By Amber Gunnell
When I first began homeschooling I was given lots of advice. It was all good, but ended up being “out of order.” There were many things I wish I had done before jumping into others. It would have been nice to know what to do first. My hope is that these 10 steps can help those that are new to homeschooling create a good foundation for their homeschool journey. I also believe, in order to really get off on the right foot, doing each step in order is more effective. Jumping ahead may get you in over your head, and easily overwhelmed.
Step 1 - Create your own mission statement.
What prompted you to homeschool? What are your reasons for considering it? What experiences in your life have inspired the thoughts you are having? What is your philosophy of education? What are your goals for your children?
Some vital things to do during Step 1 are to ask for a blessing, fast, and pray. Then take some time to journal your thoughts. Use your journal and the inspiration you receive to help create your own personal reasons for homeschooling. We searched the scriptures and found our own “Homeschool Motto Scripture.” It’s hanging in our school room. Asking for the Lord’s guidance will direct you in all your preparation.
Resources: Any book written by Dorothy and Raymond Moore Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto The Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille, New to Homeschooling from the LDS-NHA
Step 2 - Get your home in order.
Is your house clean most of the time? Are you overwhelmed keeping it tidy? Do you have a routine? Are you overwhelmed with your calling, your visiting teaching, or work? If your house is a disaster, and you can’t keep afloat, do you really feel you can effectively teach your children?
Some may disagree, but I strongly believe that if you can’t handle your life as is, adding homeschooling will not make it easier. Get help. Learn a routine. Do what you have to do to get a handle on your day-to-day responsibilities, and don’t forget to include your kids! They will learn extremely important life lessons by watching you and participating in work. Step 1 will also help you through this. Knowing you are working through this with a purpose will make all the hard work worth it. I’ve found many helpful routines and tips by listening to Fly Lady podcasts, as well as visiting her website (http://www.flylady.com).
Step 3 - Find your teaching style.
Do you love to read? Do you have a hard time explaining your thoughts? Are you highly verbal or would you rather show what you are explaining? Are you disorganized? Are you a multi-tasker? Re-examine your strengths and weaknesses. Also, ask yourself, “Am I willing to devote at least 3 hours a day solely to teaching my kids?” This means turning the TV and computer off, leaving the laundry for later, and not answering the phone. Are you also willing to get up early enough to take care of your own needs before tackling the day? I did a web search on teaching styles and found all kinds of information. Many sites devoted to teachers can offer helpful information for homeschoolers.
Step 4 - Study your children’s learning styles.
Don’t even think about looking at curriculum catalogs until you know how your children learn. You’ll waste tons of time and money. Take the time to evaluate, read, and study your children’s individual learning styles. You’ll be able to tailor all your purchases to your children.
Resource: In Their Own Way by Thomas Armstrong
Step 5 - Study homeschooling styles.
Are you a classical homeschooler? Inspired by Charlotte Mason? Are unit studies what gels most with you? Do you need a step by step guide, or would you rather create your own curriculum? Are you an Unschooler and want to do everything child directed? Again, I did a web search on homeschooling styles. Lots of great sites offered descriptions and links of each approach or style.
Resource: The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise & Susan Wise Bauer
Step 6 - Plan for your “decompression” or “detox” time if you are pulling your kids out of public school.
Summer is usually a time kids are accustomed to not doing school, so it may be good to take a month or two (or however long you need) during the school year to pull your kids out and just spend time allowing them time to explore and find their own interests. You could go on field trips, visit the library, and read together. A relaxed time devoted to exploration without rules, helps the children realize that homeschool will be devoted to learning, not just rules, bells, and deadlines. It’s much easier to implement routines and schedules when the children know you will always go at their pace, and follow their interests.
Step 7 - Research, research, research and more research!
During Step 6, search the internet for curriculum, read catalogs, go to teacher supply stores, ask friends, join a homeschool group or online email group and pepper them with questions. Take some time without buying anything just to see “what’s out there,” Take even more time to find all that is available for free. (You can do a web search by typing in “free homeschool resources.”) Don’t forget to find out your state laws or requirements to homeschool, too. You can do a web search for online stores.
Step 8 - Join a group or co-op.
Even if you don’t plan to participate regularly, seek out what there is to offer in the way of groups. You can greatly enhance your child’s education by allowing them time to spend learning with others in a group setting. Being a homeschooler does not mean you have to be isolated! You also get the perk of being able to hand pick the social interaction your children will have with others. Groups can also provide pre-planned field trips, or classes, alleviating you doing it all on your own. The discounts you will receive are also a huge benefit. You’ll be able to do far more with the cost being so much less.
I have found many helpful people being a part of email groups. Yahoo! is a great place to look for groups along with the National LDS Homeschool Association website's Support Groups page.
Step 9 - Make your plan.
Take time out to plan for the upcoming year. Take into account holidays, new babies, husband’s time off, weddings, and other life events.
Figure out how much time the curriculum you are thinking about or have purchased will take you each day, week, month, and year. Will you school year round or follow the traditional public school schedule?
Create your routine for each school day. What subjects will you work on each day? Are you doing each subject every day or will you alternate them? What day and/or time each day are you planning on housecleaning? What days do you plan on sports, P.E., co-ops, and field trips? Do a web search on homeschool organization and planning for more ideas.
Clear out a section of your home and devote it to a school room or area. Collect lots of books for pleasure reading and reference. Make a shelf or basket for library books. Collect arts and crafts supplies, pencils, paper, etc. Hang your motto, class picture, chore charts, history timeline, etc. Make this room or area a fun organized place that your children will love to spend time in. Oh, and don’t worry about desks! A child sized picnic table is what we use, or the kitchen table for bigger projects. A simple table with chairs is all you need, because often times you and the kids will be on the couch, floor, or bed! My kids love to do their personal reading time in their beds.
Step 10 - Learn to say “no.”
Now that you are ready to implement your plan, you’ll need to reexamine boundaries and limits before being able to juggle everything. You may have to eliminate a few volunteer positions, a few extra curricular activities, or other commitments for awhile. Until you feel a nice flow happening with your homeschool day, it may be something you will need to devote your time and energy to. Friends and family may or may not be supportive of your decision. You will need to remember the inspiration and reasons you are doing what you are doing. It may take a year or two for those around you to see the blessings you see every day. If you are still a little nervous, go back and read your mission statement and journal. The inspiration that got you this far will carry you through.
In conclusion, notice the first three steps all revolve around mom. Through my own experiences, and watching friends, if you don’t take the time to personally prepare, you’ll miss some vital steps. Focusing solely on your children will lead to mom burnout. How can each of us expect, as mothers, to give our kids all we desire and all they need, without first preparing and caring for ourselves? How can we teach responsibility if we can’t keep up on our basic home and church duties? How can we teach organization and planning if our home isn’t in order, and we constantly feel overwhelmed? How can we teach balance and self mastery if we are unable to model it? Make the time in your schedule to do things for yourself and with your husband. Your children will benefit greatly from that example. A happy mom = a happy homeschool!
About the Author
Amber Gunnell began the homeschool journey several years ago with the purpose of helping her oldest son improve some skills he was missing in public school. After a trial run, researching it in depth, fasting, praying, and countless discussions with homeschool veterans and her husband Jeff, she now knows that the Lord drew her to it. Amber is a doula and a massage therapist. She loves to read, design websites, scrapbook, and travel. Amber and Jeff have three children.