The Hesitant Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling…and Thriving!

Are you new to homeschooling? Or do you have kids participating in virtual public/private schools due to COVID-19? Then you have come to the right place! Put aside your anxiety and join me and millions of other homeschool veterans who all started in the same spot with ZERO experience. With God at our side, we have managed to educate our kids at home and thrive! This comprehensive article covers my own hesitant journey, tips to get you started, a sample daily routine, managing electronics, tips for working moms and homes with special needs kids, suggestions for homes with young children, and a plethora of resources covering curriculum to testing. You got this, parents! Get ready for a year filled with good conversation, laughs, a few bumps, and JOY!

Our Hesitant Journey

“Homeschooling? Me? Never!” Those were my thoughts until 2015.

Sam and I both attended public schools.  It wasn’t until we became parents and started studying the kids at our church and community in Arizona that we started considering alternatives.  Homeschooled kids and those educated in private Christian schools often really stood out to us. Soon after our oldest was born, we became convicted that our children receive a Christ-centered education. So we started planning to send our kids to a private Christian school.  

Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

”Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

That worked for two years with the oldest; she attended Pre-K3 and Pre-K4 at a private Christian preschool. As she approached kindergarten, our middle daughter also reached preschool age. We were faced with a couple of dilemmas. First, we could not afford tuition for both to attend a private Christian school. Second, our middle child had some special needs that required individual instruction. We started praying and asking God to help us at this crossroads. Should I go back to work? That would pay for private school. The kids were 5, 3, and 1. But the thought of juggling two careers while having kids in school with all their activities sounded so stressful and unappealing to us. Should we send them to public school? Or should we consider that super scary option- homeschooling?

Psalm 56:3 (NIV)

”When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

Homeschooling? Me? But I am not a trained teacher. I went to school for accounting! I hated teaching the undergraduate accounting lab while in graduate school. However, I don’t mind teaching Sunday school classes at church…

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.”

So began our experiment. While our oldest attended kindergarten at a private Christian school, we started homeschooling the middle child using a popular Christian curriculum. It ended up being a great year. We could go at the pace that worked best for my daughter due to her developmental delays. The following year, we decided to homeschool all 3. They were now in 1st grade, Pre-K4, and Pre-K2. It was really overwhelming at the beginning of that second year, but after the first 4-6 weeks, we hit our stride.

Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV)

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.”

I never planned to homeschool, but it has become such a blessing that I do not take it for granted! I know homeschooling is often only open to moms who can afford to stay home and pay for all the curriculum, supplies, etc. I know there are working moms who have managed to homeschool and kudos to them! However, I also know moms who would love to homeschool their kids, but that is not an option for them. Whatever your situation, remember to pray- ask God to guide you in this important area! And even though sometimes it may not seem like it, God does know the desires of your heart!

Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

“Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

1 John 5:14 (NIV)

14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

Homeschooling is not for everyone. But if God calls you to homeschool, don’t be afraid to step out in faith and obey Him! We all feel inadequate at times. We may lack organization, motivation, discipline, patience, etc. Each of us struggles in different areas. But we aren’t called to do this on our own- God is by our side every step of the way. When you come across stumbling blocks, go to the Father and ask for help. I have had to do this numerous times, especially for my daughter with developmental delays. Right when I need it, the Holy Spirit will give me ideas, convictions, and strength to persevere. I didn’t know if she would ever read and then one day, she was reading! It took years of hard work, but one day she made the leap! All my anxiety was for naught. Trust Him more, worry less! And even if she had never learned to read…that would have been ok too. God has a plan and purpose for each of us!

Psalm 37:5 (HCSB)

“Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in Him, and He will act…”

You may not have much or any support from family and friends in the beginning. My husband supported me, but some of our extended family did not. However, we knew what God had called us to do, and how could we disobey Him? After a while, we won them over, and now our family is very supportive. It will be tough at times, but don’t give up! Know that God is in your corner!

A question I get asked a lot is, “how do you manage it all?” Well, first of all, I don’t manage it all. I get help from my spouse, family, friends, and foremost, from God the Father. I start my day with God and ask Him to take over. Any successes that occur in our day come from Him!

Ready to get started? Here are some tips to help lead you to a successful, Christ-centered year!

Tips to Get You Started

1. If financially feasible, hire a cleaning service- even if just once a month. This can be very helpful until some of the children are old enough to help with household chores.
2. Take offers of help. If people offer to babysit or to listen to your children read, etc., take it! 🙂
3. Don’t worry about getting it all in! Focus on the main things- Bible, reading, writing, math. Fit in the others as you’re able. You want to avoid burnout!
4. The first 4-6 weeks of every school year are tough- don’t give up! 🙂 It takes some time to get the new routine in place.
5. Older kids are able to do more work independently. Let them own that responsibility.
6. Don’t worry too much about your preschoolers (if you don’t have time to teach them). They will pick things up quickly in elementary school. Play is important in the early years and beyond! A helpful concept to know is that a 4-year-old will generally take a month to learn a new concept, while a 5-year-old will learn that same concept in a week, and a 6-year-old will learn it in a day! I wish I had known this earlier- I would have relaxed more when my older girls were in preschool!
7. Combine classes when possible. Some subjects can be done with all your kids at once- like reading books out loud, Bible lessons, science experiments, art, etc.
8. Pray, relax, and have fun! 🙂

