Find tips on how to homeschool without losing your mind from veteran homeschoolers, and make your first year run smoothly!
After months of distance learning, plus uncertainty about what public school will look like in the fall, many families have taken the leap to homeschooling. My homeschool groups are full of stressed out parents asking for tips, and my own personal inbox is full of questions from friends making the switch.
As someone who’s only just recently made the switch from public school myself, I know the frustration well. I remember feeling overwhelmed and at a loss when we made this decision just a couple of years ago. I can’t even imagine doing it under these circumstances!
Are you thinking of homeschooling for the first time next year? Know you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. Most of us feel that way when we get started. Hopefully, this advice will ease some of your worries and help your first year run smoothly!
How to Homeschool without Losing Your Mind
I remember when my daughter first requested to homeschool. I’d barely even considered it as an option for our family, and didn’t feel prepared at all. I’m not a teacher, and honestly, don’t have a lot of patience.
Surely, I wasn’t cut out to homeschool. And, I know a lot of others facing this new journey feel the same. But, it’s amazing what we as parents can do when we have to, and here I am, absolutely loving the whole journey. And I think you will, too.
Despite what most parents think, homeschooling doesn’t have to be scary. You don’t have to have a background in education, and you certainly don’t have to be perfect. In fact, I don’t know a single perfect homeschooler.
Everyone loses their cool. Everyone has off days where we feel like we’re doing it all wrong.
Homeschooling doesn’t usually match the picture in our minds of everyone getting along, reciting the periodic table, and happily doing their assignments at 8 am.
It is, quite often, a hot mess. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s totally normal.
I’m not sharing the messy stuff to discourage you. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m sharing so that on your bad days, you know that you’re not alone. That this is normal. And that countless others have gone before you, felt the same way, and made it out the other side in one piece.
Advice for your first year of homeschooling:
Like I said above, I’ve only been homeschooling for two full years at this time. I have lots of advice to give, but I know so many others with way more experience than I have. So, I reached out to my community of fellow homeschoolers and asked them to share their tips and advice for new homeschoolers, and boy did they deliver! Here’s what they had to say:
- “To those just starting out; make a plan but if days don’t go as planned, just do something and keep going. On overwhelming days, do more hugging and take a break. Those days that you get a lot done will make up for them. This is hard work that is so worth it!” –Cindy from Loving Homeschool
- “When, not if, but WHEN you as a parent feel overwhelmed, tired, stressed, confused, frustrated…. Remember that your little one has even less skills/ experience to manage those emotions. So, Grace upon Grace to regroup, refresh, redirect for both of you.” –Jessica
- “Remember that they are still learning how to process emotions, it’s our job to guide them not judge them on how to get through the hard days. Take 5-10 minute breaks every so often for you both to recharge. And allow for mental health days.” — Cyndi
- “Don’t stress about what others think your homeschool should look like. Only you know your family and your children. Let go of others’ expectations and do what works for you.” — Charlene from Hess Un-Academy
- “Figuring out something that works for your kid is key. And creating an environment that minimizes stress to minimize meltdowns from even starting. Also, we have to 100% focus on the kids and their work while they’re working. When we try to multitask, we get frustrated, & they get frustrated.” –Tiffany
- “If you teach and emphasize good character from the beginning, your kids will become self-motivated independent learners who can teach themselves anything later. More character focus in the younger years pays off mightily in the teen years.” –Leisa
- “If you are new to homeschooling, then I suggest you take it one day at a time. The main thing you want to encourage is a love of learning. Remember, you were their first teacher anyway.” — Starr
- “Every family is different. Every child is different. Your homeschool will not look exactly like anyone else’s. Don’t be afraid to change things (schedule, curriculum, etc.) when needed! The first year is a lot of trial and error. Don’t get discouraged when something doesn’t go as planned. Make adjustments and keep going!” –Brandy
- “If you have a special needs child don’t think you can’t homeschool! Keep calm, take it slow, and be patient. Don’t be afraid to try different things until you find something that works for your kid. With a little outside-the-box thinking you both will survive and learn to thrive!” —Raia
- “Find what works for your family and not what the ‘Jones’ family is using for curriculum. Research teaching styles and see how those fit your personal household environment. Don’t take advise from anyone that tries to tell you to use what they use for curriculum. Every family has a different dynamic and what works for one doesn’t work for all.” –Shannon
- “Create a structure that works for you and your child(ren)-this is more for older kids 8 -11. Every evening I take about 20 minutes to discuss with my daughter the next day’s lessons and what to expect and go over questions. I incorporate a few breaks always around the same time throughout the day for directed play and some free time. And if there are days that things get hectic on my part, I have come to rely on some great online resources to keep them engaged. My motto is, don’t stress and be patient with your child and yourself.” — Mariska
- “As a homeschooling mom of three kids, I know just how important it is to incorporate self care into your days so you can stay sane and enjoy the journey of homeschooling with your kids. A beautiful way to bring self care into your day is to create a simple morning routine that fills your cup so you have more patience, energy, and love to pour into your children.” –Catherine Wilde from Soul Care Mom
