Homeschooling Students’ Advice for Newcomers

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Homeschooling Students' Advice for NewcomersThe time has come, warrior mamas! After 436 years… 59 months… wait, what year even is it anymore? Still 2020? STILL?! Oh sweet lord, okay, after WAY TOO MANY DAYS of being home with our feral children, it is finally time to get back to a routine with school this fall! Can I get a hallelujah up in here?? 

While many students are heading back to the classroom for an unusual attempt at normalcy, an unprecedented number of students will be throwing out the playbook and entering uncharted territory: homeschooling. Taking the leap from traditional school to homeschool is never a decision one makes lightly, but this year especially, parents who once said “I would never” are suddenly in a position they didn’t necessarily want and maybe even fear.

I was that parent, the one who said “I would never homeschool my child,” the one who was terrified of ruining her kids’ education, the one who thought she-brought-these-kids-into-the-world-and-might-just-take-them-out-of-it if she was forced to be with them all the dang time.

And yet.

When my son went through some hard things, it became clear that the traditional school setting wasn’t working for him. He needed a break, and the mom who said never, did. Last year I homeschooled my son for 4th grade, and friends, it was fantastic. There were days I cried and days we accomplished nothing and days we fought, but the overall experience was phenomenal. Even though my son decided to return to public school this year, neither of us will ever forget what a great experience this was for both of us.

I have been incredibly blessed through our homeschool journey not only to have great friends who were homeschool parents, but I also know and love lots of homeschool students who have some great insight for families new to this gig.

Let me introduce you to a few of Knoxville’s homeschool G.O.A.T.s. I hope their advice will encourage you on your new homeschool journey!

Wesley, 12th grade K-1st private school, 2nd-12th homeschool co-op
Hannah, 12th grade K-7th public school, 8th-11th homeschool co-op, 12th independent homeschool (with umbrella)
Maya, 12th grade K-1st public school, 2nd homeschool co-op, 3rd-8th private school, 9th-12th public school
Emma, 7th grade
K-7th homeschool co-op
Ava, 5th grade K-5th homeschool co-op
Sean, 5th grade K-3rd public school, 4th independent homeschool (no umbrella), 5th public school
Gavrel, 4th grade
K-4th independent homeschool (with umbrella)

What do you like about homeschooling?

Wesley: Homeschooling gives me more freedom and lets me manage my time for my schoolwork. I enjoy being able to do school throughout the week at my own pace. 

Hannah: I love having my own schedule, and I love doing school in my pajamas haha. I love that I was able to graduate early due to doing my school. I also love that I’m able to work two jobs and still keep up with my schoolwork, because I choose how much and when I do it.

Maya: I liked that I was able to go out and experience what I was learning. I am a very hands-on learner, so being able to go out and experience what I was reading helped me a lot. I also was able to find out what learning style worked best for me.

Emma: It only takes about 4 hours to finish my work.

Ava: I like that I get to stay home and that I don’t always have to sit at a desk to do my work. I can go outside, or sit on the couch or at the dining room table.

Sean: What’s really cool about it is how you can go somewhere else to do work, you don’t have to be at home. It’s also way shorter.

Gavrel: It’s easier than having to get up early in the morning, and I like that I’m not forced to do things at a certain time as long as I get them done.

What do you dislike about homeschooling?

Wesley: I kind of wish I could go to school every day and see my friends. I guess homeschooling doesn’t have a community aspect that I imagine traditional school does.

Maya: There was really nothing that I disliked, but I did find it challenging to work with my mom sometimes. It is sometimes hard to differentiate the difference between parent and teacher.

Ava: I don’t get to see my friends every day.

Gavrel: Nothing, except what you wouldn’t like in regular school, really.

Name something people might not think about that makes homeschooling different than traditional schooling.

Wesley: When you are homeschooled, you unfortunately do not get any snow days.

Hannah: People don’t think about the fact that you literally get to choose exactly what you do. It’s CRAZY!! You get to choose the way you get taught, you can watch videos, do online courses, read out of a book, whatever caters to your needs. It’s not just one setting where everyone has to learn the same way, because let’s face it, there’s always that group of kids that has no idea what’s going on in the classroom setting.

Emma: I still have to get up early and I never do school in my pajamas.

Gavrel: I’m a lot more excited to learn and do my work when I’m not forced to do it, or if I’m working toward a prize or reward.

Name something people might not think about that makes homeschooling similar to traditional schooling.

Wesley: A day at co-op is very similar to a day at traditional school.