Sample Daily Routine

When I first started homeschooling, I constantly asked veteran homeschoolers about their routine. How did they fit it all in? I soon discovered that not every family has one, but a routine has worked well for us. Kids thrive with the security of a routine. As they get older, they don’t have to be told all day long what to do; they already know that this is chore time, this is school time, this is outdoor time, this is meal time, this is free time, etc. Every family’s day looks different – so feel free to experiment and figure out what works best for YOU. Identify what your priorities are and make sure to fit them into the day. I’ve included our general M-F schedule during the school year:

5am: I get up and work out or write (I have a rule that I am not available to kids before 7:30am!)

6am: Older kids start getting up/they eat/have free time

7:30am: I eat/read my Bible/pray

Husband and toddler come down for breakfast

8am: Husband begins his work day; Kids and I head upstairs to complete morning chores; this consists of showering, getting dressed, brushing hair/teeth, and making bed

9am: We start cleaning chores/laundry

10am: I start school with my oldest child; others have free play time

11:30am: Lunch

12pm: Put 2 year old down for nap; start school with rest of kids

2pm: School is finished; start rest/free play time/appointments

4pm: Kids and I go outside

6pm: Dinner; Family time

7pm: 2 year old goes to bed; Family time continues with others

8pm: All other kids go to bed/Devotional time

We fit in piano lessons, AWANA, speech/vision therapy, etc in the afternoons and evenings depending on the day. Saturdays or Sunday afternoons might have soccer/kids running program or Christmas play practice depending on the seasons. Figure out what works best for you and make it a priority to not overbook! Kids and parents need rest and play time. I also generally have all my kids do the same activities to minimize the impact on our schedules. We take summers off and during our 10 week break, we try to take care of as many of their vision/dental/doctor appointments as we can. It makes our school year a little less hectic!

Managing Electronics

This is a BIG topic that could be a whole different post…when our kids are home all day, how do we manage their time on the tv, tablets, phones, video games, etc.? Our pediatrician only wants the kids on screens 1-2 hours a day…and I’ll admit this is a struggle for us! During the summer we saw electronic use getting out of hand, so we have limited electronics to 12pm-4pm. I have friends who require their kids to earn their electronic time; for every hour they read, they can have 1 hour of electronics time. During the school year, I have friends who do not allow electronics between 10am-4pm (school hours). Do what is comfortable and manageable!

Another popular question I get is, “how do you homeschool when you have small children in the house?” It can be tough to homeschool the older kids while you have little ones in the house! But here are some tips that helped me quite a bit:

What do I do with my young children?

1. Busy Bags- they come out only when needed.
Check out this website for some great Busy Bag ideas: https://teachingmama.org/busy-bags-101/
2. Take advantage of nap time/playpen time/quiet room time for younger children.
When the younger children are napping, playing in the playpen, etc., hit the books with the older kids!

Tips for Working Moms

I have a few homeschooling friends who also work outside the home! They homeschool their kids around their work schedules; so school time may be in the evenings or weekends, or even early mornings like 6am! Figure out what works best for you! Working mother Mary Sauer wrote a great article in Good Housekeeping on how she homeschools her 3 kids:

  1. Give yourself time to adjust; be realistic not pessimistic
  2. Create a routine and stick with it
  3. Unconventional choices make it work
  4. Less is More

Tips for Homeschooling Children with Special Needs

We have a child that has developmental delays and has been screened for dyslexia, as well as other issues. She is starting 3rd grade and we are starting our 6th year homeschooling her. Here are some tips I have picked up:

  1. Be patient! All kids are different…ask God to give you patience when necessary! (I ask for it constantly!)
  2. My daughter has a short attention span and tires easily so we try to fit as much as we can in 1-2 hrs and then call it a day.
  3. We take breaks when necessary
  4. We switch topics every 15 minutes
  5. She is allowed to move or handle manipulatives while learning
  6. Find books that they enjoy…incorporate games when possible and keep schooling enjoyable.
  7. Show enthusiasm, especially when reading science and history…it can be contagious!
  8. Stay positive and calm…when they are upset at how hard school is, remind them of their previous successes and stay calm even if they start to throw a tantrum.
  9. Point them to Jesus and pray together when you hit struggling points!
  10. If a tantrum occurs, allow them to cool down in their room and then invite them back to the school room.

I know that school with these kids can be especially trying, exhausting, and discouraging, but hang in there, Mommas! With God at our side, progress is possible!

