I Can’t Wait to Homeschool! (or How to Prepare for Teaching Your Kids at Home)
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We decided that we were going to homeschool when I was pregnant with our first child. We didn’t really have an idea how were going to pull that off, but we started floating the idea to our parents pretty early on.
When our oldest son was about one year old, we moved to a community rich in homeschoolers. The “how” seemed to materialize pretty quickly there, especially once the book The Well-Trained Mind crossed my path. However, my son was about two at the time, a little young to be starting kindergarten work.
I was so antsy to get started, yet at the same time I was wary of becoming one of those moms. The ones who teach their toddlers to read and put excessive pressure on the five year-old who doesn’t yet speak three languages. Knowing my over-achiever tendencies, I really didn’t want to push those expectations on my child.
This was hard because I really wanted to get started on the path. I even mapped out his entire education and that of his future-yet-to-be-born siblings. Obviously, I had too much time on my hands. The internet was still powered by a squirrel in a cage, so that wasn’t an outlet for all my educational energy.
Looking back, I realize how I could have put my time to better use. Granted, I did do all these things to some degree. It’s just that now, I wish I had been more mindful of them.
I’m ready, but my child isn’t.
What should you do when you can’t wait to homeschool, but your child is still too young for formal education?
I’ve given this question much thought. Here’s what I recommend when you’re eager to start home-based education yet your child is really too young to get cracking the books:
1. Preserve childhood.
I’m now convinced that what the older moms told me was true: better late than too early. There are already so many pressures in this world, why add more to our children’s load? Choosing to homeschool allows me and my kids the opportunity to take things at the pace that is right for us, to enjoy the quiet days of childhood, and not rush things.
Life will pick up speed before you’re ready, so make peace with early childhood and the enjoyment it brings. Up until five years of age, most kids need lots of books, conversation opportunities, and exploratory play. Unless they are specifically interested in doing more — and some kids certainly are — you’re fine with playing. So go with it.
2. Teach yourself.
I already had both bachelor’s and master’s degrees when my first child was born. But, despite my years of schooling, there were significant gaps in my education: tons of books I’d never read and portions of history that had been glossed over. In those early years of babies and nursing, I started to read some of the classics that I’d never read, including Jane Austen, Anne of Green Gables, and the Bronte sisters.
My only regret is that I didn’t start my re-education sooner. I wasted the high school years reading cheap romance novels when I could have been filling my mind with great books. Now that I’m teaching a high schooler, I find myself lacking the time I need to read and keep up with his rigorous reading list. If I’d spent those nursing and naptime hours reading a good book, I would be all the better for it.
(The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer can help you fill some of those gaps you might have. Here are some of my personal must-reads.)
3. Get systems in place to organize your home.
The homeschooling life is different than one in which the kids go away to school. We’re home-based. That means our home gets very lived in. It’s taken me many years to figure out how to organize our home, our meals, our chores, our stuff, in such a way as to serve us best.
If you’ve got nervous energy and time on your hands, think about the good housekeeping habits you can develop in yourself that will serve you well years from now when you’re juggling a household and a school.
(Book Recommendations: Organizing Life as MOM, Totally Together, Organized Simplicity)
4. Save your pennies.
Homeschooling is often a one-income endeavor for many families. And while you might think that it’s a free education, no education is free. There is always a cost. You will need to fund or supplement your children’s education, no matter which method you choose. So, spend the time now, while the pressure’s off, getting your financial house in order.
Pay off debt, build an emergency fund, start a school savings account. If you do these three things, your homeschooling adventure will be less stressful. I promise. I’ve done it both ways. And this way is much more fun.
(For a realistic look at what homeschooling has cost us, go here to see my year-by-year cost breakdown.)
5. Create a learning-rich environment.
All of life is learning. Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t always see it that way, relegating education to institutions. Homeschooling offers you the opportunity to really embrace this truth.
Talk to your children from an early age about numbers, letters, colors, shapes. Read books that explain our world. Take field trips that show you interesting things. Visit museums. (The earlier you do this latter thing, the better your kids will be equipped to use proper museum etiquette.)
Read books, build with blocks, cook and measure, play with water. Explore the world with your child and talk about your observations.
6. Enjoy your child.
We can be so excited about the path that lies ahead of us that we forget to enjoy the section of road that we’re on. Take time now to learn your child’s personality, to engage one-on-one, to spend time together. This will not only build a beautiful relationship, but it will also lay the foundation for a positive school experience later on.
Your child is the reason for you to homeschool in the first place. Know him and love him.
Looking over this list, I realize that it probably applies to other situations besides young moms waiting for their little ones to be old enough for formal learning. These are things that I think will help many a young mom survive and thrive through the vast and varied ocean of motherhood.
They are also the things that will prepare you for a positive homeschool experience.
Veteran homeschool moms, what would you add? Newbies, what questions do you have?
I learned a lot from your article and im happy to start rolling with our homeschooling journey this year. Looking forward reading more on your page . This is our first year to be doing homeschooling. I have a 5th grader son and my daughter is in Grade 8 here in the Philippines.
