If you are new to homeschooling, The Big Questions are “How do I do it?” and “Where do I start?” There are only about a gazillion answers to those questions, guaranteed to thoroughly confuse all but the most steadfast. If there was One Homeschool Method that was as recognizable as the traditional classroom, I’d point you in that direction. But there isn’t.
If you go to the friendly neighborhood librarian for books about homeschooling, bring a forklift. Then there is the internet – I have hundreds of educational and homeschool related websites bookmarked, and this number increases weekly. You could contact a local homeschool support group – of course you might have to choose between the Unschooling group and the Fundamental Christian group and the Classical group and the Charlotte Mason group. . .
Am I making you nervous, or scaring you off? Have no fear! I am here to tell you that you DO NOT have to figure it all out immediately. You DO NOT have to homeschool like your friend Mary Joe who has 14 children, bakes her own bread, and makes all the clothes for the family from the thread she has woven into material from the herd of llamas they raise on their farm.
You also DO NOT need a Master’s or any other Degree in Education, or even a high school diploma for that matter. And you can completely ignore any advice I give you in this blog, because I don’t know everything either.
Then you may wonder if you can reproduce a traditional classroom at home, or if your child will receive the same quality of education as their public and privately schooled friends.
The point of homeschooling is to provide an individualized educational experience, a place where One Size Fits All methods don’t apply.
The question still remains – “Where do I start?” With all of the advice and resources available for homeschoolers, trying to figure how to begin, or how to adjust to your child’s changing needs, can be very confusing.
Here are some basic steps I recommend for those trying to get started, and for those who have been homeschooling for awhile but need to rethink their approach:
- Find out about the laws in your state. You can do this with a quick&easy click on the HSLDA- The Homeschool Legal Defense Assocation website. And yes – they are a conservative Christian group, but this doesn’t affect the information – it is accurate and understandable.
- Do an evaluation of your own motivations- Why do you want to homeschool? It is even possible that you don’t want to homeschool, but something has happened to cause you to consider it. What are your goals for your children? What goals do your children have in mind? Answering these questions will help you outline your homeschooling objectives, which will help you determine what educational methods are going to work best for your family.
- How is your family wired? Are you morning glories or night owls? Did you know that homeschoolers DO NOT have to school from 8am-3pm? That we are not required to sit at desks? That some folks don’t even get dressed until noon? Write down a schedule to serve as a framework for how you think your family might best function as homeschoolers. (This can change without notice as your family grows and needs change, so don’t etch it in stone. As a matter of fact, use a pencil with an eraser.)
- Think about what kind of resources your children would enjoy for core subjects - math, reading, writing, spelling, grammar. Don’t worry about the rest of it right now. Before you launch into history and science, make sure your kids have a solid grasp of basic skills and critical thinking.
- Prepare to stay the course. When you start homeschooling, and you see what is possible, you are going to be tempted to buy curriculum for Medieval History and Russian Poetry and Basket Weaving. You will hear about learning styles and teaching methods that sound amazing. Make choices that feel comfortable to you and your kids. Maybe traditional textbooks and workbooks are most familiar, or your kids are computer geeks who would love DVDs and computer programs. If you are lucky enough to have some voracious readers on your hands, the local library is going to be your home away from home. In the beginning, you need to chart your homeschool course and give your family a chance to get somewhere with it.
- Listen to and ask for advice – but keep your family dynamics, goals, and needs in mind, and filter all of what you read, see and hear through those parameters. This is where you are going to hear from school-at-homers, unschoolers, eclectic schoolers, and classical homeschoolers how wonderful their school experience is and that you should try the curriculum and methods they recommend. . . accept all of this well-intentioned help graciously, then take what rings true for you and yours, and file the rest away for Future Reference.
- Assemble your plan - organize all you have learned so far and begin to corral your scheduling needs, curriculum materials, and legal requirements. It is OK to start small, and start slow.
- At some point, there will be times that make you wonder why you began this crazy ride. Bad school days are as inevitable as bad hair days. The dog will puke on the couch, the kids will wake up on the wrong side of the solar system, your in-laws will tell you that your are ruining any chance for your kids to go to college and be Normal, your neighbors may give you the Hairy Eyeball, and the bagboy at the grocery store may ask your kids if they sleep until noon and then watch cartoons all day. However - you will be an integral part of seeing your kids discover life and living. You will be the one they come to with questions, and you will be shaping their characters (and that is much scarier than critical in-laws).
Most of all, you will find out that you can have FUN and learn at the same time. It has been said, when you find something that you love to do, it doesn’t feel like work. Well, if your kids love to learn, they won’t associate school is ‘work’, and neither will you.
Warning: your view of the world is going to change. Most of us are products of traditional schools – sitting at a desk, staring at a chalkboard, listening to lecture after lecture, reading unconnected, lifeless factoids from a textbook. We experienced peer pressure, peer dependency, bullying, stereotyping- basically the plot of a John Hughes movie. This was Normal.
You are now going to step out of the traditional schooling box, and understand homeschooling is not reproducing your educational experience at home. You cannot compare home education to the classroom – they aren’t apples and oranges, they’re apples and elephants. You are on the adventure of a lifetime. Give yourself permission to enjoy this new found freedom, and let a positive attitude leak out all over your homeschool. Your kids will soak it up.