“What Do I Need To Homeschool My Child?”
Update: Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, a friend and I have put together this complete weekly timetable for primary children. It is gentle, fun and engaging and completely adaptable for all abilities. All of the activities are explained and we have included full guidance on how to use it for parents. You can get it for free here: homeschool timetable.
Homeschooling, both in the US and in the UK, is an increasingly popular choice for families. It is an experience that our family has enjoyed since our eldest child was born, and one that we can’t imagine ending. Many parents are considering homeschooling their child for a variety of reasons- it could be that you feel your child is too young or not suited for a school-like structure, issues of bullying or exam stress, problems with their current school or simply that you’ve become curious about an alternative educational route.
You may like this post of 100+ brilliant UK homeschooling resources (many of which are FREE!), this post on 40 advantages of homeschooling and there are plenty more articles about homeschooling here (including socialisation, learning to read and other FAQs).
Whatever your reasons for looking into homeschooling, I would assure you that we have not regretted our decision once, and the numerous UK homeschooling families with whom we socialise each week would say exactly the same. It can, however, be daunting during the exploratory phase- you’re not quite sure about curriculums or tests or structure or… anything! This post, “Can I homeschool my child in the UK?” is a good place to start, along with “10 things to consider before committing to homeschool your child“. After you’ve thought about those things, it’s time to look the question, “What do I need to homeschool my child?”
I think it helps to briefly outline what homeschooling is, compared to what most people think of it. Homeschooling does not require you to have the same materials as school, or to follow the same curriculum (more about curriculums here). You don’t need to follow a schedule or do workbooks or anything like that if you don’t want to. The homeschooling law states that each child must receive an ‘age appropriate education’ but doesn’t outline what that is, so there are literally no compulsory purchases when homeschooling (to see exactly what we spend on homeschooling our three children each month, click here).
So, is there anything you actually need when it comes to homeschooling? Absolutely. Here are the 10 essentials that every parent needs when starting their homeschooling journey.
Edit: If you are looking for practical resources for setting up a homeschool classroom or materials for homeschooling, I’ve put together a guide on how we organise our homeschool room and my personal favourite long-lasting resources that we use for homeschooling! You can check it out here and read it after this post!
What Do I Need To Homeschool My Child?
A desire for your child to be healthy and happy: I don’t know any parents who don’t fit this criteria, and often it is a child’s unhappiness or stress levels at school that provoke thoughts of homeschooling in the parent. As much as it breaks my heart to hear of a child under chronic stress at school, it makes me want to stand up and cheer when I see a parent saying “no more” and prioritising their child’s health and mental wellbeing above the expectations of the norm.
A willingness to learn: I don’t mean about the national curriculum, or academic stuff necessarily; I mean a willingness to learn more about your child, what they love and don’t like, what they’re naturally gifted at and what they struggle with; a willingness to learn new ways of finding people to meet and groups to attend (Facebook all the way). Y
You need a willingness to Google your rights when it comes to homeschooling law and to stand up to strangers who will criticise what you’re doing; a willingness to un-learn what you thought about education and child development, and re-learn new and wonderful ways of engaging with children.
A willingness to increase your patience: I was going to put ‘patience’ as #2 but actually I think a lot of parents think of themselves as impatient and I don’t want to put them off- patience is one of those things where the more opportunity you have to practise it, the more it grows. As I’ve said above you don’t necessarily need the patience to ‘teach’ your child in a school-like way, but being with them all day requires patience. If you find that some of your child’s behaviour is an issue you may like these parenting solutions on dealing with tantrums, helping kids cope with peer pressure, dealing with screen time and more.
A thick skin, or efforts to develop one: If you’re going to crumble at the first criticism of homeschooling- this could be from the supermarket cashier, or a neighbour, or close friends and family- you need to develop strategies to let their words roll off you. I think there are generally three phases of receiving homeschooling criticism: upset, surprise and amusement.
I’ve been in the third stage for years now and it’s glorious- I don’t feel the need to justify any of my choices and it’s very liberating. Just bear in mind that you’ve made the best choice for your child in your circumstances and let everything else be water off a duck’s back. This helps if you’ve got what I’ll mention in the next point…
Some pre-set answers for people when they ask about homeschooling: I guess homeschooling is kind of like having triplets: whenever you go anywhere people will stop you and ask the same questions (over and over and over and over…). This can be exhausting so have some quick one-sentence answers to the most frequently asked questions. In fact I might do a blog post on canned answers for people to use, to minimise the brain work (let’s be fair, homeschooling parents don’t need to use up any more mental energy!)
An awareness that you will need some time to yourself, and how to get it: You don’t need a hard-and-fast plan, and if you’re not able to get time completely alone that’s fine- but you do need to recognise that you are a human (shocking I know) and that you need to look after yourself. Whether it’s having a ‘quiet hour’ where the kids play and you have some lunch in peace, or carving out time in the evening for your favourite TV programme, just try and think of when you’ll get time to nurture yourself a bit.
If this feels like too much effort remember that your children are watching you to see how to live, and will likely copy the patterns you create- so if you want your kids to self-care, you need to do it! You might find some of these 15 self care ideas helpful.
Support: This doesn’t need to be in the form of having family or loads of friends nearby; it could be another homeschooling parent or two who you meet on homeschooling Facebook groups. Just having someone, somewhere, who gets the ups and downs of the homeschooling lifestyle is immensely valuable. Having a partner on board is immensely useful, and from personal experience I’ve put together this post of 6 ways to get Dads involved in homeschooling.
An open mind: Your child might ask to go to high school, or want to do all their GCSEs aged 13, or not want to do any exams at all. You may find that given the time and space and support, your child develops a fascination with mid-century furniture, or reptiles, or outer space, or cookery. You might find that they like to dip in and out of hobbies with no one huge passion.
However things go, in order to support your child you need to be able to keep an open mind and let go of the pre-conceived ideas we often have about what life is supposed to look like. If you find this way of education daunting you might find comfort in this post on everything we learned in one very relaxed day of homeschooling!
A willingness to put your ego away: There may come that time when your 11 year old is shown up in front of other children as not knowing the same things as their school peers. There may be a moment in which several parents are asking you something about homeschooling and you’re unable to give a good answer.
You might have family or friends who never support your homeschooling choices and create a constant vibe that you are making inferior choices for your children. This is ok. It doesn’t invalidate what you are doing at all. None of us know everything and nothing is perfect. Your ego will almost certainly get bruised if you hold your child’s academic ability and behaviour as innate to your self-worth; do your best in your circumstances and let that be enough, because it has to be.
A sense of humour: Because when you look around your living room and the dining table is covered in play doh and cups of water with Skittles floating in them (a science experiment) and a child-made face mask of avocado and yogurt and honey, and there is Playmobil and Lego and pens and some kind of sculpture made from egg cartons and the last of your sellotape, and Jurassic Park is playing loudly and one of your kids is carefully sketching the Xbox controller and another is in the garden making Stone Henge out of bricks and you’re not sure where the other one is but she’s definitely too quiet for comfort, and your house rabbit is contemplatively sitting in the corner judging you- you need to be able to laugh. (This is an exact description of yesterday morning, by the way.)
I hope this article has been helpful in answering the question “what do I need to homeschool my child?” I have many popular homeschooling blog posts that cover everything from exam queries to socialisation concerns, frequently asked questions about homeschooling and the best homeschooling resources. Check out the complete list of homeschooling blog posts here!