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Frequently Asked Questions About Homeschooling

Reality Strikes

  1. How do you teach subjects you are weak in?
  2. What happens when you think your child isn't learning as well as they should be?
  3. How do you homeschool with babies and preschoolers?
  4. How can I help my preschooler to be ready to homeschool?
  5. What do I do if I decide a particular book or homeschool style is not for me?
  6. What about lesson plans?
  7. What have you learned since you have been homeschooling?
  8. If I choose to use a textbook, do I have to do EVERYTHING the textbook says? What if our family decides not to finish the textbook?
  9. What is meant by incorporating character traits into one's curriculum? Why is that important?
  10. What should I do when I question my sanity and ability, and want to give up? Is this common?

How do you teach subjects you are weak in?

I have this difficulty with Science. My daughter LOVES science and I tolerate it. Needless to say, I remember little of science from my school years.

This, however, has not detracted from my ability to teach. Why? Because I learn right along with my daughter! It can be a real joy to have her share something with me that I didn't know. It can also be a joy for both of us to search out and discover together the answer to a probing question.

My advice would be to invest in a curriculum that both you and your children would enjoy. A Teacher's Edition and/or answer key would be a MUST in this case.

Another piece of advice would be to not learn everything yourself so that you can teach it to your child. This will put a big strain on you, and you will burn out quickly. Instead, learn together! --Barbara C.

What happens when you think your child isn't learning as well as they should be?

First, examine your expectations. Whom are you trying to please? Next, consider your child's age. Many people try to push heavy academics on children who just aren't ready for them! Children and adults easily learn material when they are READY developmentally. Be patient! If you're not sure, ask on HomeschoolChristian.com's message boards.

How do you homeschool with babies and preschoolers?

When I first started homeschooling my 4-year-old old, I had a 2-year-old also. We lived in this small 4 room (not bedrooms 4 rooms!) apartment. On top of teaching my 4-year-old, I was teaching a child I babysat for (he was 5). It wasn't really too bad. The 2-year-old played a lot, plus schooling only took about 2 hours tops. When my youngest was born, I had him, a 3-year-old, and then a 6-year-old. I was breastfeeding at the time. (and we lived in a huge house) It sounds impossible, but it can be done. You just have to work around schedules and make them happy. I tried to do most of the schooling while the baby slept. I would give the 3 1/2-year-old crayons, toys, or even pop in a movie or TV. I have a very active 2-year-old now. I do the same with him. Give him a coloring book, bring down toys, or if there is something worth watching I will let him watch TV (loves those Teletubbies). He does take a nap, but I can now home school both kids while he is awake. When he naps, the kids get to play or do something on their own, and I have time to do the housework. You just have to get into a routine and try it. You school when they nap, or hold them and let them listen as you read together. You can have them with you as you are teaching. They will probably benefit from it in the long run. I used to breastfeed my baby and teach my son at the same time. It can be done. If there is a will there is a way!!! --Shelly

During our 3 years of homeschooling, we have had two new babies, bringing our grand total to: 2 "schoolers" and 4 "preschoolers and babies". My strategies for dealing with this are many and varied, depending on the age of the baby and how much sleep I get. When a baby is small, nursing or just holding them during school times works well. When they get a little older, a swing or a playpen are very helpful, too. Our daughter is now at the age where she just loves emptying containers, so we keep our boxes of blocks and Duplos close by, and she empties them over and over and over... With the preschoolers, I try to include them when possible at the kitchen table (our school). The rule is that if they are at the table, they must try to be quiet, so the big boys can learn and mommy can teach.

