Advice to New Home Educators

Here I share some advice in hopes that they will help the many brave parents starting to educate their students at home.

The times have urged many parents to give homeschool a try. Many of my friends, who had been considering homeschooling for a while, have now decided to go for it. Welcoming all of you has brought memories of the days when I started, the advice that helped, and the lessons I have learned the along the way. I often need to remind myself of these lessons. Here I share some advice, most handed down to me by my mentors, in hopes that they will help the many brave parents starting to educate their students at home. Welcome aboard!

  1. Get to know your child as a person and as a student. Observe them, see what sparks their curiosity, what are they good at, and what challenges them. It is likely they will be different from you, be ready to cherish them for who they are. Avoid comparing. Seize the opportunities homeschooling provides to individualize your students’ learning and play on their strengths.
  2. Emphasize character development. Learning is hard and can be frustrating. It is important for students to know this. They and you as parents will need buckets of perseverance, patience, and grace. Train your soldiers before the battles come and after they cease. In the midst of a storm, do not try to fix your home or your children.
  3. Select high quality material. Aim to foster your child’s curiosity and strengthen the areas they need to work on. Find educational resources that are rigorous and engaging, but not overly frustrating. Balance is key.
  4. Establish your educational priorities. On any given day, what are the top three subjects you will aim to cover. Hard days come our way, make sure you know what you are willing to let go of and what you will still plow for. For us, it is math, reading, and writing.
  5. Persist, but be willing to change. If after trying learning materials or approaches for a while, you find it is still causing major frustrations, be flexible and willing to change.
  6. Embrace homeschooling as a learning adventure for the whole family. Your kids are not the only ones learning, you are learning as well! Pick curricula that are suitable and engaging for both your students and yourself. Likewise, remember no one knows it all, if you have the opportunity to delegate, humbly do so.
  7. Inspect what you expect. If you are as excited about learning as some of us are, chances are you will suffer from what I call “curriculum greed.” If you are not having time to grade, discuss, and reflect, it is time to trim down your learning goals. It is important to savor the moment and the joy of learning.
  8. Find a dynamic community. In person and online communities remind us we are not alone. They are also a great venue for the collective learning that makes our homeschooling journey so exciting and challenging. My tribe encourages and challenges me all the time.
  9. Remember to have balanced expectations. No one can do it all. Once upon a time my home furnishing was all white and cream, it sparkled. I still try to keep a little sense of order, but having a spotless home is not feasible or at the top of my list. Regularly carve out time to rest and reflect, you will return refreshed to serve.
  10. The first year is hard work. Stay away from overly aggressive educational goals or rigid schedules. Traditional schools can provide inspiration, but remember homeschooling is different. You need to set realistic expectations in the context of your students as individuals and as part of your family.
  11. Give yourself grace. Educating a child at home is hard work. You will make mistakes, but remember to learn from them, move on, and cherish your progress.
  12. “The days are long, but the years are short.” Gretchen Rubin. No matter how hard the days are, find reasons to rejoice and enjoy them. Every day I seek what I call my “picture moments.” Remember that even on the most chaotic days, chances are your students learned as much or more than they would have elsewhere. Even if not, they were held by the people who love them most. Before long, you will be looking back and cherishing even the craziest homeschool days. Life is about the moments we collect and the people we touch.