Trying to get started with homeschooling has a lot of similarities to being a first-time parent.
You’re excited and nervous and you don’t know what you’re doing. There are about a million pieces of conflicting advice out there about what you should be doing.
People disagree with whatever advice you decide to pick, possibly making you feel insecure about your choices.
You are exhausted and just hoping you’re making the right decisions.
Plus everything seems to cost so much money, and you’re not sure if you even need all of it!
I know that was me when I first started homeschooling (and when I was a new mom). The swirl of homeschool advice out there can be helpful, but also overwhelming.
What should you believe? Who should you listen to?
I have 8 solid pieces of homeschool advice for you from 8 moms who have a total of 51 years of homeschool experience!
I asked these women to give me the #1 piece of advice they would give to their best friend if she were about to start homeschooling.
Top 8 Homeschool Tips for Beginners
1. Don’t try to stick to the way they did it in school
“Don’t try to stick to the way they did it in school. There are so many resources available that you can custom design curricula that fit your child’s learning style and your family’s personality. For the younger years, you don’t even need to be schooling that many hours a day so there is plenty of time for field trips and creativity. When kids are older, outsource some of their classes by utilizing great online classes and co-op classes taught by experts in their fields.”
Victoria, mother of three kids, homeschooling 11 years
The first week or so that I homeschooled, my daughter kept saying, “Mom, that’s not the way Ms. Hamiliton did it.”
No joke, kid. Ms. Hamilton didn’t have to deal with a 2 and 4-year-old terrorizing the house while she was doing the number of the day.
For most of us school at home is not going to look like “normal” school – but don’t let that you get down! It’s a good thing! In fact, no two homeschools will ever look exactly the same.
You have the power to tailor your homeschool time, curriculum, and routine to fit your family – take advantage of that and enjoy it!
2. Take random days off
“Take random days off during the year. Go on a field trip or just sit around reading in your pajamas all day. Math homework will ALWAYS be there, but the memories you make on those random days off will be the memories you reminisce over for years to come.”
Paige, mother of three, homeschooling 7 years
So true! It is hard for my type-A personality to take random days off, but they are so rewarding and a huge piece of the fabric of homeschooling.
My oldest child is in second grade and I definitely think the biggest memories of this year will be baking with me, having picnics in the park, and visiting Mount Vernon after spending weeks of studying George Washington.
3. Don’t stress too much
“Don’t stress too much about finding the right curriculum the first year – you really have to try something to see if it will work for you and your kids. Also, once you find something that works – stop looking! There are endless options and you might find yourself switching around unnecessarily.”
Candice – mother of 4 kids, homeschooling 6 years
I think picking your first curriculum is part of the hazing required to become a homeschooler – it can be very overwhelming and stressful! A decision that no one can make for you.
Once you do make a decision, it is soooooooooo easy to overhear someone talking about their curriculum and start wondering if you need to switch it up.
Maybe what you have is working just fine, but…you wonder if there is something better out there.
Our spelling curriculum this year has been great, but I still found myself watching youtube videos and reading reviews online about other options for next year.
After wasting an hour of my life, I realized what we already had was the best fit for us.
This homeschool advice from Candice is spot on! If it’s working – don’t fix it!
4. Make dinner in the morning
“My advice would be to make dinner in the morning and use two slow cookers at once to bang out a couple meals in one shot.”
Gina, mother of 4 kids, homeschooling 3 years
Yes, for practical homeschool advice! While you take on this new job of homeschool mom – all the other mom things still need to happen!
Knowing what you’re going to make for dinner and getting it out of the way in the morning is huge! You will have great days homeschooling, but some can go sideways on you and the last thing you will want to do is start making dinner when its all over.
Most days though, I want to go outside with my kids and do things after school. When we get home, they want to eat NOW. Waiting 30-45 minutes for dinner is painful for everybody. Yes to crockpots and double batches!
I love my Hamilton Beach Right Size Slow Cooker! You can change the size of the slow cooker with the push of a button – really nice for cooking all different kinds of recipes.
If you’re not a fan of crockpots, try this recipe for Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Chicken – it might change your mind! We love it over buttered noodles -yum!
5. Don’t compare your kids
“My biggest hurdle was/is not comparing my kids in their educational journey to any other kids. Each of our own children is so vastly different at the same ages and stages as their siblings, whether it be when they started to read or how well they click with math or science, etc. When I start looking at kids outside our homes, it gets to be mind-boggling. Human nature makes us want to ask if we are doing enough or too much. Gotta keep my mom thoughts on my children only.”
Stephany, mother of 7, homeschooling 7 years
Everybody knows we shouldn’t compare…but don’t we all do it anyway?!
There is such wisdom in Stephany’s advice because that comparison mindset can bleed into homeschooling and be toxic.
The conversation is no longer who walked first, talked first, or slept through the night first.
