Bottom 10 Worst Parts of Homeschooling

Seriously.

We all know that nothing could be as consistently rosy as the way magazine photo-spreads try to paint homeschooling or as unfailingly cheerful as the above-average homeschooler’s daily blog entries.

For those who are genuinely investigating homeschooling for their children’s education, I would be remiss if I did not caution you in advance about the uglier moments of homeschooling: the dark days that inevitably occur and that no one wants to confess. Forewarned is forearmed, as the old saying goes, so take this list to heart and prepare yourselves as much as possible to prevent these stumbling blocks from stopping you in your tracks.

10. Sibling warfare. It will happen, and it will happen when you least expect it and are least prepared for it. From making faces at each other to kicking under the table, from stealing pencils to full-on hurling books… or worse. It may be momentary or it could be an on-going problem. Even in the calmest of families, even in the most serene households, even between the best of friends-as-siblings. It’s a consequence of the day in, day out continuous routine that causes boredom, weariness, restlessness, and disillusionment. A closely related side-issue is whether or not students will cooperate with a parent-teacher and a mixed-ages homeschooling atmosphere, particularly if these students have previously attended “real” school.

Coping strategies: Take breaks as often as necessary to break the negative patterns before they gain a firm foothold and to refresh everyone’s heart, mind, and body. Use multiple study areas, if possible, giving your students enough physical separation to allow each one to focus on his own work. (Siblings as Best Friends offers a more in-depth look at conquering this trouble spot. Also be sure to check out Respect Must Be Earned, Disrespectful Kids, and Troublesome Students.) Chores can be interspersed with learning to provide quick exercise breaks while maintaining productivity. This can be extremely helpful for separating restless siblings — send one off to do a chore or two while the others continue to work at lessons. A strategically chosen task can make sitting down to a lesson much more attractive! And while we’re on the subject of chores…

9. Chores. Taking out the trash, cleaning the bathrooms, tidying the living areas. Feeding the dog, sweeping the floor, shoveling the front walk. Did you remember to do your job? Did you finish every step? Whose sock is that? Did you brush your teeth? Did you make your bed? Whose turn is it to empty the dishwasher?

Coping strategies: Use reminder lists or charts to teach your children the responsibility of getting things done without prompting. Mom, you have more important things to do with your time than constantly reminding your children to do their jobs. My rule-of-thumb was to save my energies for the higher skilled jobs that only Mom could do, and get over my perfectionist tendencies relax my standards so that anyone else could do the lower skilled jobs. Use The Biblical Model of Discipleship to ensure each person knows how to do their chores, then walk away, and let them handle it. Tell yourself as often as necessary: it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be done.

8. Housework. Cook, clean, wash, iron. Meals, dishes, laundry, vacuuming. Buy the food, freeze the food, thaw the food, cook the food. Gather the dirty laundry, shuffle the loads through the laundry process, restock the cleaned laundry. When is there time to teach? Plan a lesson? I’m supposed to plan lessons???

Coping strategies: Lower your Suzy Perfect Homemaker standards enough to allow your family members to help with all of the daily work. Treat yourselves to quick, easy meals on paper plates when your schedule gets crazy. Spread out the responsibility for chores and share the duties (re-read #9 above). Lessons don’t need to be planned down to the tiniest, word-for-word details. Spontaneous lessons will often be the most memorable ones. (Using Your Household Staff contains practical tips for squeezing more out of your busy, busy day. A Day Without Lessons shows how education lurks in the most unlikely places.)

7. Clutter. Books, books, and more books. Workbooks, worksheets, test papers, and writing assignments. Textbooks, teacher’s manuals, reading books, reference books. (When you envisioned your ideal homeschooling set-up, you didn’t picture this extensive home library, did you?) Pencils, erasers, scissors, rulers, markers, crayons. Art supplies, craft supplies, math manipulatives, maps, charts, and posters. Where can you possibly put it all, and how will you find what you’ve got when you need it?

