If you are one of the many parents about to embark on your first year of homeschool, you may be wondering what you can do this summer to set yourself up for success. (That is, assuming you choose to begin this fall. Ah, sweet freedom.)
While there is no definitive way, as homeschooling is by nature something that you can customize for the needs of your family and individual children, here are some suggestions.
Shift your Mindset
Homeschooling requires a bit of a mindset shift away from the traditional model of school and into an environment of individualized, family-centric, free learning. School and homeschool are two very different things. Many homeschoolers call the process of letting go of the school mentality “deschooling.”
You’re entering the homeschooling world at a time when resources are abundant. Let your beach reads this year be homeschooling books. I recommend “The Well-Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer and “The Brave Learner” by Julie Bogart. There are countless other books that dive deep into specific aspects of homeschooling, and I encourage you to allow yourself to fall down the rabbit hole this summer.
Know Thy Children
Pay close attention to the things that make your children light up, the activities they get lost in, the subjects they just can’t stop talking about. Even if these things do not seem academic, like Pokemon or nail polish, there are potentially great learning opportunities tied in. Take note and aim to incorporate their deepest interests into your homeschool days.
Maps are invaluable. Globes, too. Hang them in central locations and prepare to be amazed by how many times you reference them and benefit from simply having them there.
Hang and rotate different works of art you’d like your children to become familiar with. Coupling this with some library books about the artist or a YouTube video describing the work will do wonders in opening their minds to the beauty of fine art.
Add to the ambiance and educational quality of your environment by preparing playlists of classical music. It’s very easy to search works by any composer and compile hours of listening. Another genre to consider is cultural folk music. Pairing such playlists with holidays and cultural celebrations is a homeschool win.
Get All the Books
Get those library cards ready, map the routes to all the bookstores in your area, and dust off your shelves. It’s time to prepare a feast of reading for the whole family. Plan to indulge in read-alouds, individual readings, and audiobooks galore. Use your local library’s request system to set aside books on specific topics you’re covering. Make this a habit with weekly trips to the library or bookstore.
You’re free from the tyranny of the school calendar—so enjoy it. Book that off-season vacation, those field trips in the middle of the week, that weekend away that coincides with your history unit. The world is your classroom.
Homeschoolers have an opportunity to dive deep into their interests. Whether your kiddo loves dance, woodworking, baseball, or the clarinet—call in the experts when there’s room for growth. Extracurricular activities provide time to hone their skills and meet other kids. Just because there’s no more “school” doesn’t mean you need to forego after-school activities.
Pencil In Buffers
You’re going to get behind schedule, emergencies will happen, you’ll feel burned out, something unexpected is bound to occur. Know this going in, and you’ll have everything you need to handle it. Don’t overschedule an entire school year that leaves no room for mishaps. Pencil in makeup days and weeks and buffer time to handle the unexpected or to provide a mid-week day off for no reason. (Again, freedom.)
Your Back Pocket
Speaking of mishaps, you may be picturing angelic children eager to learn and comply with all of your amazing ideas along this homeschool journey. Children have their own moods, ideas, energy levels, and capacities. Always keep in your back pocket a few tricks of the trade. Pair math with fun treats, especially long division. When things are dragging, move lessons to the backyard, the park, or the beach. When energy seems low, go for a walk. When in doubt, cancel lessons and call it “reading day” where everyone reads whatever they want.
Start Small—Super Small
As you step out on this amazing journey that is sure to be bumpy at times, start with one tiny, little baby step. You may think the “first day of school,” should include reading, writing, math, science, history, music, art, physical fitness, and a foreign language.
Instead, make the first week a slow introduction to your new life. Spend day one opening new supplies and reading a book aloud. Spend day two introducing math and heading to the park. Spend day three reviewing and cheering everyone on. End the week with a field trip or a pancake breakfast.
As you proceed, nail down some regularity with language arts and math. Once you’re confident there, then gradually add the subjects you deem most important, one at a time.
The most important thing is to connect with your kids, love them, maintain a positive environment, encourage their interests, and walk along this journey together.