Most introductions to homeschooling start at elementary level, preschool or kindergarten. But what if your child started at a traditional school and you’re starting your homeschool journey only after 5th grade? A favorite resource of mine, Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling, is extremely helpful in setting goals and prioritizing. She writes from a Christian perspective, but as a whole it is a fantastic resource for the homeschooling community. In sha Allah these 6 easy steps will get you headed in the right direction for a successful start, when homeschooling middle school.
1. Know Your Student
There’s a lot of talk about learning styles, but it goes beyond just auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Some kids like check boxes and structure, while other kids thrive when their schedule is more fluid. Some students want to have an orderly, tidy work space, and others want to be able to work wherever the mood suits them. Here is a nice resource, ‘What Type of Learner Are You?’ for narrowing down a child’s learning style, and a must before starting to homeschool.
2. Realize Your Goals
Yes, I know your goal is to educate your child, but that’s a bit broad. You need to narrow down your focus, so it’s more clear when you are succeeding, and when things need to change. Do you believe your child is Ivy League college bound, and you want to support that? Is it more important to you that they are raised to fill the role of an imam as an adult? Is volunteer work a priority for your children?
All of these things sound fantastic, and it’s easy to think we want to do it all, but time is a limiting factor. Think about it this way: If they were unable to meet a certain goal (volunteer in the community, going to a great college, being an imam, etc.), would you feel you failed? Would you be upset about it? Only when the answer is yes, then you should consider that to be a goal.
3. Realize Your Child’s Goals
This is very important to know. Is your goal the one that your child also wants to achieve? Your child is now starting to really understand what they like and don’t like, and how they see themselves in the real world. If they are not interested in the goals you set for them, there are some hard times ahead for both of you. It is best to follow what your child is passionate about, but if that is not possible, find some middle ground.
4. Explore Curriculum
Now that you have an idea of how your child works best, and what you’re aiming toward, it is time to get to the nitty-gritty and pick some curriculum, alhamdulilah! One of the best ways to narrow it down is to understand what homeschool approach best matches your family. Here are a few Homeschool Approaches to review. It’s not necessary to pick just one. Knowing what seems like a good fit for both you and your child, will help with the search.
You can search for “Classical 7th grade curriculum” and likely come across someone’s blog post about what they chose for that year. If you’re stuck on one subject, you can search for “Charlotte Mason science curriculum” and see what comes up. There will likely be many rabbit holes you go down, to find exactly what you are looking for. Expect to spend a couple of hours each day, for a few days, to really narrow things down. The first year is the hardest, so take heart, it really does gets easier, Inshallah.
5. Practice Your Routine
You don’t need to have all your curriculum on hand, but if you have some school-type activities, see what it feels like to begin your day at 8am, have lunch, and add in other things you want to fit into your routine. We learned early on that my oldest needs to do her harder subjects before lunch. After lunch there can easily be tears and lots of frustration because she’s just not as sharp as she is before noon.
If you do have your curriculum, give yourself a week or so to try things out, be fully ready to call a day short if you’re having troubles. It’s better to find the issues and work on it tomorrow than trying to fix an issue when everyone is on edge.
6. Make a Plan
Notice I haven’t mentioned making lesson plans yet? It’s important to know how everyone works, and what a routine will look like before taking the time to make your lesson plan. There are lots of free options available. My favorite free option is printable organizers on Donna Young’s website. You can also try an online planner, which you can find for free on the web, but I have tried some paid online planners like Lesson Trek, with more success. It has a trial period, so you can try it out and see if it is a good fit for yourself.
Remember, everyone’s homeschool is going to look a little different, and that’s okay. We all have different families, different needs, and different goals. Alhamdulilah, the world is a diverse place. It’s helpful to talk to other families about what they are doing so you know what options are available, but be careful not to start comparing yourself with others and working overtime to do things that don’t meet your family’s goals.