Coping strategies: We started with a “cigar” box for each student’s personal writing supplies (my pencils, etc.). We purchased build-it-yourself bookcases and storage cupboards as our needs (and budget) increased. We added a few inexpensive plastic multi-drawer units to help control the growing collection of arts-and-crafts supplies. Basically, you’ll want to adapt each year as your needs change. I found a week at the start of summer to be a good time for sorting out what we wanted to keep from the past year and a day or two at the end of summer to be a good time for re-evaluating our needs for the upcoming year. The kids and I worked together to sort and toss and discuss what we had all learned, then rearrange and make plans and get prepared and excited for what would come next. Working together was key for us: the kids often had great ideas to try in our small porch-turned-schoolroom. Plus, the longer we were away from the public school atmosphere, the less we felt the need to separate his things from her things, and the more we felt the community, teamwork, and sharing spirit of family. (See Homeschool Gadgets: An Investment in Your future or a Waste of Money? for a unique look at what you do or don’t need.)

6. More clutter. Salt dough castles, vinegar and baking soda volcanoes, and eggshell mosaics. Oatmeal and salt box drum sets, tin can telephones, and paper plate clocks. Butterfly and moth specimens, leaf and wildflower collections, and rock and mineral displays. The educational value is undeniable, but does it need to occupy the entire kitchen table?

Coping strategies: Remember that a photo can be kept in a much smaller space than the actual salt-dough castle took up (or stashed invisibly in a computer file). My children were much more willing to take apart their fantastic K’Nex creations once we had taken photos of them. Digital cameras were not a part of our early days of homeschooling; now they seem like must-have equipment! Above all else, remind yourselves that the learning is the most important part of education, not the meaningless handprint art, not the endless worksheets filled with twaddle, not the vapid writing assignments given solely for the purpose of creating time-consuming busywork. Some lessons are learned at the first reading or the first explanation, freeing both student and teacher to move on to the next thing with no further ado. (People LIVE in This House offers encouragement to those of us who do not live inside magazine pictures! I Give One Grade: 100%–But You Get to Keep Trying Until You Get It points out that learning is learning, no matter how long it takes.)

5. Most clutter. Mounds of clean socks and underwear that haven’t yet been sorted. Last season’s clothing that needs a place to live until the weather changes back again. Outgrown clothing and that nagging pile of mending.

Coping strategies: I used my own chores as times to wean my students off of my constant attention and teach them to teach themselves. You work on this lesson while I go sew these buttons back on your shirts, and I’ll come check on you when I’m done. Kids can learn to do most household chores and be able to help out when needed — remember, many hands lighten the load. As for storing out-of-season items, you may want to consider adding storage shelves in the basement or garage, or evaluating which things really need to be kept. Teaching my children to donate good, usable items to thrift shops created a habit they have continued as adults. (Teach Your Students to Teach Themselves will give them more confidence and independence in their own lessons and give you a bit more time for switching laundry, starting supper, or visiting the bathroom… alone!)

4. Desperation. There will come a day around February or March when every member of the family has coughed, hacked, and sniffled his or her way right out of your heart. And that may also have been accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Mother Teresa herself would have been ready to throw in the towel, if it meant she could escape your home’s infirmary to a peaceful oasis free of sticky dishes, stinky laundry, smelly diapers, and drippy noses, even for a mere eight hour shift of answering someone else’s telephone, shuffling someone else’s papers, and just plain dealing with someone else’s dilemmas.

Coping strategies: Calling off school for a few days or a week can give everyone a blessed relief as you all try to recuperate. Get your strength back before you try to pick up the books again. Even if the latest virus is not to blame for your collective malaise, a day or two away from lessons can perk up spirits. Do a little spring cleaning, indulge in some retail therapy, declare a family game day, or call for a video marathon – whatever it takes to clear your heads and jump-start the enjoyment again. (See Reschedule, Refocus, Regroup for tips on perking up your schedule. Sick Days, Snow Days, and Other Interruptions offers welcome relief from the nagging feeling that you can’t stay home from homeschooling.)

3. Regrets. I shouldn’t have yelled. I should have been there. I should have left earlier. I shouldn’t have grounded him. I should have done a better job. I really should go. I should have taken them a casserole. I should have called her. I didn’t do enough. I did too much.

Coping strategies: Remind yourself that no one is perfect, then Do the Best Job You Can and Pray for God to Clean Up the Rest. Giving yourself a few moments to think before you make each decision can really improve the quality of those decisions and help you on the way toward Living Your Life with No Regrets.