Listed below are several useful resources that have helped me over the years:

8 Great Resources

1. Magazines
Practical Homeschooling magazine https://www.practicalhomeschooling.com/
One of my favorite features as a new homeschooling mom was that each issue featured different homeschool families and their schedules!
2. There are many Christian homeschooling books, blogs, and podcasts available! And there are so many ways to utilize them- I usually listen to a lot of books for free through my local library and the Hoopla App. I also listen to podcasts through the Podcast App.
Here are a few of these particular types of resources I recommend:
Homeschool Bravely by Jamie Erickson
Jamie’s podcast is Mom 2 Mom
Jamie’s blog is: https://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschoolers Guide to Unshakeable Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
Sarah’s podcast is Read Aloud Revival (RAR)
Sarah’s blog is: https://readaloudrevival.com/
http://gracefilledhomeschooling.blogspot.com/ Melissa Williamson is a local pastor’s wife, homeschooling mom, blogger, and my neighbor! She also writes for Practical Homeschooling magazine!
3. Other Helpful Websites
https://ncadmin.nc.gov/citizens/home-school-information If you live in North Carolina, use this website to register your homeschool, learn the state requirements, etc. If you live outside of North Carolina, search for your state’s or country’s requirements.
https://www.nche.com/about/ This organization is an NC statewide homeschooling organization that provides conferences, magazines, field trips, and much more. It also does a lot to defend NC homeschooling rights with the state government.
https://hslda.org/content/ This is a a legal ministry that defends homeschooling rights anywhere in the United States. A small yearly fee is required to use their services.
4. Co-ops
Co-ops are so helpful in providing social gatherings like parties, field trips, play dates at parks, moms’ nights out, etc. Both the children and parents receive fellowship!
Co-ops can also provide enrichment classes which help fill areas that we struggle to find time or talent to teach: art, languages, music, drama, physical education, money management, science, history, etc.!
A great local co-op in Durham is Great Endeavor Homeschoolers: https://www.homeschool-life.com/1516/?Logout=1 Search your area for co-ops! If none are available, consider starting one!
5. Local shops in the Raleigh/Durham Area:
Not Just Paper https://www.brameco.com/notjustpaper.htm
Homeschool Gathering Place https://homeschoolgatheringplace.org/
Search your area for local teacher or homeschooling stores! These are great places to purchase teaching and school supplies, posters, etc. They can also be a great place to look through and buy curriculum, as well as consign curriculum that you didn’t use or no longer need.
6. Curriculum
There are so many Christian and non-Christian curriculums available!! Quite frankly, it is overwhelming! Whether you want traditional, Charlotte Mason, gameschooling, unschooling, a mixture, whatever, you are sure to find it!
The Practical Homeschooling magazine often has issues all about curriculum and what was ranked the best by its readers.
Cathy Duffy is known for her work reviewing curriculum. She helps you figure out the best curriculum for each child. Check out her website here: https://cathyduffyreviews.com/ There is a fee to purchase her extensive reviews.
We use a high quality, traditional, Christ-centered curriculum called Abeka. I have used it for all my kids since the beginning. And each of my kids are different- some are average, some have developmental delays, while others are bright and pick things up quickly. We have been able to modify the curriculum to fit each child. Here is a quick description of the Abeka approach:
“As students begin to grasp what’s being taught, newly acquired concepts and skills are fortified time and again using a method often referred to as spiral learning. Finally, students’ growing mastery of subject matter is strengthened because of the comprehensive design of our curriculum. Material taught in one subject is reinforced in other subjects. At every step of the way, students learn, apply, and master new concepts and skills.”
This year we are also incorporating the Barton System to help my struggling reader. (She was screened for dyslexia just this summer.)

Every home is different! Find the curriculum that fits you best!
7. Conferences
Conferences are a great place to look at and purchase curriculum, meet other homeschooling families, and hear speakers on a variety of topics.
A couple of great homeschooling conferences are:
Thrive
https://www.nche.com/thrive/
Great Homeschool Convention
https://greathomeschoolconventions.com/
8. Standardized Testing
There are many standardized tests out there. Not all states require yearly testing. If your state does require it, make sure to check which tests they approve. Here are a couple of popular tests:
The CAT (California Achievement Test) can be administered by parents and is inexpensive.
The Woodcock Johnson Test is given by a professional administrator with each child individually and they will go over test results with you in person. This is such a nice feature in those early years when you are not sure if homeschooling is working or if you have children with special needs. We have used this test option every year and they were the people who told us about vision therapy and curriculum for our dyslexic/struggling reader!
The Iowa Achievement Test can be administered by parents and is inexpensive.
Some tests require administration by individuals with a B.A. or B.S. Be sure to research this if this is an area of concern for you.

Conclusion

With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)! It won’t ever be perfect— most days will be pretty average, but starting the school day in prayer with God as the focus, it turns out beautifully! I still don’t always understand how it is possible that we are thriving, but then I turn my thoughts to the Creator of the universe and remember who God is! What can’t He do?! Absolutely nothing. He blesses our homeschool and He can bless yours too! Let God guide you and, as Jamie Erickson says, “Homeschool Bravely!”

Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

”Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Edited by Allie Anson

2 thoughts on “The Hesitant Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling…and Thriving!

  1. What a wonderful well written post. I love learning about homeschooling, is something close to my heart.
    Who knows And it may becomes a calling for me too ❤️
    Good job! I always enjoy reading you

    Liked by 1 person

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