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There are almost as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families. From doing school on the couch to sitting at desks in a room dedicated to schooling, there is no “one right way” to teach your children. You can be a relaxed homeschooler, or an online homeschooler, or use unit studies or textbooks — it doesn’t matter. So when people ask me what it takes to homeschool, I have one word for them: Diligence.
Make a Commitment
In order to get anything done in life, we often must make a commitment. If we don’t commit to getting the laundry done, it doesn’t get done. When we don’t commit to brushing our hair each morning, it becomes quite snarly. If we don’t make a commitment in our marriage, it will probably not last. Homeschooling is no different.
If you begin your journey of homeschooling with no commitment, you will have no reason to continue when things start getting tough. And every day that big yellow school bus passes by your home, it will tempt you to send your children off to public school. Only you can decide what is right for your family, but I guarantee if you make a commitment it will be easier to stick with it. And the more diligent you are — the longer you stick with it — the easier the commitment becomes.
Make a short-term commitment that you will be homeschooling all of this coming year, at least. Or, make a longer commitment: decide to homeschool up to a certain grade (through the completion of 6th grade, for example). Perhaps you’ve already made the commitment to homeschool all the way through until graduation. Whatever decision you commit to, keep it in mind as you venture on this journey. Sometimes it’s the short-term commitments that help us reach our long-term commitments.
(Please remember that life circumstances can change. Be prepared to re-evaluate your decision to homeschool if the need arises. Knowing you are committed to “get through this year” can make it that much easier to finish. And seeing that you can continue may be the inspiration you need to start again the next year. Remember: be diligent!)
Start/Stop Dates and Vacations
Having defined start/stop dates, as well as planned vacation days, goes a long way toward being diligent on this journey. Knowing when things start and stop helps you plan better (think about the washing machine, the dishwasher, the lawn sprinklers).
Take out your dedicated school calendar and fill in all the vacation days first. For us, these were usually based on my husband’s days off as well as the public school’s days off. (Although, there are a few public school ‘holidays’ we don’t observe.) After filling in the known days off, set an ending date. For us, this usually falls sometime in May. From there, start counting backward until you have the number of days/hours needed to fulfill your state’s legal requirements.
Just like setting start/stop dates and vacations, it helps to have start/stop times for each day. Depending on your “outside classes,” you may or may not have the same start/stop time each day. Why is it so important to have set start and stop times? There are a number of reasons! If you don’t officially start your day until 9 AM, you know you have time to exercise in the morning, or run a load of laundry, or throw supper in the crock pot. If your teaching time is over by 2 PM, you know you can run to the bank before it closes. Or maybe you’re planning to make lasagna for supper, and you know it takes extra time. No problem! School will be over in plenty of time!
Make sure your children know any work not done during “school time” still needs to get done. It’s called “homework” even when you homeschool. Having set start/stop times will help your children learn to plan their days accordingly as well.
Dress for Success
You’ve probably heard this before, and you may have shrugged it off after trying it a day or two. Well, I’m here to tell you, it works if you are diligent to do it! Get up, shower, dress “for work” — always put on your shoes. Preparing yourself for the day (every day) creates a routine and a mindset. Homeschooling is a responsibility, just like a job, and you need to prepare for it both mentally and physically.
There may be days when you are running late, or when you need to “dress down” for school (if you or a child is ill). That’s okay. Life happens. But, be careful not to downplay the importance of your school day. Educating your children is an important job!
Diligence Will Pay Off
And finally, don’t compare yourself to anyone else when it comes to your homeschool. They are not teaching your children. They do not live within your circumstances. You are uniquely qualified to teach your children. Be diligent! Make a commitment, set up your days and times, and dress for success each morning. Before you know it, your children will be graduating, and you’ll finally see that your diligence has paid off!