Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | September 2, 2015

Getting Started Homeschooling

Girls at Walden Pond

Girls at Walden Pond

Lots of kids head back to school this week!  Three Septembers ago (our first year of homeschooling), I remember sadly watching all the kids on our street skip off to school, hand-in-hand, with their moms and dads.  We’d committed to homeschooling.  But we weren’t yet proud homeschoolers.  We didn’t yet know that we’d be splashing in Walden Pond in early September instead of spending those last precious hot days cooped up inside!

So if you are new to homeschooling, fear not!  This year probably feels scary, but by the end of the year maybe you’ll even have a blog where you chronicle your own family’s adventures outside of school!  This post is dedicated to all of you new homeschooling families.  Welcome!

Here are five suggestions for getting started this fall:

#1.  Join your state and local support group.  In Massachusetts, our state support group is Advocates for Home Education (AHEM).   And, you can find your local support group here.  Homeschool Together supports home learners in Arlington and surrounding towns.

#2.  Go to a not-back-to-school picnic.  In Massachusetts, AHEM hosts a picnic on Wednesday, September 9th in Hopkinton.  And Home School Together hosts another picnic on Friday, September 11th at Walden Pond.

#3.  Commit to finding and regularly attending a park day!

Using your local homeschool group as a starting point, start shopping for a park day.  Homeschool Together has a park day almost every day of the week!

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t meet your BFF at the park the first day!  Consider overall how you like the vibe.  Do the other moms (and maybe even a few dads) seem like people you’d like to get to know?  Does it seem like a good fit for your kiddos?  For example, if your family is low-media and all the kids are playing with handheld devices, then grab your kids and run away!  Try another park day next week!

If you do like the vibe at the park, commit to going every week!  Some of the families have been going to this park day for many, many years.  They know one another well.  They’ll welcome you, but you have to keep going.  Only by consistently attending the park day will you really build community there.  And when you do connect with another mama or your kiddo hits it off with another kid, invite the family over for a play date or for dinner!

#4.  Don’t overcommit.  If you were in school last year, you may be planning, “park on Mondays, Revels on Tuesdays, Math on Wednesdays, Habitat on Thursdays, and soccer on Fridays.  Done!”  Something everyday like when you were in school.  But I suspect that you left school for a reason.  You don’t have to recreate school at home.  If you are busy everyday, you won’t have time to enjoy all the treasures of homeschooling.  If you’re busy everyday, how are you gonna enjoy those last hot days of late summer, splashing at Walden Pond?  How will you have time to go apple picking during the week (when you’ll have the whole orchard to yourselves!)?  What about spending a day baking and reading in your pajamas with your kids?  Slow down, friend.  Enjoy your new lifestyle!

#5.  If you are using a curriculum and your kids are really pushing back…  fighting you every step of the way…or if you are just not enjoying yourself, consider pulling back and taking some time off from the curriculum.  Explore the city this end-of-summer/beginning-of-fall.  You might be surprised by how much (you and) your kids learn without any workbooks (wink-wink).

Happy Not-Back-to-School!!

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Responses

  1. This could have been written specifically for our family. Thank you Tracy! We are in a situation where our older child is back to school and our younger child is starting his first homeschooling adventure. He has some activities planned for next week but in the meantime, everything feels a little uncertain around our home. From the Mom’s perspective, one of my biggest challenges is how every stranger we have a conversation with while running errands, walking in the neighborhood asks my son either what grade he is in or when he is going back to school? Closer to home, anxious relatives are asking me “When are starting the homeschooling?” Maybe you could share in a future blog post your family’s strategies for dealing with these socially awkward moments???
    Thanks so much

    • Happy Not-Back-to-School, Taryn!! The homeschool community is so lucky to have you guys!! You and your son are gonna love homeschooling…so much that your daughter is going to want to quit school and join in the fun (or so my big girl, hopes anyway!!). Oh the vacations you’ll take with all that tuition money!! Such great questions – how to deal with nosy neighbors and pushy family… For me, the more confident that I’ve gotten about my family’s (amazing, life-changing, joyful) homeschool life style, the less other people’s questions/comments/suggestions affect me. Because homeschooling works so well for us, I am really confident about my choice and I don’t even get many questions anymore and when I do, I answer them honestly and don’t particularly care what other people think! But, of course, it’s impossible for you to feel that kind of calm, settled feeling the week before you start homeschooling!! I promise you though, you’ll get there…and in the meantime, I’ll poll my veteran homeschooling friends and get back to you with some tips for dealing with nosy neighbors and pushy family members. I can’t wait to see you at the park! Yay!! xo, Tracy

  2. Thanks for this great piece! I found your blog through the article in Boston Magazine. What you say is so true and echoes our family’s experience.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Regina! Homeschooling really is the best, isn’t it?! Warmly, Tracy


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