It is springtime and we have almost completed our first year of homeschooling our six-year-old daughter. It has been an awesome year filled with growth, laughter, tears, frustration, change, and flexibility. Here are a few things we have learned as new homeschool parents.
1. We have a lot to learn.
Even though 1.77 million students¹ are homeschooled in America, that is only 3 % It is definitely not the norm and many things do not come naturally. My wife attended public school (elementary to college) and I attended public schools for elementary and middle school, but attended private Christian schools for high school, college, and graduate school. When deciding curriculum and how exactly we wanted to educate our Lilly, it was really difficult to step out of the box of tradition. What worked in a large group setting may not work in our home.
2. We must get good counsel.
We decided to homeschool Lilly after private Christian preschool and Kindergarten. I am so thankful that we have that choice in our country and in our state. We are blessed to have two other homeschool families in our church (my sister and some good friends). They gave us great advice on many issues like curriculum, co-ops, daily schedule, field trips, legal issues and more.
3. Choose a good curriculum, but be flexible.
Our community has around 1,000 homeschool families. We have a great association of homeschool families called Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Education Association. Each year, the association hosts a curriculum fair that offers seminars, sign-ups for activities, and exhibits for many homeschool curriculum vendors. We were so impressed by the quality and variety of the curricula. Almost every homeschool parent we talked to gave good advice about curriculum, encouraged us to choose the one that is best for our child, but also be prepared to change things up. That is one of the wonderful things about homeschooling, being able to reach your child in a way that makes sense to her and go at the speed that is best.
4. Be patient as we homeschool.
When writing this article, my wife said it is important to remember this: on the hard days, remember why you chose to homeschool. There are different reasons why families homeschool their children. We won’t go into the reasons why on this post, but whatever your “why”… hold onto it. Remind yourself, your spouse, and your children why we made this choice. Just like other big issues, don’t make a decision based on emotions of the moment.
5. Make the community our classroom.
As I am writing this, Lilly is with my sister and her kids (also homeschooled) at the public library. Later they are going swimming at the YMCA. Our area has so much to offer! Museums, county, state, and National parks, the Tennessee aquarium, caves, Chattanooga zoo, and more.² Even trips to the grocery store are teachable moments to talk about math, health, botany, and making wise choices.
Lilly will finish first grade in a few weeks. We are excited about summertime fun, but we have also enjoyed this first year of homeschool. Lots of lessons learned and much more to learn.
¹Statistics About Nonpublic Education in the United States http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oii/nonpublic/statistics.html Retrieved on May 2, 2016.
² The Chattanooga Visitors Bureau has a list of many great activities in our area: http://www.chattanoogafun.com/what-to-do