Parents who are in a position where they either want to or have to start homeschooling aren't alone, thankfully. It's a community that is steadily growing, especially in the wake of global school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, such folks are often looking to know about what to do and what to avoid as they begin. That's what we're here to help clear up.
Wabisabi Learning is helping new families adapt to homeschooling increasingly every day through our Wabisabi Academy. We've developed a supportive learning community around the world's first flexible education platform.
There are no online courses and multiple-choice tests with Wabisabi Academy. Instead, we have master teacher advisors that work directly with families to create wholly individualised learning plans for every learner. Take their advice on homeschooling best practices below, and then explore more about the Wabisabi Academy here.
The 12 Top Do's and Don'ts for Starting Homeschooling
Don't go it alone, especially if it's your first time.
Many parents who are now homeschooling are feeling lost alone, but they're not at all. There are plenty of online resources and forums all over the Web created and hosted by experienced homeschoolers. Here are some of the best to check out:
- Homeschool Base
- Homeschool Mom
- Homeschool World
- The Survival Mom
- Collecting Clovers: Homeschooling for Beginners
- Our Homeschool Forum
- Homeschool World Forum
What's here is just the tip of an enormous homeschooling iceberg. We urge you to explore other avenues besides these when getting started. These sites and others offer so many useful and practical; homeschooling ideas for every parent. Parents should also agree to work together as much as possible on homeschooling.
Don't worry that you're not teaching your child what they need to know.
One of a homeschooling parent's biggest worries is if they are giving their child all the knowledge they need to be "successful" students. Parents often rationalise that, since they aren't experienced school teachers, they may not be able to teach their kids in the same way they might learn in school.
One thing about homeschooling is that it's a true reflection of real-world life.
This mindset does a personal disservice to you as a parent, because as a parent, you are a teacher. Your natural ability to help your child develop a solid knowledge base, a sound moral compass, and a lifelong love for learning is what places you head and shoulders above any kind of classroom instruction. The rest is just details.
On the blog Confessions of a Homeschooler, Erica Arndt expressed her concerns about homeschooling curriculum. She shared one piece of useful advice every experienced homeschool mom gave her:
"When I first started homeschooling I asked everyone I knew which curriculum to use, what days to homeschool, which subjects to teach, and how I would know if my kids were doing okay or not. I spoke with several veteran homeschool moms and they all had the same advice. Have fun with your children, enjoy the time while they're in your home, and use whatever works best for you!"
Like we said, as a parent, you already inherently teach. Find your style and honour what engages, inspires, and interests your child in learning. And by all means, let them continue to surprise you with what they actually can learn.
Don't try to emulate public or private school teaching.
Homeschooling is a whole different ball game. All the structure, rigour, and expectation that comes with a traditional school setting is either diminished or gone. This is what attracts so many parents to homeschooling in the first place. But whatever your reasons, do it your way and not how you imagine it in a school environment.
One thing about homeschooling is that it's a reflection of real-world life. As such, there are distractions, emergencies, and errands to deal with in the process. There are appointments and meetings, daily tasks and obligations, and a host of non-curricular tasks that can both interrupt learning, but at the same time enhance it. Attempting to mimic an educational setting with the same rules, curriculum, and infrastructure as a school setting at home is a recipe for disaster.
Let interruptions and mistakes happen. Your child will thank you down the road for showing them how to manage an omnipresent and inevitable part of life effortlessly.
Don't listen to the haters.
As the song lyric goes, "haters gonna hate." And when it comes to homeschooling, the haters are many. Please understand that, as a homeschooling parent, you will be criticised, you will be judged, and you will be tested by those who feel they have the right to do so. It's a hard reality for those who choose consciously to take the road less travelled.
To be fair, most of them can't be blamed. After all, we live in a school-based society. Traditionally, it is where we have always sent our children to learn the ways of life and the skills they desire to gain in whatever career they've chosen. However, learning is in the middle of a massive revolution that began with the Internet in the mid-90s. The message it sends is clear—there is no longer only one way to learn and succeed in life.
As a homeschooling parent, you will be criticised, you will be judged, and you will be tested. It's a hard reality for those who choose consciously to take the road less travelled.
Understand that by no means is this statement meant to downplay the worth of our teachers, schools, or colleges. If anything it's intended to enhance it. All this means is that children who are self-motivated and self-directed now have many more options to expand their knowledge and learn valuable skills besides school. It also shines a new light on the value of homeschooling as a viable option.
People are going to say what they're going to say. Please remember that, as a homeschooler, you've done your homework and you know what you're doing. You have explored the options, prepared the pathway, and you're going to do your best.
Don't worry about your children's' college eligibility.
Another primary concern with homeschooling parents has to do with how post-secondary institutes feel about homeschooling and if it hurts a learner's chances for acceptance. The truth is that most colleges are quite open to the idea of accepting homeschooled kids because they generally have a track record of performing highly in college and university.
There is plenty of evidence to support the fact that homeschooled kids perform just as well, if not better, than traditionally-schooled kids in post-secondary schools. Several studies corroborate this, and the links to some of these studies are below.
