A lightbulb moment from a homeschooler

lightbulb I get it!

I love witnessing “lightbulb” moments in homeschooling parents.  It happened again recently to a mom who returned her child to school after trying homeschooling a few years ago.  She has started homeschooling again, and wrote the following note to me.

I’m sharing it with her permission, and with her child’s name removed.  Her struggles with homeschooling (and why she decided to send her child to school) are common, and she describes her new understanding beautifully!

I think the first go around with homeschool two years ago wasn’t with xxx but with me and my “schoolie mindset”.  I thought I had to schedule xxx’s day to make sure he was learning something. I had us so scheduled, and things divided into “educational” and “not educational” that even the educational stuff that xxx once liked became “school”. I’d ask him if he wanted to watch Discovery Channel with me and he would be like, “isn’t that science? I just did that.”

So right now, I am thrilled to say that at this moment in time we are happily deschooling and may do so for several months to come. We have a lot of road blocks that traditional created so getting through the “mind junk” is goal #1.

I am starting to pull back and when I do I see that xxx is really learning by doing the things he loves. . . .

It’s a process and a struggle to understand how homeschooling can be different from school.  Her big breakthrough was when she realized that schoolishness was making him not want to learn anything extra because he’d already studied that subject.  I hope her experience encourages you!


karen2Karen Taylor shares homeschooling comments and links on Facebook, Pinterest, and this blog. Click on the buttons at the top of this page to subscribe so that you don’t miss them!



Working on Physical Skills Helps with Reading, Writing, and Learning!

Helping your child develop his/her fine and gross motor skills is critical, yet often overlooked.  It’s not on the end-of-the-year public school standardized test, so there may not be time in school unless a child is labeled as having special needs.

Learning to hop, balance, catch, skip, and cut are just a few physical skills that will help a child strengthen his ability to learn. Fortunately, practicing them is fun, and I found a terrific site that has loads of suggestions!

The Anonymous OT is written by a pediatric occupational therapist who offers tips on helping all children develop important skills. While there are some special needs categories that may help some of you with a specific problem, I’m going to suggest that the Fine Motor Skills and Gross Motor Skills categories are good places for everyone to begin. You’ll find lots of educational ideas for teaching your children the way they learn best – by moving and playing!

These are the skills that will help with reading, writing, and learning. They are better than a workbook, and a lot more fun!

**Special note to a few of you.  Do any of the following descriptions describe you?

  1. You worry that something fun can’t be good. 
  2. You worry that there is no proof at the end of the day showing that learning happened. 
  3. You weren’t happy with your child’s former school, but you still feel your child should sit down and do real work just like he did in school.
  4. You don’t want your child to feel like not going to school is one long vacation.

Ok, if you need proof that your child did something to promote learning today, take a picture!  Journal activities.  And if you’re worried that it’s all looking like a bunch of party games and way too much fun, just look at who compiled the list.  A professional.  Someone who is hired to help kids make their bodies and brains work better.  It’s all about learning. 

Karen Taylor shares homeschooling comments and links on Facebook, Pinterest, and this blog. Click on the buttons at the top of this page to subscribe so that you don’t miss them!

How to Begin Homeschooling When You Don’t Know What to Do!

Just do it.

You think you want to homeschool, but you’re not ready.  You may never be.  And if you’re a perfectionist, it’s even worse, because your plans will never be perfect enough.  So just do it. Jump in and declare that you are homeschooling and then worry about the rest after you’ve taken your first trip to the park and baked some cookies or whatever you like to do for fun.

Know where to ask for help.

Don’t go to the State Department of Education or local school for your homeschooling information.  You want accurate information from a state organization that specializes in your state and supports your desire to homeschool.  Every responsible state organization is going to have easy-to-understand information, and they’ll give it to you for free without scaring you. Your homeschooling friends can help, and if you live in California, I can too.

Your child won’t be behind.

Schools like to perpetuate the myth that a child who misses even a day of school will forever be behind.  Oh, gasp, just think of the important wisdom he might miss . . . not!  It’s convenient for schools to have every child there every day, and they also don’t collect funding for a child if he’s absent.  So that’s what this is all about.  As a homeschooler, you have plenty of time, and it’s ok not to keep regular school hours – in fact, it can be a good thing!  You also have a full year to accomplish what you want, so be easy on yourself.  Your child won’t fall behind.

Don’t worry about grade level.

As a homeschooler, grade level can be a thing of the past.   Let your child be in the same grade as is typical for his age, for purely social reasons.  And then teach your child what he needs to know, whether it’s below or above grade level.  The important thing is that progress is being made, and you’ll enjoy the freedom of not worrying about whether he is ahead or behind, but just that he is learning what is right for him today.

Write your plans for the year in pencil. 

