Homeschool Mom Truths

10 Wake-up Calls That Rudely Awakened This Homeschool Mom

I wrote this post in 2016 when I was new to blogging and homeschool. After rereading it and making a few revisions, I wanted to share it on this particular platform because I believe it’s important to write about homeschool from all angles—and not just from the Instagram-perfect lens. 

True, homeschool is pretty awesome. But I think every homeschool parent has an expectations-versus-reality type of moment. You know, when you kind of feel betrayed because all those social media influencers made homeschooling seem like a Mary Poppins sequel, but then you discover it’s no walk in the park? Well, perhaps it is a walk in Jurassic Park, hehe.

Funny Homeschool Meme

I’m here for you.

Today, I’m going to share ten wakeup calls that I’ve experienced as a new homeschool mom. Now that I’m nearing the end of my fourth year, I must say it was pretty interesting to revisit this topic. At first, I feared this post was too negative. However, I’ve come to realize there’s nothing negative about seeing things for what they are. And there’s certainly nothing negative about personal growth and sharing that growth with others.

So, here it is:


10 Wake-up Calls That Rudely Awakened This Homeschool Mom


1.    Expectation—My kids will perform three grade-levels ahead. 

Wake-up Call—I’m feeding my ego. 

I admit to being easily impressed by homeschool families who managed to do incredible things. When I read stories about teens who earned early college enrollment or admission to Ivy League schools, I wanted that to be my boys in the future. The problem with this frame of thinking was it changed the environment of our homeschool. We went from having fun to doing drills, and I became obsessed with keeping my boys ahead academically.

I’m all for preparing my kids for the absolute best, but something had to give. Everyone was frustrated! I had to ask myself a valid question; who am I really doing this for? The difficult truth was it wasn’t entirely for my boys. Compliments like, “they’re so smart for their age,” really fed my ego. I had to humble myself and make some changes to their curriculum that were more developmentally appropriate.

 

2.    Expectation—My kids are smarter because they’re homeschooled. 

Wake-up Call—My kids are not superior.

Can I be real? It took me a while to let go of the notion that my kids are academically superior just because they’re homeschooled (Don’t condemn me. It’s flawed thinking that has since been corrected). Unfortunately, though, some homeschool parents haven’t gotten the memo, as academic superiority seems to be a primary topic of conversation in many homeschool groups and forums.

 

But who cares? I understand the desire for our children to excel, but why is it necessary to compare their intelligence to that of another human being? These days, I teach my boys the only person they need to be better than is the person they were yesterday. That doesn’t mean I don’t challenge them or encourage them to work diligently. It just means I’m not setting them up to adopt a practice that is notorious for being the “thief of joy”—comparison.

 

3.    Expectation—Academics come first.

Wake-up Call—My kids have needs outside academics. 

There are many life skills and principles my boys need to learn that, in my eyes, are just as important to master as academics. Things like riding a bike without training wheels, tying their own shoes, coordination, discipline, and so much more. My husband and I had to become just as intentional about teaching these things as we are about teaching core subjects. And where we fall short, we’ve learned the relief that comes with investing in an instructor who can help our children master the skills and principles we value.

 

4.    Expectation—All Homeschool groups are welcoming.

Wake-up Call—Finding the right homeschool group is challenging. 

Before we started homeschooling, I pictured other homeschool parents embracing me and my children with open arms. I pictured being a part of a community dedicated to giving our children a phenomenal education and awesome social opportunities. I pictured how easy it would be to connect and build friendships with people who were on the same journey.

Sadly, this hasn’t been the case.

I can’t emphasize enough how challenging it was—and still is—to find a homeschool group where I feel like we truly belong. If it’s not one thing that sets us apart, it’s another. Not only are we one of the few black homeschool families in our community, but we are also not native to Middle Georgia. The great news is, after a few years, I’ve made at least two solid connections with other moms and the outlook is promising.

 

5.    Expectation—I will shrug off the naysayers.

Wake-up Call—My skin isn’t as tough as I think. 

I’m proud of my decision to homeschool, but there are moments when my confidence waivers. Those are the moments I allow the voices of other people to get inside my ear; voices that tell me my curriculum isn’t good enough, that homeschool is for weirdos, or that black people should never homeschool. I got knocked down so many times and continue to get knocked down. Developing tough skin is a process, but it’s happening. Each day I get a little tougher.

