There are many new families taking the plunge to homeschool this year. Homeschooling is such a rewarding thing, but it can be intimidating and overwhelming. Thankfully, there’s a lot of resources available that can teach you what you need to know when it comes to learning how to homeschool.
If you are looking for tips on how to homeschool your children or trying to decide between virtual public school and homeschooling, grab a cup of coffee and settle in; I cover a lot in this post. I have been homeschooling for 16 years and have successfully graduated a homeschooled child, all the while working from home full-time. It can be done!
This is a sponsored post by Teaching Textbooks. All opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.
Are you a new homeschooler? Here are some tips for your family to have a successful year!
Know your homeschool state laws:
You will be happy to know that homeschooling is legal in all 50 states in America. Now some states are much easier to homeschool in than others. Each state has its own requirements on how to register your homeschool. Some states may require that certain subjects are taken and some may require testing and reviews at the end of each year. You will also need to make sure that you keep any letters of intent and records of completed work handy in case you ever need it.
A great place to get help and to fully understand your state laws is by going to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. They are an organization of attorneys and homeschool advocates that work with legislators to craft homeschool laws. They understand how all the laws work and if your county or state is asking too much of you. HSLDA is a great resource and protection for your family.
Homeschool Laws by State will give you all the detailed information that you need on how to withdraw from public school as well as homeschooling requirements, including testing & mandatory subjects that may be required for your state. Just click on your state on the map or use the drop down menu.
How Homeschooling is Easier than Virtual Public School:
Homeschooling offers great flexibility. Is your family a family of night owls that prefers to stay up late and sleep in? You can do that with homeschooling. Maybe your family has an odd work schedule and you work nights and need to school in the late afternoon. Your spouse may work four 10-hour shifts and you prefer to do a 4-day school week to match up with that.
With homeschooling you can pick and choose when and where you learn. The freedom that comes with homeschooling is pretty amazing. Don’t forget that if you have to record homeschool days, that every day at home can truly be a learning experience.
When you aren’t part of a virtual public school you can create your own schedule and you aren’t tied down to a computer all day. With all the learning at home this year, I have seen some schedules that are very overwhelming for young children. Kids just can’t be tied down to a computer from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm each day. It’s not natural, and it’s too much.
School at home does not have to be a rigid schedule. You can start anytime you want. If your kids need more rest, you don’t have to wake them up cranky at the crack of dawn. You will be surprised at how much learning can be done by taking a trip to the grocery store, gardening and helping to cook meals.
Teaching to student’s interests
Do you have a daughter that is obsessed with horses? Maybe you have girls and boys that live and breathe LEGO® and constantly want to build things? Did you know that you can tailor their education to what they love? The sky is the limit when it comes to teaching to your student’s interests.
We know a lot of families that spent an entire year doing history studies by creating LEGO® scenes with what they were learning. Others spent a year studying horse literature, watching horse movies, writing papers about horses, and learning about equine science. Nurturing your children by teaching to what they love will instill a love of learning that will last a lifetime.
Teaching to specific learning styles
There are many different types of learning styles. Virtual public school may not work well for a hands-on learner or visual learner that needs to see more than a computer screen. If you have a child that struggles with technology, they will have a difficult time learning this way. When you homeschool you can tailor the way your child receives the information you are teaching to better suit them.
If your child is an audible learner, they may enjoy listening to audio books instead of reading from a text all the time. A hands-on learner may learn math better with manipulatives, or enjoy hands-on science and STEM experiments.
Using different grade levels for individual subjects
When pulling your child out from a public school you might notice that they may have some learning gaps. This is not uncommon and it can be remedied, so do not fear! Many homeschoolers use different grade levels for different subjects. If your child is struggling with reading or math, there is no reason that you can’t go down a grade level.
