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Making the Leap – How to Start Homeschooling

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This guest post is sponsored by Oak Meadow.
Making the decision to switch gears and begin homeschooling partway through the school year takes courage and faith. Whatever you were doing before wasn’t working, and whatever you are beginning hasn’t had time to feel routine yet. Figuring out where to start can be a challenge, but don’t let that overwhelm you! Before long, you’ll be a homeschooling pro!

Here are ten suggestions to help you start homeschooling:

  1. Different philosophy; different approach. Students who have been in school have likely become accustomed to an institutional approach where work is prescribed to the class as a whole and the teacher’s attention is divided among many students. Shifting to a creative thinking approach can be challenging for a student who just spent last semester trying very hard to figure out how to succeed in an institutional setting.In contrast, homeschooling allows you to be flexible and creative, and can often allow for one-on-one support between parent and child. Switching gears to this degree is quite an adjustment and might bring stress or frustration. Be understanding and acknowledge those differences as needed.Many new homeschoolers find that using a complete curriculum is a good way to get used to a new way of doing things. Oak Meadow is a full program that balances curriculum with the needs of family life and the developmental levels of children. Unlike many complete programs, it’s not overwhelming. It’s flexible and allows room for creativity. It’s a great place to start!
  2. Commit to riding out the transition. There is a progression in learning as your child adjusts, but it may take a few weeks or more to be able to look back and clearly see the progression. Don’t expect to see results right away. Trust the process and really commit fully to seeing it through for six weeks or so before you assess whether it is working for your child. Learning really does take place, even if it might not feel that way in the moment, and a few weeks’ perspectives can make all the difference in understanding.
  1. Go easy on yourself and your child. You’ve just left behind an educational environment that wasn’t working for some reason, and now you’ve switched to an entirely different approach. During this adjustment phase, don’t get too caught up in whether every single item was done properly in each lesson. What’s the main concept or what are the key skills being addressed? What is most important for your child to grasp before moving on to the next lesson? Make that your focus, and give everyone points for effort as you navigate this new way of learning. Students beginning mid-year may need to go back to previous lessons if they aren’t understanding something in the current lesson.
  1. Consider downshifting or deschooling. Your child might need to ease into the new model slowly, and some children, particularly those who experienced trauma in their previous school experience, will benefit from a period of “deschooling.” This can be like an extended vacation from school, with plenty of nourishing rest, time to daydream, healthy activities of the child’s choosing, and supported emotional processing. It can be very helpful for some students to have a buffer like this between leaving their old school and beginning homeschooling. Often they will let you know when they are ready to jump back in again.
  1. Keep good boundaries with those in your life who resist the idea of homeschooling. Even well-meaning loved ones can undermine confidence by demanding evidence or reassurance that your new educational plan is “working.” It is fine to say things are going well without elaborating. Let your child know that you will be keeping his or her educational details private. This allows your child to relax and focus on learning without worrying about what the relatives or neighbors might be thinking.
  1. Structure and support are key. Set up a solid daily and weekly routine as a starting point. You may need to adjust it many times but begin with a strong plan. It is easy to get sidetracked, so do your best to stick to the plan. Set aside focused time each day for academic work. Find a good place to work with your child where you can both be comfortable.If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider going with a program that offers parental support.  You can consult with one of Oak Meadow’s experienced teachers, enrolling in their distance-learning program, using a tutor, or asking an experienced friend for help.
  1. Be resourceful and independent. Reach out to others. Make friends with your local librarian; it’s a great way to find out what resources are available and connect with other homeschooling families or groups in the area. Explore online resources. Facebook is a great place to connect with other homeschooling parents and find validation for this journey. There are many online groups for homeschooling parents. Seek support from like-minded people wherever you find it.
  1. Go outside! One of the reasons we love using Oak Meadow so much is that it gives us plenty of room to head outdoors and explore. Oak Meadow’s organic approach to learning encourages families to learn out in the world. This means spending plenty of time outside in nature and interacting with others in your local neighborhood or community. Fresh air and the soothing sights and sounds of nature are a good antidote for stress of any kind, including the positive stress of the important transition from school to homeschool.
  1. Be patient. It takes a few weeks or more to settle in. It will be a little while before you get your bearings and find a good rhythm for your homeschooling days and weeks. Don’t panic! It’s okay if things aren’t perfect. There is a lot to be learned from trial and error. Have fun with the process!
  1. Trust yourself. Remember that you are the expert on your own child. The decision to begin homeschooling was made in response to something your child or family needed enough to warrant such a significant change. Why did you choose homeschooling? Remind yourself of these reasons often. Continue to nurture your connection with your child, especially during this vulnerable time when he or she is weathering such a big transition. And remember to take good care of yourself as you adapt to your role as home teacher.

Do you have experience with switching to homeschooling mid-year? What was your experience like? What insights and suggestions would have been most helpful to hear during that time? If you’re going through it right now, what do you most want to know? Please comment with your thoughts so that others might benefit!

Amanda Witman is a homeschooling mother of four who enjoys learning new things, having family adventures, making music, tending her garden, nurturing community, and connecting with other homeschoolers.

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