Ok, you don’t really need to use a pencil, but you need to be able to easily change (or erase!) those plans.  No one can possibly imagine what their child might need to know 6 months from now!  Make a rough outline if you want (or don’t) but be willing to change often because you’re going to need to adjust. If you are unwilling to bend, you will be miserable, and you’ll also miss some wonderful learning moments!

A few do’s, don’ts, and suggestions.

  1. Don’t assign a book report.  If your child loves to write and wants to write an Amazon review or volunteer details about the books, that’s fine.  But please don’t think you need to assign a book report just because schools do it.  We don’t ask adults to do book reports.  It would ruin the story for us.  So don’t ask kids to do it!
  2. Read aloud to your child, even if he or she is older and reading.  Reading aloud is a wonderful shared experience.  If you look for chapter books that are worth sharing and above his/her reading level, you will be doing some quality homeschooling.  (For more information, see the list of books I read to my son when he was young and also some thoughts on why it’s ok for a child to be busy while you read.)
  3. You don’t have to give tests.  Same reason as #1 (you wouldn’t want someone testing you every time you learned something or to prove you were really paying attention).  Just listen to your child and you’ll soon know what he understands.
  4. Kids learn a lot while playing, so give them lots of unstructured time.
  5. Get your homeschool ideas from many sources.  There’s no one right way to homeschool, so take what you like from different books, speakers, and friends and make it your own.
  6. Be prepared for the inevitable comments from friends and family who may worry about your homeschooling choice (and yes, your children will be socialized and go to college if they choose!).
  7. What does your child want to learn?  Ask!

Find a local homeschool group.

Don’t just find a group, go to their weekly park days and field trips, and contribute your great ideas.  Get involved.  This is your support group, and your kids may need the friends, but so do you!  If you don’t like the group (it happens), start your own group and soon parents will hear about it and gladly attend.


Trust that it’s going to be ok. Sure, you’re nervous!  And you’re not ready.  But you know you can do it.  Take it one day at a time.


     karen2 sig 3
I share homeschooling comments and links on Facebook, Pinterest, and this blog.  Click on the buttons at the top of this page to subscribe so that you don’t miss them!
Here are some of my recent blog posts for new homeschoolers.  Just remember, you can do it! I hope you have a great homeschooling year!



The Gifted Homeschool Forum is keeping a running list of the other “Homeschooling: Where & How to Begin” links as they are submitted.



The Best Homeschooling Advice Ever!

red apple tips

1. Fit The Curriculum To The Child, Not Vice Versa.

You know your child, her special talents and her particular stumbling blocks, her courage and her trepidations, her needs, her indifferences, and her dreams.  Bring this wonderful insight with you to every homeschooling day, let it color your every decision about what she needs to learn and when.  Above all, remember that your child knows herself even better than you do, even though she may not always be able to express what’s going on inside her head.  Listen, observe, adjust, and prepare to sometimes change direction totally as she grows and changes.

 2. Seek Joyful Learning.

You surely want to preserve, or reawaken, as the case may be, the boundless curiosity and zest for learning that so dominated your child’s character when he was a toddler.  Remember how he would shake, rattle and roll whatever he found until his curiosity was sated, and then he was off like a shot to tackle the next challenge?  He also knew enough to quit when he was overloaded, and he would let you know, sometimes at the top of his lungs!  Recapturing that undiminished drive and fearless approach to finding out is an educational prescription for our times.  We’re so often told these days that one must become a lifelong learner to keep up with our fast-changing world.  To be a lifelong learner, one must have skills, energy, and desire for learning – to be a toddler at heart!

 3. Homeschooling is More Than “Schooling at Home”.

You know that when learning is made to be drudgery, it is seldom truly learned.  Rote instruction, especially when combined with harsh criticism and humiliating comparisons, dissipates energy and kills the desire to learn.  Avoid, if you possibly can, duplicating the worst failings of institutional schooling in your homeschool.  Homeschooling is about preserving the fragile and wonderous spirit of our children.  Homeschooling gives you the freedom to be in all ways more personal, more lively, more attuned to the needs and interests of each individual.

 4. More Than An Educational Choice, It’s a Lifestyle.

Your homeschool should also correspond to who you are as a family.  Your deeply held values and beliefs, your vocations, geography, and living space, your daily, weekly, and annual schedules of work, relaxation, and play – all these elements are yours to shape and control as you design your child’s learning experience.

 5. Your Homeschooling Style Will Develop Over Time.

Families new to home education typically stick pretty close to the shore at first, using traditional materials and a structured schedule because formal “school” is all they know.  For some, it continues to be what is right for their families, and for others, after some months or perhaps even years of experimentation and adjustment, they may start leaning toward more spontaneity, less structure, and fewer conventional teaching materials.  As you search to find what suits your family in the vast array of curricula and materials, don’t be afraid to make some unconventional choices.  Enjoy the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling affords you.  Trust your own sense of what is right for your child.


Some final tips from old-timers. 