Many curriculum companies expect this to be the case, so oftentimes their books are not labeled by grades. You may notice different numbered levels or even letters instead of grades on the covers. With homeschooling, there is not a one-size-fits-all. There is always a joke among homeschoolers that kids don’t know what grade they are in when someone asks. This is one of those reasons why!
Virtual public school may not offer field trips as often as you can take them when you homeschool. There are many local places that offer group rates. Some favorite field trips have been trips to a local pizza store to tour the kitchen and make a personal pan pizza, visiting a local robotics center that builds animatronics for amusement parks, and a local candy making shop. We also take lots of nature walks and explore the great outdoors.
With homeschool field trips you usually get a great discount the more students that you have and they’re usually not set to a specific grade. This makes visiting some pretty amazing places for a large family very affordable. You will find that the discounts for group rates are way less than you would spend on an individual visit somewhere.
How to customize your homeschool to fit your needs:
Like we discussed when talking about flexibility, you are able to customize your homeschool to fit the specific needs of your family. Do you need to school on the road, or school 4-days a week or year round? Maybe you need to take more time to engage with your children or for self-care and emotional stability?
Being a homeschool mom is not an easy task. It may come naturally to some moms, others have to work hard at it. If you have a very busy family, you may always find yourself on the go. If you are a sports mom or theater or dance mom, you may find yourself outside of the house more often than you are home. Homeschooling grounds you during the day, and gives you time to prep easy and quick meals and snacks.
You don’t have to start school at 7 am if you have been out late or if you are a night owl. Not having anywhere to go to early in the morning can help you get the rest that your body needs. It’s a great balance for busy families and a mom that is not a morning person. You can also take school work on-the-go for active families.
Some children have short attention spans and cannot sit still for long periods of time to learn. You can work out their curriculum to be taught in short spurts like 10 – 15 minutes at a time. You can take breaks and get outside to explore nature or go to the park to use up excess energy. Hands-on activities and craft breaks and spending extra time with fine arts is a great way to break up the day as well.
If you have a special needs child you may find that most of your days are taken up by therapy sessions or appointments. When you can plan out your school days around therapy sessions it can make things not as stressful. Homeschooling is a great way to work on therapy homework as part of your school curriculum too.
Teaching your children at home doesn’t mean that you cannot outsource certain subjects. For instance, I am not a big fan of science experiments and labs, so we join a science co-op that incorporates all the hands-on science stuff my kids love – without me having to be involved.
Another subject that we “outsource” is math. Our homeschool needs a math teacher. For real friends, I am not a great math teacher, just ask my kids. I know how to do long division and algebra, but teaching it is a totally different thing for me.
Many years ago we started using Teaching Textbooks for math and it made a ton of difference in the atmosphere of our homeschool. We were butting heads in our homeschool because I was struggling to TEACH math. Teaching Textbooks is a self-teaching and auto-grading math curriculum for grades 3-12.
Teaching math in grades K-2 isn’t so difficult for me, but let me tell you – by the middle of 2nd grade I am eagerly anticipating our 3rd grade school year using Teaching Textbooks for math.
What I love about Teaching Textbooks:
- Not only does Teaching Textbooks do the teaching and grading, but the interface is easy to use and children of all ages love it.
- Teaching Textbooks captures the attention of students with great graphics and friendly voices along with easy-to understand lessons.
- Teaching Textbooks is online and goes with you anywhere and *can be used on any device! You can even take math with you when you have to cart one of your kids to practice.
- The parent dashboard has a super helpful grade book that shows you the scores for each lesson along with how many tries it took to get the correct answer. It also indicates whether or not they watched the breakdown of the correct answer if a problem was answered incorrectly. I always require my daughter to view the problem worked out if she got it wrong. You can print the grade book to add to your homeschool portfolio.
- Parents can delete any incorrect problems and have their child re-do them. I do this for any score under 75.
- Teaching Textbooks has the BEST customer service! If you get completely stuck on a problem, instead of banging your head on a wall, give them a call (unintentional rhyme!). There’s a math teacher that can help you; isn’t that wonderful?