This is such a fantastic list of advice. I plan to homeschool my son, who is not quite 3 and a half, and I have felt guilty for not beginning to push more structure and curriculum based learning. I know that our timeline is relaxed due to the plan to homeschool, but I sometimes feel like I an doing him a disservice by not formalizing his early education. This made me feel better about how we learn and play currently. He is so young and I want him to have a fun, more relaxing childhood than some children are afforded without putting him behind his peers.
This post is a few years old, but THANK YOU! We’re coming up on our son’s first birthday and just decided that we are going to homeschool (when the time comes). This is just what I needed to give me a boost in the right direction, and the encouragement that we can do it. Great idea about starting a savings fund! I was a bit worried about the cost of curriculum and supplies, but if we start now we can have so much saved by the time we get started!
Yes! Put that energy to good use! And go read a good book!
I just came across your page and I am so happy I did. I have a 4 ½ and 3 ½ yr and this will be my first year homeschooling which I am currently doing with my 9th grader. With my older is easy because he is very independent but with my little ones is a little confusing because I never homeschooled before. I don’t have a degree in teaching, I was actually in nursing school but had to stop because I was told to bed rest for my second and from there I decide it to stay at home with them.
You said that is better not to be concern with them until they are 5yrs old and just to read books, correct? They get very interested in school work when they see there older sibling doing school work but they may sit for a 30min and after that they just want to play. I sometimes don’t worry about it because they know there letter sounds, letters and to count to some numbers but them I may cross a blog about toddlers and what they need to learn and that when I get concern if I’m lacking in something. Do you have any suggestion on teaching them the Bible or any type of bible for children’s that it may be good? I live in an area that doesn’t have great resources for children’s and teaching them the bible, so it been a little hard on how to introduce them to it.
Thank you for the post is great.
If they are interested, then go ahead and do the things that they want to do. I just wouldn’t sweat it until age 5, and even then, it’s still fun and hands-on learning.
I’ve used a variety of children’s bibles over the years and we spend time each morning working through it and talking about it. My kids really like the Big Idea “What’s in the Bible” reading plan on the YouVersion app. There are scripture readings as well as a short little video.
Thank you jessica for the help, trully feel much better now.
There are also these ideas which we used for the preschool years: http://lifeasmom.com/2013/09/a-preschool-education-at-home.html
Thank you so much for posting this!!! While researching homeschooling, I’ve come across a lot of different blog posts that include the same information. Some of this was really unique, so I thank you for that. More importantly, I never thought about filling the gaps in my education BEFORE I even begin teaching my child. Even though I have a master’s degree from a good school, I was never even assigned many of the great classical literature titles. Due to this blog post, I’m now working my way through these. Thank you so much!
So glad to hear you found it helpful. Happy reading!
Great points Jessica! I remember someone telling me at my first homeschool conference just before kindergarten not to worry about curriculum and just read, read, read. I did that for the first 1/2 of the year and I loved it! Then I got all caught up in the “race” and purchased some curriculum. You are definitely going against the tide when you focus on love-of-learning activities instead of curriculum, but it is so worth it. I think one of the most important things to remember (that Jessica already mentioned) is that learning is in the every day things, not just in the curriculum. Go on lots and lots of field trips and enjoy playing while you learn. You won’t regret it!
This is an awesome post. Even for one who hasn’t chosen to homeschool, or even be a stay at home Mum, all these points still apply.
Thanks for your kind words.
Love this post! We plan on homeschooling, but my 4yo son just isn’t ready yet.
My advice don’t be alarmed if when you do reach the stage of formal learning you find all those books you read about how to teach your child don’t seem to work……at first. Homeschooling is a journey not a day trip. My first child was a struggling learner, he did not read at what I would call a fluent speed until he was 12. He is 17 now and reads and comprehends what he reads very well. He also took years to learn his multiplication but now at 17 completed Algebra with a good grade. I learned to adapt to him, rather than to try and adapt him. It has been a journey full of struggles but I have learned so much about how to teach and about myself really along the way.
Really good points. Thank you.
And, when I was in that boat, my mom told me to let them help me with whatever I did, read them books, teach them to use scissors and other simple tools, and expose them to other languages.
We also had them begin Bible memory; little brains can absorb the words so easily and will learn their meaning more deeply each decade of their lives.
Yay Jessica! This is probably your best post ever!
As a veteran homeschooling mom of 5 (2 now in university, youngest in grade 6) I heartily agree with everything single thing you say.
The only thing I would add is developing a sensible self-care/exercise/nutrition/relaxation plan for yourself and not neglecting your own health as you get busier. I forgot, and it’s cost me years; you forgot and you’re getting over it now. I think most moms forget.
Aw, thank you. I consider that high praise. And you’re absolutely right about the health/self-care thing. I wish I could say I’ve fixed it. If my hip didn’t still hurt all the time….. Looking for a new doc. Still.