Are you still wondering, “What if I make the wrong decision about curriculum?” Fortunately, whatever decision you make is yours to change.  There is no homeschooling bureaucracy; there are no committees to pass judgement; there are no forms to fill out in triplicate.  If you find your initial decisions aren’t working out, you can modify your program.  Don’t forget that learning is a dynamic process.  One of the compelling reasons to homeschool is that it allows for change and growth over time.  It also allows for individualizing so that you can speed up or slow down in order to match your child’s developmental readiness in various subjects. If you will consider your curricular decisions as temporary, recognizing that they may shift as your understanding grows or your child’s needs change, the weight you are feeling will be lifted considerably.  We offer some final advice from old timers, followed by the reflections from a long time homeschooler whose children are now grown:

  • There is no such thing as the perfect curriculum.
  • Don’t panic about choosing a curriculum.  The rule of thumb is that for every year your child has been in school they need one month to decompress.  Use that time to decide on your educational philosophy, learn about your child’s learning strengths and evaluate some of the available resources.
  • Curriculum choices change as your children grow up, change interests and develop educational goals.
  • You will make mistakes.  You will buy materials that you later wish you hadn’t.  Making mistakes is part of the process.  The corollary to that is that you will make some great choices that work well for your family.
  • Some resources are perfect for one child and disastrous for another. Be sensitive to learning styles.
  • Curriculum is a tool, not an obligation. This does not mean that you should not set goals, but be willing to be flexible. Don’t write your lesson plans in ink. Don’t be a slave to your curriculum.  Adapt.  Enhance. Keep an eraser handy.
  • Involve older kids in planning: What do you see yourself doing in 2 years?  5 years?  What have you always wanted to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?  If nobody tells you what to do, how will you spend your next week?  Month?


Note from Karen: These wonderful tips are from The California Homeschool Guide, an out of print book that I compiled and wrote for California Homeschool Network many years ago.  They were written by some successful and experienced homeschoolers who shared their best ideas!


Karen Taylor shares homeschooling comments and links on Facebook, Pinterest, and this blog.  Click on the buttons at the top of this page to subscribe so that you don’t miss them! 
 hip hop



Homeschool Advice from “Experts” and Others!

If you’re new to homeschooling, you are probably eagerly soaking up all the information you can. There are authors, conference speakers, websites, and homeschool catalogs, all seeking your attention.

It can be overwhelming.

I’ve seen homeschoolers stressed almost to tears at conferences because they went to one session and loved the new idea presented and then they went to an equally convincing presentation, and learned just the opposite. By the end of the day, they didn’t know what to do!

With so many different opinions, they can’t all be right (at least not for your child), so select only what you think may work for you rather than get in a trap trying to homeschool perfectly according to one individual (who may not even have that much experience!).

Take all information under advisement and then put all of it together and make it your own, rather than seeking the only true way to homeschool (because it doesn’t exist!).

If you receive just one idea from a presentation or a book that resonates with you, that’s great – use it!  You have learned something that will help you homeschool your way.

Your best help might even come from the quiet mom at park day who has to be urged to share how she homeschools.  She isn’t going to push her ideas on you, but when you ask some questions, you find that you share a common philosophy for homeschooling and you like her choice of resources.  Perhaps she hasn’t homeschooled long either, but she might be a big help to you.

New homeschoolers are also often bombarded with advice from relatives, neighbors, and even people on the street who have been homeschooling for many years. They are simply excited to share!  You may not always be able to avoid these people if they are a part of your daily life.  Just listen, thank them for input, and then do it your way.

And what about the well known “experts” or those who try to jump on the expert bandwagon?

If you come across someone who is enthusiastic that their way is the only way, that should be a red flag.  There is no one way that is perfect for every single child.  Hey, one of the reasons many of us homeschool is to get away from that kind of one size fits all thinking!  Don’t let these people cause you to doubt yourself.

“Homeschooling pioneer” is terminology that we’ve started hearing more often than perhaps we should, so maybe that should be another red flag.  If someone was homeschooling 40 years ago, it’s really impressive because they did it back when few did, and they truly are homeschooling pioneers!  Whether or not their advice is helpful today, they have my admiration because it was a scary time to homeschool, and they had vision and strength of conviction (and did it without support or curriculum!).

But someone who claims to be a pioneer while still homeschooling fairly young children is trying to market themselves as experts that they can’t possibly be yet.  They just don’t have the life experience.  The same is true with “experts” who try to tell you how to homeschool kids who are older than theirs or who have only been homeschooling a short time.

So, how do you homeschool the “right” way?

You do it by trusting yourself because there is no one right way.  It’s not only ok to do things a bit differently than other homeschoolers, it’s a good thing!

Wherever your source of advice comes from, just remember that you are the expert of your child! That is what matters. Don’t let anyone take that from you.


karen2  Karen Taylor