This is a guest post from Sara A. Peterson of Taking Back Education
Welcome to homeschool! Take a deep breath, you are capable! When I was a kid I was homeschooled by a pretty forward-thinking dad, but when I grew up I had no desire to homeschool my own children. I was just going to be normal and I didn’t give it any more thought. Then I had my first baby and I knew then, I wasn’t going to send my child to school as I had planned. Fast forward 13 years and now I’m what I like to call a custom educator and this is what you will become too. The word “homeschool” can instill fear and worry in the most knowledgeable heart and yet the most notable minds in history have been educated at home; think of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Graham Bell, Teddy Roosevelt, and in our own modern-day Tim Tebow and sisters Serena and Venus Williams.
Getting started can be overwhelming. Homeschooling will require sacrifice and a complete alteration of what you imagined your life to look like day to day. But also consider that you will be able to focus your time, attention and skills on the humans God has given you to raise. He did not send your children to you to only be their main influence until the age of 6. We are to raise, love, care for, teach, and nurture our children until they are able to strongly go forward in this world with confidence, talent, skill, and morality. Does this sound too big? Well, it’s not! You’ve got this and I’m going to help you get started!!!
Your children, and every child ever born, is unique. No one else is just like him or her. Why then, would you have a one size fits all education for your unique child? Here are the steps to take to start your custom education journey.
The first thing you need to do is understand why you are starting this journey.
Are you keeping kids home this fall due to COVID-19 concerns? Are you hoping for a more well rounded education? Are you concerned with the morality taught or not taught in the schools? Does your child need more specialized education? Do you want to spend more time with your cool kids? Is God calling you and you are being obedient? It’s important to know your own reasons. You do not have to explain it to the world. You don’t need to make excuses or give reasons to your friends and family. All they need to know is that you feel this is the right thing for your family right now - the end.
When I started this journey I felt called, I didn’t know all the reasons why at the time, but I knew clearly I was being called. Then the big question became, “how can I do this?” That’s when I started reading every single blog on the internet that shared their “homeschooling day in-the-life.” I read hundreds. They all sounded terrible. Too long. Too scattered. Too crafty. Too boring. Too structured. Too...too...too. Then one day I read IT. The day-in-the-life that resonated with me! One that I could see myself doing day in and day out! That was what I needed to give me the confidence to move forward. Do I follow that motivational day in-the-life I read all those years ago? No I don’t. I’ve customized it to my life, my current circumstance, and my children’s needs, but starting with that vision in mind, knowing it was possible…..that was what I needed to take the first step. I encourage you to read blogs, watch Youtube, ask parents online what their day in-the-life is, until you find something that really resonates with you.
Whether you are bringing kids home from traditional school or starting from the beginning, there are levels of detox you will need. Exactly what you and your family will need I’m not sure. But here are areas to consider. Time. The amount of time needed to educate at home is radically different than at school. Carving out time for yourself is also important. Each parent will have their own needs in that area. Space. Getting used to being around each other all the time, all day long takes some getting used to if this is new to you. Our home has a quiet time for everyone every single day! During this time children are sent to beds or rooms to be alone. To read, rest, or play on their own. This time has become sacred and although the duration and time of day changes….it is essential, especially during detox. Busy Work. During detox you and your children will have to purge the idea that you always need to be busy. 15 minutes of a read out loud can be, and usually is, more effective than 1 hour of worksheets to reinforce the story read. A math lesson learned does not need to go on for 1 hour. You do not need to learn everything everyday. It’s time to detox the traditions and habits instilled in you and your children from public school.
4. Know thyself
This one can really be the kicker. I love to plan. I love to know what to expect. I don’t like to wake up early. I am not a morning person. I don’t like to have work to do after dinner. I don’t like craft projects. I need a level of cleanliness. I need time to myself every week. I get distracted easily. I’m very sociable. I love to travel. I didn’t know all these things about myself before, it was definitely a learning process that I continue even now. But understanding what I like and what I don’t like, what motivates me and what discourages me, has been essential in moving forward in custom education. All the plans I’ve ever had to get up at 6am, have always failed. When I have homeschool 4 days a week and hire a babysitter 1 day a week, that plan works. School work that is left to do after dinner has NEVER been done, but days that get started after 9am work well at my house. What do you know about yourself?