2. Isolation. The other side of the socialization coin has to be endless days of seeing no one but your own family members. Tempers will flare without warning, boredom will soar to new heights, and lessons that seemed relatively simple will go misunderstood for no apparent reason. You will find yourselves waiting eagerly for a glimpse of the letter carrier’s face, delightedly anticipating a trip to the grocery store, and chatting like a giddy madman with total strangers in check-out lanes, just because you are amazingly grateful for the sound of another human voice and a new face to gaze upon, if only for a few seconds.

Coping strategies: You may need some fresh lesson ideas. See 10 Ways to Improve a Lesson and Back to Homeschool with New Ideas. Or it may be time to recognize The Value of Supplemental Activities. If you are forcing yourselves into isolation because you think you are required to spend every school day from 8am to 3pm indoors with your noses in books, please read “Why Aren’t You in SCHOOL?”

And finally, the absolute worst, most discouraging facet to homeschooling—

1. Lack of guidance. Parents who remove their children from institutional schools will feel this more acutely than any others. How do I learn how to homeschool? What do my children already know? What do they not know? How can I tell the difference? Which math program is best? How well does he read? What about grammar? Should I teach history chronologically, geographically, or alphabetically?

Coping strategies: No one can (or should) give you a blanket summary of buy this program and it will fulfill all of your educational needs forever, since each of your children is different from the others, and they each have varied learning needs and academic interests which may change somewhat over time. Careful observation and good Mommy-instincts should tell you when a student is struggling to understand and when he is just plain bored and ready to move on because he already understands this material and it contains no challenge for him. Simple supplemental activities can adapt your present curriculum to your students’ learning styles, enabling each student to learn the lessons through his unique processing abilities. Answers to all other questions (well, many of them anyway) can be found here at Guilt-Free Homeschooling. Start with these articles:
So You Think You’re Not Smart Enough to Homeschool
Questions from a First-time Homeschooler
Surviving the First Year of Homeschooling After Leaving Public School
Curriculum Choices and Shoe Shopping, an Analogy
Meatball Education: Filling in the Potholes of Public School
Every Day Is a Learning Day, and Life Is Our Classroom
10 Ways to Ease into Homeschooling

Despite these downside aspects, homeschooling is absolutely the best thing you will ever do for your family! The intense contact of homeschooling will not just benefit your children, it can strengthen the entire family unit. Don’t let a few negative things keep you from trying the biggest positive of all, putting your children’s education on the right track.

Back to Homeschool with New Ideas

Back to School signs are everywhere. The stores are stocked with new boxes of crayons, new notebooks, and new backpacks. If you are not quite ready for the next semester to begin, it may be because you feel insufficiently prepared for it yourself. Where are the new school supplies for you — maybe some new coping skills, a new supply of encouragement, and a new box of ideas?

If you are a First-Time Homeschoolerand are beginning with a preschooler or Kindergartner, these articles contain the coping skills you need for this new task ahead of you.

For those of you who are Leaving Public Schoolto begin homeschooling, the following articles will give you a generous dose of encouragement.

Perhaps you have been teaching your own children for a while now, but feel that you are Stuck in a Homeschool Rut. Here are some fresh ideas to break the boredom and put a little life into your tedious routine.

Maybe you have just “hit the wall.” You’ve come to the end of yourself, and you don’t know where to turn next. You love the idea of homeschooling, but you just can’t find one more lesson inside yourself.

No matter what your homeschooling status, be assured that you are not alone. Guilt-Free Homeschooling is here to help you with a comforting hug, a large dose of encouragement, a bonus scoop of confidence, and answers to your questions. Let’s have a great year together!

Why Choose Homeschooling?

When the tomatoes at your local market are less than desirable, you may start looking elsewhere for your produce. No one intentionally shops for tomatoes that are unripe, hard, and green, or worse, bruised and blemished. If the supermarket produce is less than satisfactory, consumers may turn to a specialty grocer, the weekly farmer’s market, or start their own garden plot at home in the backyard or in a few pots on the patio or balcony.

A similar phenomenon is happening with education. Consumers (parents), who have become dissatisfied with the educational product of the mainstream schools, are turning to other means for their children’s academics, including the do-it-yourself method, homeschooling.

