Homeschooling For Dummies
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Homeschooling can be stressful, and extreme stress pulls at a family’s seams. It tugs holes in the fabric you created when you gathered your little ones around you and taught them how to face the world together. You may find that you need to spend some time refashioning your family fashion fabric back into that sleek, gorgeous group that you used to be, before whatever stress happened that caused you to think about homeschooling in the first place.

homeschooling as a family © LightField Studios/

Homeschooling is a family affair.

Setting your schedule

Some families work best with a solid, unwavering schedule. Up at 7:30, breakfast, showers, math, language arts, lunch, reading, science, social studies, art, play time. Other families prefer a loose flow to their day: They get up whenever, have a late (or early) breakfast, and start school when everyone is gathered together. Or perhaps they start with the early bird and work more children into the day as they rise and begin to move.

Your family’s schedule will be your own. It may look like one of these. It probably won’t. I know that our schedule falls somewhere between the two, and yours may too. The important thing isn’t that you follow someone’s schedule. The important thing is that you discover and follow your own schedule — the schedule that fits your family the best.

Building your schedule works well with a little family input, especially if your children are old enough to hold opinons (and what children aren’t?). If you can put together a routine or daily task list that takes everyone’s preferences into account, your house will be filled with much happier campers.

Working together

One of the joys of homeschooling is the ability to work together on . . . well, almost everything. It’s fun to snuggle on the sofa and listen to someone read from this week’s book. If you like to cook, many hands together put dinner on the table in less time — even if it does create a mountain of mess that has to be cleaned later.

Some subjects lend themselves to cooperative effort. Poetry reading, art, some science experiments, reading aloud, music, and learning about the world in social studies can be tackled as a family group. (You could also tie everything together in a unit study.)

Outside of school hours, bringing everybody into family projects like bush trimming and weeding, painting the garage, or redecorating the living room (okay . . . which one of you wanted to paint all the walls purple and black?) help to bring the family together. It’s a huge sigh of relief and accomplishment when you all stand together and look at a job all finished and well done.

Dad’s or Mom’s role in your homeschool

Homeschooling is a whole-family adventure. It doesn’t fit neatly into a Monday-through-Friday-from-8 a.m.-to-3:30 p.m. routine; instead, it becomes more of a lifestyle. Life itself becomes your classroom, and your children learn as they walk through it with you.

Much of what you teach them fits nowhere into your planning book: values, priorities, likes and dislikes — yet it’s learning, all the same. If they weren’t learning it from you, they’d certainly learn it from someone else. Aren’t you glad they learn it from you?

In much the same way, homeschooling involves more than the primary teaching parent. It incorporates everyone in the household, and sometimes the extended family as well — parents, siblings, and maybe even grandparents or cousins, depending on your family structure. Pulling everybody together and getting it all done takes a bit of ingenuity, but the result is a family that travels together in one direction.

Generally, one parent takes the position as primary homeschool instructor or learning guide. Usually mom fills that role, but more and more dads are stepping up to the homeschool plate and teaching their children at home. If you foresee it working best for you if dad teaches the classes, then give it a try. Working with your children each day gives you a relationship that few men enjoy, and the homeschool dads I’ve talked to absolutely love what they do and wouldn’t want it any other way.

Sometimes the parent who doesn’t keep up with the lesson book or explain the math problems feels left out of the educational experience. Often these parents think they’re unqualified to make schooling decisions because they don’t do it every year and letting their partners do it is easier. However, they miss much of the excitement and learning that goes on when they divorce themselves from the day-to-day homeschooling flow.

Incorporating the non-teaching parent as often as possible can help. Although holding math class until dad gets home from work may not be the most inclusive (or stress free) move you could make, you may schedule a school field trip to the nearest museum on a Saturday or the working parent’s day off so that you can all go together. That way, you take advantage of both parents’ knowledge as you tour the exhibits. If you know science inside and out, but your partner’s specialty is history, you cover both subjects in depth during a trip, which increases the trip’s usefulness for all.

Here are some other ideas to involve the parent who doesn’t carry the primary teaching load:

  • Schedule vacation trips that involve some educational content. This allows both parents to help with the learning, explain what the children see, and generally enjoy the experience.
  • Encourage the non-teaching parent to share what he knows about a subject dear to his heart. If kites truly jazz him, then spend some time looking at kites, why they fly, and how they fly. You may even make a kite or two together from plans you can find at the library and spend an off-work day flying. One or two evenings a week for an extended period of time covers much ground — especially when the parent teaches what he loves.
  • Set aside an evening a week to pursue a topic you’ve always wanted to cover as a family, and make it part of your school time. If you want to dive into a subject, such as gourmet cooking or amateur radio, you’ll find it’s much more fun when it’s a whole-family adventure. And with a pastime, such as cooking, you automatically have more hands to help with cleanup when you schedule a family affair. Because parents like to learn too, this gives mom something to look forward to after a day at the office.
  • Change your weekly school schedule once in a while to incorporate both parents. Although it may sound kind of strange, you can schedule a Saturday School and then take a day off the next week. Holding Saturday School once a month or so keeps the nonprimary teacher in the loop with everything you teach and gives the children the benefit of working with both parents every now and then.
  • Incorporate a sharing time into your routine. Remember “Show and Tell,” when kindergarteners and first graders drag their favorite items to school — hopefully to bring them home again without losing them in the meantime — to share with their classmates? You can do the same thing at home by setting aside some time to share each child’s progress with the parent who doesn’t usually teach each day. What was the neatest picture your youngest made this week? Which new fact astounded your oldest? These topics make great dinner conversation as well as after-dinner presentation time. Children love to show their progress to the people they care for the most.

Regardless which parent primarily homeschools, unless you’re willing to make some additional personal-time sacrifices and perhaps follow rather unique schooling hours, one parent needs to be available during the day hours for homeschooling to be effective. If you have the freedom to take your children to work with you, that’s great — but if not, and they’re too young to stay home and work on their own, then you need to be at home each day with them.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Jennifer Kaufeld has nearly three decades of homeschooling experience. She is a regular speaker at state and regional homeschooling and education conferences, and frequently contributes expert advice to several communities on Facebook and elsewhere online.

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