Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Some people have always wanted to homeschool their children; it has always been a part of their plan. Other people land here, suddenly and without warning. I call these homeschoolers the “suddenly, unexpectedlies.”
I fall into the “suddenly unexpectedly” camp. As a school psychologist and product of the public education system, homeschooling was never on my radar… until May of 2014 when we found ourselves suddenly, unexpectedly homeschooling our oldest son. The decision to homeschool was stressful and scary, but we knew it was the right choice for our family. We quickly added two additional homeschoolers to our fold and we’re currently embarking on our seventh year.
I think we are going to have a ton of “suddenly unexpectedlies” this fall because 2020 has been quite a year.
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When I first started homeschooling, I was completely overwhelmed.
Did I need a certain curriculum? Should I follow a school schedule? Do I need to follow a certain homeschool philosophy? What if we drive each other crazy? I can’t remember half the stuff I learned in school. How do I convert Fahrenheit to Celsius? What is a dangling participle? What if he ends up with a million educational gaps? What if I fail? Can you relate? Are you a “suddenly unexpectedly,” too?
I want you to sit down, take a deep breath, and listen to me: You’ve got this. Sometimes, as mamas, we tend to overthink all the things. As a result, we can overcomplicate everything!
But I truly, wholeheartedly, believe that homeschooling doesn’t have to feel hard or complicated. Today, I am sharing five simple ideas to start the year strong, from one “suddenly unexpectedly” to another.
How to Start Homeschooling: 5 Simple Ideas to Start the Year Strong
But before you begin, consider deschooling.
I know you feel like you’re already behind. I know you want to find your rhythm ASAP. I’ve been there and I get it. I see you.
If your child is transitioning from a traditional school environment, it’s important to take time to deschool.
Take a break. Do not rush into homeschooling. Don’t worry about the academics right now (even though you will anyway!), focus on hearts over heads. Connect. Have fun together. Read delicious books aloud. Play amazing games. Explore nature together. Smile. Laugh. Make memories.
1. Look at the amazing kiddo in front of you!
You were your child’s first teacher.
I am going to say that one more time: You were your child’s first teacher. No one is better equipped to teach this child than you. You taught your child how to eat, to sleep, to use the restroom, to wash her hands, to tie her shoes, to use kind words, to take turns… and the list goes on.
Stop worrying about how you’re going to do this. You’re already doing it!
You do not need to know all the things. I know you’re silently freaking out that you can’t remember what an isosceles triangle is, or the current status of Pluto as a planet, or when the French and Indian War started. I’ve been there, but here’s the good news: You can re-learn it all together.
If you don’t know the answer to something, you can research it together. And guess what? By doing so, you’re teaching your child how to be a curious, lifelong learner!
2. Remember that connection is key, always.
The first year of homeschooling is an evolution. The transition from traditional brick and mortar schooling to homeschooling is a huge one. There will be power struggles. There will be tears. This is normal as you all adjust. It will take time to find your groove, but you will get there.
Remember to be a parent first. If your kiddo is sobbing over a math workbook, close the book. Take a walk. Reset and remember that teachers and students in public school have bad days, too.
3. Reading aloud is the most important homeschool activity. Do that first, rinse, and repeat.
Reading aloud is the single most important thing you can do for your child’s academic success and if you don’t believe me, just look at the research. But reading aloud does so much more than boost those academic skills. Reading aloud boosts connection, makes memories, and flexes those empathy muscles.
You will second guess yourself all the time, especially during the first year. When in doubt, read aloud. You can cover any academic topic, any interest, any genre. Are you feeling that you have been slacking in math? Grab some math picture books and snuggle up on the couch. That’s math, my friend. Check off that box and breathe a little easier. I honestly believe you could homeschool with your library card alone.
In our homeschool, we have a super simple morning tradition called Coffee and Books. This routine, like our decision to homeschool, was an unexpected one. It evolved slowly, over time. To this day, Coffee and Books is the foundation for our homeschool day. With Coffee and Books, I check off the most important thing first and I can cover any academic subject or area of interest.
If you’d like to learn more about starting a super-simple Coffee and Books routine in your homeschool, I have big news for you. I’m releasing a Coffee and Books course, featuring multiple, actionable printable resources. Those who join the waitlist will have early bird access at a discount. Join the waitlist here.
4. Explore the world around you. Learning happens all the time!
Now that we are homeschooling, our days have far more space. Even the most mundane of household tasks, like laundry, take on an educational twist when you are homeschooling. We do all of these tasks together, as a team.
One of the best things about homeschooling is that you don’t need to be at home. Learning happens anywhere when you just relax and let it. Take time to be in nature together, let the world be your classroom. Let those kids explore and get their hands dirty.
You are going to learn so much this year… together! Your children are going to teach you more than you’d ever thought possible. You will find yourself wondering who is the teacher!
5. Play matters. It fuels learning, boosts connection, and can change the entire atmosphere of your homeschool today.
Play is essential for child development, but it’s also important for grown-ups! (Don’t believe me? Check out the research!)
Before I was a homeschooling mama, I was a school psychologist. I’m a lifelong gamer and I knew the importance of play when it comes to child development and learning. I would always have a game with me. Games were a wonderful way to break the ice and connect with my students.
When I found myself suddenly, unexpectedly, homeschooling, I again turned to games. I consider games to be a part of our homeschool curriculum and routine. That’s right: We are gameschoolers. I have witnessed, time and time again, amazing growth and development in academic and non-academic skills through gameschooling.
If you would like to add more play to your homeschool day, but you’re worried about all those daily “homeschool must-dos,” I highly suggest you dabble in gameschooling.
Gameschooling is the intersection of homeschooling and play. With gameschooling, you can boost connection, fuel learning, and cross off many of those must-dos through the use of educational board games.
If you’d like to learn more about how to add gameschooling to your homeschool routine, I have some exciting news for you. I am releasing a course on how to get started with gameschooling. By joining the waitlist, you’ll receive early bird access and a discount. Join the waitlist here.
You’ve got this…
When we stumbled into homeschooling, I knew it was the right choice for our oldest. But I wondered if we would like it. I feared that one or both of us would hate it. I never considered that I might completely fall in love with homeschooling.
Homeschooling has been the best curveball ever.
In moments of doubt and worry, I want you to remember this: You were your child’s first teacher. No one in the world cares more about this child and his education than you do. You are more than fit for this job. You’ve got this. I hope that, once the new homeschooling dust settles, it is a fantastic curveball for your family, too!
… but if you need more support getting started, you are not alone.
Homeschooling can be overwhelming… if you let it. Do not worry about next week or next month or next year. Focus on today. Put one foot in front of the other and remember that you’ve been teaching all along.
I truly, wholeheartedly, believe that homeschooling doesn’t have to feel hard or complicated. I believe that homeschooling can be almost all fun and games. I’d love to show you how! Learn more here.
Tell us: What super-simple tips would you add? Share them here!
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