As people all over the world are trying to figure out this homeschool thing, I thought I would share some advice from 8 years of homeschooling my two children on and off.
Now, I’ll be honest. Our homeschool journey has been pretty flexible and changed from year to year. Most families I have talked to have done the same thing after they realized that they didn’t have to follow a school model at home. So, my experience is pretty eclectic, but that is okay. I don’t claim to have a perfect family or perfect kids. That’s not why I decided to homeschool. I also don’t expect them to know everything, because I believe in a lifetime of learning.
My reasons might seem a little crazy, but I’m good with that. It works for us!
1. NO Q-tip Requests at 10pm the Night Before a Project is Due
I remember one night when my son was in 1st grade getting an email from the teacher that said, “We need your son to bring in 100 Q-tips tomorrow to class for a project.” Say what? It was like 10pm! I was all in my jammies and I wasn’t about to go to the store that late for Q-tips.
This type of thing happened more often than I liked. I would end up paying for items and materials above and beyond what the teacher had requested at the beginning of the year. Now, I’m not knocking teachers. Their job can be pretty challenging, but putting out a request like that late at night is a bit much. And when you multiply that times multiple teachers and multiple classes in Junior High, it can get downright ridiculous.
2. You Control the Content
When I first started homeschooling, I went out and bought all the things. All the curriculum. It was pretty nuts. I set up a whole homeschool closet and schedule and dadgum it, we were going to GET STUFF DONE. Then, later, I realized that isn’t actually a great way for kids to learn. You can’t force your way through the content just to make sure that you check it off a list. I mean, that’s not really optimal for adults to learn, either, amiright?
The second year, we eased up big time. We focused on reading and math. We watched movies and TV shows that taught us stuff. We joined groups like “Homeschooling on YouTube” to get ideas for what to watch and learn. We tried stuff out and decided what we liked and didn’t like. That included groups that were live and in person, too.
Not every program works for every student, and since I wasn’t teaching to a test, I was okay with experimenting a bit.
3. Schedule School Around Your Schedule
When I started homeschooling, I was also starting a business, and needed time to work on it. My kids were in 1st and 3rd grade, so trying to sit them down to learn for 7 hours a day wasn’t in the plan. I focused on math, reading, and writing. They came with me sometimes to meetings. I worked around my schedule.
I enrolled them in a 4 hour homeschool program once a week and used that time to get things done that I couldn’t do when they were home. I worked at night after they were asleep, and we all slept in.
The point is, we were able to be super flexible about when things happened. There were weeks where we didn’t do math, and then there were weeks we caught up. We took time off when we needed it. We mostly homeschooled year round, and we didn’t have a specifc time table for things to be done.
If you are doing a distance learning program, you may not have as much flexibility, but that is up to you to decide what is best for your family.
4. Vacation Anytime
I loved being able to take off and go anywhere at anytime with my kids when they were younger. We went on road trips whenever we wanted, and could just take school with us. We would listen to books or read in the car, watch movies, and stuff still got done.
Or, we just used the vacation for learning about where we were. We went to aquariums and to the beach. We went on trains in the Colorado mountains. If the kids were interested in something in particular, we pursued learning about it. It was very kid led, other than the math.
5. Sleep In
There were definitely times when we just slept in, because we could. If we had an event the night before, we didn’t have to worry about getting up early for school. I’m definitely NOT a morning person, so having that flexibility was really important to me.
In the meantime, I started teaching my kids how to be more self-sufficient. They could get their own breakfast, and I taught them early to do their own laundry.
If we wanted to go to a movie in the afternoon, we could.
6. Nothing is Crowded
One year we got a museum pass, so that we could go anytime we wanted. There was a dinosaur museum that my kids loved, and we could stay as long as we wanted and hardly ever ran into other families during the week, other than the stroller crowd. It was awesome. Even now, we will get a whim to go to a movie mid-afternoon and often have the place to ourselves.
You can get great deals when you call and say that you are homeschool family. Many places offer discounts for certain days of the week.
7. Ultimately – Way More Peace
Now, life is pretty crazy no matter what, but I found that homeschooling made it less crazy, because I was able to control my schedule. After my kids went back to a charter school in Junior High, I had to plan my day around afternoon carpool, and while I am fine with that, it did create more chaos in our home. When teachers and personalities of kids around your kids are inserted into your life, it brings in a period of kids needing to de-stress a bit when getting home from school.
My son would say, “I just want to relax.” But, there was still laundry and dishes and garbage and…and…and.
When my kids had much of the day to get things done, there was less nagging on my part. Even though running a business, running a humanitarian organization, and homeschooling my kids was a lot to manage, it was WAY more peaceful to manage when I wasn’t having to manage a school schedule as well.
At this point, we give our kids a choice, and this year they have chosen distance learning. I’m arranging my schedule so that we can do more with them, because they are growing up and we don’t have many years left.
Whatever you choose for your family, there is a ton of support. I wrote a book called Homeschool on Fire: Be the CEO of Your Business and Homeschool, and created The Homeschool System to help families manage everything. I also have a monthly low cost homeschool mentoring program to help families navigate balancing business and homeschooling at the same time.
If any of that resonates for you, go ahead and get the book for free!