When you commit to educating your children at home, you are embarking on a journey together. Life is about to change drastically for all of you, and the odds are favorable that the benefits will far outweigh any drawbacks. Your children may be excited about the change, or they might be feeling anxious. Here are a few tips to prepare your kids for homeschooling, even if your insides are turning somersaults.
Talk about expectations and fears
Whether your kids are just starting school or have already attended public or private school for a number of years, each one will have a picture in his head of what home school will be like. Their ideas might be pure fantasy (I can play video games all day!), but hear them out. Generate as much conversation as you can, and allow them to talk about their hopes and fears. Are they afraid they won’t have any friends? Would they love to sleep in every day? Do they fear becoming social outcasts?
You can put to rest many of their fears – and fantasies – during these conversations. “Yes, you can sleep later than you used to for public school. No, you can’t sleep until 10 a.m.” Simply talking it out helps most kids, but a few might benefit from meeting other homeschool families, attending a homeschool co-op, or joining an online community where they can email other homeschoolers. In most cases, even teens just want to see that others who homeschool are “normal” and enjoying life.
Listen to their ideas, but make decisions on how you will conduct school at home based on everyone’s best interest. Tell your children what you can about your expectations and how you plan to manage their education. No matter what your teaching style, your children will adjust more quickly if they know what to expect.
Homeschooling has many advantages, but the student does not necessarily want to hear about how she will excel in her studies. Nor does she always have the ability to see or appreciate how lucky she is that her parent is making the sacrifice. So don’t talk about how much she will gain from one-on-one tutelage, or how homeschool students routinely win the national spelling bee. Talk about the benefits in a way a kid can appreciate them:
- School at home can take less time
- Extra time means more play, or
- Extra time means more opportunities to learn fun things via lessons, activities or field trips
- If the family was previously spending money on private school tuition, homeschool might allow more room in the family budget for _________ (you fill in the blank)
- The student has time to explore his particular interests, either by dabbling or focused study (guitar, taekwondo, horseback riding), as the family is able
- Homeschool students can enjoy a rich social life through home school groups, clubs, co-ops, and volunteering.
- Does the curriculum you have chosen have some cool aspect?
Set up a workable routine
Before school begins, prepare everybody in the family by fixing a daily routine. Whether you prefer a loose educational structure or a stricter regime, everyone should pitch in to keep daily life running smoothly.
Think about the following questions and come up with reasonable solutions for your situation. Write it down or make a chart, and try a few different versions to figure out what works best.
- What time will everyone be required to get up in the morning?
- Who will do which chores?
- When will chores need to be completed?
- Will everyone eat breakfast and lunch together, or will a buffet-style be more suitable?
- What part of the day is best for formal school work? (Although mornings are the traditional learning hours, afternoons or evenings might work better for your family.)
Remember: if you let your children stagger their school hours, you will not have any free time.
Seasoned homeschoolers will tell you they are still tweaking routines to get everything just right, but it helps to know ahead of time that interruptions are inevitable. Prepare your kids for it, too. One of your children might thrive on variety and the unexpected, but others will feel flustered. One of your roles will be to demonstrate flexibility in a dynamic, constantly changing environment.
Are you ready? One of the best things about home school is that you are learning together: not just about how to do it, or about the three Rs, but about life. Your enthusiasm will be contagious, so learn to laugh, forgive, and persevere under any circumstance, and your children will follow.