 

6.    Expectation—Homeschoolers are a Kum ba yah community.

Wake-up Call—The community is divided. 

Should I choose the Charlotte Mason or self-directed learning method? A five-hundred dollar curriculum or a DIY curriculum? Everyone has an opinion. Everyone thinks their method is best. Parents who choose to DIY are criticized for not investing in their children’s education. Parents who practice self-directed learning are criticized for not taking their children’s education seriously.

There’s a war going on in some of these social media comment sections, and frankly, it’s appalling. I thought the homeschool community was full of unity and love, but I’ve discovered it can be just as divided as the rest of the world when our egos enter into the mix. Thankfully, I finally stumbled upon some great communities where none of this drama takes place.

 

7.    Expectation—We’ll do all our learning in the homeschool room. 

Wake-up Call—Homeschool is better outside the home. 

That’s right! Our classroom gets very little use these days. The more we get out, go on field trips, and engage in extracurricular activities, the better the homeschool experience is for the entire family.

Of course there are times when classroom work is necessary, but no one wants to be in the house all day, every day. I learned it’s really important to, at the very least, schedule my boys to have outdoor time every single day (weather permitted). I’d venture to say that planning field trips and outings should take just a much effort as researching what curriculum we’ll use for the year.

 

8.    Expectation—I don’t have to worry about socialization.

Wake-up Call—Socialization should not be disregarded. 

I know this is a touchy subject for some. I’ve heard, and often made the same argument, that by definition, fellowshipping with family members counts as socialization. While this may be true (socializing is socializing), I will venture to say that for MY kids, they need a bit more. Here’s why:

  • First, my kids need a break from each other! Enrolling them in separate extracurricular classes and activities gives them that much-needed break.
  • Second, my kids love hanging out with other kids. Yes, having a full-blown conversation with the cashier at the local grocery store counts as socialization, but my children crave to be with other children!
  • Third, my kids need exposure to people who are different from them. I’ve seen what it looks like when children are only surrounded by their own kind and it’s not a pretty picture. We’ll leave it there.

 

9.    Expectation—I will never use assessments on my children. 

Wake-up Call—Assessments are not the Devil. 

Some homeschool methods feel strongly against any type of assessment. While I agree that assessments don’t always accurately measure knowledge, I personally like to know where my child stands in each subject so that I can see which areas need work. In other words; the assessments are for me, not the child. They are the red flags that alert me if I need to slow down, speed up, hire a tutor, change the curriculum, or keep up the good work.

Of the three types of assessments, I primarily (though not exclusively) use the formative version because it’s the most flexible. Examples of formative assessments we use in our homeschool are interactive discussions and oral/written quizzes. This type of assessment has worked for my boys because it is more lax, allows for immediate feedback, and has improved their knowledge retention and overall academic performance.

 

10. Expectation—All homeschool kids are just as awesome as statistics suggest. 

Wake-up Call—All homeschool kids aren’t poster children. 

Like public school, some homeschoolers fall through the cracks. The problem is, there’s no way to actually determine that percentage because these kids are either invisible or are eventually enrolled in public school (which would then count them as a public school student when measuring statistics). In other words, homeschool doesn’t guarantee success.

I know, I know—it’s touchy.

The reality is, while there are some homeschool teens successfully attending college at the age of sixteen, homeschool is no guarantee that your child will be college-ready any more than the public school can make that same guarantee. At the end of the day,  it’ll all boil down to commitment.


 

Before I end this post, I just want to note that this post isn’t meant to discourage newbie homeschoolers. Rather, I hope that you’re able to form a more realistic picture of homeschool. The important thing to note here is that it’s okay to try new methods and do things YOUR way—even if it goes against popular opinion.

I’d be interested to know how your views of homeschool have changed over the years. Let me know in the comments below!

Homeschool Dilemma How Do I Socialize My Children?

Homeschool Dilemma | How Do I Socialize My Children?

Socialization seems to be a top concern for prospective homeschool parents. It also seems to be a concern for homeschool critics. In fact, whenever the subject of homeschool emerges, I can almost guarantee the person on the other end of the conversation will mention something about socialization.

Before I go any further, I want to mention that it’s a common misconception that homeschool and poor social skills are directly correlated. They are not. There are many children who attend public school that lack proper socialization skills, but we’d never attribute this deficiency to them being “public-schooled,” right? Instead, we’d just chalk it up to their personality. After all, many people are introverted and socially awkward.

