A Welcome Letter to the New Homeschool Teachers

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A Welcome Letter to the New Homeschool TeachersDear New Homeschool Teacher,

Whether you’ve found yourself here because it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, because it seems like the best option for your family at this time, due to Covid-related concerns, or out of desire or necessity, I offer you a hearty welcome.

As with the start of anything new and uncharted, it’s normal to have fears and concerns. You’re feeling it, your children may be feeling it, most likely we’re all feeling it on some level. It’s normal. Just breathe, and let’s go into this one day at a time.

By now you’ve probably spent endless hours diving into the curriculum abyss.

You might be realizing why everyone you ask has a different opinion on the “best” curriculum and how there is no one correct answer, even for siblings in the same family. There are so many factors to consider when choosing a curriculum. If you haven’t done this yet, Cathy Duffy offers an extremely comprehensive list, and anything I recommend has made it on her top 102 list. Another solid reference is The Homeschool Resource Roadmap.  You can search for an all-inclusive program or take an eclectic approach and search by subject. I’d also suggest investigating Brave Writer or IEW for writing and consult Read Aloud Revival for quality book suggestions. Furthermore, don’t underestimate the plethora of amazing (free or inexpensive) resources that can be gleaned from Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers and YouTube. Please know that it’s perfectly okay to start something and realize that your chosen curriculum just isn’t working for you and your child. That’s one of the beauties of homeschooling.

You have the flexibility to find something that works better and the ability to cater to your student’s learning style as well as your teaching style.

You’re beginning to outline what your daily schedule will look like.

Again, this will look different for everybody and I urge you to sit down and think about what will work best for you and your family. I will say this: in my experience, a little structure goes a long way. Humans, especially children, thrive on routine. You don’t need to do math at 8am every day, but if your child knows that they wake up and start with math, followed by language arts, a snack, social studies, then science, then recess, etc., the day will go much more smoothly. Our days follow a routine, but we have wiggle room to dive more deeply into interesting subject matter, fly through the easier tasks and slow down to review any more challenging areas. Here’s a free editable homeschool schedule to get you started.

You might have picked your homeschool style and be second guessing your decision.

This is something you can’t know overnight. Finding your groove is going to take a while. You might find that you want to alternate a more structured curriculum with theme studies, or take a step back and let your child lead for a few days/weeks/months. It’s going to take time for you and your students to find a rhythm, to see what works best, to maximize learning and minimize stress. You will get there and it will all be worth it.

You’re going to have days where you just can’t, he/she just can’t, everyone just can’t.

Put your relationship (and sanity) with your child above everything and close the math book. Let them run outside, go for a hike, delve into an art project, etc. After a break, try to open that math book back up or decide to try again tomorrow. You’ll be amazed at what a change of scenery can do.

Speaking of scenery, some of you surely designed a beautiful homeschool room or perhaps you’re still trying to figure that out.

First of all, you absolutely don’t need to have a homeschool room to be able to homeschool! We have a school room that we love, complete with learning centers, comfortable reading nooks, and various work spaces in which we spend most of our mornings. As the day goes on, we spread into different parts of the house, onto the hammock outside, or even to a nice table or blanket at the park. Some families thrive at the dining room table, while others prefer to roam free. Here are some ideas for inspiration. As long as your materials are organized and your students can focus, there is no right answer here.

Perhaps you’re stressing about juggling multiple children at once.

It takes effort and planning, but soon you will find a way to have some kids working independently while you work one-on-one with another. You will create toddler-friendly learning centers and busy bags for the youngest kids. You’ll empower older children to follow a syllabus and take ownership for the things they can do on their own and learn to ask for help when needed. (Some kindergarteners are even capable of this.) You will find ways to come together all at once: with multi-level units, a good read aloud novel, an art project or parallel learning activities. You’ll encourage kids to help one another, letting them take leadership roles while also strengthening the sibling bond. Think about all of the things you multi-task every day. You can do this as well.

At some point you will find yourself worried about the social aspect.

Granted, in times of Covid-19 this looks very different than it does for typical homeschool years. If your area allows, check out local homeschool co-ops or extracurricular activities. Sign up for after school sports or activities if they’re permitted. If you’re confined at home, pursue some online classes in which students can interact with peers around the world while exploring pretty much any topic. Check out Outschool or choose from the plethora of virtual offerings from local businesses. Keep up with old friends from school, neighbors, and relatives via Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype. Plan socially distant get-togethers. We have found that homeschooling opens up more time and options for socializing and extracurriculars than if we were in a traditional school setting every day.

You might worry that your child will be behind if/when they go back to the school system.

You will likely find the opposite to be true. The more individualized attention, the ability to work at their personal level, the freedom and flexibility to adjust the schedule/curriculum/plan, the bonding time, teaching your children to take ownership of their learning, enhancing family values, sharing more time reading good books, etc., all add up to advantages you never realized you were missing. If you build a strong foundation, your child will thrive with any type of situation thrown their way in the future. You can also always check in with your local state standards as well as take national tests if you want further validation.

You might doubt yourself.

Scratch that. You WILL doubt yourself. You’re a parent and human — it’s a given. It means you care. Seek out resource communities such as Amazing Educational Resources, Hide the Chocolate, or The Relaxed Homeschool. Reach out to local homeschool groups such as Knoxville Area Homeschoolers or East TN Homeschoolers. Connect with teachers and fellow homeschool families. There is always someone who has experienced your fears, concerns, questions, etc. and you will find that homeschoolers love to talk about homeschooling, offering advice, encouragement and wisdom where we can.

Remember, whatever brought you to homeschooling this year, this isn’t typical homeschooling, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it a wonderful year for your student(s) and yourself. It won’t always be easy or pretty, but nothing worth doing well ever is. Breathe, step into this with a positive mindset, and give it your best. You’ve got this.

Sincerely,

A fellow and friend in homeschooling mom.

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Family is everything, and I can think of no better town to live in with my high school sweetheart and our four young children. Although we've been here for a few years now, we often find that it still feels like vacation. Embracing the natural beauty and slower pace were easy. Learning to love Orange wasn't too hard. However, my mid-western roots shine through in my inability to accessorize my daughters with giant hair bows and my preference for unsweetened tea. Being a mother is more incredible than I ever dreamed, and even though our days are utter chaos riddled with exhaustion, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I blog about anything and everything related to motherhood at Stroller Savvy..

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