My daughter was in the middle of second grade when we decided to homeschool her. At first, we thought we’d stick it out until the end of the year, but by the time fall started to turn into winter, we were ready for a change. So with no real idea of what we were doing—I had no curriculum materials and no real plan—we pulled our daughter out of school on a Tuesday and became homeschoolers. And you know what? It was great.
There are lots of reasons you might decide to start homeschooling in the middle of the traditional school year, but it usually boils down to the fact that you’re ready to start homeschooling Right Now. If you’re just getting started as new homeschoolers, here are a few things I wish I’d known those first months of our homeschool life:
It’s totally fine to not have a plan. It’s great if you’ve done tons of research and curriculum shopping and know exactly what you want to do to get started with homeschooling, but honestly, homeschooling is all about changing course. Don’t feel like you have to jump right into organized academics—take a month off to study bugs or visit all the art museums in your neck of the woods or build a Minecraft version of Middle Earth. The most important thing right now is not math drills but getting to know your child’s learning style and interests—and structured academics is rarely the best way to do that.
Start with readalouds. No matter how old or young your kids are, daily readalouds are one of the things that will make you feel good about homeschooling. (You can check out our lists of favorite readalouds for elementary, middle, and high school.) You will be surprised by how quickly this becomes your favorite part of the day. If your kids have trouble sitting still, let them practice knitting, draw pictures, build Legos, or otherwise keep their hands busy during reading sessions.
You can get a lot done in an hour. My daughter jokes that homeschool is “learning concentrate” because you really can accomplish a lot in smaller amounts of time than you would have thought possible. If you want to engage in structured learning, start with an hour a day and let your schedule evolve from there.
Give yourself time to find your rhythm. The early days of homeschooling are a great time to try lots of different things without making big commitments. Look for one-day workshops, park days, short-term lessons, and other sample-size activities. The structure of your days will change dramatically after you start homeschooling (for one thing, you will feel like the meals never stop!), so it’s nice to explore different kinds of schedules to find one that feels right to you. Some people love going all the time; some people are happier sticking close to home. Ease into finding your family’s rhythm before you spend a lot of money on classes or activities.
Meet other homeschoolers. We lucked into a great group just by Googling “homeschoolers” and the name of our city, but sometimes it takes a few misses to find the group that’s right for you. Go to lots of different homeschool days and park days—even if a group doesn’t end up being the perfect fit, you’ll meet homeschool families who may point you in a better direction.
Have fun! Educating your kids feels like serious business because it’s an important undertaking—but it’s also a lot of fun. One of the best things I did that first year of homeschooling was to keep a “joy journal” to write down moments that I loved: our backyard volcano, our first marathon readaloud session, the day my daughter finished writing a book of constellation stories. Flipping back through those pages will help remind you that everything’s going to be just fine.
Any other mid-year homeschool-starters out there? What advice would you give someone just starting to homeschool?
AMY SHARONY is the founder and editor-in-chief of home | school | life magazine. She's a pretty nice person until someone starts pluralizing things with apostrophes, but then all bets are off.