Here are some tried and true ideas that really work well in homeschooling!
Idea #1: Socializing with other Homeschoolers
Since my children really hit it off best with other homeschooling children, we began to search for homeschooling friends by organizing outings such as picnic park outings, sports days, art class and other fun activities. It always amazed me how a child that feels “out of it” at church or community class with a room full of children that go to public school can bond as friends instantly with other homeschooling children. They truly have so much in common! They have lots of talk about, and so do their mothers!
Unless you live in a mild climate, the most prominent problem is where to gather when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Small groups of two or three families can meet in a home, but it is stressful (housecleaning!) and more formal. Parks are the ideal setting as people can informally come and go as they please and children have a instant get-to-know you activity if there is a playground. When the weather turns cool, we had to meet in whatever building we could find, and afford the rent on. Local churches, and gymnastic or dance studios are often the best buildings for this. Libraries may have rooms that can be used for quiet activities such as storytime or crafts, but the children have the most fun if they can actively play.
Fast food plays spaces or inflatable “jump” houses can work, but they cost per child, which can deter many from attending. Occasionally a local school will let you use their gym for free after school hours; an inconvenient time, however. Dance studios have been our best bet. They expect children to run around and are built for it (except those that have mirrors!)
It doesn’t take a group of 50 to find a friend your child loves. It just takes another family or two that are like-minded and your child will have all the social life they need to thrive.
Idea #2: Homeschooling Together
Group school or “co-op school” has been a huge blessing in my family’s homeschooling experience! It has worked wonders for my children’s social skills and blessed them with friends as well as another teacher’s perspective. It does add an element of pressure to my schedule, but I have always found it to be more than worth it. If you can get together with a few other families and share the teaching in a group school setting, you children will greatly benefit and have instant friends besides.
Another way to import friends is by holding a class at your house. I have held “Art Class” at my home for many, many years. It is easy and fun to teach and I love it. To begin, we just invited 6-8 other children in a specific age range and held it from 3-4 PM on the same day each week. Usually the other children stayed and played until 5 PM. At the onset, I passed out a list of supplies they would need to bring in their art kit, which stayed at my house. This made the rest of the classes stress-free because the supplies were there waiting. I would gather the children around the dining table and present a sample of whatever project we would be doing. Then we dove in and created many unique and imaginative variations. It gave the children a sense of accomplishment, taught them some art skills and got them acquainted with one another. The playtime afterwards cemented friendships.
After doing Art Class for several months, I asked the other homeschooling mothers to take on a 6 week stint of teaching whatever topic they enjoyed. My children got to experience folk dancing, German, drama, baking, and other “classes” from mothers as we rotated the class from home to home. We started Art Class when my oldest daughter was about 6 years old and continued it right up through her high school years, varying the topics from art to ballroom dance, and geography, charm school, sewing and more. We even invited boys during her late teen years. You definitely do better with dancing class when boys come. She still has good friends from Art Class!
Another opportunity came to trade sewing lessons in exchange for adding a friend’s daughter as a student in my homeschool on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That worked out well and gave my children a friend to enjoy three days a week. In exchange, my girls got excellent sewing lessons!
Finding other who are homeschooling can be a bit challenging. When we first moved to our state, I put ads out and posted messages on the grocery store, library bulletin boards, and other places that I thought homeschooling moms might frequent. From this effort, I was able to gather some families at our first park day, and get to know them. From this small beginning, we were able to create a larger group that is still going strong after 20 years!
Idea #3: Becoming Well Read
Some things that I wanted to do as a new homeschooler have worked wonderfully, even better than I had imagined. Reading aloud is one of those things. We have gone from good book to good book, and enjoyed and learned and discussed them along the way. Having a good book going is one of the things that makes my children eager to start school each day. I use it as a reward of sorts. On days that my children work extra hard, I read another chapter at the end of school or in the evening. If everyone is late to school and complaining, then there is not so long for read aloud. We have read our way through classics, discussing and loving them. We started with the Little House on the Prairie series of books… and laughed and loved Summer of the Monkeys. My daughter Emily kept a list of books we read aloud, and has page after page in her notebook. They have all edified and entertained us!
Idea #4: Keep an Assignment Check-Off
Another idea that has endured and been a great benefit in our homeschool is keeping an assignment record. Whether this is in the form of a planner with assignments written in, or a wall chart with stickers placed in the check off boxes, or any other form, it provides a way for children to give an accounting of their work. Having assignments written down helps children have a very clear idea of what is expected and also makes the work look manageable, rather than never-ending, in the child’s view. When I have done homeschooling without writing down my children’s subjects or assignments, my kids take on the attitude that school will go forever and that there is no end to the work I expect. Being able to see the assignments and check them off gives children a feeling that there is an amount for today that they actually can complete and accomplish. It seems doable. And for me, it gives me awareness that we actually are finishing things, progressing, accomplishing. I need to see that.
Idea #4: Teaching Values and Virtues
One thing I had hoped and dreamed of, when I was brand new to homeschooling, was that I would be able to teach my children the values, manners and character virtues that seemed to be absent from the public school curriculum, with its uneasiness with anything seemingly religious. I have now seen the fruits of teaching children manners, faith and values and the fruits are sweet! Of course, the scriptures are first with the parables of Jesus and the stories and lessons of faith, loyalty, honor from the holy words and the lives of the prophets.
In addition, I have loved using The 21 Rules of This House. That book gives basic courtesy rules that I have taught my children to memorize and apply every day. (Not that they always do it, but at least they know the rules and know what they should be doing!). I have also enjoyed telling and reading them stories with a moral. The best books for teaching stories that I have found are: Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories and Widsom and the Miller books.
Although we aren’t very accustomed to hearing moralistic sorts of stories these days, they do have an impact! It seems the current fare for children’s reading always has a happy ending and things work out just right. Moral teaching stories, on the other hand, can be a bit shocking and tragic, if we are always used to happy endings, rather than true ones. An animal dying from neglect, and other such stories that are true, but don’t have a happy ending, give children a good understanding of why we keep the rules.
These are some of the things that have really worked so well in our homeschool. Some homeschooling ideas are really myth. Read about homeschooling myths here.
Best success in yours!
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