My husband and I turned to homeschooling because of health reasons: our daughter suffered from migraine headaches, and the school nurse didn’t believe us or our doctors. My daughter’s frequent absences were a problem with the school’s administration, although her grades never slipped, since I was able to tutor her at home and keep her on track with the rest of the students. Meanwhile, I had noticed that the classroom’s progress was not ideal. The teacher got important concepts wrong and was unable to teach critical math skills. This ineffectual teaching forced us to take matters into our own hands. Literally. I do not have a teaching degree, but I quickly realized that I could certainly do no worse than our local elementary school was already doing.

Our reasons for homeschooling are not unique. A survey of homeschooling families today would reveal many who are motivated by their children’s health concerns or special needs issues. Another, larger group would say they are dissatisfied with the quality of education provided by today’s schools, both public and private. Those parents who are re-teaching the material to their child every night, as I was, cannot help but see that they are already the primary educator of that child; they just have the worst time slot of the day in which to do it. Classroom size and the related student-to-teacher ratios, the disappearance of fine arts programs, and sex and violence in the schools are sub-topics of the “quality of education” issue.

A few more families would list flexibility as their primary reason for choosing homeschooling: students can pursue a variety of individual activities, while still maintaining their academic endeavors. Today’s homeschooled students may very well be tomorrow’s Olympic champions or symphony musicians, since the freedom of a homeschool schedule allows more time to focus on one’s passions. Childcare concerns, changes in the job market, and relocation of the family also depend on the flexibility of homeschooling to help families maintain stability during lifestyle changes.

Some families opt for homeschooling after the government schools have failed to meet their students’ needs. Some families are able to decide before preschool (or even sooner) that they want to keep their children at home for school. Some families homeschool for only a year or two, while others prefer home education from preschool through high school and even on into college-at-home. The duration is determined by the family’s preference, just as the methods and materials used are also each family’s choice.

I am often asked about the benefits of homeschooling, a difficult question simply because of the vast range of its answers. First and foremost, I see the improved relationship of the family as the chief benefit, even before any academic advantages are considered. Parents and children bond as teacher and students in a way that non-homeschooling families just cannot understand. The freedom and flexibility of the homeschooling schedule allow for spontaneous family activities, all of which have educational benefits, whether obvious (or intended) or not. That relaxed schedule is a tremendous boon to most families — the opportunity to do things in whatever order or method works best for each family and each student (which, incidentally, is the philosophy of Guilt-Free Homeschooling: homeschooling should be comfortable, relaxed, and fit your family’s lifestyle).

The one-on-one attention that homeschooling provides is far superior to any classroom. Even large families are able to provide individual attention to each student when he needs it, along with the training in independent learning, which prepares homeschooled students for handling college classes (and life in general) on their own. Parents of special needs students find that no teacher, no matter how well trained, can know the student or love the student as well as the parent can. The parent who has lived with the special needs child 24/7 since birth understands more and at a deeper level than a teacher who is hired to cover seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months of the year.

Homeschooling is extremely popular with conservative Christian families, although it is practiced by families of every religious and political persuasion. Besides the reasons of academic excellence and personalization, homeschooling allows families to emphasize their own philosophies and worldviews. Government-mandated curricula are often based on evolutionary principles, which are diametrically opposed to Creationists’ beliefs. Homeschooling allows these families to use materials that support their beliefs, such as that life is sacred and a precious gift from God, the Creator. Government-funded schools do not allow prayer and do not teach the Bible, even as literature, although many anti-Christian religious philosophies and practices are now showing up in those same schools under the guise of “diversity.” Families for whom personal Christianity is the guiding force in their lives want to see their children educated with God-centered principles, a Creationist viewpoint, and a Biblical worldview. They will not accept submitting their children to antithetical teaching day in and day out.

Homeschooling is not a fad, although some people treat it as such. Public schools, sponsored by a government, are the “new kid on the block.” Personal tutoring had been the educational standard for centuries, until the time of the American Civil War, when it became fashionable to apply industrial methods to education by grouping local children together for academic efficiency. The homeschooling movement, in general, is providing a return to excellence and individuality in education, a return to a focus on the family as an institution in society, and a return to individual responsibility as a primary duty of citizenship. In this postmodern era, some old-fashioned homeschooling is just what this world needs.

Preschool Is Not Brain Surgery

I have tackled the topic of homeschooling older students while you have preschoolers around several times before, but I’ve never yet directly addressed homeschooling for preschool itself, especially when preschool marks the official beginning of schooling for your oldest child. This changes now: I am here to encourage you that you can teach your own child for preschool. You do not need an advanced degree in education to be able to effectively teach your child at home for preschool.

