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Let’s face it: the school system is not quite what most of us remember it to be, pushing many parents to rethink their options for their kids’ education. Homeschooling is on the rise, and even working parents are trying to figure out how to make homeschooling work for their families.
While I think every family who desires to homeschool should go for it, you should also be aware of what you can expect. My heart is to help equip homeschool moms, not just inspire you, and part of being equipped is to be prepared for what you can expect. I want you to succeed!
Thus, here’s what you need to know before you homeschool, from a veteran’s perspective:
Homeschooling is not just about academics
Many homeschool mamas, including myself, began homeschooling with the mindset that the day-to-day would revolve mainly around academics. After all, it is homeschooling, right?
In fact, because I used to think this, I would make schedule after schedule with the entire day’s focus on academic subjects.
I quickly realized that not only was this not necessary, but it actually didn’t work for a home-based life. There were so many other things to do besides reading assignments and history lessons-cooking, cleaning, laundry, conflict management, play, connection, and personal things. These things had to be done, and my kids needed to be trained on how to do these things as well.
A good homeschool schedule is one that’s unique to your family and makes space for all the things that make up your unique life. Thus, it cannot look like a copy-paste version of a typical public school day, and it will certainly look different than another mom’s homeschool schedule.
To see what a basic day in our homeschool life consists of and what else we do besides homeschooling, check out what a day in the life of a homeschool mom looks like.
You’ll need to know the homeschool laws for your area
Super important, this one. You need to know the homeschool laws for the state or country you live in.
First off, you don’t want to get in trouble legally. This is part of the “due diligence” you’ll need to attend to, even if you feel like God is leading you to homeschool.
Secondly, it will have a great impact on how you run your unique homeschool home. Some states are more lenient with homeschooling, while some states are strict and even require things like attendance and reporting. I live in a more lenient state, but I’m still prepared should my kids ever need to go to school for whatever reason.
Check out the state homeschool laws to find out the requirements for your state.
Having a homeschool vision will keep you focused
The next thing you need to know before homeschooling is that you’ll want to create a homeschool vision.
A homeschool vision is one of those things I wish I’d known about at the very beginning of my journey. I wasted far too many hours (days? months?) halfway and randomly doing things and always second-guessing myself.
As a result, I was prime picking for the homeschool mom comparison trap, self-doubt, and shiny new object syndrome.
Homeschooling without vision can be much like driving without knowing where you’re going. You’re going to get somewhere, but it may not be where you wanted to end up.
Having a clear vision for your homeschool will keep you focused and consistent and will prevent you from jumping from one thing to another aimlessly. It gives you the strength of long-term consistency, which will allow your kids to truly master whatever it is you’re teaching and training them.
You’ll need structure
In the homeschooling world, there are many approaches to teaching your kids, and many possible ways to “do school” aside from just the traditional structure many of us knew from the school system.
No matter how many posts you read from moms who have no set homeschool schedule, the research remains consistent: kids thrive on structure and predictability.
I’m sure there are moms who can allow their days to run spontaneously and loosely. Maybe that’s you, and I’m here for it if it works for you and your kiddos.
Personally, though, I’ve found that it can make days more difficult, both for you and your kids, when there’s no predictable flow.
When I first started my homeschool journey, I came across all kinds of material on how homeschooling was nothing like public schooling, and how much less time you needed for academics than a typical public school day. I read blog posts and even books about being careful about your schedule being your master and yada yada yada.
Excited by the thought of freeing our lives from the “rigidity” of a schedule, I didn’t worry about trying to make things happen at a certain time. We had no set wake-up time, no set bedtime, and no particular order in which we ran our day.
Instead of the freedom I thought I’d experience, I ended up begging the time every day to hurry up and be lunchtime, because after lunchtime was quiet time, which was somehow the only consistent thing on our schedule.
I could barely stay above water with all of my responsibilities and ended up dealing with extreme anxiety. I tried to stay encouraged by motivational and inspiring stories about the days being long but the years being short and not worrying about the messes.
But I couldn’t. I tried, but I just couldn’t.
While I knew that I had to stop trying to fast-forward time (because I knew I’d regret it), I also had this underlying feeling that I needed to figure out how to get on top of things so that I could actually slow down and enjoy every moment for real. And truly not care about the laundry. For real.
In 2023, I have a product coming out that I believe will be a huge help homeschool moms. It’s called the PACE Homeschool Schedule creator, and in it I will teach you step-by-step how to build a homeschool daily routine, little by little, upon the priorities of your life. That way, you can breathe easy because you know that what needs to be handled has a system governing it, and you can be present for the everyday connections.
You’ll need to work on your parenting skills
Whenever I tell people I’m a homeschooling mom, there’s always someone who thinks me a saint. They typically say things like, “I don’t have the patience for that” or “We would drive each other nuts.”
Let me be clear: there are days when homeschooling can just be downright unenjoyable, especially as you’re learning how to manage everything. Just because I’ve been doing this for over a decade does not mean I’ve arrived.
Also, every mom comes to motherhood with a different set of parenting skills and childhood wounds, and these things affect how you see your children and how you relate to them.
If your child is in a public or private or charter school, he or she is there for most of the day. While this gives you time to do other things (personal things or work), what it does not do is give you an entire day, day after day, to really hone your parenting skills.
While I desire to motivate you to homeschool, I also want to give you tools that will sustain you for the long haul.
Here are some of the parenting books I recommend to get you going: (affiliates)
Grace-Based Parenting: gives you a big-picture focus on what your kids really need from you so you’re not left in the dark.
No Drama Discipline: a healthier way of discipilning your kids to bring them into a greater awareness of their own actions.
