You’ve decided to homeschool. Now what?
Our social media-driven culture leads us to join all the homeschooling Facebook groups and post away. It leads us to ask for curriculum suggestions and typical homeschool day examples because, you know, why not see what everyone else is doing?
This crowdsourcing may seem like the most natural next step, but it’s actually time to stop. Instead of jumping in with both feet, there’s something that needs to happen before buying homeschool curriculum, planning your days, or the rest of it.
But what if you’re not a new homeschooler?
Regardless of how long you’ve been homeschooling, there are things that need to happen before purchasing another book or opening a planner. And, as I’ve shared before, it’s never too late to do the right thing for your kids.
But before we jump into what to do before buying curriculum and making plans, let’s do a quick detour and talk about why Facebook groups aren’t always helpful for your homeschool journey.
Why You Can’t Build Your Homeschool on Suggestions from Others
Hey everyone, we’re going to homeschool our son next year and we’re totally new to this. I welcome any advice at all, especially about which curriculum we should buy.— new member in your favorite homeschool Facebook group
I’d also love to hear exactly what you do each day and how you would suggest I plan our days. TIA (Thanks in advance).”
Or maybe you’ve seen a Facebook post like this:
I’m looking for science curriculum suggestions. What are you using this year and why?— not-so new homeschooler
I get it. There’s no doubt that asking for input seems like the thing to do. And, truthfully, there’s nothing wrong with asking for those suggestions and seeking help for homeschool life.
But here’s the thing: these suggestions and community brainstorming sessions shouldn’t come first. There’s a time and a place for voices that bring us homeschool advice and encouragement, but it’s all for naught if we don’t know which voices matter to us and why.
More importantly, when we center our homeschool journeys on suggestions from other people, we lose what makes homeschooling such a gift. We lose the chance to truly customize learning for our children and shape our days around our unique family cultures.
What to Do Before Buying Homeschool Curriculum
So what comes first if the purchases and scheduling are on hold? Here are three things I recommend each time I’m asked about curriculum suggestions or daily planning ideas.
Reflect on Your Schooling
Before buying homeschool curriculum or jumping into planning mode, it’s important to spend time reflecting on your school experience. This time of reflection is crucial because it helps you understand your educational ground zero.
This time of reflection is also why community input isn’t too helpful in the beginning; only you know your background and only you know what worked and didn’t work with your own schooling.
There are lots of other things to consider about your own education, but the point is that your own educational experiences play a big role who you are today.
You’ll shape your kids in the same way. That’s why it’s so important to consider the cause and effect involved in your own educational journey.
Push pause on the homeschool purchases and scheduling decisions. Instead use this time to gain an understanding of all the educational good and the bad and how it shaped you. Then take those observations and use them to better serve your kids.
Need some help reflecting? Here are some questions to get you started:
- What did you love about school? Why?
- What did you hate about school? Why?
- Which subjects were your strongest areas? Your weakest?
- Did you love learning?
- Did you care about what you were learning?
- Were you inspired to learn or were more concerned with good grades?
Study Your Kids
It’s also important to study your kids before making plans or purchasing homeschool materials. I don’t want to add unnecessary pressure, — homeschooling comes with enough responsibility as it is — but your decisions matter.
You can always tweak things as you go, but don’t miss the opportunity to get it right (or closer to right) from the beginning. Don’t get fooled into thinking anything you do at home has to be better than the educational alternatives. You can avoid that trap altogether by studying the individual child and getting direction from him before making decisions that will shape his days and who he becomes.
That said, studying your kids doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s really just a matter of knowing each child and paying attention to personality, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, and tipping points. It’s asking questions like, “what makes my child come alive?” and “why does my child like this topic, but cringe when I mention this one?”
That’s not to say you have to completely build your homeschool on every nuance you observe from your child. That becomes downright impossible because our kids are constantly changing. Also, there’s no way to manage it logistically when you’re homeschooling more than one child.
But the point here is that you’ll never capitalize on the unique, personalized education homeschooling provides without studying your child in the process. This customized education is an education that can’t be reproduced elsewhere. Why waste that by planning and purchasing without your child’s whole self in mind?
Explore Educational Philosophy
Lastly, it’s important to spend time exploring educational philosophy and homeschool methods before buying homeschool curriculum or filling out your new planner.
Skipping this process is like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping a few noodles stick. In homeschool speak, it looks like picking a random curriculum or routine and expecting it to magically meet all your needs and expectations.
This study time matters so much because it’s the last step to truly understanding what curriculum options — if any — will help achieve your goals and determining the day-to-day logistics that will best suit your family.
Point being, it’s a waste to homeschool without knowing what you believe about education and why you believe it. That’s also why it’s best to have an understanding of several different homeschool methods before you start.
Also worth noting, this isn’t studying for the sake of aligning with a specific educational philosophy or modeling your homeschool after a specific homeschool method. Instead, this exploration helps avoid decision fatigue and helps you know for sure which curriculum and scheduling options will truly be helpful for you and your family.
Not sure where to start with methods and educational philosophy? This video from Simply Charlotte Mason is a huge help. It won’t answer all of your questions, but it should certainly help you find focus for your homeschool journey. In turn, it will make the processes of scheduling, planning, and selecting homeschool curriculum more productive.
In closing, I encourage you to ask for advice and suggestions when you need help choosing homeschool curriculum or making schedules. I also encourage you to enjoy the curriculum shopping and planning; they can both be lots of fun!
Just remember, though, you need to know what you’re planning for you homeschool and why before purchasing. There are literally thousands of curriculum options and probably as many scheduling possibilities; most of them won’t be a good fit for your family.
Likewise, the suggestions and advice will do more harm than good without considering the unique makeup and needs of your own family. That will only come through understanding how your own schooling shaped you, studying your children, and knowing which educational philosophies and methods will help you.