Shirley's Advice to New Homeschoolers

Practical tips, advice and encouragement on beginning homeschooling

After almost 15 years of homeschooling, I have a little advice to offer those following along behind me:

Homeschooling is an exciting and rewarding journey, which you will embark upon when you make the choice to teach your kids yourself.

It requires sacrifice and commitment but most of all a strong conviction that this is the right choice for your family.

If you are Christians, it should be your conviction that home education is God's will for your family.

Some practical advice to consider:

1. Since home education is a journey, don't expect it to end the way it begins. Things change. Your first year might possibly be your worst year - and that does not mean that it will go badly. Quite the contrary - it may go very well. However, in my experience home education only gets better. You, the parent become better organised, more experienced and confident. Your children learn what is expected, become more capable and mature and together you establish new habits and routines, discover new interests, talents and new ways of learning.>

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2. Don't think that the choices you make today are "cast in stone". We all begin with pre-conceived ideas of what curriculum and materials we need, but these tend to change over time as we listen to advice, become more experienced and better informed.

Homeschooling the Primary Years by Shirley Erwee is a comprehensive guide for (South African) families embarking on the adventure of learning at home with young children. Home education is across all ethnic groups in South Africa and its a worldwide phenomenon too. More and more concerned parents are choosing homeschooling as an alternative to public schooling, which is failing large numbers of children.

3. Initially, buy just the basics in order to give yourself time to gain practical experience and to become better informed about different options. At the least, begin with preschool activities that develop a range of different skills and just spend time establishing routines in your home where you read aloud together often until you are sure about what you need to buy. Research your options, seek advice and attend curriculum fairs where you can view the products before you buy.

4. Join a support group - there are online e-loops, local support groups and larger provincial home education associations in most areas. Since home educators are a minority of the general population, you may often feel like the only fish swimming upstream. It is comforting to know that you are not alone. Support groups also provide great opportunities for sharing ideas, getting tips and advice from veterans, arranging group outings and socializing with like-minded families.

By joining a provincial or state home education association, you will also be giving them more political leverage as they will then represent a larger homeschooling community.

5. Educate yourself continuously. Home education is a new career and you need sound advice for this high calling, so spend time and money preparing and equipping yourself for the task to which God has called you.

5.1 Sign up for my free e-zine, The Whole Child which will give you five easy preschool activities to develop different aspects of your child's brain each week.

5.2 Read home education parenting resources, books and internet articles, attend seminars and workshops and ask for advice when you need it. (You can contact me if you like.)

If you would expect your child's school teacher to keep informed about new trends in education, you should require no less of yourself! Begin with Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore, Ruth Beechick's The Three R's and A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Then select other books from the recommended parent books on this site.

6. Explain your decision about home education to your children in a way that they can understand. Especially as they grow older, they need to understand your vision and the reasons why they are being educated differently from the majority of the population. Our children understand that this is a decision that we, their parents have made, based on our better judgment and that it is not negotiable.

At times when my step-daughter thought that she was missing out on opportunities and experiences available at school, she has questioned our decision. We re-assured her that we have our children's best interests at heart and we point out the different opportunities and privileges that they have experienced which school-going children have not. That usually ends the conversation abruptly. (The grass is not always greener on the other side!)

The same advice applies to sceptics and critics outside the immediate family. When questioned about our decision, we simply point out that any educational choice has advantages and disadvantages and that we believe that home education is the best choice for OUR family. Then we try to use the opportunity to make them better informed about the benefits of home education.

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