When it comes to homeschool, like public school, I’ve met children who are super extroverted and outgoing, and I’ve met children who are super shy and introverted. It just depends. I’m a member of three homeschool groups and teach homeschool classes, so I’ve been exposed to tons of homeschooled children on the regular basis and they are all different.

But how do we actually keep our children socialized? The simple answer is, by socializing with them. After all, “socialization” defined means to mix socially with others. Every family has members with different personalities, values, and conflicts. Therefore, by definition, learning to interact and peacefully resolve conflicts with parents and siblings is socialization enough for a child.

I suppose when some people think of homeschool, they imagine a family living in the middle of nowhere on a farm with very little interaction with the “outside” world. There’s nothing wrong with these types of families, I know a few and most of their children are social butterflies, but I’m here to tell you the homeschool demographic has shifted. I spoke with a retired educator this past summer who was floored by all the social opportunities that are now available for homeschoolers.

Here are a few that we take advantage of:

 

1. Co-ops.

Homeschool coops and socialization
It’s relay race time for the kindergarten co-op class.

My children meet weekly and learn elective subjects with their peers. All classes are taught by a skilled parent (some of which are former educators). Classes my boys have taken include physical education, group reading, math games, building and engineering, music, theater, geography, cooking, and more! There are over one-hundred families signed up for co-op each semester, so there are loads of kids. We host spirit days, picnics, and even theater nights.

Pictured above is one of the kindergarten classes I teach at my local co-op. We were trying to help them get their wiggles out before their next class, so we held an impromptu relay race in the hallway. I typically don’t get to take pictures of my kids in their classes because I’m teaching. This year, however, my kindergartner is in my first-hour class, so I’m happy to get at least one picture in!

It’s important to mention that all co-ops differ. Some co-ops offer organized sports. Some co-ops offer playdates. Some co-ops are even community service based. If you’re new to homeschool or just looking to meet new friends, be sure to search the types of co-ops your city has to offer.

 

2. Homeschool Groups

Homeschool group and socialization
A picnic lunch after exploring the Go-Fish Education Center.

My children attend fieldtrips, playdates, picnics, holiday parties, and other fun events with their homeschool “squad” (that’s what we call it). We meet at least a couple times a month to enjoy the day together. What’s great about the homeschool group and co-op is that they provide an opportunity to build longevity in friendships. My boys met their best friends through our homeschool group and I think it’s awesome that they get to grow up and experience homeschool together.

Pictured above are my boys’ best friends all in one photo! We ventured out to the Go-Fish Education Center and learned all about aquatic life. We even got to go fishing! When the exploring was over, some of the group decided to stick around and have a picnic lunch. We feel so blessed to have these experiences.

How do you find a homeschool group or co-op in your area? Facebook is your best bet! Just type in “homeschool groups near me” in the Facebook search-box and request to join the group that best suits your family. An additional application process may be required.

 

3. Library Events

geography class library Homeschool and socialization
Our public library hosts awesome classes for homeschoolers.

The library is always hosting events for children. Our local library even offers bi-monthly homeschool STEM classes. I make a habit of downloading the library events calendar from their website and marking off events we’d like to attend. Such events include read-alouds, craft activities, Lego clubs, STEM classes, reading books to shelter animals, and more!

Pictured above is a homeschool geography class hosted by our public library. This was a great series! The class learned about different countries and did hands-on activities. They hosted an exhibit day where students could bring in currency from countries they’ve traveled to. The students also did an oral presentation on a country of their choice (my son chose Nigeria, of course.) And my absolute favorite class was when they hosted a feast where the students brought a cultural dish related to a specific country.

Visit your local library’s website and search their “events” or “calendar” tabs to find out what they have to offer. I like to print out my local library’s calendar and highlight the events we’re interested in attending. I will say, though, that nothing beats visiting the library and speaking with a knowledgeable librarian about opportunities for homeschoolers.

 

4. Homeschool Days

homeschool skate day
Enjoying our monthly homeschool skate day.

Our local skating rink, trampoline park, bowling alley, museums, and other venues offer what we call “homeschool days” where they open the facility to homeschool families usually at a discounted rate. This is a great opportunity for my boys to meet children who are not a part of our homeschool group. It’s also a lot of fun!