I have prepared a list of things that my children and I did during their preschool years that cover all of the types of activities and subjects your child will need to prepare them for their future academics. These activities may be done in any order, corresponding to your child’s interests and abilities. Progress according to your child’s abilities: if your child has difficulty understanding any given concept, set it aside for two weeks or two months while you do other activities and see what a difference that makes. Pick it up again later, or set it aside a second time, if necessary. All children learn at different rates, just like they begin to walk or talk or get teeth at different times. Faster or slower is not better, it’s just different.

Multiple activities can be done each day, if it works with your schedule and with your child’s interests. Fifteen minutes at a time may be adequate for the average preschooler, but the child may enjoy several of these short sessions throughout the day. Focus on only one activity at each session, but if your child is really enjoying the activity, you can let him continue playing with it after the formal “lesson” time is completed.

Read books to your child. Snuggle up together for special Mommy-and-me time. Use funny voices for the characters. Vary your tone to match the scene: fast and loud for the exciting parts, slow whispers for the sneaky parts, sniffling when the character is sad, bouncy and happy when the character is happy. When the book is a familiar favorite, stop periodically to ask your child questions: Where is Papa Bear going next? Why is he doing that? What will he find there? These help build your child’s memory by asking him to recall details he has learned from all of the times you have read this story in the past. Which bear is wearing the red shirt? Point to the smallest bear. Can you find a bowl on the bears’ table? Questions of this type help your child notice details and learn to identify colors, sizes, objects, etc. Why did the bears leave the house? Where did they go? What is this little girl’s name? These questions teach comprehension: read a portion of the story, and then ask the child about key elements that were just read. At first, you may want to ask questions about one page at a time, but soon your child will be able to recall details from several pages back.

Include ABC books, even though they usually have no plot or story. As a child, my personal favorite was The Nonsense ABC by Edward Lear. For my own children, their favorite was The Dr. Seuss ABC. What those books have in common are fun, rhyming poems for each letter. Lear’s “A was once an apple pie” was just as easy to remember as Dr. Seuss and his “Aunt Annie’s alligator.” The delightful poems were much more enjoyable than a simple picture book of ABC’s, although those are useful, too, as you will see in a moment.

Learning letters. Gather all the ABC books you have, and compare the pages for the same letter in each book. Linger over one letter per week or a letter every few days, until you know for sure that your child knows that letter. Use sticky-notes or home-made flashcards to label objects in your home that begin with the letter of the week, and help your child make the letter’s sound every time you see one of those objects and say its name. Banana, B, buh, buh-nana. You get the idea — and so will your preschooler. You may need to get creative on a few letters, such as Q, unless you live with a queen in a home full of quilts and have a pet quail. For X, you may need to use words that have an X in them, such as fox. The picture ABC books will come in very handy now, especially if they use several items for each letter. Don’t overlook your public library — they may have ABC books for unique topics, such as animal ABC’s or around-the-world with ABC’s.

Help your child learn to recognize a letter, no matter what font it is written in. Making a Letter Recognition Notebook is an excellent method for this. Focus on the appearance of the letters themselves, instead of what objects begin with each letter. Do one page for the upper case of a letter and another page for samples of the lower case letter. The goal here is for your child to be able to spot an a, whether it looks like a ball against a wall or like an egg underneath a tiny umbrella.

Learning numbers. Repeat the activities from the Learning Letters section above, but do them for the numbers 1-10. Draw a group of dots on the page to correspond to the number represented. Use counting books for activities similar to the ABC book activities. Once your child knows 1-10, you may add numbers up to 20, if you’d like. Your goal here is for the child to recognize each digit and immediately know how many objects that number stands for.

Learn colors. Ditto. A color-of-the-week activity will show your child all the varieties of each color. Light blue, dark blue, bright blue, dusty blue, navy blue, sky blue. Blue jeans, blue socks, blueberries, blue blanket, blue water bottle, blue crayons, blue cars, blue blocks, blue game pieces. How many blue things can you find in your home? You may be surprised!

