How to Get Started Homeschooling Right: Laying a Strong Foundation
Congratulations! You’ve made it through all the planning and prep work that goes into having a successful homeschool year. And you’ve finally arrived at your Homeschool Day 1. I remember this day so clearly. The feeling of being a total imposter was paralyzing. I wondered, “What was I thinking when I thought that I could do this better than the ‘experts?’ Was I crazy?” I had no confidence in myself or my abilities as a homeschool teacher. But, you don’t have to feel that way. Are you wondering what exactly to do on that critical first day to start your year off right? These first day of homeschool tips will help you set the tone for success for the entire rest of the year. Getting a really strong start can help set you up for success.
Your Goals for Your First Day of Homeschool
When you are first starting out, here are 2 goals (in order of importance):
1. Make homeschool really, really fun.
Your objective here is to get your child to ask if you can do school on the weekend because school is the highlight of their week. One of our most important jobs as homeschool teachers is ideally to foster (or at least not to kill) a love of learning in our kids. This starts right from the very beginning. Show your child that school and learning are fun. You’ve heard that first impressions are important, right? Make a great first impression now and you will prevent lots of fights and resistance down the road.
2. Start building routines.
While you are having fun, this is also the time to start to create the schedule and systems that you need to set up for your homeschool year. Here’s where you will introduce the subjects you will be studying, and the structure for how you will be studying them. Will you homeschool first thing in the morning after breakfast every day? Will you call your kids to the couch when it’s time for homeschool? Starting these simple things from the beginning will help you to develop routines for your homeschool day. In particular, concentrate on WHEN during the day homeschool will happen, and WHERE it will occur. Your goal is to have your child know when homeschool time fits into their routine, and to go to the location that you homeschool at that time, expecting homeschool time to begin.
Building habits is really important for kids. Routines give kids structure for their day, and kids thrive with structure. In addition, kids are much less likely to resist doing things that are part of their routine. Kids who go to bed every night at 9:00 are much less likely to resist going to bed than those who do not have a set bedtime. Homeschool works the same way. Kids who are used to the rhythm and routine of their homeschool day learn that homeschool is just something they do, and they are much less likely to resist doing their school work. As you build these routines, and follow the first day of homeschool tips, your family is becoming a family who homeschools, one day at a time.
What to do on your First Day of Homeschool
When you first start out homeschooling (or in some cases when you restart your school year after the summer off), I recommend starting with only one subject for the entire first week (or maybe even 2 weeks). You will then add one more subject weekly until you have added all your subjects. There are a few reasons for this:
1. It’s an easier way to start.
Our goal for the first week is to build up wins. We want to have some really successful homeschool days where our child enjoys what they are learning and we feel like we accomplished everything we planned. It will be much easier to want to get up and do it all over again tomorrow if you start small today and successfully accomplish today’s plan.
2. It’s easier to focus.
As a teacher, when you start with just one subject you can really focus on the subject that you are starting with, and perfect how you are teaching that subject. This allows you time to really explore any curriculum resources that you have purchased. You can use the extra time you have to read the introduction sections in your books and any teacher tip sections. Make sure that you understand how the different parts of the curriculum fit together. If there is a textbook and a workbook that go together, how and when will you use each of those parts?
3. It’s easier on your child.
By following these first day of homeschool tips, you are giving your child a chance to ease into the process of homeschool. This is a whole new thing for your child! Starting with a shorter homeschool day makes it easier for them to focus, and less likely that there will be struggles because your child is fatigued from the lesson. Keep your individual lessons short and your homeschool day short to help your child be able to focus. Try to end the lesson before your child gets bored or tired, so that they will be left wanting more and excited to pick up the lesson again tomorrow.
4. It gives you time to observe.
You will have a chance to observe how your child is responding to the curriculum. Is it too easy, too hard, or a good fit? Do you see your child enjoying learning, and are you enjoying teaching? Is there anything you need to tweak in your plan for the year to change the pacing of how you will teach this curriculum?
5. It gives you time to focus on behavior.
You can focus on behavior when you have less to get through. Is your child really paying attention when you are reading together? It’s much easier to fix things like this when the only thing you need to do for the day is one short lesson. If you have too much scheduled, it’s really tempting to ignore behavior problems because you just need to get through the lesson plan. But, it’s really important to make sure that you set a good foundation for any behavior expectations you have now. It is so much easier to be a little bit hard on your child in the beginning and then be able to relax, than to try to increase your expectations later in the year when you have been too lax in the beginning.
Applying the First Day of Homeschool Tips: What to Do When You’re Concerned You’re Falling Behind
I already know what you are thinking…. That sounds great and all, but I NEED to get through all this curriculum this year. If I don’t, my child will get behind and won’t be ready for the next grade, and won’t graduate high school and get into a good college and then…. This worry is so common for homeschool moms (and I think all moms!) no matter what you are doing to educate your child. And here’s a secret: this worry never totally goes away. But, remember that setting a really solid foundation now will allow you to move through the material more efficiently later when your child is happy and excited to be doing homeschool, instead of fighting you every step of the way because they think homeschool is boring.
If you are really worried, you could consider starting your homeschool year early to give your family a few extra weeks to adjust to homeschool. You control your calendar- so you can start early in the summer or not, take extended time off for holidays or not, take vacations in the middle of the year or not, and even do school year round or not, whatever works best for your family and your child. A few weeks of skipping a few subjects won’t matter that much, if at all, in the long game.
Top 10 First Day of Homeschool Tips
- Make it fun. Help your child learn to love learning!
- Set up routines that will serve you well in the weeks and months ahead.
- Start out with just one subject for the first week or two.
- Add in one new subject per week after that.
- Make sure you can get through everything in your plan- success builds on success.
- Take time to explore your new curriculum. Observe and make changes as needed.
- Give your child a chance to ease into the new routine.
- Observe and make changes as needed.
- Start a few weeks earlier if you are worried about your child falling behind.
- Remember that a strong foundation will help you all year!
I have collected a list of top tips for those getting started homeschooling. This advice comes from over 60 other homeschool families, who told me what they wished they had known when they got started. I would love to share this free PDF download with you! You can check out my top homeschooling tips here!
If you are transitioning from public school, you might want to try deschooling first. Check out my post all about deschooling to learn what it is, how to do it, and why it might be a good fit for your family.