The Whole Brain Child: gives you insight into the mind of children so you can understand how your child thinks and make better relational choices.
Positive Discipline Parenting Tools: provides you with 49 different tools and strategies to keep in your pocket for the hard moments.
Above all, pray! The Lord can give you wisdom for any situation as well as supernatural grace and strength to be present daily. He never expects us to do life on our own.If you don’t ask for His help, you’re left with your own strength, and it’s just not enough.
You’ll need a budget
Can you homeschool for free? The short answer is yes(ish).
Do I recommend it? No, I do not.
Exception: if you’re in a tight financial place (and I’ve certainly been here), then with enough research, you can certainly gather enough materials to create an awesome and sufficient educational experience.
However, doing a bunch of research and extra work to pull together resources on a shoestring budget can eventually leave you exhausted and second-guessing if your kids are learning all they need to learn.
Understandably, you might not have a few hundred dollars hanging around for a full year’s worth of curriculum. That’s totally understandable (check out what you can do if you’re just beginning your homeschool journey).
Having a homeschool budget will allow you to get curriculum and materials, make field trips and outings happen, and for those random days when you don’t want to cook lunch and everyone’s just getting Chick Fil A (And you’re getting Starbucks.).
Personally, I’m at a place in my homeschool where I don’t want to do a bunch of research to find free materials-I’d rather just purchase them and be done. Doing that for four kids would become my graveyard shift job and no thank you, I value my sleep.
As I said, you can certainly homeschool for free, and you can certainly do this while you’re figuring out your educational approach, but it’s easier just to examine your budget, figure out where you can scrape, and buy the things you need. Your peace of mind (and the time you’ll save) is worth it.
You won’t need to teach everything
If you’ve ever taken the time to look through homeschool curriculum, you’ve probably realized that there are a lot of possible subjects to teach.
So many, in fact, that when I was going through the aforementioned season of anxiety in my life, merely walking through the homeschooling section at our educational store would make my chest feel tight.
I decided I needed an educational strategy so that, again, I wasn’t the victim of shiny new object syndrome and inconsistency. After all, I’m just one mom, not an entire team of teachers and administrators.
Long story short, I decided that while I didn’t want my kids staring at a screen for hours upon hours to do schoolwork (because there are quite a few online options), I couldn’t possibly have multiple textbooks for every subject for four different grade levels.
I decided that I would teach each of my kids English Language Arts, math, history, and science screen-free, and anything else (languages, electives, music, etc) they would have to learn online.
This is where I’m going to step in and be a cheerleader for the curriculum we use, which is The Good and The Beautiful. It takes a Charlotte Mason-inspired approach to learning and I cannot say enough good things about it.
It’s challenging, it’s thorough, and best of all, it’s one of the easiest curricula out there for a mama of multiple ages to use. Oh, and it’s very affordable.
Their history and science lessons are family-style, so we do all of these lessons together, and we don’t do them every day. My older girls do Spanish, French, and coding online through Power Homeschool, which also sends me progress reports, so it’s pretty hands-off. That means the only subjects I’m actually working one-on-one with them on are English Language Arts and math.
There are many, many resources out there to help you on your homeschooling journey. Bottom line: you don’t have to teach every subject yourself. Just know that.
Connection is the most important thing
With all there is to be done at home, an aspiring homeschool mom should know that building and maintaining healthy relational connections with your kids is the most important thing you can do.
Why, you wonder?
Because without healthy emotional connections with your kids, it’s difficult for them to learn from you. Spiritual things, academic things, life things, you name it-it’s all important and it’s transferred to them through the vehicle of relationship.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I was often lazy and disinterested as a mom and was not very good and cultivating good relationships with my kids. I struggled to know what to do and how to be better at this, and I could tell how my actions were affecting my kids.
So, I read books, I watched videos, I took trainings, I sought counsel, and most of all, I prayed. Through prayer, I realized I had to forgive my disconnectedness from my own childhood so I could truly grow.
Maybe you’re a mom who is naturally good at connecting with your kids and you already have this box checked off, or maybe you’re not. You can always learn and grow!
You have the chance to really shape your kids
When your kids are with you all day every day, you are in the prime position to shape their character and their perspective.
When they’re in school all day, they spend 8 or more hours with other kids and other adults who may or may not have the same values as you.
I know many families must have their children in school because of financial and single-parenting situations, so it’s understandable. And yet, the facts remain: kids are often more influenced by who they’re around at school.
When your kids are around you all day, they absorb your character. They take on your habits. That’s why one of the best things you can do is to commit yourself to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life and renew your mind with His Word. As He transforms you, your kids are able to imitate your godly actions!
You can do it!
Most of all, what you need to know before you homeschool is that you can absolutely do it!
Your homeschool will not look like another mom’s homeschool. You may have a smaller house, a tiny budget, no organization skills, and very little patience.
No matter what you believe your handicaps are, there are tools and trainings out there to help you grow. Between blogs, YouTube channels, books, homeschool groups and co-ops, and counselors, there are plenty of resources available to push you beyond self-doubt.
How do I prepare myself for homeschooling?
You may say, ok Kelani, this sounds great and I want to go ahead and take the plunge. Aside from these things, what are the first steps I need to take?
There are a few key things for you to do, including officially withdrawing your child from school (contact the school to learn what that process is), learning your state or country’s homeschool laws, and creating a simple schedule while you’re figuring all the other stuff out.
I talk about all of these things in How to Start Homeschooling Today. Check it out for a clear homeschool on-ramping process!
If you’re considering homeschooling, I hope this has helped you understand what you need to know before you homeschool. Drop a comment or email me about your homeschooling journey-I’d love to hear where you’re at!