(Last Updated on October 8, 2022)
For some families, homeschooling has been the plan all along.
They’ve seen it work for friends or family. They knew they’d homeschool their future kids before they were even married. They’re totally comfortable swimming against the societal current. They understand the benefits and they welcome the challenge.
If that’s you, feel free to skip this post.
If, on the other hand, you’re more like the main character from Peg + Cat…
(that is, “TOTALLY FREAKING OUT!”)
…then read on, my frenzied friend, read on!
When we started homeschooling, I felt like I was leaping off a cliff into the deep abyss of the unknown.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
By following a few basic steps and keeping first things first, you can spare yourself boatloads of stress and wasted effort. Instead of feeling like you’re “JUMPING” into the “DEEP END” you’ll confidently “STEP” into the “ZERO-DEPTH END” (which, believe me, is much more manageable).
How We Started Homeschooling
The concept of home education first appeared on my radar while I was reading a parenting book. My firstborn wasn’t even one year old. I felt like the word “homeschool” leapt off the page and parked itself on my shoulder, tapping incessantly and poking its nosy little self into all my perfectly mapped out future plans.
It nudged firmly and persistently, encouraging me to read more about it and casually ask around to see if my friends had heard of it. Having been public-schooled and not knowing any homeschoolers, this was all very unfamiliar territory for me.
As I researched more about it, though, a strange thing happened.
This word – this idea that had seemed so foreign just weeks before – began to make more and more sense. I started to see ways that home educating fit with our family’s faith, our personalities, our goals, and our lifestyle.
A new path was unfolding before my very eyes. I was simultaneously excited and terrified.
In a direct answer to prayer (one of many prayers answered throughout our journey), I met three separate homeschooling families in the span of two weeks who helped calm my nerves and guide my search for information. I read books, asked questions, and soaked in all the content I could find related to homeschooling. I wanted to know everything I could about what I was getting myself into.
When I hesitantly brought the idea up to my husband, I was shocked to find he agreed with the concept (in theory, at least). Even more unexpected was the reaction from both my mom and my mother-in-law. As it turns out, they had each considered homeschooling in the past for one of their kids, too. Well, who knew?!
Over time, my misconceptions about homeschooling were corrected, my circle of supportive community grew, and my confidence increased. By the time we started homeschooling, I was only “kinda” freaking out instead of “totally” freaking out. Progress, I suppose.
As we jumped in to my oldest son’s kindergarten year, my focus was naturally on HOW to do it. What do I actually do?
My problem was that I rushed the “how-to” without sorting out our goals and motivation first.
I found myself skipping ahead like this often – trying to work out the details of HOW before I fully grasped the WHY. Please hear me when I say THIS DOES NOT WORK.
(Keep in mind, this is coming from a recovering planning addict. A person who had a detailed course of study – 13 years of curricula choices – laid out for my first son while he was still in diapers. A person whose first step towards solving all of life’s biggest problems is to make a spreadsheet.)
Detailed planning absolutely has its place, but don’t put the proverbial cart before the homeschooling horse. I know it feels safe and necessary to plan ahead but excessive advanced planning without first working through the steps below will almost certainly be a waste of your time.
Amidst (and despite) my premature planning, it was the following steps that steadily moved our family forward toward a more successful and positive homeschooling experience:
Start Homeschooling Step 1: Pray & Reflect
- Regularly pray for guidance and wisdom as you discern the best path for your family.
- Mull over the pros and cons with your spouse. Discuss how you think homeschooling will uniquely impact your kids and yourselves. Make this an ongoing conversation with God and each other – not just a one-time discussion. If you’re a single parent, ask a parent, sibling, or friend to be a sounding board for you as you think it all through. (My book, Think About Homeschooling: What It Is, What It Isn’t, & Why It Works, was written to help parents think through this step. It will give you a clear picture of the true pros and cons of homeschooling, dispel homeschooling myths, and help you make an educated decision for your family. Learn more here.)
- Seek advice of trusted family members, friends, pastors, or counselors who are open-minded and have your best interest at heart.
- Write out goals and a mission statement to guide you in your future decision making. I refer to ours several times a year and tweak it as needed. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just enough so you really understand the WHY behind your decision as you get started.
Start Homeschooling Step 2: Gather Information
- Read and research as much as you can about homeschooling.
- Do what you can to rid yourself of misconceptions and stereotypes about homeschooling that might be holding you back from understanding its full potential.
- Try to build a mental picture of what your homeschool could look like.
- Find insider information from books, blogs, or podcasts that describe “a day in the life” of homeschoolers. Ask homeschoolers you know for the inside scoop.
- Take notes on ideas you think might help you later. Don’t get distracted with too much detail at this point, but start to get a feel for teaching styles and methods that resonate with you. It will help you narrow down your choices later when it IS time for more detailed planning.
Start Homeschooling Step 3: Find Community
- Find a local homeschooling group (co-op, support group, club, etc) and join it. Even if you don’t click with them, they should be able to point you in the direction of a better fit. (Note to my Chicagoland readers: Check out this list of homeschooling groups, field trips, and other resources that are in your local area!)
- Join online homeschooling communities to get yourself in the loop. Again, even if it’s not a group you end up staying in, you can network and ask around until you find your niche.
- Keep an eye out for homeschoolers during school days at parks and libraries. I don’t mean stalk them or anything weird. Just don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation. If they have school-aged kids with them on a school day, chances are they homeschool. Every homeschooler I’ve EVER MET has been more than happy to answer questions or share advice and information.
- Determine who’s with you and who’s not. Of course that doesn’t mean you have to ditch all your non-homeschooling friends and find new ones. Just keep in mind homeschooling is not the cultural norm so you can expect pushback from some people. Try and gauge if someone is open to the idea before sharing your deepest homeschool hopes and fears with them. You will need some like-minded supporters as you move forward on this journey.
These steps aren’t a once-and-done checklist. You’ll want to intentionally and continually build community, stay informed, reflect on goals, and most definitely pray throughout your entire homeschooling journey.
As a new homeschooler, if you begin to follow the process above, you WILL be able to move forward more confidently. You don’t have to have a plan for the next 18 years. You don’t have to know all the answers or even all the questions. You just need enough faith and courage to take the next step.
Armed with the increased boldness that comes from prayer, clear goals, information, and community, you’ll be able to calm the fears of your anxious mind. You’ll see the transition to homeschooling for what it really is:
Not one giant leap but many baby steps.
Not a cliff but a staircase.
Not an abyss but an ocean of opportunity.
You CAN do this! You CAN homeschool… realistically, peacefully, and courageously. In other words, you can homeschool… sensibly.
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