Pictured above is our monthly Homeschool Skate Day. This day is open for all homeschoolers to come out and socialize. They can skate together, play at the indoor playground, or hang out at the cafeteria over some fries and a coke. This is an all-ages affair and a super lax environment.

Check with your local recreational businesses to see what they have to offer homeschoolers. Zoos and aquariums may also offer extracurricular classes. Sometimes, these venues will agree to start incorporating homeschool days if the demand is there. Therefore, you can always round-up homeschoolers in your area to petition for such services if they’re not offered.

 

5. Extracurricular Classes

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A lesson on states of matter at the Museum of Arts & Sciences.

So, I’ve talked about co-op classes and library classes for homeschoolers, but that’s just the beginning. There are many places that offer extracurricular classes that benefit homeschoolers. Some of our local museums offer STEM courses at a decent price. Our local education center offers low-cost classes on fishing, aquatic animals, and natural resources.

Pictured above is a lesson on states of matter during our group trip to the Museum of Arts & Sciences. Students were able to do a fun art project using a liquid, solid, and gas. They even learned about plasma. This lesson was followed by a lecture on birds, reptiles, and mammals with live animals included! To cap off our trip, we visited the planetarium and watched an awesome presentation on galaxies and constellations.

Art and music studios have also reached out to homeschoolers in our area, offering discounted group rates. Even our state capital offers legislation classes every year for homeschoolers, along with a free tour of the capital building and an opportunity to meet legislators. Local churches have also been kind to homeschoolers. One of them just started offering science classes to homeschool students this year!

Now, I can only speak for my city, but I’m sure there are similar opportunities in yours. You’d be surprised which establishments offer opportunities to homeschoolers. As previously stated, if you find absolutely nothing, you can always petition if you show them you have enough homeschoolers who are interested in their services.

 

6. Organized Sports

Homeschool socialization sports
It’s game-day for our Upward Sports 2018 soccer team!

My boys took taekwondo classes in the past. This year, they’re trying their hand at soccer. Organized sports are great because it means my boys have teammates who are most likely not homeschooled. Exposure to non-homeschooled children is a great way to eradicate untrue stereotypes about homeschoolers.

I’ve read that public schools in some states allow homeschooled students to partake in their organized sports programs. That’s not the case where I live, but we do take advantage of the Upward Sports program. Upward Sports is statewide and offers basketball, soccer, football, cheerleading, and more! So, if you’re a homeschool family looking for organized sports opportunities, check to see if there is an Upward Sports program in your area. Your local recreation center is also a good place to check out.

Pictured above is my oldest son’s Upward Sports soccer team. As you can see, the teams are unisex and generally separated by age group. Here, the coaches are handing out Game Day Stars. The stars represent a virtue that the athlete exhibited well, like good sportsmanship, humility, etc. The program prides itself on not just focusing on performance but also the character of each athlete.

 

7. Church

Homeschool and Socialization
Excited for Salvation Day at our home church.

We are a family of Believers so attending church is another opportunity for our children to interact with their peers. Our church has a dynamic children’s ministry for each age group and my boys look forward to seeing their friends every Sunday.

Like co-ops and homeschool groups, attending church is yet another way my boys have the opportunity to form long-term friendships since they’re exposed to the same group of kids on the regular basis. And it’s not just during service that they get to see each other, but they look forward to running into their friends at all the family events hosted by our church.

Pictured above is my oldest son with some of his classmates on Salvation Day at our home church. It was a special day because he accepted Jesus Christ into his life! Since my husband and I attend the adult service, we rarely get to take pictures of our kids at church. I’m so glad that our church hosts a Facebook page just for the children’s ministry so that we can see our boys in action. So, a huge thank you to our church for this beautiful image.

 

8. Travel

Capitol Building Washington DC
Spending the day in DC was a blast!

As Georgians who have family that lives in Nigeria, Maryland, Rhode Island and Tennessee, travel is something we love to do. The great thing about traveling with kids is that it really does open their eyes to the diversity that exists in the world. They understand the concept of culture and accents, and that not everyone looks, speaks, or even believes as they do.

Pictured above is our spring trip to the nation’s capital. People from all around the globe flock to DC every year! Not only is it home to the White House and Capitol building, but it’s also home to seventeen museums, all of which are free! Some museums include the African American Civil War Museum, the National Geographic Museum, and the International Spy Museum to name a few. It was great to surround our children with such culture and diversity.