Maya: Some people might not know that homeschooling has a co-op option. Co-op allows the child to meet with other students two to three days out of the week. When I was told that I was going to be homeschooled, I was nervous about not having that social aspect, but through co-op I was able to have a “regular” school experience. 

Gavrel: In the Little House on the Prairie books, Laura is teaching school and decides that it is good to follow the routine of the larger school, even though she has a smaller group of students. We follow a routine that everyone’s used to, just like in school, so that it’s easier to get things done.

What do you think are some misconceptions about homeschooling?

Wesley: A misconception I hear a lot is that homeschoolers wear pajamas while doing school. That is not true for me. I make up my bed and wear normal clothes every day.

Hannah: I think some misconceptions are that it’s not as good as “public school education.” You always hear the jokes of “oh she was homeschooled” but honestly, I feel like I’m way better equipped than when I went to public school because I got to choose my style of being taught and I didn’t have to conform to one way of learning things.

Maya: A misconception about homeschooling is that you sit around and do nothing. While it is true that you pick your own hours to learn, so there are periods of time where you are able to rest, it allowed my parents to involve me in more activities due to my fluid schedule.

Sean: Some people think that it’s boring because all you do is stay with your parents, but it’s not because even though you stay with your parents, you can still do a lot of fun things.

What do you wish you had known before starting homeschooling?

Hannah: I wish I knew that it wasn’t gonna stop my social life. I was SO scared that I wasn’t gonna have any friends. I ended up being able to have the best group of friends, and even have a little more time for them too!

Maya: I wish I knew how much homeschooling would allow me to grow as a person. Homeschooling relieved the pressure of comparing myself to other students. It allowed me to focus on myself and build my confidence.

Gavrel: It’s good to work ahead, and to study and learn in your free time.

What do you think parents should know before starting homeschooling?

Gavrel: If a routine doesn’t work, adjust to something that WILL work. For example, you may want to start with the harder things to get them out of the way, or it may work better to start with smaller things and warm up as you go.

What advice would you give kids homeschooling for the first time this year?

Wesley: Some advice I would give to students just starting homeschooling is to get up as early as you can so that you can have more free time throughout the day.

Hannah: The advice that I would give is just to be calm and explore the millions of different ways of learning. It’s not a bad thing to be schooling from home. If one thing doesn’t work out for you, then you can just move on to the next and try something new! Calm down, it’ll be okay. You’ll see the beauty in it soon!

Emma: Be nice to your parents.

Sean: It’s really awesome and fun, and you can almost do whatever you want with your parents.

Gavrel: Don’t be nervous or disappointed. Be sure of yourself and confident — it’s really not that much different from regular school. You’re learning the same things, just in a different place!

What advice would you give parents homeschooling for the first time this year?

Hannah: To the parents I would say just be patient. Adjusting to an entirely different way of learning things than what you’re used to can be hard. I know I acted out when I first started because I was confused and scared. Be there for your kid, try to include yourself as much as possible, and support them always!

Maya: Some advice that I would give to a parent going into homeschooling for the first time is your attitude matters. The child will be receptive to your attitude, so if you treat schooling your kid like a hassle, then the child will respond back with your same energy. If you look at homeschooling as an adventure where you can use the world as your classroom and bring the textbook to life in a new way, then the child will have a fun experience. 

Emma: Be nice to your kids.

Sean: You can make charts for your kids so they know what is going to happen every day and they will know what to expect.

Gavrel: Adjust your homeschooling to the family you have. You don’t have to follow other families. Choose the materials and the routine that are best for you. Give your kids something to work toward, or let them do it in their own time. Make it fun for your kids, and have fun yourself!

If you’re new to the homeschool gig this year, don’t be afraid! Give yourself lots of grace and permission to change things up as much as you need to. And if you decide after this year that you’re ready to go back to traditional school, that’s okay too! Enjoy this year while it lasts, and this will be the best year ever! You can do this!

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Knoxville born and bred, my love for this area is deep and true! I'm a working-turned-stay-at-home mom to 4 kiddos from preschool to middle school. My husband and I live in Knoxville where he is a pastor and I get to work with a pretty amazing group of middle schoolers. I love watching my kids learn something new, cooking for other people (but not for myself), and telling myself I'm a #fitmom when I go to the gym like once a week. I'm a bottle-feeding, disposable diapering, public-schooling (other than that one kid I'm homeschooling this year) mom with the stereotypical chill attitude of moms with large(r) broods. I love meeting new people, but I talk way too much and laugh when I'm uncomfortable. If you don't mind long stories and bad jokes, we are sure to be friends! Follow my family adventures on my blog Unthank You Very Much

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