Do you stay at home and/or work from home while homeschooling your kids? Up until recently, the homeschooling/ school-from-home lifestyle was seen as a little unconventional, but the events of 2020 have made it much more common. Suddenly, a lot more people find themselves trying to figure out how to make this home-based lifestyle work for them.
Homeschooling staying at home and/or working from home has long been steeped in misconceptions like:
- You have to be rich to do that (false).
- You have to be a hermit to do that (false).
- You have to be crazy to do that (sometimes feels true but also false)!
(I can say all of this as homeschooling/work-from-home parent!)
Today, many are starting to discover how this particular lifestyle is different then they may have previously assumed. The homeschooling lifestyle hardly ever looks the same between two different families, for one thing. Some strategies and schedules will work better for certain people than for others. There are diverse rewards as well as unique challenges.
When you are first getting started with figuring out how to make homeschooling work for you, there are a lot of things you can do to make the transition easier on yourself as you start to get into your own unique rhythm.
One of those things is seeking out what I’m calling a “Homeschool Mentor.”
Who is a Homeschool Mentor?
A Homeschool Mentor is the life coach for your homeschool, your own private Mary Poppins, the Yoda to your Luke. However, you choose to look at her (or him), your Homeschool Mentor is someone who shares valuable wisdom and experiences with you in a way that helps you succeed on your own homeschool journey. Even though it’s okay to be friends with this person, your relationship with a homeschool mentor is different than just a supportive friendship (though those friendships are important as well).
Preferably, your Homeschool Mentor should be someone who:
- Has more homeschooling experience than you.
- Has had at least one child go all the way through senior year of high school.
- Homeschools in a way that you find appealing.
- Is passionate about homeschooling.
- Is warm, open, and happy to share this aspect of his/her life with others.
- Is flexible enough to not try to force their way of doing things on you.
Other considerations to look for in a Homeschool Mentor:
When seeking out a Homeschool Mentor, you may also want to consider:
- Do you want to find someone who is local to you or are you okay with online mentoring?
- Are you willing to pay for services or are you hoping to find free help?
- Does the Homeschool Mentor follow the same homeschooling methodology as your family?
- Are you looking for very specific help from a Homeschool Mentor? For example, are you looking for more information about how to help your child who has a learning disability or a has a unique area of interest?
5 Important Ways a Homeschool Mentor Can Help
Someone with a passion for, and experience in, homeschooling can offer practical tips and objective insight to help you navigate a variety of concerns. Here are five important ways a Homeschool Mentor can help in your homeschool:
Plan a Strong Start for New Homeschooling Parents
Homeschooling is like any other job in that it requires time, effort and planning. However, especially when you are first getting started, it can feel like you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing in your “new job.”
A Homeschool Mentor can help you define your “why” for homeschooling and help you make a plan of action that fits your purpose for choosing to homeschool. (Read more about “finding your why” here). By enlisting the help of a veteran homeschool parent at the beginning, you can set yourself up for a strong, successful and positive start.
Troubleshoot Your Daily Routine
One of the best things about asking for help from a Homeschool Mentor is that they don’t just bring their strong background in homeschooling to the table. They also contribute an objective perspective. This is particularly handy if you’ve been homeschooling for a little while but feel like you could do it better. We all know that it can be tricky to troubleshoot in an environment you’ve gotten comfortable with.
Many Homeschool Mentors are willing to come into your home, observe a typical day, and offer honest feedback on your style, routine, what is going right…and what may need some help. It’s true that this can be a humbling, even embarrassing, experience. However, it can also be an extremely quick and effective way to figure out how to get your homeschool back on track. If you feel like you’ve gotten comfortable with a routine that’s not working for you, you might also want to check out this homeschool overhaul course and free roadmap.
Help You Define Your Ideal Homeschool Lifestyle
While society has some pre-concieved ideas about how homeschooling looks, it honestly has an endless variety of forms. There are dozens of different factors that determine how your want your particular homeschool experience (what I sometimes refer to as a “homeschool lifestyle” ) to look and feel. For example, consider some of the following:
- Are you laid back or more detail-oriented?
- Do you envision your kids working in a beautifully organized home classroom or packing up their books to take to the park or coffeeshop?
- Are both parents involved in homeschooling, or just one?\
- Do both parents work outside the home, or does someone stay home?
- Do one or both parents work from home?
- Does your child take online classes?
These are the kinds of questions that can help you pinpoint your what your ideal homeschool lifestyle looks like. I think it’s a fantastic idea to seek out a Homeschool Mentor whose Homeschool Lifestyle is similar to how you’d like yours to be. That way, you can observe them, gain inspiration, and ask questions! Some of the methods they use will be a good fit for you, and others won’t…and that’s perfectly okay.
Give You Those Nitty, Gritty, Practical Tips.