You don’t have to spend big bucks to travel. Every so often, we like to take day-trips to Atlanta or other surrounding cities and states and explore what they have to offer. All you need is a good running car and some gas! Parks are everywhere and they are generally free. You could also arrange a day-trip on a day you know certain museums offer free admission. Many children’s museums have FREE admission days!

 

9. Playdates

playdate
An intimate pool party at their best friend’s house.

While our homeschool group hosts playdates, I also take the liberty of arranging personal playdates outside the group. Personal playdates are great because they create a more intimate setting, allowing for the parents and children to bond more. These playdates can take place in your home or a mutual place like the park.

Pictured above is an intimate pool party we were invited to by good friends of ours. It was just my boys and her boys splashing around and bonding on a beautiful late August day. We try to be intentional about getting our kids together in-between homeschool group events so that they can strengthen that bond.

I must mention, you don’t have to be best friends with the parents to make this happen. In fact, our first playdates with other families were arranged solely based on the fact that our children hit it off and we wanted them to see more of each other. The more we got together, the more my friendships grew with each parent. So, don’t be afraid to take initiative and exchange contact info with the parents of your child’s new friend.

 

10. Community Events

Homeschool and Socialization
Making new friends at the Spring Fest!

We don’t just rely on our homeschool group to provide the fun, we go out searching for the fun, too! There’s an amazing Facebook page I frequent when I want to know about upcoming events in the community. Perhaps your community also hosts a local events page on Facebook? It’s worth checking out.

We’ve attended everything from parades to festivals, holiday celebrations, and more. Pictured above is our boys enjoying their time at the Spring Fest. I love that they can make friends literally anywhere! They’d just met this brother/sister duo and you’d never know it by how well they played together.

 

11. Fieldtrips

Homeschool fieldtrips and socialization
We got to meet some lovely animals during our field trip to the Rock Ranch.

I made this a separate point because you don’t necessarily have to belong to a homeschool group to go on fieldtrips. In fact, our family has been on quite a few self-planned fieldtrips, which is great because we could explore at our own leisure. Nevertheless, planning a group fieldtrip with other homeschoolers means you can get awesome discount rates. Additionally, your child gets to learn and experience new things with their peers.

Pictured above is our group fieldtrip to Rock Ranch. Our boys learned how to make corn flour by hand, met beautiful farm animals, played in the corn pit, bounced on a giant inflatable pillow, toured the grounds on a hayride, and much more. What makes these fieldtrips even more special is that they are creating memories with their friends.

If you need some fieldtrip ideas, visit my Instagram to check out some of the fun fieldtrips we’ve taken.

 

12. Camps

Homeschool Kids and Socialization
Vacation Bible School shenanigans.

During the summer, my boys enjoy attending reading camps, sports camps, and VBS camps. Not only do they get to see some of their friends, but they also get to meet new people and experience new things. These programs are typically free or low cost and are usually hosted by local libraries, churches, and/or recreation centers. Be sure to check out the venues in your area to discover similar summer programs.

Pictured above is my oldest son at one of the Vacation Bible Schools we’ve attended. This particular VBS is their favorite and they look forward to it every year. I do want to mention that, in most cases, you don’t have to be a member of a church for your kids to be able to attend their VBS. Vacation Bible Schools are typically outreach programs and are open to the community. We attend VBS’s at churches we’re not members of all the time!

Lastly, your local museums, zoos, entertainment complexes, universities, etc, are great places to check for camp programs. Our local museum hosts STEM camps year-round. One of our local universities hosts summer camps that allow children to take science, writing, and history classes. Even our entertainment complex got in on the fun and started offering summer day camps. All you have to do is call the venue and ask or simply check out their social media pages for information.


 

I’ll close by saying this is not a comprehensive list. There are many other ways my boys have the opportunity to socialize. They visit their cousins, they volunteer, they play with the neighborhood kids, and so much more. We are blessed to be surrounded by so many opportunities.

Finally, this is not an attempt to prove that my homeschooled children are “socialized,” but rather a way to give my homeschool peers some ideas on what social opportunities they can seek out in their area. I hope this post was helpful!

Until next time, friends…

 

 

 

How to Homeschool

10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool

Thinking about homeschooling your children, or know someone who is? As a newbie homeschooler, I would have been lost if it weren’t for the homeschool veterans that helped me put everything into perspective. So, here I am paying it forward. Not that I consider myself a veteran, but I’ve learned a thing or two. Here are my top ten things every prospective homeschooler should know and/or consider before their first year of homeschool. And if you’re already in the homeschooling game, perhaps you may still find some of these tips useful.   