- You can view and print the student textbook. This is helpful for having your child work problems out on paper before typing in their answers.
- You can change hint and second chance settings. I keep both turned on, but if you prefer, you can turn them off.
- Large family discount plan – Do you have 4-8 children? You are going to LOVE this!
*Support for mobile devices will be available when the new Teaching Textbooks 4.0 is released this year.
Interactive Math Lessons
One of the features of Teaching Textbooks that I have always been so pleased with is the lecture for each lesson. After the lecture children are presented a few practice problems to do to see if they understand the lesson before moving on to the questions. Practice problems do not count against their score, but you can see whether or not they did the them from the Parent Dashboard. Unless it is a mastered topic, I require my daughter to complete the practice problems.
Each lesson consists of a lecture, 5 practice problems, and 22 questions. Some of the lessons have a bonus question which works as “extra credit” and after every 7th lesson children will complete a quiz reviewing the material that they learned previously.
If you are like me and need a math teacher, give Teaching Textbooks a try. You can have your child take a free placement test and ask them if they like it better than what they have been using; I bet they say YES!
My oldest homeschooled child graduated in 2018. She told me if she had one piece of advice regarding my homeschooling her sister, she said to start and finish with Teaching Textbooks!
You can sign up for a FREE account and give it a whirl (there is no time limit!!)
Homeschool Planning and Scheduling:
Before you start planning and scheduling your year, make sure that you are familiar with the homeschool laws in your state. If you are required to school for a certain number of days or use specific subjects, you will need to work that out when you are planning your school year.
Planning can be as simple as a spiral notebook, or a planner from an office supply store. Some tech savvy moms like to use different online software programs to plan their homeschool. Some homeschool moms plan as they go, like I do. If that’s you, you can opt to just create a record of daily work for your portfolio instead of planning ahead.
There are different ways to schedule school as well. You can school year round, taking a month off for a holiday break and summer break, or do school 4-days a week, spreading it out over the year. Some families enjoy homeschooling different subjects at different times like only doing history three times a week and science twice a week.
A favorite homeschool scheduling method we enjoy is coined Sabbath Schooling. It helps to eliminate burnout and gives some much needed rest for your family. Learn more about Sabbath Schooling and get a sample of our schedule this year and how it will work for our family.
Creating a Homeschool Portfolio
A portfolio is an important piece of your homeschool. Many homeschoolers add to their portfolio during the school year, while others wait until the end of the year to compile everything. Kids love going through their papers and saving their favorites. These end up being a great keepsake as well as what you need to document the work that you have completed that year, if your state requires it.
If you aren’t sure where to start, check out these posts with details and lots of freebies to help you get started:
How to Put Together Your Homeschool Portfolio with free portfolio review checklist
How to Build Your Homeschool Binder plus free cheat sheets and dividers
Now that you know how homeschooling is easier than virtual public school and how to get started, let’s talk about stress!
How to not stress about homeschooling:
This is easier said than done. I honestly don’t think there is one parent that doesn’t stress about their new school year and worry if they are doing enough. The most important thing to remember is your why. Why did you decide to pull your children out of school in the first place? Why did you decide you wanted to keep them home with you? This is a great thing to remember on the tough days, why you are doing this thing called homeschool. It will help bring your focus back.
If you are feeling stressed, take a day and enjoy your kids. Watch an educational movie, make some crafts, bake some cookies, read a fun book out loud, or go on a nature walk. Take a break from school and revisit it with a better attitude the next day. Remember that God has equipped you with everything that you need to be the teacher that your children need.
Carrie is the owner & operator of Homeschool Giveaways. She has been homeschooling for over a decade and has successfully graduated her first homeschooler. She has two girls and works side by side at home with her awesome husband. She has been saved by grace, fails daily, but continues to strive toward the prize of the high calling of being a daughter of the Most High God.