Learn shapes. Ditto once again. The variety within each shape can be confusing at first to little ones. Is a big circle the same thing as a small circle? Are a cookie and a ring both circles even though one has stuff inside it and the other one is empty? Rectangles and triangles can be particularly tricky. Use a dollar (kids love learning with real money) as an example of a rectangle, then turn it up on end to show the child how the dollar is the same shape as a door. No more tricky rectangles! Long and skinny or short and fat, rectangles will still look mostly like a door or a dollar. Triangles have 3 sides, no matter how long or short those sides may be, and once your preschooler can count to 3, he can begin to recognize triangles. Browse through the snack cracker aisle at the supermarket for some tasty, edible geometric shapes! Careful nibblers will transform one shape into another, naming the shapes as they admire their creations and then eating their artwork.

Fine motor skills. See Preschoolers’ Educational School-time Activities for a variety of helpful activities that your child will enjoy doing and learn wonderfully useful skills at the same time.

Gross motor skills. Let your child practice on a “balance beam” made by drawing a straight line with chalk on the sidewalk or driveway. Masking tape on the floor is a good substitute indoors. When your child can do it easily without stepping off the line, switch to using a 4″ x 4″ board (any length) lying directly on the ground. When the child can walk that board easily without losing his balance, prop the board up with a brick or concrete block (or other stable item) at each end — just don’t go too high, so that the child will not be hurt if he does fall. Please stay close by your child whenever he is practicing this.

Other useful concepts. Play. Notice the weather each day. Go to the park. Walk around the block. Smell flowers. Watch an anthill. Put a bird feeder or a bird bath near a window and keep it filled so you can watch the birds and learn to identify them. Make cookies. Add a set of measuring cups to the bath toys. Visit a zoo. Watch a construction site (from a safe distance) and talk about what each man or machine is doing. Learn from life every day.

Social Skills. See Social Skills — What Should I Teach My Preschooler? for a very complete explanation.

What about school questions? Preschoolers ask questions; it’s what they do, and it’s who they are. Your homeschooled preschooler will undoubtedly ask questions about going to school: Why does my friend go to school and I don’t? When will I go to school? Can I ride on a school bus? Can I play on the school playground? Why does my storybook show kids doing things at school, but I don’t have any stories about kids who homeschool? Ah, yes, those questions.

You can share as much as you think your preschooler will understand about why you chose to homeschool, but try not to make other families look bad for not homeschooling. One way around this is to point out what vehicles are owned by the families on your block or in your neighborhood. Some have small cars, some have pickup trucks, and some have minivans. They pick the type of vehicles that they want for the things they do. Some families send their children to public school, some go to private schools, and some homeschool. Each family picks the type of school that they want for their children. Each family can also decide if they want to plant flowers around their house or raise tomatoes in their garden. They can decide if they want to have a dog or a cat or tropical fish or no pets at all. Some families choose to eat in fancy restaurants, some families get burgers at the drive-through, and some families make all their meals at home. Every family gets to make choices, and homeschooling is one thing your family has chosen.

Sometimes the trickier part of answering these questions is to show that not following the crowd can be more fun. Because you are homeschooling, you can go to the park when the other children are stuck inside the school building. This is also a good way to bring weather (good or bad) into the conversation: you can play outside on nice days instead of having to sit at a desk all day long, or you can stay inside where it’s warm and dry all day long on the cold and rainy days. Perhaps you can visit the school playground after school is over for the day or on a weekend or during the summer. Perhaps you can ride on a city bus or a church bus. I have known preschoolers who begged and begged their parents to let them go to school, only to find out that school was not the fun experience they had imagined it to be. One little boy asked his mommy if he could be homeschooled again, because all he really had wanted from school was to play on the playground, and when he was in school, the teacher only let him go out to the playground at certain times and for very short periods. Being homeschooled with his brothers was much more enjoyable.

Many children (and parents) ask about the lack of homeschooling in storybooks. I agree that there are very few books that portray education at home, but I have a sneaky way around that, too. Not all storybooks show everything that a child does every day, and not all storybooks show children going to school. Therefore, maybe, just maybe, the children in some books are homeschooling, but the story is telling about some other part of their day. Our school books were not in every room of our house — ok, sometimes, but not always. When the Bear family went for a walk to let their porridge cool down, perhaps they had been doing their lessons all morning, and now it was lunch time, and they would continue their lessons after lunch. Stories are not always about what you can see — sometimes there are also lessons to be learned in what the pictures do not show. And finding those lessons also teaches your child to think about the story and what it does and does not say.