10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool


1. The Law

In the United States, you have the right to provide your child with a home-based education. Homeschool is a legal practice in all fifty U.S. states and has been since 1993. However, there are legal requirements you should know regarding homeschool. Requirements differ depending on where you live, so it’s best to research the requirements for your state. I can offer you a summary here, but be sure to do the research for yourself for up-to-date legal requirements.

Homeschool Law Breakdown

There are four types of states regarding homeschool laws: The first type is a No Regulation State. A no regulation state has no requirements for homeschool parents. The second type is a Low Regulation State. A low regulation state only requires parents to send notification of their intent to homeschool. The third type is a Moderate Regulation State. A moderate regulation state requires parents to send notification of their intent to homeschool, as well as test scores and/ or professional evaluation of student progress. Finally, the fourth type is a High Regulation State. A high regulation state may require notification, test scores, curriculum approval by the state, teacher qualification of parents, or home visits by state officials, among other things. Click here to get a snapshot of the category your residing state falls into.

I can’t stress enough to do your own research. Laws change all the time and there are always details to consider. To help structure your research, seek to answer the following questions:

  • Is there a compulsory attendance?
  • Are there required subjects?
  • Is there a deadline?
  • Do you have to keep records?
  • Can you teach other kids?
  • Can you hire a tutor?
  • Do you need a college degree?
  • Are there required standardized tests?
  • What are your other rights?
  • Did any laws change?

I know. It all seems so scary. If you need any legal help, the Homeschool Defense Legal Association will point you in the right direction.

2. Your Vision

So, what’s a vision, anyway?

I like the way leadership expert, Jessie Lyn Stoner, defines vision: “Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide your journey.” It is made up of your purpose, picture of the future, and your values. Now let’s apply that to your homeschool. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your purpose for homeschooling and what value will it provide to your family?
  • What will your picture look like at the end of your homeschool journey when your purpose of fulfilled?
  • What are your core values and how will they support your purpose?

Make sure you write your vision down! Here’s an example from my vision and mission statement for the upcoming school year.

Nike Anderson's Homeschool Vision Statement

3. The Benefits

Understanding the benefits of your decision to homeschool will keep you going when things get tough. Be sure to do thorough research on all of the benefits you’ll be providing for your children (and yourself!) during your homeschool experience. Write them down or print them out. Here are a few statistics from the National Home Education Research Institute:

  • Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
  • The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.
  • Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges
  • The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.

It’s important to understand that some statistics in favor of homeschool, and those against homeschool, can be biased. Instead, make it a habit to write down your personal list of benefits that you’ve experienced as a result of homeschool. Here’s mine. Perhaps I’ll explain these in depth in another blog post.

  • Improved Focus. We’re able to modify our learning environment to ensure the best possible focus.
  • Close-knit Family. We have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with one another.
  • Tailored Education. We can choose a curriculum that best suits our family and make necessary modifications if needed.
  • Tailored Pace. We can speed up or slow down our lessons depending on the level of mastery. 
  • Lifestyle Learning. There’s very little separation between real-life and “school.” Everything’s a lesson!
  • Lifestyle Freedom. Our schedule is super flexible. We can vacation off-season and visit attractions during low-traffic hours.

4. Discounts & Free Resources

Homeschool has the potential to get costly, especially for beginners who are tempted to purchase everything that veterans recommend. Research free resources in your area. You might be amazed by all your community has to offer for little to no cost. The local library is a great place to start, as they are typically connected to many resources that offer free admission to the museum, zoo, aquarium, and much more. You can even find free or low-cost classes at your local museum, zoo, aquarium, capital building, and education center.

Of course, there are many free resources on the Web. Youtube has great educational channels for all ages, and there are websites galore that are full of access to free educational resources. Websites I’ve used frequently for free printables and curricula are:

  • Education.comFree printables for core and elective subjects for grades pre-k thru high school. Also provides games, activities, lesson plans, and more.
  • KidzoneFree worksheets for pre-k thru grade 5.
  • Teachers pay TeachersFree lesson plans, worksheets, games, and resources from experienced educators around the world.
  • AllinOneHomeschoolA free online curriculum for core and elective subjects for grades pre-k thru high school.
  • Khan AcademyFree online courses, classes, and practice.
  • ScholasticFree resources and tools, printables, and more.
  • Hoffman AcademyFree music lessons.
  • Nike Anderson’s Classroom(Shameless plug, hehe!) Free printable worksheets for pre-k thru grade 2 designed for kinesthetic learners.

