Quick survey: At the start of the new year, when you made your resolutions, where did “homeschool the kids” rank on your list?
Maybe you’ve been rolling the idea around in your head for a while, wondering how it might work and when you should go for it. Or maybe the thought of becoming your child’s teacher had never occurred to you before.
But here we are.
Thankfully, homeschooling isn’t the first curveball 2020 tossed our way. If nothing else, we parents have proven to ourselves that we can do hard things and, oftentimes, our families are all the better for it.
So whether you’re going full parent-teacher mode or taking on a virtual-learning supervisory role, we’ve got your back.
That’s why we reached out to Greta Eskridge—prominent speaker, author of Adventuring Together, and homeschool mom of four. Her encouraging words and useful tips are sure to be just the boost you need to get started.
5 Expert Tips for First-Time Homeschoolers
1. Start with the end in mind.
Greta encourages parents to take the long view in developing a homeschool plan. She suggests asking yourself questions like,
What kind of qualities and character traits do I want my child to develop?
What kind of learning and ideas do I want him/her to be exposed to?
What kind of academic and life skills do I want her to learn before she goes out into the world?
These questions and their answers go beyond curriculum, but they might inform curriculum decisions too. Developing an overarching vision for your child’s education at home—whether it be one semester, this school year, or now until graduation—can help narrow down the countless options available to homeschoolers and help novice remote learning parents prioritize during this season. Say yes only to what works best for your family.
2. Build big-picture thinking into your weekly schedule.
You’re probably prepared to cover the basics—like math and reading for little ones plus history, geography, and science for older kids. But you can fill in the gaps by considering your long term goals.
“If you hope to raise a child with a lifelong love and interest in nature, you should make nature study a big part of your upcoming school year,” says Greta. And to encourage a long-term love of reading, she suggests parents request great books from the library (try curbside pickup if you can’t go inside), listen to audiobooks in the car, and read aloud on a regular basis.
3. Look for every opportunity to get outside.
Greta’s crew took homeschool outdoors before it was COVID-cool. That’s because, as Greta explains, “learning outside the walls of the house makes learning come alive in new ways.”
You could set up a picnic blanket with snacks and workbooks, talk science on a weekly hike, or create art where inspiration abounds and messes don’t matter. Getting outside offers a change of scenery, fresh air, vitamin D, and the opportunity to engage in the wider world at a time when our options for going places are limited.
Getting outside might also allow you to safely meet up with another homeschool family. After all, Greta advises that no one should take on this endeavor in isolation.
4. Cultivate a love of learning in your child.
Want to make your job as a first-time homeschool parent as easy and enjoyable as possible? Teach your kids to view learning as fun. Education as enrichment. Greta suggests we do this in two ways.
First, “hold your schedule with open hands.” As the homeschooling parent, you’re casting the vision, choosing the curriculum, and determining the schedule. That’s great. But a kid who shows up ready to learn? That’s key. So be flexible.
Then, work to discover the subjects that draw your kids’ interest. “Taking a year to help your child delight in learning is not a lost year. Study the things that light your child up and offer them as part—or all–of their school curriculum,” says Greta. “Make learning less of a chore for both of you and you’ll be amazed at how much better things will go.”
5. Cherish the relationships you’re building.
Regardless of your reasons for—and reservations about—homeschooling for the first time, we’re better off when we acknowledge the blessings during this moment in time.
As Greta reflects on her own experience growing up in homeschool, she admits loving the flexibility and freedom in her schedule. But even better? Developing a close bond with her parents—something she hopes her own children will appreciate.
And she encourages us to work toward the same, saying, “Don’t get so lost in trying to find the right curriculum, crafting the perfect schedule, or making sure your kids are at grade level that you miss the relational aspect of homeschooling. It truly is the most beautiful part.”
Okay, moms and dads. Are you feeling better? We sure are. Time to welcome these kids back to (home)school with confidence.
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Greta Eskridge is a nature lover, book reader, and coffee drinker. She craves relationship and loves having adventures. Her faith in God is the lens through which she sees life. Greta is a homeschooling mom of 4, a wife of 22 years to Aaron, and an author and speaker. Greta’s first book, Adventuring Together, released last month. Greta would love to connect with you on her blog or on Instagram @maandpamodern.