  1. Cut out lots of different shapes from construction paper. Give the child a glue stick and a whole sheet of paper and let them do art.
  2. Keep rubber stamps and washable ink on hand for them.
  3. Give them a reference book to look at. Ours especially enjoy our children's illustrated dictionary and our Audubon Guides (rocks, flowers, trees, clouds, bugs).
  4. Keep your Tupperware in a lower cupboard so the children can take it out (and put it back) themselves.
  5. On days when I am feeling especially well rested, I let the kids play with water (in the largest Tupperware bowl) and measuring cups. This also helps my kitchen floor get washed.
  6. Make some "worksheets" for them to do, with numbers or letters for them to color or copy. Also, coloring sheets printed off the computer are popular.
  7. Include them whenever possible in the schooling activity. We include the little ones in our character lessons, during music time when we are reading a book about history.

Anyway, when the little kids are in the kitchen with the big kids, they hear everything that is being taught, and you would be amazed at how much they learn, too.

On those days when the little ones just can't be quiet, we keep those little books with tapes (bought at yard sales for little or nothing) for them to "read". I also keep toys separate that are only played with during school time. If it is a nice day outside, I let them play in the yard while we do school. It's also a good time for them to do some simple household jobs/games. The dusting game is a favorite at our house. Our little ones really like to dust floorboards and tables. We also play the laundry game sometimes. They can fold rags, towels, and baby blankets. They also enjoy playing "throw the dirty clothes in the laundry basket." All of these things can be done with minimal supervision from the kitchen.

Last, on those days when there has been hardly any sleep and patience is running low, I do turn on the television to PBS or put in a video for the kids to watch during school time. I am particularly partial to Sesame Street and Veggie Tales (both educational in their own ways). --Kim

Visit HomeschoolChristian.com's Preschool and Early Elementary Resource Section for many helpful articles and free information.

How can I help my preschooler to be ready to homeschool?

You do the same thing you would to prepare them for public school. Read to them, color with them, play with them. All these things are teaching them. When you read to them, you are showing them words and expression. Coloring with them, you are showing them many different colors and the names of them. You are showing them coordination, sharing when you play with them. Sing to them the ABC's song. Point out numbers and letters. Don't worry about actual schooling, just answer questions and show them those things. --Shelly

Also, see this article: Preparing Preschool-Aged Children for Being Homeschooled.

What do I do if I decide a particular book or homeschool style is not for me?

Don't use it. Change your style. Sell the book at a used book fair on online at our Used curriculum board. "If Mom ain't happy, no one is happy." You will make mistakes in choosing curricula or trying to teach the way you've been taught and it's ok. Read a book on learning styles such as Cynthia Tobias's The Way They Learn. Get a hold of a copy of The Language of Love by Gary Smalley. Do some homework on your child and maybe give a glance to my "Concerning Choosing Curriculum" Position Paper. You taught your kids how to go to the potty differently than I did and I'm sure they all learned at different ages levels...same with homeschooling. Do and use what's best for 1.)God 2.)Child and 3.) Yourself/family. On your second or third try you may find something that is a true gem. --Tammy Montel

What about lesson plans?

Being a good organizer, this has been the easiest part of homeschooling for me. However, I can be weak in the follow through! Here are my suggestions.

Step 1: Determine how many days you are required by law to "do school." In our state, Kansas, we are required to have 186 days of school. This will be your "magic number".

Step 2: Take a calendar for the rest of the current and the coming year and begin marking off school days. Make sure when you do that you count in vacation times, holidays, birthdays, etc. When you reach your "magic number", school is out!

Step 3: After prayerfully choosing your curriculum, divide the number of pages in each book by your "magic number". This will be how many pages per school day that you need to cover to complete the book. Make a note of this information because it will be referred to each week or month.

Step 4: At the beginning of each month (or week), prepare of a list of each day's work. I type this on my computer and print out for my daughter, saving the lesson plan on a floppy disc. Note: These plans are not etched in stone. They are a guideline for what should be done. Things will come up--you or the children are sick, an emergency comes up and work has to be put aside, a great opportunity for a field trip presents itself. So, all you would do is do this particular day's work the next day! Make changes on your student's copy and at the end of the week, before preparing new lesson plans, I make any changes needed to the week's lessons, save the changes on the disc, and start to work on the new week.

