Get involved with home schooling groups. They can be in you community and on-line. These group members are a wealth of information and can usually answer questions that pop up unexpectedly. In addition to helping you, as the teacher, they can also provide socialization for your child. Check your local library for a list of groups in your area. Many times home schooling groups can be found on-line. Contact your local schools or your state’s Department of Education; they may have information on groups near you. Call your local churches for information, even if you are using a secular curriculum. If you don’t find a group, start one. I put a sign on my door “Please do not disturb – home schooling.” Three families on my block left notes in my mailbox after they walked by and saw my sign – an instant home schooling group. We now share ideas and concerns. We even go on field trips together and share supplies.

Do not fall into the “we’ll make up tomorrow” way of thinking. Stick with the schedule you set as much as possible. Emergencies and the “unexpected” will always pop up, but keep in mind this is school and should be treated with the same respect and importance as traditional schooling.

Do keep up with all the paperwork that is necessary to home school. Be sure to label and file this paperwork. Keep samples of your child’s work and progress. Depending upon your state, some test scores and registrations may be required to be kept. Even if there aren’t laws concerning this, they are helpful to have readily available. As you child moves closer to college, this paper work may help to get him/her into the university of their choice.

Don’t waste your money on home schooling supplies and information that is not an absolute must. Take advantage of the home schooling groups and share home schooling items. Set up a material/book exchange with your local home schooling group. Everyone will appreciate the opportunity to save money. There are many free resources on-line that you can take advantage of. Your local library can be a vast source of free educational materials. Don’t forget about that friend or neighbor who is a teaches in a traditional school; they may have materials that the school no longer uses. Everyday items, usually found in your kitchen, garage and shed, can be used for experiments, manipulates (for younger students), and measuring.

Do take advantage of “local experts.” Your neighbor with the beautiful roses might be kind enough to answer questions about gardening (AKA botany). The nurse in your church might be a great source of information on biology. The local fire station would probably be willing to take you and your child on a tour. Again, creativity is a must. Look around, there are people all with interesting information to share.

Don’t forget about socialization. Play groups, home schooling groups, and church activities are excellent ways to make sure your child is developing socially. Little league or gymnastics is another way to socialize as well as teach physical education. There are community centers, YMCAs and the like that can provide information on activities for all children, not just those being home schooled. Volunteering at nursing homes and hospitals are both ways to socialize as well as help your child develop a sense of community and giving.

Use everyday experiences as learning opportunities. Cooking is a great way to learn fractions and a little chemistry. When dining out, have your home schooler order the meal – great public speaking experience for the younger students. The older home schooler can practice percentages by figuring out the amount of tip to leave. Use your creativity to find ways of learning new information and reinforcing what you have already taught.

Don’t forget to have fun as a home schooling family. As much as you want to take advantage of everything being a learning experience, fun and relaxation are a must. Without time to just enjoy being a family, burn out can occur. Keep the family strong by setting aside time to be together, talk about what is on your minds (other than school) and play games.

Trial and error is a part of life as well as home schooling. Finding out what is best for you and your family is no easy task. Seeing that home schooling is without guidelines and rules, it can be a difficult endeavor. This makes the possibilities that come along with home school endless, just as the mistakes that can be made. There are, however, several things that should be done and should not be done. The choice is yours as to what you actually do. It is, after all, the school that belongs to your family.