Do I need curriculum to homeschool preschool? No. If you don’t believe me, take this quick test:

  • Do you know the alphabet?
  • Can you count to 20?
  • Can you identify basic colors and shapes?
  • Do you know how to use a pencil?
  • Do you know how to use scissors?
  • Can you read a child’s storybook?

If you answered Yes to 3 or more of these questions, you will probably do just fine. Use the money you would have spent on curriculum for a family zoo pass or a storage cabinet for all of the arts and crafts supplies you will accumulate in the next few years!

Preschool-aged children need foundational skills: pre-reading (recognizing letter names and letter sounds; visual distinction: recognizing differences and similarities between objects), pre-writing (small muscle skills and coordination: using fingers), and body control (large muscle skills and coordination: using arms and legs). Children who are only three, four, or five years old do not need to be able to identify nations of the world, Presidents of the United States, or the life cycle of seahorses. These tiny tots will benefit much more from spending 15 minutes cutting colored paper into confetti than they would from endless coloring pages for geography, history, science, or social studies topics. I have probably just stepped on the toes of multiple eager teachers, but please understand that your little ones will not remember very many of these superfluous lessons until they are able to read fluently for themselves. Then you can turn them loose on the library shelves and get ready to hear them recount the myriads of fascinating facts they have read.

Once when I was selling some of our outgrown books at a used curriculum fair, my customer asked if I had the teacher’s manual for the 2nd grade reading text. “No,” I replied with a smile, “I thought if I couldn’t figure out the answers to the questions in a 2nd grade reading book, I had bigger problems than the teacher’s manual could fix.” She thought about that for a few seconds and began laughing along with me. “You’re absolutely right!” And she bought the book. Teaching preschool is even easier than teaching 2nd grade reading. And you will be able to do it just fine without a teacher’s manual or fancy curriculum.

More articles related to Preschoolers are listed in Topical Index: Preschoolers.

Guilt-Free Homeschooling Means Freedom

How is Guilt-Free Homeschooling different from other homeschooling philosophies? Guilt-Free Homeschooling focuses on what works for your family, not what anyone else may be doing. Guilt-Free Homeschooling is all about finding success, making homeschooling work for your family, and producing admirable students. Here are the top 10 ways that Guilt-Free Homeschooling will bring freedom, success, and encouragement to your homeschool.

  1. Guilt-Free Homeschooling gives you the freedom to homeschool for the reasons you choose and the freedom to set your own priorities and the goals that you want your family to achieve through homeschooling.
  2. Guilt-Free Homeschooling gives you the freedom to draw closer together as a family, supporting, encouraging, and enjoying each other.
  3. Guilt-Free Homeschooling gives you the freedom to ignore what the “Homeschool Joneses” claim to be doing and the freedom to use the methods and materials that enable your children to learn quickly, thoroughly, and efficiently.
  4. Guilt-Free Homeschooling gives you the freedom to start and end your school year and your vacations and breaks when you choose.
  5. Guilt-Free Homeschooling gives you the freedom to sleep late and only do lessons after lunch, if that is what works for your family, or to rise early and get all your lessons completed before noon, if that is what works for your family.
  6. Guilt-Free Homeschooling gives you the freedom to have a 2-hour lunch break or 5 recesses per day or 3 snack breaks or do lessons in your pajamas or read stories all day, if that is what works for your family.
  7. Guilt-Free Homeschooling gives you the freedom to take an occasional day off from structured lessons for the enjoyment of life and family.
  8. Guilt-Free Homeschooling gives you the freedom to leave the house during the day, because education happens everywhere and all the time.
  9. Guilt-Free Homeschooling gives you the freedom to do only the group activities that interest your family and/or stay home from any activity day if you want or need to do so.
  10. Guilt-Free Homeschooling gives you the freedom to take your lessons on the road and let school happen wherever you are, if that is what works for your family.

Guilt-Free Homeschooling is comfortable, it’s relaxed, it meets your needs, and it fits your family’s lifestyle. Welcome to a new way of homeschooling: Homeschooling… Guilt-Free.

Top 15 Mottoes to Get You Through Your First Homeschooling Year

I have said it before, and I will say it again: the first year of homeschooling is the toughest. No matter who you are, no matter what background you have, no matter what ages your children are, the first year of homeschooling is the most challenging, simply because it is uncharted territory, both for you and for your students. You are understandably nervous.

