Starting your homeschool journey can be both exciting and daunting. If
you’re new to homeschooling, or if you just want some fresh tips for teaching
your kids, tune in to hear five things every new homeschooling parent needs to know.
That’s next on Homeschool Heartbeat.
Mike Smith: We’re joined today by Vicki Bentley.
She’s a former homeschooling mom who’s written several books on parenting
and homeschooling, and she’s one of HSLDA’s educational consultants.
Vicki, welcome to the program!
Vicki Bentley: Thanks for having me, Mike!
Okay, let’s homeschool! . . . Now what? [0:32]
Mike: Vicki, this week we’re going to look at five
things that new homeschooling parents need to know.
Now, we know that homeschooling is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be a bit
daunting. What do you tell a parent who comes to you and says, “Okay,
I’ve decided to homeschool. What now?”
Vicki: The first step is the “Getting Started” section
at HSLDA’s Toddlers to Tweens page. Get familiar with your state’s laws
and pay attention to any deadlines. And if you can attend a local support group
meeting, that’s great. Also check out your state organization’s website.
If you can attend a state convention, that’s even better!
Some goals. What should you be teaching? With primary students, the basic goal is
to give them lots of physical and creative play, discovery learning, [and]
experiences. Think of these as “hooks” on which to hang their future
learning. Remember, what looks like play to us is really work to them!
And as they get older, our academic expectations increase. Kids are more secure
with a routine, kind of a pattern to the day. So visit our “Organization” tab. We have
lesson planning tips to help you have reasonable expectations, and you’re
probably going to want a chore system in place to keep the house manageable.
If you’re bringing a child home from a conventional school setting, get
reacquainted with him. You’re going to be tempted to jump right into academics,
but pay attention to his passions, his gifts, his interests and strengths and
When we start out, we only know to do what we did, so we re-create school at home.
But home education is a lot more than just school at home—it’s a
lifestyle choice. It’s a relationship of mentoring and discipling our
children—kind of a lifestyle of learning. So catch that vision and enjoy your
Cutting through the curriculum noise [2:04]
Mike: Vicki, many new homeschooling parents are overwhelmed
by the sheer number of curriculum options. As someone who has homeschooled 17
children, you have a lot of experience with this. What would you tell those new
homeschoolers about narrowing down the list and choosing the curriculum that works
best for their child?
Vicki: Wow! I’ll try to condense my hour-long workshop
into 60 seconds!
Regardless of your kids’ ages or your homeschooling “style,”
start with a plan—set some goals, then choose resources to help meet those
goals. And remember that curriculum is more than just books; it includes activities
and interests and everyday skills.
If you’re not sure what your child should be learning, start with our
article, “What Should I Be
Teaching?” Then evaluate how your child learns best and how your
family functions. If he likes you to read to him, then maybe [try] a literature-based
unit study. Have an active child? Then sitting at a workbook for hours at a time
may be setting you both up for failure. So maybe go for something with a hands-on
component. Have an auditory learner? Include a read-aloud component or an audio or
Do you prefer a packaged curriculum, or do you want to pick and choose books and
games yourself? Are you teaching several kids at once and you need to combine some
subjects? Do you want all textbooks, or do you like the idea of some unit studies,
too? Or maybe even a gentler Charlotte Mason approach? Do you want video or paper?
And, of course, what’s your budget?
There’s not any one perfect curriculum—there’s not one right way
to homeschool. And that’s the beauty of home education—you can tailor the
plan to your child’s needs!
What about socialization? [3:34]
Mike: Vicki, a common question from new or prospective
homeschooling parents is, “What about socialization? How can I make sure my
kids will get enough social interaction?” Now how do you respond to that
Vicki: Well, most homeschooled kids have lots of social
opportunities. One middle schooler at our weekly gym day at the Y answered that same
question. He said, “Ma’am, if I were any more socialized, I’d need
The book of Proverbs tells us, “He who walks with the wise becomes
wise.” And there are a lots of ways through daily life in general for our kids
to learn to be wise adults and to practice interacting with others.
So we like to focus not so much on age as on common interests. Maybe sports, ballet,
choir or orchestra, quiz team, Sunday school, scouting, clubs, the Y, 4H, co-op
classes (of course, not all at one time). The homeschool group might offer book
clubs, field trips, and game nights.
But not everything has to be educational. Maybe invite another family for dessert or
a park date. Or take bananas to residents at a nursing home. Or take visiting
missionaries to lunch.
You can simply piggyback on other activities. When the local choir puts on a
community sing of Handel’s Messiah, invite some families to go, and then meet
up for hot chocolate and fellowship.
Get involved in local service opportunities—we have suggestions on our
site. Your kids will socialize, build skills, and learn compassion at the same
You don’t have to teach everything [4:49]
Mike: Vicki, another question we get from a lot of parents
is, “How can I give my kids an excellent education in subjects I don’t
feel comfortable teaching?” So what advice do you have for them?
Vicki: As your kids get older, the subject matter will
become more complicated—especially as they hit junior high. But remember that
it’s not your job to teach your child everything there is to learn. It’s
your job to teach him how to learn, to get him well
grounded in the basic skills, to instill in him good character and encourage him
in the way he is to go, and then provide lots of
opportunities to stretch that knowledge. We want our kids to out-know us!
So yes, you’ll need to recognize your strengths and your
limitations. And then bring in other resources if you need to.
Maybe “living” books about a subject; possibly
textbooks designed specifically for homeschoolers, that are written to the student or
scripted for the parent; CDs or videos; supplemental classes—maybe co-op or
online classes, or even community college; tutors, or trading with other parents who
have complementary interests. Kind of, “I’ll do dissections with your
kids if you’ll do Shakespeare with mine,” or “You evaluate my
child’s writing and I’ll tutor calculus.”
Then there’s hands-on experiences or internships. If your child is passionate
about a subject, if it’s relevant to him, you don’t have to know a lot
about it. You just need to point him in the right direction, and his passion will fan
the flames of motivation and learning.
Finding support and encouragement [6:08]
Mike: Vicki, what kind of support is out there for
homeschooling families—especially the new homeschoolers?
Vicki: Well Mike, of course there’s a lot of great
information online, but I always encourage families to connect with a local support
group. A lot of them offer monthly meetings on homeschool topics, and field trips and
clubs and classes, even moms’ night out, and just general encouragement.
Then your state organization has your back on a state level, including legislation
and a lot of bigger opportunities. They usually have a website and sometimes they
have a statewide convention.
And at HSLDA, we know this can be overwhelming. You want to know: What are the
laws? Where do you buy books? Maybe you just want to know how to get dinner on the
table the same day you homeschool, and you just need some encouragement to keep on
Our website is packed with articles, and videos, and blog [posts], and suggested
resources, and seminars. And those are all available to all of our web readers.
But then our member families can pick up the phone and they get to talk to a real,
live person who’s been there and done that. Our education consultants and our
legal staff personally answer members’ specific questions. We help with
everything from laws and testing, to curriculum choices, learning styles, teaching
tips from preschool all the way through high school, plus special needs and
So for help with all the topics we’ve covered this week—and a lot
more—visit hslda.org and click on “Teaching My
Mike: Vicki, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and
encouragement with us this week. I appreciate you taking the time to join us. And
until next time, I’m Mike Smith.