When I first made the decision to homeschool my twins, my initial instinct was to duplicate the classroom setting that they had become accustomed to. I went out and purchased classroom wall decor, student desks, book bags, elementary science kits, and a host of other materials that I felt they needed to make a smooth transition from the classroom to homeschool.
At the time, they had only been in school formally for 2.5 years. Kindergarten, 1st, and half of 2nd grade. They were still very young, and very much at an age where they could be molded. Going into this thing called homeschool, I hadn’t realized that I was the one who had been programmed. I was the one who felt a need to recreate their class setting. It made me feel like I was giving them the best education possible. After all, that’s what all parents want, right? To give their children the best education possible?
Errr, fast forward to 5 kids and 8 years later…
It took some time and a few hard knocks for me to come to my senses and realize that reason I wanted to take my boys out of traditional school to homeschool them was to give them a different experience than they had become accustomed to. So why had I felt the need to recreate that school experience? Yeah, sometimes we have to take a step back and look long and hard at ourselves, our situations and our motives.
Homeschooling was a lifestyle, it wasn’t school-at-home. There’s a big difference. Coming to that realization allowed me to let go of the classroom mentality and open myself and my children up to a whole new world of learning, fun, bonding, and growth.
Now I’m an old pro (not so much so that I’m not open to learning and growing, cuz that would be wack) and I’ve been through the homeschool trenches. My journey has taught me so much about myself and my children and has allowed me to come to terms with exactly what we need to succeed at this thing continuously.
Take a walk with me down homeschool lane, as I share 10 of my crucial tips, tricks, and money saving advice to help you knock homeschooling out of the box even when you’re feeling moody.
1. Curriculum overload
I know, I. KNOW! The abundance of homeschool curriculums is overwhelming. Which one do you choose? Is it going to help your child achieve or guide them past grade level? How much time do you have to dedicate to it daily? What is the cost? Slow down my friends! This isn’t a one size fits all tip. Each family has different needs and philosophies, so take your time and choose the one that feels right in your spirit. Yes, I did say “feels right in your spirit.” You know your strengths and weaknesses, and your child’s. You also know exactly what you want your child learning. Use that coupling to find the one that feels good. What’s the worst that can happen? It takes off its mask and rears its ugly head? You just slap it back on and find another! Initially I used the K-12 curriculum. It didn’t work for us (not enough living learning, relatable math, or Black history), so now I write our curriculums.
2. Who are you?
Pay attention here folks. I had to swallow this large pill pretty early on. Know who you are and how you move. If you’re an organized person, who schedules every moment of your day, and has lists for everything, your homeschool should run as such. If you’re like me and like to go with the flow for most things and enjoy allowing nature, moods, and community activities to guide you, a more relaxed free-flowing homeschool will be your thing. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’ or the Smith’s here. Let them have their homeschool ritual and you have yours. It’s ok, no one is judging you.
3. Get a library card…ASAP!
Don’t delay! If you don’t already have one, get one right now! For real folks. This is one of my most valuable homeschool tools. We go weekly, sometimes multiple times a week and take out dozens of books. My older boys participate in the clubs, and my two youngest are beginning preschool story time next week. Just imagine how much money you would have to spend to purchase all of the books you can borrow for free? The library is not only budget friendly, it has a wealth of information that the homeschool student’s mind can absorb.
4. Thrift & Dollar
I LIVE in the Dollar Tree and Goodwill. Yep, I sure do. Why spend money on brand new or expensive learning materials when the kids will either lose, destroy, or find something new and exciting to latch onto in a few weeks. Go to the Dollar tree for all of your pencils, markers, crayon, flash cards (or make your own), erasers, storage bins, construction paper, notebooks, folders, and OMG, everything in between! I’ve come up on some great finds at Goodwill. Wooden puzzles, books, toys, and furniture. Make a list of what you need/want and hit up the Goodwill’s in your area until you find it.
5. Laminate, EVERYTHING!
Grab a laminator and some plastic sheets and laminate e-ver-y-THING! Everything! Worksheets, flashcards, vocabulary lists, everything. If it’s paper that you can reuse, laminate it to help you reduce the cost of printing and reprinting those papers. Slide the plastic covered sheets into one of your handy dandy $1 folders and keep it moving.
6. Kitchen fun
The kitchen is a wondrous place for learning. Math, reading, home economics, money matters, art, and healthy food learning all can come through your kitchen. Kids can count beans, spell the words on the cereal box, help with making the grocery list, organize the pantry, make colorful cookies and pasta. The learning possibilities are endless. Just be prepared to clean up some pretty gnarly messes if you have little ones!
7. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Pretty easy right? If you can repurpose something for use in your homeschool, do it! Glass jars, aluminum cans, paper towel rolls, and boxes are just a few of the things you can use to reach for the homeschool stars. Oh, and it saves tons of money too! Winning!
8. Homeschool room blues
Don’t let it get you down? You don’t need a dedicated space. The kitchen or dining room table, a corner of a room, the sofa. The goal here is to make space in your home. Whatever that space is, use it in the best way possible. If you have a whole room to use, go for it. If you don’t, no need to fret. Remember, homeschooling is a way of life NOT a room.
9. Take breaks
Oh yes! You will need to take break to homeschool your kids effectively. Whether the break is a day or a week, do what you need to so that everyone is happy, well adjusted, and prepared to learn. Homeschool burnout is real. I’m speaking from experience. Give yourself time, and the kiddos too! These breaks are a great time to travel and see the grandparents, or even to take a trip down to New Orleans for some beignets! You can always just chill at home too.
10. Have fun!
This last tip often gets overshadowed by the “education” portion of homeschooling. It shouldn’t as it is just as important, if not more. Keep your homeschool lifestyle fun and engaging no matter the age of your children. Switch things up every so often, let them guide their learning, and make them proud to be homeschoolers. This goes a long way.
There you have it. This is how I have become homeschooling rock star! You can absolutely join me in my concert of a lifetime. Let me know what you do and if these tips help you along the way.