This one is pretty obvious, but honestly one of the best reasons to find a Homeschool Mentor is so that you can ask specific questions and get real, time-tested answers. Which math curriculum is best for second graders? What online programs do they like? How do you deal with a child who is refusing to get started on schoolwork? How can you cut your homeschooling costs? How can you schedule your day when you’ve got several children of different ages to teach? Being able to talk to someone about these kinds of questions provides valuable insight and personalized encouragement.
Help You Get Connected
Lastly, a great reason to connect with a Homeschool Mentor is that homeschooling veterans are usually plugged into a very large homeschool network. They can help you get plugged in, too! As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, homeschooling families may feel like they are misunderstood by society at large. Connecting with other homeschoolers and their parents can be a wonderful social outlet as well as a source of support. A Homeschool Mentor can connect you with other homeschooling families that you have things in common with, or introduce you to new homeschooling groups that can make your homeschool more fun and diverse!
Where Do I Get One?
Okay, so now you might be thinking: “This Homeschool Mentor thing sounds great, but where do I pick one of those up?” The answer is that there are a few different ways to find a Homeschool Mentor, just depending on what you’re looking for.
You might also be wondering if it will cost you, and how much. There’s really no one-answer-fits-all to that question, either. Some Homeschool Mentors actually market themselves as such, and they set their own rates (similar to a professional life coach). However, you can often find experienced homeschooling individuals that inspire you, and simply ask them if they would mind giving you some guidance. They may be willing to help you out for a small fee, or for bartering (for example, if you are able to help teach one of their kids in a particular subject).
Often, veteran homeschooling parents are willing to a bit of help and guidance for nothing at all (especially if they are a family friend or friend-of-a-friend)! Below are are a few good places to look for a Homeschool Mentor.
Talk to Your Homeschooling Friends and Family.
These are the types of Homeschool Mentors that I am personally most familiar with: the ones you learn about simply through word-of-mouth. These are the veterans, the local homeschool rockstars, the homeschooling parents whose children speak in hushed tones about the epic days of their upbringing.
For example, I have a good friend whose mother homeschooled ten (yes, ten) children, all of whom turned out to be extraordinary adults. Understandably, her reputation in our small town precedes her. New homeschooling moms and dads often reach out to her to ask questions or get some guidance. She doesn’t commit huge amounts of time to mentoring, and she doesn’t charge–it all just kind of comes to her naturally. As a result, she sets boundaries while helping as much as she reasonably can. Though she doesn’t market herself as a “Homeschool Mentor,” she totally is one.
I think this is probably the most common way to find a Homeschool Mentor, especially if you are looking for someone you can occasionally learn from instead of getting regular coaching. Start by just asking around in your local homeschooling community. Chances are, you’ll quickly find a professional homeschooling parent who lives in your area.
Another great way to find a Homeschool Mentor is through an online community. Thanks to the internet, we now have access to literally hundreds of thousands of homeschooling parents. For example, my go-to online homeschool community on Facebook has over 143,000 members! While professional Homeschooling Mentors usually don’t market themselves in social media groups (its often against the rules), Homeschool Online Communities can definitely help you connect with experienced homeschooling parents, and find people who can help you with tough questions. Often you can post a difficult homeschooling issue directly onto the group wall and get a variety of responses from experienced homeschooling parents. In this way, the collaborative “online homeschooling community,” acts as a Homeschooling Mentor. The relative anonymity of communicating online may also appeal to people who would be embarrassed to ask certain questions (or have someone observe their homeschool life) in person.
Hire a Professional
There are numerous homeschooling parents who make a career of marketing their experience, both online and in their local area. You can easily find some of these individuals through a Google search or through asking around in your homeschool network or co-op, or possibly even at homeschool conventions. Obviously, this choice is not likely to be free and it will probably be more a formal, business relationship (much like hiring a life coach or a counselor). However, this is a great option for someone who is willing to pay for regular, objective, professional coaching in order to get their homeschool back on track.
Be Search Specific
This option applies to those who are interesting in finding a Homeschool Mentor who could help address specific areas of your child’s education. Sometimes you don’t need all the homeschooling help. Sometimes you just need help with one, specific thing.
In that case, it can be worth bringing in an expert and asking them to teach your child while you observe and learn, too. For instance, if you have a child who is dyslexic and struggles with reading, you might hire a “Homeschool Mentor,” who has experience in that area. Ask them to teach your child while also to teaching you specific tips that you can use to help him/her.
If you have a child who is passionate about art, you might consider enrolling him or her in one of Sparketh’s virtual online art program for homeschoolers. You could even take the courses alongside your child. That way, you are also learning (and learning how to reinforce what your child has learned).
One of the great things about homeschooling is that it is a constant evolution of learning for both student and teacher. In a way, both student and teacher also get several opportunities to be each other’s “Homeschool Mentor!” What are your thoughts on the Homeschool Mentor? What questions would you ask a guru, and what type of Homeschool Mentor appeals most to you?
Written by Kathryn Gustafson