A new homeschool year is about to start: new crayons, new markers, new curriculum. It's an exciting time! To make the Back-to-Homeschool transition as smooth as possible, here are my top 10 tips for back-to-homeschool.
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Tip 1: Develop a mission statement
Yes, this one seems like it can be a bit dry. Sure, mission statements are usually associated with corporations or businesses, but they can serve a purpose within your homeschool. A good mission statement can remind you of why you homeschool and center all your homeschool activities and academics on one goal. For our homeschool, we've taken Deuteronomy 6:5 and reworded it to our mission statement:
The mission of Agape Farms Christian School is to teach our child to love the Lord our God, using all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength, for the Glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Our homeschool is therefore focused on increasing our daughter's faith through her heart, mind, and body, all for the glory of Jesus Christ. This is the litmus test for everything we do in our homeschool. Use whatever mission statement you want to, just make sure the activities and academics in your homeschool dovetails what your mission statement declares about your school.
Tip 2: Create ID Badges
Many businesses offer discounts to teachers, even homeschool teachers, with an identification badge that has your photo, the name of your homeschool, and your homeschool ID number (usually you get this when you register as a homeschool with your state). Other times, it's just really nice and official to have a homeschool badge, like on field trips. To obtain a homeschool ID badge, you can order one through Homeschooling One Child's store here.
Tip 3: Make the First Day Special
Whether you homeschool part of the year or all year long, you can start off the year right by making the first day special. Usually, Laura and I go to a local doughnut shop and eat yummy, not-on-the-diet confectionary treats while doing our devotional together, praying over the homeschool year, and doing one subject in the doughnut shop (usually spelling). We then go home and get cracking on all the other subjects.
This year, Laura will be using the Student Record Planner from Not Consumed to keep track of her lessons, her grades, and as an academic journal. We are positive this will help her with some executive functioning issues we've noticed she has, and allow her to track in a grid format her grades. This will be in essence her academic bible, to go everywhere she goes: co-op, the library, everywhere. The first day will be spent going through the Student Record Planner, completing some housekeeping tasks associated with it, and making it her own.
This is also when I will introduce to her a new concept for this year: daily participation grades. With tween hormones comes tween drama, and whining about doing all the subjects starts early. I've decided I'm nipping that in the bud with giving her a daily grade on how she performs, without whining, every day.
Tip 4: Add Subjects in Gradually
This tip comes to us from Julie R., a homeschool mom from Maine, on Homeschooling One Child's Facebook page. She wrote, "...start off slow--gradually adding in school subjects over the course of a few weeks."
For example, our homeschool year starts September 1, which this year falls on a Wednesday. we'll do Bible, spelling, math, and reading September 1-3, then Monday September 6 we'll do all that, plus incorporate history and science. The next week, our co-op starts up, and the week after that, I'll add in grammar (which this year is diagramming sentences). We don't throw every single subject at Laura the first few days, even if the first day of homeschool (usually September 1) falls on a Monday. She needs time to get acclimated to all of it, especially since our expectations just increased.
Tip 5: Think outside of the box for breakfast devotionals
In our homeschool, we'll have breakfast while watching a video that is an online Bible study. I access RightNowMedia.com through my church's membership, which they allowed teachers to use. In addition to teaching with it, I use it for Laura's homeschool Bible study as they have a great deal of studies for children and tweens. Ask your church's leadership to get a subscription to Right Now Media and make it accessible for homeschooling families in your congregation.
Of course, nothing beats studying the Bible itself and by no means should any book or videoed study take the place of reading Scriptures. Make sure you take time before homeschool, during the day, and at night to read to your children the Holy Word of God -- no matter what age they are. And incorporate prayer in your day as well.
Tip 6: Crafts Make Studies Come Alive
For history and science especially, nothing makes lessons stick better than crafts. When Laura was younger and studying about different formations in the earth, she used clay and paint to make a diorama of a mountain, stream, ocean, plains, valleys....and after she painted it, she had to label everything. She worked so hard on that, looking at pictures in books, and replicating what she saw, that she learned it. To this day she can tell you what the different earth formations are.
This year, she will be studying Apologia's Human Anatomy and Physiology, and I cannot wait to work with her on using clay to make a skeleton laying on a board (as opposed to standing up), and have her label all the bones. We're also going to our local butcher shop and buy pig's feet (the animal that most closest approximates human skin and tissue) to dissect then suture closed. These crafts and activities incorporate all the senses and makes the lessons come alive for the child. What crafts or activities can you do to make your child's lessons come alive?
Tip 7: Don't Replicate Public School
In our homeschool, we don't do "school at home," or call it "school." "Homeschool" incorporates so much more than that. Unless your child just does so much better early in the morning, you don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to start school. You can ease into your day. Homeschool is so much more than a 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. regimen in which you're making your child miserable, and you too, by copying public schools.
Dr. Mary Hood first coined the phrase "relaxed homeschooling." Author of five books about homeschooling, including The Relaxed Homeschool: A Family Production, The Joyful Homeschooler, and The Enthusiastic Homeschooler, she said this phenomenal quote: "Relaxed homeschooling is a mindset that embraces these four tenets: you are a family, not a school; you are a dad and the head of a household, not a principal; you are a mom, not a teacher; and you have individual relationships with your children, not a classroom. Learning experiences are guided by parental goals and the goals, interests, and personalities of the children.”
You and your children get to decide what your homeschool will be like. No one else. There's a lot of freedom -- and responsibility -- in that. But oh, it's so worth it.