Now it’s who is reading fluently and at what grade level, what level math curriculum that kid just jumped to, or the foreign language that kid is mastering while my kid refuses to do just basic English lessons.
All of your kids are individuals and will progress at different levels – giving them the freedom to do that is one of the huge benefits of homeschooling!
6. Start making a mission statement
“I think my biggest homeschool advice would be to start making a “mission statement” and/or a list of goals that you’d like for your family/children. I have written out priorities for my homeschool, that I read over often to remind me what I am striving for.
Amanda, mother of 4, homeschooling 3 years
I dropped the ball here big time when I first started homeschooling. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to get ready to homeschool. One of those things was to write down why I wanted to homeschool.
What I didn’t write down was what I hoped to accomplish with my homeschool, which is why I love Amanda’s advice.
I found myself getting frustrated with my daughter in the beginning because my type A personality always wanted her to push a little further. As you can imagine, my 1st grader didn’t appreciate that.
By God’s grace, I realized I was pushing her for reasons that had nothing to do with the goals I had for her. When I stepped back, I realized my top goals in homeschooling are to raise kids who love God and love learning.
Acknowledging that has helped me so much in how I approach my kids and their lessons.
Definitely take time to think about your mission statement and priorities for your homeschool. Write it down like Amanda did and keep it handy for the days you need to review it.
7. Find your group
“1. Find your group, find a co-op, or a friend to be in the trenches with you. They can have kids the same age, or older kids, but it’ll help talk you off the ledge on horrible days. 2. Listen to lots of advice, follow what works for you. Everyone has opinions, especially me, and what works for them may not work for you. 3. Don’t stress if your day doesn’t go as planned, or your kids don’t learn to read right away. Step back and figure out what’s going on.”
Ticia, blogger at Adventures in Mommydom, mother of 3 kids, homeschooling about 10 years
Ticia hit the nail on the head with this one! Homeschooling can be very isolating for moms – finding a support network is key!
It is not always easy to find people in your area who homeschool. If you don’t already know someone who can help you get plugged in – check out Facebook! Search for homeschool groups in your town or the towns around you.
You can Google “Homeschool co-op near me.” HSLDA also has a page on their site that lists groups all over the country. Check it out here.
8. Be Flexible and Don’t Get Stressed Out
“I’m a rule follower with a Masters degree in education. In my world, I like to do things by the book, at the right time, and just as they are supposed to be done. However, my most time-tested advice would be just the opposite…be flexible and don’t get stressed out. Being flexible and not stressing over the small things will allow you to have more fun with your kiddos! When I started homeschooling my first son 4 years ago for Pre-K, I embraced the need to do exactly 180 days of instruction and stick to the curriculum to the “T”. Yet, over that same time span, I recognized this was not the healthiest form of homeschooling. Through the challenges and obstacles of instructing and guiding my own children, I realized that I needed to be more relaxed and fluid. Especially on the days that don’t follow “my plan.” While we still do 180 days of school, I don’t necessarily start at some proposed exact time, we may skip a section of the lesson, and we may just take a break to cuddle. This has made homeschooling so much more enjoyable for me and my children.”
Amanda, mother of 5 children, homeschooling 4 years
Yes, yes, and yes. I am a rule follower to the T. I thrive on rules!
I was actually very frustrated as a new parent that I couldn’t find a step-by-step rule book to fix all these toddler tantrums I was dealing with. What do you mean every kid is different and you have to just figure out what works for you??
Seriously, that was me.
When it came to homeschooling, the teacher’s manual was the law. I would honestly agonize if my daughter didn’t want to do every problem on a math worksheet or if she wanted to stop reading at 8 minutes when it was supposed to be 10.
I felt like if the curriculum was not followed completely that my homeschool would fail, my children would not get into college, and I would have destroyed their lives.
Yes, I can be dramatic.
That’s a lot of pressure! I have learned that the rule follower attitude is actually a recipe for disaster and a great way to make your kid (and you!) hate homeschooling.
Amanda’s advice is 100% on the money! The curriculum is there to serve you – not the other way around. Feel free to adjust it to fit your child’s learning style and your unique homeschool.
9. You are probably not going to get it right the first time
This bonus truth bomb comes from me and was very hard for me to get over when I started homeschooling.
I was an Emergency Room RN before I became a stay-at-home mom.
I worked in a world where mistakes were not allowed. Nobody wants to be in the ER and hear their nurse say, “Oops.” Right?!
When you start homeschooling, you will probably have to adjust, adjust again, and then adjust again before you hit a stride. Before you start to feel comfortable with your routine, structure (or lack of structure), curriculum, and teaching style.
That is okay! Expect from the beginning that you may need months and months to get settled in.
Parents that don’t know this are the ones who throw up their hands right away and say, “Well, this just isn’t going to work.”
As you are going through the process of getting settled in, look to the resources around you for support and guidance – Blogs like this one, homeschooling books, and homeschool support groups and co-ops are a good place to start.
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