Because of that, I am sharing these articles from the archives of Guilt-Free Homeschooling, just for you, Brand New Homeschooling Parent. (Homeschooling “veterans” are allowed to read them, too.) Read them as often as you need the encouragement. Recite the titles as your own personal mottoes as often as you need the reminders. Copy the titles onto note cards and tape them to your bathroom mirror or your kitchen cabinet doors. Shout them as declarations of defiant resistance to the voices that would challenge your ability to teach your own children effectively. Hold your head high and your shoulders back, knowing that you are making a positive difference in your children’s lives. And know that I am very proud of you!

Who Taught This Kid to Walk, Talk, and Potty? (You, did, Mom, that’s who!)

What Didn’t Work for Today Can Be Changed for Tomorrow (Homeschooling is infinitely flexible.)

Every Day Is a Learning Day, and Life Is Our Classroom (Again, homeschooling is infinitely flexible.)

I Give One Grade: 100% — But You Get to Keep Trying Until You Get It (for as long as it takes, because homeschooling is flexible)

“Family” Is Spelled T-E-A-M (Your children are not your enemies. You are all on the same side, and they are your teammates.)

You and I Drive Different Cars (and teach our children in different ways)

Who Wrote This “Rule Book” and Why Do I Feel I Have to Follow It? (The Official Omnipotent Homeschooling Rule Book does not exist!)

“Parent” Is a Verb (Who’s in charge here anyway?)

Any Dead Fish Can Float Downstream (And anything worth having is worth working for.)

We’re Not Raising Children — We’re Raising Adults (What is your desired outcome?)

Classic Literature Is Not Necessarily Good Literature (Who decides which books are better than others?)

Knowing How to Find the Answer Is the Same as Knowing the Answer (Where in real life are you required to know everything at every given moment?)

If You Can Present Your Case with Facts and Logic and Without Whining, I Will Listen with an Open Mind (Negotiation is an excellent skill to possess.)

Your Children Will Not Always Be Like This (I promise.)

Do the Best Job You Can, and Pray for God to Clean Up the Rest (No one can expect you to do better than “your best.”)

10 Ways to Ease into Homeschooling

(For Your 1st Year or Any Year)

1. Do any simple craft project together. Don’t obsess about neatness: have fun. Make decorations for a “Family Friday Feast” party and kick off your new school year with a celebration.

2. Read aloud to your children, even if it’s only for one week of the summer or for a short period each day. Pick a short, simple book or use fun poetry. Be expressive! Use different voices for each character. Take turns and let the children read, too. Listen to an audio book as an alternative.

3. Take your children for a walk each day. Keep it short, if desired. Focus on everyday sights you usually overlook. Use this time to get into the routine of discussing simple things together.

4. Use the hot summer days to hide in the air conditioning and learn italic handwriting, read and write silly poetry, read a stack of books from the library (even picture books), do a jigsaw puzzle, or play every board game you own at least once.

5. Visit a museum, zoo, or other “field trip.” Follow up with a time of family discussion about each person’s favorite points and new discoveries.

6. Hold a “Cooking Marathon Day” to make some basic meal components ahead and freeze them for use on busy homeschool days. Make a huge batch of cookies and freeze them in small packages for quick treats in the car on field trip days.

7. Hold a “Game Day” and let each child select a favorite game, and everyone plays together, rotating through the selections. Relax, laugh and get silly, and enjoy each other’s company.

8. Hold a “Family Conference” to discuss what each member expects from homeschooling. Let each express his hopes and fears, likes and dislikes. This time of open sharing will reveal some new things you had not thought of trying and some other things you may want to avoid. (I had not realized how traumatizing a teacher’s red pencil had become to my formerly public schooled child until she shared, so I then began marking her papers with other, happier colors.)

9. Back-to-school shopping–even homeschoolers enjoy a few new items. Find some new containers for homeschool storage, art materials, or just some fun pencils and notebooks. Purchase a special reference book, wall map, or other useful learning aid for the whole family. If your students have left public or private school to begin homeschooling, allow them to choose some things that were not allowed for use in their last classroom (Trapper binders, mechanical pencils, colored-ink pens).

10. Begin classes with only one subject per day for each student. After a week, add a second subject; week three, add two more subjects. Continue until you are up to your full schedule.