Homeschool Help

Just to start off this post on a completely honest note, I am not offering you help with your homeschooling.  No, Sir.  This is a post where you give your homeschooling help to me.  Sounds selfish, right?  But it is not.  Because you are really helping my three beautiful children who would benefit from two sane parents.  (My husband has an extra buffer layer of sanity built in- I think it comes with his calm personality- so he'll be fine.  But me on the other hand...)

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.  We are homeschooling my oldest this year for first grade.  She very much enjoyed public school but for assorted reasons we have decided to keep her home this year and see how it goes.  I was homeschooled 4 years growing up and enjoyed many aspects of it, although I never planned on homeschooling my own kids.  Ah, but plans are a funny thing.

Inevitably, whenever you do something that is slightly different than mainstream, inquiring minds want reasons.  And even though I am quite confident of my decision to homeschool (when I discuss it with myself at home), when others ask why I'm homeschooling, even if they don't seem to be attacking me, I instantly feel a small bit of panic rise inside.  I look at the person- size them up a bit- I try to think which of MY reasons for homeschooling would most resonate with THEM.  Would they be more likely to jump at the idea of my family focus or academic reasons?  Would the phrase "spiritual foundation" be a positive or negative buzz word for this person?  Should I praise what I like about the public school system or point out its limitations?

(Welcome to my internal dialogue.  Its a scary place so I'll show you the way out your step, don't trip on the insecurity.)

Anyway, my first question to you homeschool parents is this:  1: How do you handle questions about homeschooling, and maybe more importantly, how do you let your confidence in your decision shine just as brightly with complete strangers as with just yourself?    

Now that we've covered that, let's move on to the actual teaching of the children.  We have successfully made it through our first week.  By successfully I mean, we are all still alive, I've checked off almost all of the boxes on the week's lesson plan, and I'm actually still excited about continuing.

Still, there are some slight bumps...hurdles you might say.  (I can hear a few of you audibly laughing right now.)  So here are my top questions.  Don't feel like you have to be a homeschooler to answer- some of these may just be common teaching/ parenting answers.

2: How do you manage/engage a toddler during homeschool hours?  I've had a couple good ideas from friends, including having a special toy bin that only comes out during school time.  My youngest is 18 months and doesn't usually nap till almost 11am.  While I save the more involved/messy projects for nap time, I can't possibly start school then or we would never finish.

3: What are good motivational strategies for the times when a child is uncooperative, or when you find yourself heading into a power struggle?  (Because the following docile moment of homeschooling gave me false and unrealistic hope.)

This relates both to my first grader and my preschooler.  Sometimes I put my foot down with my oldest and wonder if that is really counterproductive.  (i.e. When am I more concerned about getting something checked off my list  than whether my child is learning.)  Conversely, when my 4 year old gets stubborn I tend to just redirect and let him stop school.  I have lower expectations for him since we are not officially schooling him this year, but I fear I may be too lax with him.

4: We have curriculum and plans for all necessary subjects, but in your experience, how do you step back and make sure that your daily lesson plans are accomplishing your overall goals for your children?  

5: What are your favorite free (or inexpensive) resources for homeschooling?  We are loving pinterest, the library, and are looking forward to our local co-op starting up...but always interested in finding more resources!

6: Finally, for those that have been homeschooling a year or more, what is one thing you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?  

Thanks everyone for your help.  I knew I could count on you to save me.