This list doesn’t even make a dent so please do your own research. New resources I haven’t tried but am just learning about are:

  • CrayolaFree lesson plans and resources for language arts, math, STEM, social studies, art, and more.
  • Homeschool Buyers CoopFree virtual field trip lesson plans, resources, tips, and more.

Read FREE Homeschool DEALS Your Wallet Will LOVE for more resources.

*******You May Also Qualify for Teacher Discounts******

Don’t forget you are a teacher, too! I mean, I know this should be a given, but it took me a while to accept that title. So make sure you attend teacher drives in your area and take advantage of the free school supplies they give out at the start of the school year.

Even more? You can receive a teacher’s discount at participating supercenters, bookstores, and office supply stores. I’ve personally received discounts at my local bookstore, but am now learning there are so many stores that may offer homeschoolers a teacher’s discount. Keep in mind that you may have to show your declaration of intent, homeschool membership card, or HSLDA membership card. Here are some stores you might want to try according to the HSLDA.

·         Adobe.com

·         A.C. Moore Arts and Crafts

·         Ann Taylor Loft

·         Apple Store

·         Barnes & Noble

·         Big Lots

·         The Book Barn

·         Books-a-Million

·         Colonial Williamsburg

·         The Container Store

·         Creation Museum

·         Dell

·         Generation Joshua

·         Goodwill

·         Half Price Books

·         HSLDA Online Academy

·         J. Crew

·         Joann Fabrics

·         Legoland

·         Michaels

·         Mount Vernon

·         New York and Co.

·         Office Depot

·         Office Max

·         Patrick Henry College

·         Ripley’s Attractions, Gatlinburg, TN

5. The Types of Homeschool Groups

Basically, there are different types of homeschool groups that cater to the needs of different families. The best way I found out about the homeschool groups in my area was through a Facebook search. I simply searched “homeschool groups near me” and requested to join the groups I was interested in. Please note that there is an additional process to be an official member of the homeschool group of your choice. Joining a Facebook group may give you access to information about that group, but many groups require an application, a membership fee, references, a background check, mandatory volunteering, and more. Be sure to seek out the group administrator for additional requirements. Here are some examples of homeschool groups to consider:

  • Christian Homeschool Groups—A group that provides homeschool families with information, fellowship, and learning opportunities centered around Christian beliefs.
  • Secular Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that provides non-religious families with information, fellowship, and learning opportunities.
  • African American/ Ethnic Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that connects African Americans and/or various ethnic groups with one another.
  • STEAM Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that helps families provide their children with an education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.
  • Homeschool Playgroups—A laid back homeschool group focused on providing children with fellowship opportunities in the form of open-ended play.
  • Classical Education Homeschool Groups—Connects homeschool families who follow the classical education method. This group usually offers classes by parents who specialize in teaching classical education.
  • Tutorial Co-op—A co-op for children of any age in need of specialized tutoring in a particular subject. Usually, taught by qualified parents and/or teachers.
  • Parent-support Co-op—A co-op for homeschool parents to gather, fellowship, and minister to one another.
  • Traditional Homeschool Co-op—A co-op that’s usually parent-led designed to provide homeschool children with elective classes, field-trips, socialization, and more.

6. How Your Children Learn.

If you plan to use a curriculum, make sure it suits the way your child learns best. There are different types of learning styles. Here’s a list of six different ways your child may prefer to learn.

  • Visual, or learning using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural, or learning using sound and music.
  • Verbal, or learning using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical, or learning using your body, hands, and sense of touch.
  • Logical, or learning using logic, reasoning, and systems.
  • Social, or learning in groups.
  • Solitary, or preferring to work alone and use self-study.

Scholastic offers a simple “Learning Style Quiz” you can do with your child to point you in the right direction. When I sought out a curriculum for my children, who are visual and physical learners, I made sure to implement a curriculum that involves games, physical movement, and stimulating visual prompts and videos. But even in doing so, we’re not limited to the curriculum. I’ve created many resources, learning games, and projects along the way to enhance classroom learning. You can, too! Pinterest is your best friend. So is your imagination!

