Tips for New Homeschoolers

By Liese Carberry; Mother of four and homeschooler for 17 years- Denver
Posted

It's that time of year again. The smell of new pencils and paper are in the air. New clothes are bought, binders filled and children get ready for school....or not. The school bell tolls for some and not for others. The beginning of the traditional school year brings about thoughts of change for some - change from a brick and mortar school building to your own home. Change from a PTA role to a teacher role, change from 30 kids in a classroom to one or two or three. Change from rigid learning to a more relaxed and tailored-to-fit learning platform.

The thought of becoming your child's primary teacher can be scary, it can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. If you are thinking about homeschooling you are not alone. Thousands of people jump ship at the start of the new school year and dive headfirst into the homeschooling waters. Here are some tips for new homeschoolers:

First of all, you know your child best. You know their strengths and weaknesses or you wouldn't be trying to buck the system to help them. If you don't know what kind of learner your child is (visual spatial, auditory, kinesthetic), go here for a quick test to see.

http://people.usd.edu/~bwjames/tut/learning-style/

Here is another one that isn't computer scored and allows for a fourth learning style.

http://www.wright.edu/~carole.endres/learnstyles.htm

I like the summary of the styles you see when you are done with the test. Yes, it does make a difference. If you have a child who needs to hear directions and you make them read instead, you could have some meltdowns happening. Having an entire curriculum that is writing based when you have a dysgraphic child is not going to be fun. What is your teaching style, how do you learn? You may have to adapt your visual learning to a more hands-on one for your children. Finding a good curriculum or learning guide is easier if you know how you are trying to teach.

Read, read, read. Allow yourself time to read through homeschooling books or any type of book. Don't forget to read out loud to the kids, let them pick out books to read to themselves and to each other. Once your child has unlocked the world of reading, they can learn anything. Don't underestimate the value of reading good literature out loud. You can pick a classic that takes awhile to read and just give 15 minutes a day to reading it out loud (it takes a long time to read a book out loud and it's hard work.) It took us ages to make it through Moby Dick, but it was well worth it. Don't forget to include fun reading (for yourself too) in the book lists, not everything has to be related to a school lesson to be worthy of being read.

Interject some social time into your routine. Taking children out of school does not mean that they will be lonely old cat ladies. Their friends will still be able to play after they get out of school, but there are opportunities for interactions of all kinds throughout your day. Pick a day of the week and make that park day (if you have a homeschool group, they might already have a park day.) Find a place to volunteer  - a nursing home, a library, a church, a food pantry. Get to know your neighborhood community helpers - the mailman, the grocery clerk, the baker at the store. Not all socialization needs to be verbal, get a pen-pal and write to them once a week or write letters to friends and family, they will be excited to get the mail. If your child gets overstimulated with noises and crowds you can create a small playgroup with fewer children to serve their needs.

Become a student whose object of study is your child's learning style, their strengths and weaknesses and their passions. Read about the different learning styles and how to teach to them. Go to a curriculum fair or ask other parents to show you what they use for school. Will you go to an online school, homeschool, unschool, do unit studies, travel the US and learn on the road or purchase a workbook based curriculum? Become a part of a homeschool group, you will find like minded parents and endless opportunities for growth, learning and socialization. Finally, don't try to pound a square peg into a round hole. All children are not made the same way (thank goodness!) They are unique and what works for one might not work for another. There is no right way to teach children, because they are not cookie cutter duplicates. Take some time to discover how your child learns and then guide them down the path of learning.