Tip 8: Incorporate Chores
When we homeschool, our houses tend to get messy. You have crafts going on in the living room, books strewn about the dining table, the kitchen is playing host to a chemistry convention, and the cat just chucked up a hairball that will soon be on slide for the microscope. There's no better way to teach Life Skills than to use them in life. If a child can operate a tablet, or a laptop, or a smart phone -- he or she can most definitely operate a washing machine, dryer, vacuum, dishwasher, and hand-wash dishes. Chores should most definitely be a part of any homeschool -- in addition to helping keep the house clean, they're learning for when they move out. When you're doing the bills for the family, show the kids the income and watch it go. Show them what it takes to pay bills.
One game we have is "Act Your Wage!" Boardgame by Dave Ramsey. This game is a fun way for anyone over 10 years old to learn the principles of saving and spending -- and it's a great addition to any homeschool.
Tip 9: Take Breaks
Incorporate breaks into the school day and year. If you want to take a month off in December to celebrate Christmas and travel or spend time with family, you most certainly can do that. There is no one making the academic calendar for you other than yourself.
It's really important, though, during the homeschool day, to take breaks. There's only so much of pouring in of information one can take before it's overwhelming. What we do, for an example, is BIble, spelling, and math -- then a thirty-minute break. Laura comes back, does grammar, then it's time for lunch. History and science are next, then a break. Reading afterwards and she's done. There's no raising of hands in our homeschool as we homeschool one child (that's why the blog is named the way it is), so if at any time she needs a bathroom break or a drink of water, she can get it, no questions asked -- as long as she comes back to the table promptly.
There are times when Little Miss has a bad attitude. At that time, I tell her she needs to take a break and run around the house three times. It's amazing what that does or bad attitudes or getting the Focus Button to engage.
Tip 10: Relax
This is probably the most important tip. Relax. Enjoy the time you have with your child. Teach them but have fun, too. Go on hikes. Talk. Play. If your child asks a question, answer it, but also ask what he or she thinks. Relax and just enjoy this time, because it goes by oh so fast.
Do you have any tips? Leave them down below in a comment! Don't miss anything -- subscribe to our email newsletter today!
(C) Terrie McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
As a mom of four children (three of whom are adults and live out of the home), homeschooling the baby of the bunch is very different than working with all the others on homework. Admittedly, the older ones attended public school but the nightly homework checks and help was always a thing--and I can say without a doubt homeschooling one child is both easier and harder at the same time.
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Homeschoolers who teach "just" one child (don't you just hate that? "You homeschool *just* one? You have *just* one child?" Well, yes, we homeschool one child...) do so for many reasons. For me, it was because my daughter was diagnosed with chronic migraines, dyslexia, and ADHD. Her IEP wasn't being followed and she was being bullied.
With all that, plus the encroaching culture that was approaching public schools that went totally against my Christian beliefs, my husband and I chose to homeschool her, and we haven't looked back. Still, parents homeshool one child for many, many reasons: perhaps they have a child with chronic health or developmental needs, or they have a child who just does better in a one-to-one environment. Regardless, homeschooling singletons comes with a whole host of special situations.
One thing that I've learned with my daughter is that kids compete with one another in multiple child settings even though we don't think they do. With homeschooling one child, that competition goes away. The single child can focus on learning for learning's sake instead (or for relationship's sake), but, this also makes it difficult for when there are games (like playing HangMan for spelling) that would be nice if there was another kid in the room.
Board games are an integral part of our homeschool. While we usually wait until my husband is home from work to play a board game together, we also choose games that are good for just two people and games that have a little educational value to them, such as Game of the States, a two-to-four player game designed for ages 8 years and older. Players race their trucks across the country, buying and selling goods along the way and learning interesting facts as they go. This newly updated version features educational S.T.E.M. facts about each state (Science Technology, Engineering, and Math). Double Bananagrams is a two-to-eight player letter game (great for spelling words!) that is packaged in a cute banana-shaped zippered bag. A quick-paced game where players build their own crosswords, everyone plays at once - no waiting! It's a learning tool, a family activity, a non-electronic fun game that sharpens word skills.
When we announced to our families that we were going to homeschool our daughter, the biggest question we received was about socialization and friends.
Here's the deal: there isn't that much socialization allowed in public school. Kids sit at their desks, cannot talk with one another, they're segregated by grade and age, and can only interact at recess and lunch--unless that is taken from them as punishment. Although my daughter is the only pupil in her school, we have playdates with kids her age, younger and older children, and we visit adults. She has learned how to interact with a large segment of society, from babies to kids her age, to teenagers, to adults. I'd call that socialization.
We have made it a point to get her enrolled in groups, though, not necessarily for the social aspect but to add to her homeschool experience. While some homeschoolers utilize co-ops and enrichment clubs (and those are great options!), we haven't found any in our area that we like. We have, though, enrolled her in our county's 4H program and in our church's American Heritage Girls troop. She attends Sunday School and participates in youth events. Learning academics and interacting with people aren't relegated to the hours of 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.; learning never stops.
The biggest thing with homeschooling a singleton is the lack of resources. The stigma with homeschooling is that you need to have 10 children and a 15-passenger van. While there are parents who homeschool multiple children (and a 15-passenger van), that's not the only homeschooling scenario. I've found that a correlation to this stereotype is the lack of resources for parents homeschooling one child.
But no more! I am excited to announce the Homeschooling One Child Online Summit--an online conference geared to encourage and inspire parents who are homeschooling singletons. Sponsored by Towers of Light Christian Resources, The Waldock Way, Powerline Productions, SPED Homeschool, Notgrass History, The Art of Special Needs Parenting, and The Mystery of History, many speakers and sponsors have come together to help parents of singletons. Each session and curriculum spotlight is dedicated to homeschooling just one child. Participants receive lifetime access, a digital swag bag, all the sessions, and the curriculum spotlight, for just $25. To register, click here.
Homeschooling singletons can have a lot of joy -- once you see the child "get it," and then share that knowledge with someone else, it really is extraordinarily satisfying.
(C) 2021 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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