Earlier this year I put together some Quick Tips for Homeschool Scheduling and today I’m sharing 5 Things To Do Before You Start Homeschooling. We recently received the news that our public schools in Loudoun County, Virginia would be 100% distance learning this fall. In light of distance/online learning decisions and/or mask mandates, social distancing requirements, and other restrictions not ideal for public schools, so many parents are making the decision to 100% homeschool their children this fall. That’s so exciting!
I know the situation is less-than-ideal, but it’s still exciting to me that parents are choosing to take their children out of public and private schools and instead give old fashioned homeschooling a try! The freedom to oversee your child’s education is an incredible one, and I’m thrilled that more parents will be dipping their toes in! I hope this little list of 5 Things To Do Before You Start Homeschooling helps as you are making decisions and beginning this journey.
Read about the homeschool law in your state and make sure you’re complying! Home School Legal Defense Association has great state-by-state legal summaries. In Virginia, under the home instructions option, I simply have to notify the school district superintendent of our intent to homeschool by August 15. HSLDA provides its members (we’re members and I HIGHLY recommend joining this great organization if you’re homeschooling) with a Notice of Intent form to use for this purpose. The notice needs to provide a curriculum description, which is simply a list of the subjects we will be teaching. I also have to send a copy of my diploma (high school or higher degree). If you are withdrawing your child from the public school, you will likely need to officially notify the school via certified letter, etc. Just make sure you’re complying with the legal requirements in your specific state!
This might seem like an overwhelming task, especially if this is your first time even considering homeschooling. But choosing a curriculum that works for both YOU – the parent & teacher – AND your children is super important! There are so many educational philosophies and styles: Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Classical, Waldorf, Un-Schooling, etc. I’d recommend reading a bit about the different styles and chatting with your children and spouse and determining which you will try out for your family. From there, you can either purchase an all-inclusive curriculum that matches your budget and style, or you can piece together various books and studies to put together your own “curriculum.” Whatever you decide, know that you can always switch if it’s not working (for you or for the children). That’s one of the beautiful things about homeschooling: the freedom and flexibility to assess and evaluate and pivot if something’s not working for your family! Here’s a great resource for choosing your curriculum.
This year, we’re using The Kind Kingdom from The Peaceful Press. This curriculum is a gentle, Charlotte Mason-inspired literature and project-based program for elementary children. I’ll be using it for both Zoe and Naomi, and will be supplementing with Math, Handwriting, and Phonics. The Kind Kingdom is a guide to European history that leads you through daily readings designed to provide a 30-week overview of major events in Europe, using the Chronicles of Narnia, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare as a spine. It includes daily language arts activities, poetry, hymns, Bible verses, mapwork, timeline work, science experiments, art, practical life skills, etc. You can read more about The Peaceful Press here!
Before officially tackling the school year, I love to do a deep house purge. So, not only the school supplies and bookshelves, but the whole house. This one is HUGE and helps me SO much with the mental and physical clutter. We have 6 (going on 7) people living in an 1,150 square foot home, with no designated “schoolroom,” so you can imagine the tendency to accumulate stuff, everywhere. Periodic purging has become essential, especially right before the school year begins.
I have learned that less is more when it comes to school supplies. I tend to hold on to things (especially school and craft supplies) “just in case” but I’m learning that this mindset doesn’t work well with 1,150 square feet and 6 people. I love buying a few new supplies for each child (colored pencils, three-ringed binders for keeping a portfolio, watercolors, sketch pad for nature journal, handwriting paper, etc – you can see all our favorite school supplies right here) before the school year begins, and tossing spent supplies from the past year. Giving each child a bin for their schoolbooks, and a little caddy for their pencils, rulers, colored pencils, etc. helps to keep supplies where they belong, and gives them a sense of ownership and teaches them how to take care of their belongings.
Determining daily family rhythms that work for everyone is a great way to start the year off strong! Early risers? Have outdoor chores that need to be completed before breakfast and school time? Want to prioritize morning time together as a family? Need quiet time before the kids wake up to prepare for the day or tackle a few hours of work? Build it into your day! Set goals, but don’t stress out about completing exactly 45 minutes of math and then slamming the textbook closed and moving right on to the next task. Your child may need a few extra minutes to finish the page, or they may need to wrap up after just 25 minutes of math because their brain is simply done. Let them take a break – play outside, dance party, a quick snack, read – and then perhaps revisit the concept later that day, or even the next day. One child may need to start with reading, while another may need to start with math. Determining the various needs of your children as you establish your rhythms (or schedule) will be super helpful!
Remember that homeschooling – especially in the younger years – doesn’t need to take up the entire day. Just a few hours – whenever works best for you – of dedicated school time, and you should be good! One thing I’ve learned is to give myself lots of grace with our schedule. We’ll get into a really good rhythm, and then a baby will start teething or I’ll get pregnant or something else will happen that will throw off our groove. That’s ok, and a new rhythm will come about in its own time. Being OK with that and recognizing that it’s natural has helped me not become completely frustrated and disappointed with our homeschooling.
I’m still learning about planning ahead as a homeschool mom. But the more I do plan ahead, the more I thank myself in the midst of our school day, and the more peaceful our days are. This year, I’m trying to plan at least one month in advance, since our curriculum is more projects-based and I need to make sure we have the ingredients/supplies on hand. I won’t be able to store the supplies in plastic tubs for each week as we have no space for that in our home, but I will be ensuring we have what’s needed, and that the books are on reserve at the library, etc. Being one – or a few – steps ahead of the game will make such a difference.
That’s it for my list of 5 Things To Do Before You Start Homeschooling! Hope you find this list helpful! Please let me know if you have any homeschooling questions. Even though I’m only a few years into my journey as a homeschool parent, I’m second generation and have a few years (K-12) being a homeschool student under my belt.
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