Step 5: Keeping grades for your homeschool is a matter of choice. I prefer to do so. It lets me know (and my husband) where we are in our learning and where we have come. Grades can come from testing (oral or written), reports, special projects, etc. I have a grade sheet (made up on the computer) for each subject. Whenever I test, I write the grade on it and average the grades at the end of the quarter. How do you figure out how many days are in a quarter? Divide your "magic number" by 4! For families who choose to school year round, you can choose to have a regular school year of four quarters and a summer session (with or without grades) or you can choose to have your "magic number" of school days throughout the entire year--365 days.

I hope these 5 steps to lesson plans will be of assistance to you!--Barbara C

What have you learned since you have been homeschooling?

Our family homeschools one child--a 6th grader. We have done so for two years now. I have learned many things, a few of which I want to share with you:

1. RELAX!! Homeschool is a journey that your entire family is on. Enjoy it! Embrace it as a friend! You are receiving a great opportunity to share your time and energy in raising the child/children that God blessed you with!

2. You will NOT teach your child everything that he/she needs to know! There WILL be gaps in their learning! Even public and Christian schools won't succeed. You CAN, though, teach your child how to research and learn. Then, when gaps are discovered, they will know how and where to find the information they need.

3. Fail to plan and plan to fail. Planning lessons and activities carefully is necessary.

4. If your child is having trouble in a particular area, seek help. No, you are not a failure. You are only a failure if you do NOT seek guidance.

I hope that these tips will help you in your homeschooling journey!--Barbara C

If I choose to use a textbook, do I have to do EVERYTHING the textbook says? What if our family decides not to finish the textbook?

Then don't! Most people do not finish the text books. They are there to help you teach your child. If my son can multiply and do it without mistakes, why should I keep teaching it to him over and over and over. Practice is good, of course, but after awhile you are a pro at it, so you don't need too. If the child knows the material, then don't worry. Or some people like parts of some textbooks, but not others. You do what you like and what you think your child needs, because that it the best part of homeschooling. --Shelly

What is meant by incorporating character traits into one's curriculum? Why is that important?

Incorporating character traits is simple for me. As we study history or talk about characters from a book we are reading, we discuss what type of person they are (kind, cruel, happy, sad, etc.). THEN we can go into the bigger picture of their live and discuss how their character traits influence the decisions they make and how they affect other people. Scripture is very important here because you will be able to share what God says about kindness, cruelty, etc., and how He wants us to behave.

In a nutshell, we teach the way the Lord wants us to live. We discuss examples of the right way (and their consequences) and the wrong way (and their consequences). --Barbara C

For more ideas, see HomeschoolChristian.com's Character Training Section.

What should I do when I question my sanity and ability, and want to give up? Is this common?

Homeschooling should be something that the Lord has called you to. If He calls you, He will also let you know when to quit--if at all. I have been going through a time when I felt I couldn't provide for my daughter's needs educationally. I felt so overwhelmed with the thought of homeschooling through High School. How would I ever do it?

The Lord quietly responded that THIS IS EXACTLY HOW HE WANTS ME TO FEEL. Why? Because when I feel this way, I will come to Him for guidance, wisdom, and strength. It is then that He can work in and through me--not when I feel self-sufficient! --Barbara C

I have reevaluated our homeschool many times a year. I nearly quit after the 1st six months, only to learn about a new method of teaching. I generally like to read books by educators who see how public education has failed and now promote homeschooling. Amongst my favorites are Dr. Ruth Beechick, whose writings include Language Wars and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully. Her philosophy is similar to Charlotte Mason (a turn of the century educator). The most important and valuable thing you can teach a child is the love of learning. There is a quote from the Irish poet William Butler Yeats "Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire". If you kindle that fire, you've succeeded. I've learned more by my own independent reading that I ever did in 13 years of public school. Both my older kids are avid readers. So I feel confident that whatever subject I fail to teach well they can master on their own through their reading. --Briva

Read some books to encourage you on your homeschooling journey.

These articles will offer encouragement and help you know you are not alone: