Beginning to homeschool can be intimidating. It's been years since we were starting our homeschool journey with preschool in 1999, but I can still remember the nervousness and fear I felt. I had found an online support group for the curriculum we'd chosen and they helped walk me through it all. Not everyone finds that support, though. Or they may be thrust into homeschooling suddenly as they pull children out of a school system that isn't working for their child. Where do you start, what do you need, how do you do this homeschool thing?
Stephanie Walmsley, from Successful Homeschooling Made Easy, has created a 26 week e-course to help parents enjoy homeschooling. The Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course is like a Homeschooling 101 course for parents. It provides a step-by-step approach to beginning your homeschool journey with structure and peace. Crew members received access to the 26 week e-course for this review, although we've only received ten of the lessons so far.
When you purchase the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course ($10/month payments or $48.50 if paid in full at the start) you will receive 26 weekly PDF lessons in your email ... plus a few bonus emails! Clicking on the link in the email opens the pdf document in your web browser, where you can either read it or download it to your computer to be saved. I prefer to open it, save it, and then re-open it in Adobe Reader rather than my web browser. (For me, viewing pdf documents in the web browser tends to crash the browser.)
Stephanie's lessons include weekly steps to build upon as you establish your homeschool routine and curriculum. Each lesson also ends with assignments to apply to your homeschool that week and practice until the next lesson arrives. The very first lesson is full of encouragement as well as guidance in creating a schedule that works for your family. It also focuses on "The Literacy Hour" as the foundation of the homeschool day, with guidance for some basic steps to handling this basically without curriculum. It definitely comes from a Charlotte Mason direction.
The second lesson covers introducing mathematics to your homeschool schedule. Stephanie shares a lot of ideas for teaching math naturally to the younger ages, but she also encourages that you can homeschool upper math, even if it means seeking outside help. The lesson ends with guidelines for selecting the right math curriculum for your family. We also received a bonus email with math ideas that week!
Week three's lesson is titled "Welcome Home" and includes advice and stories from sixteen other homeschool moms. This lesson is helpful in that it has real-life stories from other moms of lessons they learned the hard way that are encouraging and helpful. I am always encouraged when I realize I am not alone in my struggles. And let's face it ... by week 3 of homeschooling you will be having some discouraging moments already as reality doesn't align with your ideal vision of homeschooling.
Other lessons in the first ten weeks also cover:
- Fireproof Your Homeschool (tweaking your schedule and adding something fun)
- Three Key Ingredients for Success (identifying your homeschool inspiration and goals)
- Fulfill Your Dreams (taking time to nurture yourself and your hobbies)
- Why Curriculum Doesn't Matter (understanding homeschool styles and discovering yours)
- Let Go of the Good Things (minimizing outside activities)
- Homeschool and Housework (the never-ending battle)
- A Full Schedule (making changes to your schedule once it's full)
The sequential, building-block approach to these lessons is helpful and less overwhelming than sitting down to read a book where it all piles up at once. That is a huge plus for an overwhelmed homeschool parent, or even just a mom with young kids who needs to have an action plan to get started. Stephanie is always encouraging to the reader that you CAN do this and she tries to provide suggestions or ways to customize the plan to suit your family. She does put a lot of emphasis on understanding your motivation and your preferred teaching style, which is important for finding what works for your family.
However, I do have some concerns that Stephanie's lessons may give a new homeschooler the impression that there is only one way to homeschool. She has a strong bent toward Charlotte Mason education that is apparent in her lessons. (By the way, I love Charlotte Mason but I recognize that not everyone does.) The early lessons have a parent adding in art and music lessons weekly. While they do provide a fairly simple way to do that, it can still be overwhelming to someone with multiple young children (or a large family) trying to balance nap times and math lessons and the baby that wants to nurse. For some people, even the schedule could be daunting, if they're a very relaxed, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person. I've only read ten of the lessons. It's possible that a later lesson says, "Is something in this schedule not working for you? Feel free to chuck it!"
One thing I've learned over the years is that there are many ways to homeschool successfully, and that every family's homeschool will look different. Another thing I've learned is that I start every year with an ideal plan, and it always changes through the year. Often, I have to sacrifice my idealistic homeschool vision when faced with the reality of our everyday life. This doesn't mean I've failed. It means that every homeschool is unique and there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. Most people will be able to read the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy lessons and be able to "take what they can use and leave the rest". My only concern is for the few who try to legalistically follow every suggestion and find themselves overwhelmed and discouraged. I hope that the lesson full of real Mom's advice and some later lessons promote freedom to adapt the plan, because that is the beauty of homeschooling.
Overall, I do love the weekly lessons in Successful Homeschooling Made Easy, the stepping stone approach to planning your homeschool day, and Stephanie's helpful advice for fitting your homeschool into the rest of your life. I would have enjoyed this approach as a young homeschooler, rather than my approach of reading multiple books at once and being swamped with information. I will definitely recommend the course to new homeschool families, though I will also give the warning that they should feel free to adapt what they need to, and I will check back in with them later to see if they have any homeschool frustrations they need to discuss. After all, an e-course is awesome, but a listening ear is even better!
You can connect with Stephanie Walmsley on facebook!