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Top Tips for New Homeschoolers

Tips to help you as you venture on your homeschool journey.

Top tips for people new to homeschooling

I write these top tips for you as I know how helpful this would have been for me starting our homeschool journey. I made so many mistakes, I kept thinking how hard could it be. After all, I had been a Headteacher for nine years and also taught teachers how to teach! Anyway, if I had access to some top tips it would have helped me think a little before going full on into things without reflecting on what the children really needed.

So, you have made the decision to homeschool. What made you want to homeschool? It is important to hold on to this. Was it because your school wasn’t meeting the needs of your child? Was it because you feel the school curriculum is archaic or because your child was bullied at school and you want them to learn in a place they feel safe? Or did you decide from the start that you would not be sending your child to school? Whatever your reason keep it in mind so that you can remind yourself why you are doing this and allow that to help you shape your homeschool journey. This is particularly useful if you are having a tough day which can happen and is totally normal!

The most important tip. Listen to your children, two ears and one mouth, more listening and less talking. Really respect your child and how they feel about things. They know what is best for them, we think we know best but in reality we often use our own prior experiences to influence them and what they do. If we hated maths when we were at school for example we often pass this on to our own children, even though they might not have the same fears. And TRUST them, allow them to make mistakes, these will in turn help them learn, if things don’t work out for them just be present with them, hug them, allow them to cry or be cross, these are all great opportunities for children to express themselves and be heard, crucial to emotional intelligence. It feels hard to watch them make mistakes, we try to protect them but that often ends up as controlling them which only makes them frustrated, turned off and unable to deal with their emotions.

Deschool, take time to get rid of any prior experience you or your children have of the school system. You can read more about that on my blog or listen to my podcast. Hopefully, through this process you will be reminded not to make comparisons of your child with others, particularly other schooled children. They will all get to where they need to be but through homeschooling you are taking a personal route and so your child’s learning journey will look totally different to anyone else’s. This is called personalised learning and something schools strive to achieve but can’t because they have such large class sizes! If you want to delve deeper take a listen to my podcast or read my blog about this.

One of the worst things I did was to try and duplicate a classroom schedule, my children did not enjoy that, it was too rigid and caused no end of frustration when it came to stopping doing the things they were working on to do some formal learning. Also, there’s nothing sacred about sitting at desks, having set amounts of time per subject, or using textbooks. Children will naturally be happy lying on the floor or grass, so ask your children where they want to be to do certain activities or best of all allow them to go with the flow.

You are there to facilitate learning not preach at them. If you want to avoid fall outs don’t become the teacher! Teachers in school tend to be didactic because its about classroom management! You don’t, you can be a parent learning alongside your child.

Structure is an interesting element and really depends on you and your child. Some people need structure and thrive on it and that is ok but others don’t, so work out what will work best or play around with things. Most children thrive on a bedtime routine but again your child may prefer to go to bed at 10 and wake at 9, it is ok, try to be flexible with what works for you. For example, you may need more structure if you a working homeschool parent. 

If you go down the route of planning learning with your children, don’t replicate what schools do, they teach subjects, often individually, mainly because that is what is easiest for a class of 30 children. You don’t have to worry about that so if you want to do a project on the vikings and it lasts for days, do it. Or spend the day reading and watching films. Learning happens all the time and it doesn’t happen in silos, when you are cooking you are doing maths, reading, problem solving, design and technology etc. Try to be flexible and allow spontaneity to be part of your homeschool world. This is YOUR homeschool journey. If you and the children want to spend an entire day cooking or being out and about then do it! You’ll find some of the most magical learning will take place.

This is where my Collage app can be useful. You can capture your learning as it happens, it stores learning chronologically over time to show the progress your child has made within each subject, this is great as you can then see an overview of what your child does, and keep as a memory of their homeschool journey or download and share with education officers if you have registered with your Local Authority.

Stock up on some basic resources, I have listed a few on another page but this list is not exhaustive and you may need more, less or different things. I keep resources stocked up and introduce new bits whenever I can, according to their interests. Try, if possible to save a bit of money each month for resources. Remember to ask when going to visit places whether they do an educational visit reduction, many places are really good and you can get a great discount. We recently got 1/3 off tickets to Chester zoo and free entry to Edinburgh castle.

Reading aloud or as much access to books and audios is a brilliant way to help them develop strong vocabularies and a love of reading but don’t force reading or learning, this is a sure way to put them on and create a fight. Many homeschooled children don’t learn to read until a lot later, when they are ready and interested, it doesn’t seem to hinder their progress.

Connect with other homeschooling families or communities. You can find them on Facebook but it is a really useful way of finding out what is going on locally. As much as people believe children need to be with other children to learn social skills this is untrue. In their early years of life, up until about 8 they need their parents as their model and for attachment, after this friends start to play a role. Socialising looks different for different people, some love getting to know and having lots of friends, others prefer their own company and a handful of friends, this is ok and natural. Also, remove any idea that your child needs more children the same age to connect with, the reality is children will naturally make connections with children of all ages, depending on the connections they make. Joining families or groups will definitely help you on your journey, give you opportunities to ask questions and feel supported. Sometimes getting out into groups can feel hard for both you and your children but it is worth pursuing in order to find some valuable friendships. My son found this hard for the first 8 months, after which he began to relax and a few years on he has developed some great friendships. Of course, if groups don’t work out that is OK, move on, find other things but give things a chance. If you have an anxious child, slowly introduce things, start by just going to look around and leave promptly, next time stay for half an hour or whenever they give you the agreed signal that they want to go, listen and always go straight away. After that leave in the middle of the session when the child having fun, make an excuse you need to get to the shops of something, this way the child will associated the group with fun, you can ask them if they would like to stay longer next week. This way you are helping your child to feel safe, they will trust you and feel in control, leading to more confident young people. Listen to your gut feelings, if after a while things aren’t working, don’t be afraid to make changes.

Carry out your own professional development. I read more about education and learning than I did in the whole time I has a Headteacher! There are loads of blogs online or fantastic books to read and there are often annual conferences that are free or very cheap. You’ll be surprised at how your educational philosophy evolves. I have listed a few good listen and read below to get you started.

Join Education Otherwise or Home Educate UK depending on where you are in the world, you may have a governing body but here in the UK families access legal guidance and advice from these sites, do not believe everything you hear on Facebook forums, its also hard to know where people are from and legislation is different within each country.

Finally, enjoy every minute of this amazing journey, it will fly by!

Useful resources

Books John Holt

Ted Talks Sir Ken Robinson