7.  You Don’t Need an Extensive Curriculum

Well, maybe you do if you live in a high regulation state that must approve your curriculum choice. However, for the rest of us, an extensive curriculum with all the bells and whistles isn’t necessary. Trust me when I say, “What will always matter most is how much you put into a curriculum. Not what you get out of it.” When a parent places a great deal of effort into their child’s education they will never come up short—regardless of the curriculum choice. I am living proof. Due to financial hardship in the past, I’ve had to get super creative. I relied heavily on free curricula, library resources, and my creative juices. If you’ve been following me since Day One, you know this. These days, I am blessed to purchase curricula that suit my family, but I still take advantage of free resources.

Please know there are parents who’ve spent a fortune, yet get frustrated by a curriculum because the child is disinterested and/or not thriving. Usually, this is because the curriculum doesn’t fit the child’s preferred learning style. Read the forums! You’ll read all sorts of horror stories regarding the most recommended of curricula. And while these particular materials may work for some children, they do not work for all.

I don’t care who wrote the curriculum, what the author’s credentials are, and how many awards they’ve earned, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all curriculum. And just because it costs a fortune doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for your family. I personally know parents who are using free online homeschool curricula and their children are thriving because the parents are involved, innovative, and dedicated. I say this not to steer you away from a boxed curriculum, but to inspire those who cannot afford it. You can do it!

8. Different Types of Homeschoolers

There are all kinds of homeschool families. Some of which are underrepresented on the Web. You don’t have to homeschool the way you see other families on social media do it. Take a look at these alternative methods to homeschool.

  • Eclectic homeschool, or homeschooling that mixes several different learning styles.
  • Classical education, or teaching according to the phases of a child’s cognitive development.
  • Charlotte Mason, or a method that uses real-life experiences to teach a child.
  • Unit studies, or a specific interest that is studied from different angles.
  • Unschooled, or child-led learning that is void of curricula and lesson plans.

I know there’s a stigma against implementing traditional schooling into your homeschool classroom, but hear me out: If this method works for your family, use it! You don’t have to forgo the traditional method just because you’re a homeschool family. In fact, if you have children who are being pulled out of public or private school, they may be most receptive to traditional learning because it’s what they know. That’s okay.

9. You Have Support

Say farewell to the stigma that was once associated with homeschool. Welcome, the days where homeschool has increasingly gained both popularity and respect. The U.S. homeschool population continues to grow each year at a rate anywhere between 2-8 percent. As the population grows, so do social support groups, legal support groups, and resources. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is probably amongst the most popular support groups. They provide homeschool families with pertinent information regarding homeschool laws, legal services, and may offer peace of mind.

Many public libraries also support homeschoolers. Check out your local library to see what they have to offer. Our local library offers STEM classes, STEM kits, free admissions passes to parks and museums, and much more. Local businesses may also offer “homeschool days” where admission is free or discounted. Our local Skyzone, skating, and bowling center offer homeschool days for a discounted admission. Our state capital building also offers a homeschool day where they give a free tour and low-cost legal classes. Taking advantage of these opportunities is a great way to meet and connect with other homeschool families in your area. So get plugged in!

10. Inevitable Bad Days

If you have a Mary Poppins expectation of what your homeschool days will look like, allow me to bring in a bit of reality—some days will not go so well.  Just as with traditional school, where you’d expect days when your child hates it, expect the same for homeschool. Prepare in advance for how you’d like to handle your uncooperative child (or your uncooperative self!). Here’s what worked for us:

  • Everyone take ten deep breaths—Deep breathing reduces muscle tension, improves mental concentration, and increases the sense of well-being.
  • Let the child talk about it—Sometimes they need to let it all out. Give them a window of opportunity to let their voice be heard.
  • Take a break—Whether it’s just for ten minutes or for the rest of the day. Sometimes we forget that our children need breaks from the monotony of homeschool.
  • Push through—Helping your child to push through something challenging, even when they want to give up, will teach them the value of perseverance.

So, there you have it! Keep in mind that there’s so much pertinent information out there. These are just some of the tips that I’ve found quite useful as a newbie homeschooler, along with other tips I’ve learned along the way. It goes without saying that every homeschool journey is different. So when seeking advice, always consider that you know what works best for your family better than anyone else.

Your Turn!

Let us know in the comments where you are in your homeschool journey and what you’ve learned so far.