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Transitioning from School at Home to Homeschool

10 Tips from a Seasoned Homeschool Mom

Whether you made the decision to homeschool out of a parental desire, or you were “forced” into the homeschool arena due to events out of your control, beginning the journey takes some adjustments in the home.

Parents and children alike may be entering this time with a mixture of excitement and uncertainty, and with an image in their minds of what a typical homeschool day will look like.

I know. Our family was there 17 years ago.

My husband and I made the decision to homeschool our children when our first child was entering 4th grade and our second child was on the way. We chose to allow our oldest to go through 4th grade at his school because I wasn’t sure I could homeschool and handle a new baby after a 10 year gap at the same time.

I know now that I would have been just fine; this is just one of MANY lessons I have learned along the way.

I had visions of what our day would look like; about how much smoother education would go for our son now that he had one-on-one attention. He was a student that needed to take things at a little slower pace to be sure he understood what was being taught. I had recently graduated college with my Elementary Education degree and was certified to teach in the classroom. Surely, this was a bonus to running a homeschool!

Boy, was I wrong! Another lesson learned.

During my son’s 4th grade year, I was home with our second child, and researched approaches to homeschooling, curriculum, scheduling, etc. in between taking care of a baby. I wanted all the info, and wanted to be sure I was doing everything “right”. Afterall, one slip up by me and I would ruin my kid’s entire future, right?!

Hmmmm, this just may be another lesson to be learned.

While I was getting myself prepared, I was also calming concerns from friends and family that wanted to know “What about socialization? How will he make friends?” and “Are you crazy?! Kids don’t learn well at home because the parents are more lax than the schools. He needs to be in the classroom with a trained teacher!” Uh, HELLO! Not that a degree is needed AT ALL to homeschool your children, but I DO have a degree AND I am certified by the State of Arizona to be in the classroom with YOUR kids.

Another lesson I learned, once you announce you are homeschooling, well-intentioned people begin to be very concerned for the well-being of your child.

I realized later that during this time of preparing myself, and apparently our family, I never asked my son how he was feeling about it all.

Sure, my husband and I told him we would be homeschooling him beginning the next school year, and we showed him the curriculum we would be using, and let him know how our days would look. But we never asked, “What are you thinking about all this?”

Parents, learn this lesson sooner rather than later.

Day 1 of homeschool arrived! Yay!! The first day of school has always been exciting for me! Everything is new – the books, the pencils, the paper. Nothing torn, broken, or almost gone. Teaching is in my blood. I love the smell of a classroom, of books, pencils, crayons, glue, all of it! Has anyone come up with a “smells like school” essential oil blend I can diffuse?!

I woke up, did my morning routine and woke up my son. We would be starting school at 8:00am, just like the school down the street.

I set up a work space for my son at the table, just like the school down the street.

I put his books, pens, paper, etc at his work space, just like the school down the street.

Do you feel another lesson learned running right toward me?

Day 1 did NOT go as planned!

We did not start at 8:00am. My son was not as happy as I was for a new school year. Since when do one-year-olds toddle around 5th grade classrooms?! “What?? I can’t watch TV? You’re so mean!!”. “I just told you how to do it, you don’t get it? What if I use the same words, but say them a little louder, and with a hint of frustration in my voice?”

The image I made up in my head on how our homeschool would look was shattered – on the very first day!

“I’m a failure at motherhood!” I thought. Don’t judge my drama, you do it to.

What was happening? Why were things not going according to plan?

I did not educate my expectations.

I forgot the reasons why we chose to homeschool.

I expected perfection from imperfect people.

I ordered the SAME curriculum my son was using, and struggling with, in school, thinking seeing something familiar would help him transition. All it did was remind him he was struggling in school. Ouch!!

I tell you all this not to scare you, but to encourage you to make that journey of homeschooling.

This is one of the best, most important decisions you will ever make for your children. If it’s on your heart to do it, my guess is God is calling you into this adventure. He has you all along the way – even on the days where you’re sure you’re messing up your kids.

You are going to make mistakes, and you are going to learn lessons along the way. Even with that, YOU ARE THE RIGHT PERSON TO EDUCATE YOUR CHILDREN!!

Here are my top 10 transitioning to homeschool tips for you:

  1. Pray over your decision to homeschool. Why are you choosing this path? What does God want it to look like for your family? Write your revelations down and keep it somewhere you can see on a daily basis. I’m talking to myself here, too!
  2. Have conversations together with your spouse, and the two of you have conversations with your children. Show a united front. Provide a safe space for your kids to express their feelings on the subject.
  3. As a family, write and discuss what you are looking forward to on this journey, and what you may be a little unsure or hesitant about. Keep this in a public place as a family reminder.
  4. Set up guidelines on how your school day will look. What time would you like to start? Are you one that likes to have every minute scheduled out, or is block scheduling more your pace? How much time do you think you’ll need to complete the day’s tasks? What subjects can be done with all the kids, and what needs to be done one-on-one? Will you allow screentime during the day, and if so, what are the guidelines on this? Are you doing all the teaching, or is your spouse or a co-op doing some of the teaching?
  5. Be willing to be flexible on some things. What are your negotiables and non-negotiables in this area? It’s ok to change things up as you learn the pace of your home and as everyone gets used to the new routine.
  6. Remember that you decide how your homeschool looks. Learning can take place by playing outside, just as much as it can take place inside reading a book. Make learning fun, as much as possible. Your goal is not to teach your children every single piece of information out there, your job is to teach your children how to learn.
  7. Make friends and family aware of your decision to homeschool, and let them know your school hours. While it’s fun to go on an impromptu outing with Grandma every once in a while, this is not a daily activity. Respect your time and your schedule, and others will respect it as well.
  8. If you will be working from home, either for someone else or your own business, how many hours will you be focused on that? Where will you work? Keep homeschool hours focused on homeschool, and work hours focused on work.
  9. When it comes to curriculum, do a quick Google search on approaches to homeschooling. Which one fits your family best? Does a hybrid of two styles seem appealing and doable? ***If you begin a school year and find the curriculum you chose isn’t working, don’t be ashamed to ditch it and try something new! My first year, we ditched everything over the Christmas break and began fresh in January.
  10. Remember you are at home, not in a classroom. You don’t need a degree and a certification to do this. You don’t have to use the tools the schools are using, unless those work for your kiddos. You can start school at 8:00am, 10:00am, or 1:00pm, it’s up to you. Your school breaks can happen whenever you want them to; take a month off at Christmas, go on a week-long family vacation in October (popular places are less crowded when public schools are in session), choose to do year-round schooling with 6 weeks on and 1-2 weeks off – this helps with retention and relieves the summertime “boredom”.

So, how are you feeling now? Still a little nervous? That’s totally normal. You are on a new path, a new journey. You are learning something new and creating changes in your lifestyle; it’s like building a muscle, you have to tear it down so it can grow back stronger. Here, you have to tear down your fears, doubts, uncertainties, etc, take the first step toward homeschooling, and build back stronger and stronger each day.

You’ve got this! I was scared too, and now I can say I am a homeschooling Mom of 6 who has successfully graduated two young adults, and is excited for the rest to follow. Oh, and I’m still alive to tell you me story 😉

Take that first step! I’m right here alongside you.


Pam Spinker

I help Christian homeschool moms, just like you, thrive in your home and in your walk with Christ. If you question your abilities, or feel like you’re drowning in homeschooling, you’re in the right place! 

I’m here to help!