- Can Homeschoolers Do Well in College?
- Facts on Homeschooling
- International Center for Home Education Research Reviews
- Homeschooled Students' Adjustment to College
- Homeschooled Students Well-Prepared For College, Study Finds
Don't try to teach them everything.
There's a stigma attached to homeschooling that time to teach is somehow limited. As such, sometimes parents can make the mistake of trying to find a way to teach kids everything possible. Such an approach tends to cause both parent and child undue stress, not to mention set unrealistic expectations on learning for both. So what's a parent to do?
Most colleges are open to accepting homeschooled kids because they generally have a track record of performing highly.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is to teach your child how to love learning. Consider this passage from The 8 Best Ways to Give Your Learners a Lifelong Learning Mindset:
"All our lives, we never truly stop learning. What makes our learning experiences, either enjoyable or unpleasant, is how we've been conditioned to react to them. If we were taught as children that mistakes and failure are synonymous with not being good enough, then this is what we believe. Additionally, if that failure comes with some sort of punishment, we can ultimately become fearful of learning.
Now, imagine the opposite happens. Consider the effects of equating mistakes with opportunities for strengthening understanding and awareness. Think of how we reward progress as with a baby taking those first few steps before falling down. We don't admonish the child for not taking one step more than we expected them to, do we? Instead, we celebrate the achievement that was made with joy and love. We clap for their progress and express the gratitude that we were fortunate enough to bear witness. The child becomes happy, encouraged, and determined to do even better."
This is the reason why the best thing we can do is to help kids develop a passion for learning. If learning is presented as a rewarding journey to students early on, they are much more likely to continue wanting to learn as they grow older.
Do the research and plan some sort of structured curriculum.
Avoid panic spending on every bit of learning material you see. Instead, set clear goals and do plenty of research on what kind of curriculum you want to follow. There's plenty out there for homeschoolers, after all.
Another route you can take is the unschooling route. In a nutshell, "unschooling" is a curriculum-free way to homeschool. Instead of following a structured curriculum, unschooling allows learners to take the lead and learn what they want and how they want. Far from being a free-for-all experience, unschooling includes inspiring a natural curiosity in students about the world they live in, and how life is lived and managed in practical ways. Proponents of unschooling claim it is, without a doubt, the easiest and most effective way to give students a genuine lifelong love of learning and to prepare them for the real world.
No matter what path you choose, always be prepared to adjust and modify your curriculum according to the everchanging needs, interests, and learning preferences of your child. In other words, stay flexible.
Do include plenty of practical activities in your curriculum.
Practical, real-world knowledge is at the heart of the unschooling movement, and it works for a reason. Beyond school-oriented subjects, homeschooling must include non-curricular pursuits as well. These include but aren't limited to necessary life skills such as learning how to clean, cook, shop, handle and save money, perform essential car and house repairs, interact with a stranger, and more.
Think about skills that give your child confidence and independence in the world after homeschool, and give those an honoured place in your teaching.
Do familiarise yourself with local laws regarding homeschooling.
This can be a big one depending on where you live. Beyond having an awareness of international regulations regarding homeschooling, you'll have to check with your state, provincial, or regional government regulations.
Do be patient, with both your children and yourself.
We discussed this at length in the article Suddenly Homeschooling? Here's Where You Start. The gist of it is this: homeschooling can be a difficult role to enter for both teacher and student. For the sake of effective and enjoyable learning, you've got to go easy on yourself.
"First and foremost, you will make mistakes, and perhaps a lot of them. Making mistakes is not a bad thing at all. You can treat them as chances to show your children that errors are not only natural but necessary for meaningful learning … firmly believe in the power of the teachable moments that exist in life all around us. These real-life situations should be an integral part of any homeschool curriculum.
You're going to wonder often if you're doing everything right, or if you're doing enough. If your children are experiencing meaningful and authentic learning, regardless of how much they learn in one day, then you're doing enough. If you're finding ways to make that learning both enjoyable and compelling for them, then you're doing more than enough."
Not every day is going to be rosy when you're homeschooling. Some days will be far more productive for you and the kids than others. Often you'll also have less energy and focus; this is especially true of homeschooling parents who are also holding down full-time jobs. Take each day as it comes, and rest assured that the learning will happen as it needs to.
Do recognise a learner's success.
Whenever possible—and it's always possible—celebrate your child's learning. It takes dedication and focus on making achievements in learning. All too often, our learners fail to receive the positive reinforcement that can either make them want to learn more or to make them want to try again when they fail. And of course, they will fail from time to time.
Failure is only a chance to do better next time and learn from mistakes. That in itself can be called a success.
Do take time off for fun.
Lastly, you and your learners absolutely must take breaks just to let loose. Everybody needs some fun, no matter how old your kids are or what you're doing in homeschool. This can take many forms, too. It could be as simple as playing a game or doing some crafts. Or perhaps, depending on where you live, you may want to take an afternoon outing somewhere.
Who knows? While you're away, you just might learn something.