Here is some of my tried and true advice for those just starting out. There are a lot of you out there. While some of this is Maine specific, some will work no matter where you live.
- No one at the state level (up to this point) is checking off and making sure you submit your Letter of Intent (or Subsequent Letter with assessment) by September 1st. They don't have the capacity to track the almost 6,000 homeschooling student (the Maine DOE reported 5,963 home education students in April 2019) and I'm absolutely sure that number is much higher this year.
- If you are contacted about a missing Letter of Intent, simply send in a copy (you should have kept one) or submit one. They have 10 days from notifying you to start truancy proceedings (which actually take much longer to do). You have time to make it right.
- You are not required by law to use the online portal set up by the Maine Department of Education that is now on their website. It is not a new requirement. The law has not changed. A paper copy is still acceptable.
- You are submitting a Letter of Intent. You are not submitting an application. You do not need approval. You simply need to state your intention to homeschool.
- Know the law and follow it. Do what is required (do not do more). Homeschoolers that came before you fought long and hard for the freedom we enjoy today to homeschool as we do. In fact, I have another post planned about the history of homeschooling in Maine.
- Relax. Just relax. You are not going to mess up your child. I promise. In fact, the opposite will likely be true - your child will do better than previously.
- Relax and breathe. It needs to be on here twice. Enjoy this time at home with your children. I LOVE being with my kids. Do they drive me bonkers? Absolutely. Do I enjoy being home every day with them? Most of the time. Just like anything, it can take time to get used to a normal routine. If you aren't used to having your kids around you 24/7, know that it will take time for everyone to adjust. Give it time.
- Routines are your friend. I'm not a strict routine follower, but when my kids were younger, I had schedules posted EVERYWHERE. I had eating schedules (it helped cut down on the "can I have a snack" 50,000 times a day question). Nap time was sacred at my house (mamma needed a break!).
- Don't be a slave to your schedule. Go on the fun field trip that pops up. Take a day and just go explore your area. Don't let the textbooks and lessons take over your life.
- Making your five year old sit at a desk/table/flat surface for more than 15-30 minutes at a stretch is torture for both you and them. Little ones need to move more than they need to learn to read and write. Yes, I said it. Do not force learning on a child who is resistant and unwilling. If teaching them to read leaves one or both of you in tears, don't do it! When your child is ready to learn, it will click and be much easier for everyone involved. This is true times ten for little boys (of which I have raised three). My youngest son was not ready to learn to read until he was almost ten. You would never know that now.
- No one will ever ask your child how old they were when they _______________ fill in the blank. It will never come up on a job application. It will not impact their future life UNLESS it was forced on them before they were ready. Let kids enjoy being kids. Make learning fun. Let them enjoy life.
- Spend time exploring outside every day especially for those in the younger grades (and it's good for older ones too). Doing some type of nature study every single day will be a nice reprieve from book learning, but have a far more reaching impact. Nature is calming. Enjoy it. We live in a great state to get out and explore.
- Read good literature. Spend time reading aloud to your children (no matter how old they are). Read classics. Read above their grade level. Read things they wouldn't normally pick for themselves. Read. Read. Read. If you'd like to see a great book list of "living books," check out this list from Ambleside Online.
- Find someone you trust who has been homeschooling longer than you have and listen to their advice. Go to them for help. We veterans love to help those just starting out.
These are just a few of my rambling thoughts on homeschooling on this crisp fall-like day. I hope it helps you just a little bit.
The most important part in all of it? Relax. You can do this.