8 Tips For The First-Time Homeschooling Parent

Making the decision to homeschool your child is not one usually made lightly. Many families pray and pine over their choice.

Will my child become socially awkward? Will my child feel like they missed out? Will my child fall into poor choices if they stay in public school? Does my child need more one-on-one academic attention? Can public school really give my child what they need to succeed? Can I be the one to teach my child or should it be someone else? Is public school too risky or dangerous? Is standardized testing really worth the stress?

The questions are endless and the “right” answers are few. The truth is, much like with any parenting decision, it doesn’t come with instructions. There is no play book to assure us that if we do X, Y, and Z in the correct order that our children will grow up to be strong, happy, productive members of society.

For us, the decision was a simple one. Our son has behavioral needs and he is also gifted so, try as they may, the public school system was unable to meet his needs and the pressures of standardized testing were not warranting success for him. So, we sold our house and most of our possessions and we currently live in a 36ft fifth wheel so we can afford for one of us to stay home. As a licensed teacher, I write our son’s curriculum and handle the lesson plans and my husband delivers the super rad hands-on lessons.

Seems simple, right? It wasn’t at first. So here are the nuts and bolts of how we got started so you can kickstart your Roadschooling (or homeschooling) right!

Find Out Your State’s Guidelines and Submit Your Letter:

Click HERE to find out what your home state requires. It can be surprising how requirements can shift from state to state. Friends of mine who homeschool in Kentucky simply submit their letter without much follow-up. However, here in Ohio (our base state), we have to get a letter of approval, submit a detailed curriculum, document 900 teaching hours per school year, and create a portfolio that we have to get signed by a licensed teacher in our state. The differences are vast, my friends. So do your research and be sure to follow through.

You can download a freebie template of the breakdown required in most states HERE.

Choose Your Plan:

Traditional, Classic, Unit Study, Un-Schooling, Charlotte Mason, girl it gets overwhelming quick! I thought homeschooling would streamline things and make learning more accessible and organized, but if you aren’t careful, you can become buried in greatness in a hot minute. There are just so many resources and options.

When we started, I couldn’t unbury myself from the thousands of pins I’d saved for later and there were no amount of Starbucks dates with women whom I barely knew to teach me about their version of homeschooling that could make me feel confident about our choice.

So we went back to our roots. We talked to our son. See, we know our boy and his needs–his strengths and his weaknesses. He sincerely loves to learn. He is a great builder and an imaginative engineer. However, he struggles to sit still, to read long passages, even though his reading level is above his grade.

Once we considered his individual needs (and you may need to consider more than one approach if you have multiple kiddos with varying learning styles), the decision for a  unit-study, un-schooling approach was what fit for him. The results are magical! Click HERE for a breakdown of what the different styles of homeschooling include to see what will work for your students.

Plan For Your Students’ Learning Style:

I can only speak to the style of Roadschooling we use, but many folks who use more traditional approaches to teaching also attempt to incorporate creative things for physical education credits or field trips. THIS article gives you 18 non-traditional ideas for activities to try with your kiddos. All of these are educational and could count toward teaching hours.

If you child learns best with a more hands-on approach, plan more STEM activities including science experiments and trips outside. If your child is an auditory learner, look to audio books instead of traditional textbooks. Should your child be a visual learner, consider a focus on art, film production, or trips to museums where they can look around and take in their surroundings.

Be sure to continually engage your  students with open-ended dialogue, regardless of their learning style. Solid conversation, despite the student’s age, should not be underestimated as a learning tool. This includes having talks with older relatives who lived through periods of history they may be studying, or folks whose profession specializes in a skill they are learning about.

Decide On Curriculum:

Being a licensed teacher, for an un-schooling/unit study approach, I wrote my son’s curriculum myself, following state guidelines and requirements. Should you have a high-functioning preschooler through slower learning second  or third grader, you can Download my curriculum outline  PURCHASE NOW. We use a week-by-week unit study that covers topic from dinosaurs to aviation, weather to life skills. All units include vocabulary, phonics, math, writing, and history.

Should you prefer a more hands-off approach, you can check out other curriculum HERE in a highly recommended collaboration of 102 homeschool curriculum styles. One of our decision-making factors included the cost of things. It seemed that buying full curriculum would be upwards of $400-$600 without the inclusion of outside costs such as art supplies, school supplies, and more.

Build Your Support:

Visit other homeschooling/roadschooling families. Join support groups on social media. Find your people! These steps were crucial for us because we wanted to be certain that our son would stay engaged with other kids his age. This allowed us to connect with other local families who shared our interests as well as philosophies on parenting and education. It aligned us with people to share lesson plans and play dates and both have become a wonderful resource for our family.

Make Your Schedule (Or Not):

Our son is very visual and his behaviors stay much better in check with a schedule. So, for us, THIS hanging pocket schedule works best. It’s dry-erase capabilities allows us to change things should we need to be flexible, but it also provides him with the comfort of knowing what is coming up so he can prepare for otherwise difficult transitions.

If you prefer a more loosely run un-schooling approach, your students may not require a scheduled day. We are able to fit most of our son’s more rigorous lessons into the first few hours of our day because that is when he works best. We take necessary breaks for movement or change of pace and we play…a lot!

Never forget to schedule rest and play into each day for your student. Regardless of their age, social interaction through free play and imagination is so crucial for their development. Whether you play with them, they play with siblings, other kids, or just on their own, this is an excellent outlet for students of all ages. While we, personally, choose to limit screen time, our boy sometimes chooses to play a game online and this is a great time for him to do that because he already knows he has a set time limit.

Use Your Discounts for Books and More Books:

Many stores, museums, zoos, and even restaurants will give a discount to families that homeschool. Check into what discounts are available in your local area. Creating our own curriculum, we support our lessons with a plethora of books so we use our local library as a resource as well as our favorite used book site, Thriftbooks.

To Co-Op Or Not:

Ahhhhh, the elusive co-op. Some homeschool families speak very fondly of them and others have had bad experiences, just like any school setting. This is where building your support group is crucial because they can help you check into co-ops, research those that thrive in your area, and steer clear from those who are suffering. Most regions have several co-ops to choose from so don’t necessarily commit to the first one you find.

Our family chose to enter a co-op in order to expose our son to other kids his age as well as allow him some more structured learning time. Many of these systems require a parent to volunteer or teach a class as part of the required fees so be sure to keep that in mind when signing up.

For those who like to read and research, a few books I’d recommend you considering before you decide your homeschooling approach are:

Homeschool: How to Painlessly Start

Habits: The Mother’s Secret to Success

The Unhurried Homeschooler

72 Things I Wish I’d Known

The Nature Connection

Homeschooling 101: A Guide

Choosing how and where to educate your child can be a daunting decision, but with the progress (or regress in some situations) of our public education system, it is a choice many of us have to carefully consider. Don’t allow yourself to be buried in the monotony of choices. Consider your kids. No one knows them as well as you. Make your choices based on their needs and you can’t go wrong!

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