Homeschool 101: What to Expect on Your First Day

All the preparation is done, and you’re ready.. maybe.

Your first day of homeschool is here. You researched and read and taken notes and asked questions. You’ve joined Facebook groups and local support groups, maybe even met up with another homeschool mom or two, and talked about it. You’ve gone to a conference maybe, or a curriculum fair, or ordered books online. And you’ve planned and made lists, organized books and supplies. You’re ready. Maybe. Hopefully.

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It’s the first day of school.

It feels a little strange to not be putting your kids on a bus with their new backpacks and lunch bags, or walking them to school and saying goodbye at the door. They are home with you. You’re nervous, but happy, scared and relieved all at the same time.

The first day of school.. might start off a little slow. Because you aren’t getting ready to go to school, you might decide to let the kids sleep in a bit. Or lounge around in their pjs, because.. why not? Some homeschool parents do a big breakfast, pancakes and eggs and bacon and everything else, to mark this new beginning.

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It’s time to start.

Finally, its time to start school work. While some won’t have any formal book work to do with their kids, choosing instead to unschool and encourage their children to read, watch videos, and follow their interests, most of us will have some kind of seatwork in mind for school.  It might be a bit tough to get your child’s attention, though, because this isn’t their normal. They are used to summer, being able to go off and have their own adventures, or used to school meaning going to a building with desks and chalkboards and lots of other kids — and a teacher that isn’t mom or dad.

Expect resistance in the transition.

This is normal. It’s going to be a period of transition from summer to fall, from traditional public school to home school. Smile, and remind your children that just because they aren’t going *to* school, they still are *in* school. Even the most veteran of us can have a first day that’s a little chaotic, as the kids adjust to the new routines.

Check it all off? Probably not.

Don’t worry too much about getting everything on your list checked off. If you have a specific order for how you want to start — maybe with singing the anthem or a particular book reading, or if you’re religious, starting off with devotionals — start the way you mean to continue. Building a routine takes time, but do what you want in your routine in the order you want them done. As you and your children get used to it, your routine will become habit, and will take less time, with fewer re-directions needed.

Make your first day special.

This is something to celebrate after all. Do “first day” activities, take pictures, and get your kids interested in their education. Maybe you’ll let them decorate and personalize pencil boxes. Or maybe you’ll ask them to set some goals for b27c7-id-10020083skills this year: to memorize the multiplication table or periodic elements, to be reading chapter books or have read a specific number of books. Ask them if there are specific topics they want to learn about — how the pyramids were built, or the names of all the dinosaurs.

Get your children involved and excited about their future in their school time, and, at least for a little while, you won’t have as much resistance. This is a new thing, and if you can capitalize on their curiosity and love of learning, you’ll find your days will go much smoother.

The first day of school can be really good.. or really bad.

If they are really good, new homeschooling parents tend to want to push ahead. This is probably not the best idea — things went well, because you had the right combination of challenge and interest. Congratulate yourself on being organized, celebrate with treats or a fun night, and look forward to more.

On the other hand, if things went really bad, new homeschoolers can begin to doubt themselves and their decision to homeschool. They can doubt whether or not they picked the right curriculum or method.  They may even doubt their reasons for doing this in the first place. While it can seem that homeschooling is the part that went wrong, usually a bad first day is a parenting issue, not a homeschool issue.

First day troubleshooting.

You’ve done all the research and carefully chose what you thought was best, and the kids were crazy, acted up and fought you on everything. Your reasons and research are still sound. Give both you and your children the grace to adjust. This is a huge transition!! It can be scary and uncomfortable, not just for you, but for them too.

If after a week or two, or six!, everything is still a big fight and chaotic, then maybe re-evaluate some things. Perhaps you have picked curriculum that doesn’t match your children’s skills. Often kids can have gaps in their skills and development, coming out of public school, that won’t show up right away. You may need to step back and do some assessments on where exactly they are at, and make sure you have picked materials appropriate to their stage.

Manage your first day expectations.

Perhaps you need to look at your expectations. Sometimes when parents pull their children out of public school, they forget or neglect to deschool themselves as well as their children. They try to recreate public school at home. But if one of the reasons you pulled your child out was because they were having difficulty in a school environment, then of course you will have problems. You may need to adjust your methods of schooling your children. Try breaking up your day into more bite-sized chunks, with frequent breaks. Or go do school out in the back yard or on the couch. A change of location or timing can do wonders for your child’s attitude.

First day adjustments may need to happen.

If worse comes to worst, then you may need to look at your curriculum. Your style of homeschooling may not be a good match for your child’s learning style. You may have been enamored by a Charlotte Mason philosophy, but your child needs to be more hands on to learn. You may have dreamed of a classical education, with each child eagerly reading Shakespeare, Plutarch and learning Latin and drilling in math, but your child would prefer to delve deep into the development of space travel. Making adjustments in your curriculum might be pricey, but well worth the sanity and relationship saving. (Besides, you can either return unused books for refunds, or resell and recoup some of your costs back).

There are a lot of firsts on the first day.

It will be challenging, and uncomfortable, and might even be a bit difficult. But once you get through it, and the books are put away, the pencil shavings cleaned up and the kids are in bed, take a moment to breathe and smile. Because now you know what homeschooling is like, and now you know that you can do it. You are their parent — and just like potty training, teaching them to ride a bike and reminding them of their manners — you can teach them everything else they need to know.

 

Best of all, you get to be there to watch all their firsts.. including the first day of homeschool!

Welcome to homeschooling.

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Happy Homeschooling!

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