5. Know your kids
Just like knowing yourself, this is always a moving target. Children are always changing and you will always be learning what they need and enjoy. Start to take an inventory of what you know about your kids already. Can your child sit and color for 2 hours straight? I have some children who can and some who can’t. Do you have children who can learn music lyrics quickly? Do some of your children get starving at the same time every day? As a mother or father you have been noticing these things…..now apply them to how you educate at home. As you start to make curriculum choices and a homeschool plan you will use this knowledge about your child, and your knowledge about yourself, to develop a plan and educational rhythm.
6. Address your concerns
What concerns you about home educating your child? Common concerns of beginning homeschoolers are socialization, falling behind peers, how to teach multiple children, and how to homeschool while working at home. What are your concerns? Don’t let anyone discount your concern, and guess what? The concerns you have now may not be your concern in 2 years, but that in no way discounts their validity now. I knew that it was important to me that my children would have friendships with other children and that they learned from other adults as well. I wanted them to learn to respect others and to learn to navigate social situations. The way I’ve been working with that concern is by having my children play sports they are interested in, play instruments, stay active in a local church group, have tutors, and spend time with their grandparents and uncles and aunts. I was concerned about the morality that was taught to my children. I chose curriculum and routines that align with the beliefs that I want to instill into my children. Love of God, hard work, and love of their neighbor. What are your concerns?
7. Make room.
I don’t mean make a school room, although you can if you’d like. I mean make room in your life. Most developed nations and societies have embraced a routine and expectation that revolves around sending our children to educational institutions. When you bring your children home you will need to make room in your day, your home, your expectations, and maybe even your finances. Look to see what will need to change. For me an area I needed to make space in was in my expectation of what my day would look like. When my friends sent their kids to school, they all of a sudden had mornings free. They could work out, maybe go to work, go shopping, clean their house, and do all sorts of other things without their children. I could not. I had to emotionally and literally make space for home education. I had to train my friends and family that I could not babysit their toddler on a regular basis during the morning, I couldn’t not work out with them or go to lunch. I could not plan on cleaning during that time. I had to make room in my life for educating my children. It took prioritizing, self discipline, and training. Because I started with the why, the how, and knowing my needs and the needs of my children, it was easier. I had a purpose. And knowing myself, I set aside Fridays as the day I went to get my hair done or that I went to walk with a friend while the babysitter was over. Making room in our lives for home educating our children will look different for each one of us.
This framework will set you on the path to educate your children at home. Why, How, Detox, Know ThySelf, Know Your Kids, Address Your Concerns, and Make Room.
Don’t worry, I hear you. “Sara! What curriculum? What math? How do they go to college?”
These questions are important, and you will find answers, but it's not really what you need to start. Use this framework and with the answers, you will be able to narrow down your curriculum. Use what you know about yourself and your children and just start. I can almost guarantee the math curriculum you choose first won’t be the last one you use. You’ll learn more about your children’s learning needs. You probably won’t teach all your children to read the same way. But just pick the reading method that sounds best to you and try it.
If you are worried about knowing enough to teach them, well I have a secret to tell you. Curriculum is created by educators who know enough. The history curriculum you use will be developed by a historian. The curriculum will tell you what to read and what to teach. You don’t have to be the expert in history, math, and science. You are the expert of your children and you will enlist experts who write and create curriculum. You will find expert tutors, piano teachers, coaches, and mentors for your children. So to the beginner - just choose something that sounds good. See how it goes and you will not ruin anything if you change and adjust.
Each of your children is unique and they will flourish with the custom education that you can facilitate for them. Best wishes!
I’m happy to share with you all my day-in-the-life and a free resource to keep know if your child is at or above grade level even when homeschooling.
Let’s connect on Instagram: @sara.a.peterson
Email with questions firstname.lastname@example.org