How to Make Homeschooling Work

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When you're there at the precipice, considering homeschooling, one of the scary unknowns preventing you from taking the plunge may be wondering how to make homeschooling work.

You may be wondering what homeschooling really looks like or how to navigate the day-to-day in order to make a successful go at homeschooling.

There really is no secret formula - no plan to follow to ensure homeschooling success.

However, there are some general guidelines that will go a long way toward ensuring that homeschooling works for your family.

Know the Law.

The most important step in making homeschooling work is ensuring that you are familiar with the homeschooling laws that govern your state. That won’t make your homeschool a success or failure, but it will ensure that you don’t face legal issues with the governing authorities.

Being entirely responsible for your child’s education can be stressful enough without finding yourself embroiled in legal action for failing to comply with the law. Check with your local or state support group or Home School Legal Defense for a synopsis of the most up-to-date laws for your state.

Be flexible.

One of the biggest mistakes that new homeschooling parents make is being too tied to either the curriculum or the schedule – or both. It is vital that you are committed to your child’s education and doing everything in your power to ensure that he receives the best education possible.

It is not vital that you are so tied to your curriculum or schedule that you don’t allow any room for flexibility.

Allow room for rabbit trails and impromptu learning. If the topic you’re studying captures your child’s interest, don’t feel that you have to move on because the curriculum or your schedule says it’s time.

Instead, capitalize on the flexibility that homeschooling offers by camping out on that topic for awhile. Borrow related books or DVDs from the library. Take a related field trip. Complete a hands-on project.

Real learning happens when a topic captivates your student. Don’t miss those opportunities by allowing your curriculum or homeschool lesson plans to dictate your schedule. Lesson plans can be rewritten. Teachable moments are not as easily recaptured.

The same is true if your child is struggling in an area. Two of my children really struggled grasping all the steps required in long division. Mastering the skill required slowing down and working through it step-by-step. We didn’t get quite as far in math that year as I'd planned, but taking time to make sure they understood the concept was more important than marching resolutely forward through the lesson plans.

Homeschooling allows us time to teach at the pace our children need to succeed – whether that means moving more quickly through material than we’d originally planned or more slowly.

It also allows us to tweak homeschool curriculum or change curriculum completely if it isn’t working. To make homeschooling work, it’s important to be willing to take advantage of and learn to effectively capitalize on the flexibility that homeschooling affords.

Basically, I tell new homeschooling families to be flexible – but not so flexible that you never do school, which ties in to the next point.

Be consistent.

While it is essential to be flexible when you're homeschooling, it is equally important to be consistent. It is good to follow rabbit trails and take advantage of impromptu learning moments, but having a plan and following it in a fairly predictable routine is what most students require to be successful. A student can’t master long division if she’s not working on math on a regular basis.

When my kids were younger, I found that it helped to plan the majority of our outside activities (field trips, classes taught somewhere other than home) for no more than two days each week. This allowed us to be home following a generally constant routine the other three days each week.

Ideally, we prefer to learn primarily at home four days each week. This allows us to take advantage of block scheduling for history and science, doing each two days per week, and gives us plenty of time in the afternoon to devote to each since they tend to be the subjects were pursue in a more hands-on fashion.

Whatever our schedule, consistency is the key – I make sure that we are working regularly on our core subjects and not allowing so much time to pass between lessons that concepts are forgotten. I also make sure that interruptions to our regular curriculum and schedule are worthwhile rather than activities for which we’re simply dismissing school in favor of something more appealing.

Find what works for your family.

Education isn’t one-size-fits-all and homeschooling is no exception. There is no one perfect homeschooling style, and success isn’t a matter of finding the perfect curriculum.

To make homeschooling work, it is important to find the homeschooling method that fits your family's personality. However, you must realize that the right method for your family may be very different from your cousin who homeschools, or that family from co-op, or the public school educational model.

If you happen to be a second-generation homeschooler, you may even be surprised to find that the best homeschooling style for your own children may differ greatly from the style in which you were educated. I have known several second-generation homeschooling parents who schooled their children in a completely opposite method from that with which they were homeschooled.

It’s okay to create your own hybrid homeschooling style, too. You may be a school-at-home family who borrows ideas from unschoolers. You may be more eclectic,yet borrow many ideas from the Charlotte Mason style.

The same is true with homeschool curriculum. There is no one perfect curriculum choice out there that is going to ensure that your kids become academic prodigies. If you ask ten different homeschool parents what they’d choose as the best homeschool curriculum, you’d likely get ten different answers.

And, even if they all gave you the same answer, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best curriculum for your children.

To make homeschooling work, don’t be afraid to experiment with styles and curriculum options. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the educational model with which you were taught. And, don’t expect that you’ll figure it all out right away. Most homeschooling families will agree that it takes 2-4 years to begin to feel comfortable and confident with homeschooling.

Learning how to make homeschooling work goes beyond the logistics of schedules and curriculum choices. It's more about adjusting your idea of what school should look like to the ideal of what it needs to look like to educate your own unique children - and allowing each of you the flexibility to facilitate true learning within a framework of consistency to make sure that your children's academic and personal potential are being fully realized.

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Your Citation
Bales, Kris. "How to Make Homeschooling Work." ThoughtCo, Jun. 28, 2016, Bales, Kris. (2016, June 28). How to Make Homeschooling Work. Retrieved from Bales, Kris. "How to Make Homeschooling Work." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 15, 2017).