- “If mama is overwhelmed then so are the kids. Step back, do a craft or have some quiet reading time then regroup. It’s ok to have bad or off days. It’s ok to go off script and head to do something fun out of the house when school work just isn’t happening!” –anonymous
- “My best advice is to breathe. When tears start to escape you and your heart becomes overwhelmed, take a step back and breathe. Grab a cup of coffee or tea. And Breathe. Change the school subject if needed. Go outside and let the kids play as you walk it off. Schedule play dates if you can. Call an encouraging friend. Crank up your favorite song and dance it out! Know you can change the curriculum if needed. We went through 5 different sets of curriculum before we found one that worked well for our family. At the end of the day know you are a great mother, you are doing the best that you can, you are enough and you can do this!!” –Starla from Coffee with Starla
- “Don’t let the pressure of other people’s standards guide you. Know your child and their limits. Know the abundant grace of God and walk in it It’s home first then school. Your home is about relationships with one another and the Lord. Let school fit into that, not the other way around.” — anonymous
- “There’s a ton of curriculum to choose from and it can be overwhelming. But even if what you pick isn’t ideal, it will help your child progress, and you’ll know better what you want when you choose your next curriculum. Unless you decide to do a boxed curriculum that comes with all the subjects, I suggest starting with just reading and math, and then gradually adding in other subjects like science and social studies. You will know better what you want, and you won’t be learning how to teach everything at once.” — Gale from Imaginative Homeschool
- “Embrace the freedom. Freedom in time , freedom in control of what your child learns , freedom of learning with your child.” –anonymous
- “Enjoy learning with your kids at their pace and their style. Do not try to homeschool them public school standards or worry that they’ll be behind their public school peers.” –anonymous
How to Make Homeschooling Work for You
As you can see, every family is different. We all have a different dynamic, and kids with different needs. What works for one family isn’t going to work for another.
My number one piece of advice to give new homeschoolers is to look into the different types of homeschooling. I don’t know about you, but when I first started, I didn’t realize it didn’t have to look like school. The picture in my mind was of desks, textbooks, worksheets, and weekly tests. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The world of education, and more specifically, of homeschool, is so varied.
You can make your homeschool look like school, but that doesn’t work for every kid. Look into different philosophies, like Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, and Classical. They’re all so different!
From there, picking curriculum is so much easier, because you can cut out everything that doesn’t apply.
My next tip would be to check out your state’s laws on homeschooling. The rules in every state are different when it comes to attendance, record keeping, and turning things in. You can look that up with a simple Google search, or ask other homeschoolers in your area to direct you where to go!
And, finally, connect with your local homeschool community. Before I did this, I had no idea there were so many opportunities for homeschooling where I live. And guys. I live in a rural place, not a big city with tons of opportunity. My mind was blown at just how much was available right here in my own community that I’d never heard of before. Find ways to connect with these groups for field trips, co-ops, dances, socialization days, and clubs catering to homeschoolers. You’ll be amazed at how many people you’ll meet, and how many new friends your kids (and you!) will make.
Resources & Advice from fellow homeschool bloggers:
This post contains affiliate links. That means I could earn a small commission based on your purchases. To learn more, see my full disclosure here.
While I do have a couple of posts on the topic of homeschooling here on the blog, I’m not a homeschool blogger. I’m just a mom who’s been there, who wants to help out a new generation of homeschoolers. So, to help you in the best way I can, I pulled together some of my favorite resources, blogs, printables, and advice from others. Be sure to check those out for further reading!
- Cathy Duffy Reviews: This is one of my favorite websites to learn more about different curriculum and learning styles. Cathy Duffy has been reviewing homeschool curriculum since 1984, and her website is full of amazing information.
- Brave Writer: Whether you’re looking for writing prompts, encouragement, tips on getting your kids excited, or actual writing and language arts curriculum, Julie’s got you covered. She also has a book, The Brave Learner, which really helped me shift my focus this past year and focus on a love of learning. It’s such a good read. Be sure to check it out!
- Teachers Pay Teachers: Yep. There’s homeschool resources on there, too! Find everything from printables, calendars, and crafts, to full on year-long curriculum to help you plan your year.
- The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: A researched base take on reading out loud to your kids – no matter how old they are! It also includes a huge list of book recommendations by age that can be incredibly helpful in introducing your kids to great literature.
More Blog Posts to Check Out:
- 101 Fun and Free Ways for Kids to Learn at Home by Mom Hacks 101
- 7 Ways to Homeschool on a Budget by Saving Talents
- 15 Homeschooling Do’s and Don’ts (from a Grown Up Homeschooler) by Saving Talents
- Morning Baskets: Questions and Answers from The Waldock Way
Welcome to Homeschooling. You’ve Got This!
The first year of homeschooling is a lot. It’s an adjustment for everyone, and quite often it doesn’t look the way you thought it would. That’s okay, though. The simple fact that you’re searching for advice and answers shows me that you’ve got what it takes.
As you can see from the advice above, there’s not one way to homeschool the “right” way, so jump in, learn as you go, and don’t forget to have fun!
More on homeschooling and family life from Angie Cruise:
- Fun Educational Activities for Kids to do at Home
- How I Use a Bullet Journal for our Homeschool
- Back to School Shopping: Homeschool Edition
- Best No Cost Self Care Ideas for Moms