People have a million reasons for considering the homeschooling option for their family. No matter what the reason, if homeschooling is something you are considering, the most important place to start is reasearch, research, reasearch. Just when you think you can’t research any more, keep researching. Educating children isn’t for the faint-hearted and it is important to know as much as you possibly can so you can make the best choices for your family. Here is a bit of advice on how to get started.
- Learn the Legal- The first place you need to become familiar with is the education department for your state. Be sure to read and research all you can about your legal rights and responsibilities within your state. This can be a changing field so be sure to sign up with your local homeschool organization to stay up-to-date on the changing landscape of laws in your area. Some states have very strict requirements while others offer more freedoms to homeschools. In most states, homeschools are viewed as independent schools and therefore subject to the same laws for attendance and record keeping. Should you run into trouble, it is a good idea to join the local chapter or association (usually for a small fee) as they often have access to lawyers who are able to clarify your rights as a homeschool.
- Talk, Talk, Talk- When we first were thinking about homeschooling, I was quite hesitant to mention it to family and friends for fear of what they might think. But the more people you talk to about homeschooling, you will find that they will share many thoughts (in support or opposition) or situations that perhaps you haven’t considered. Talking with others, especially those with homeschool or education experience, will better prepare you for dealing with any questions you may encounter. Request to join local Facebook homeschool groups and you will find that there is a wealth of experience and wonderful people willing to offer guidance and help. I have found other families to be very open to talking about the challenges and blessings homeschooling has brought to their family.
- Attend a Homeschool Convention- We were fortunate enough to have the Midwest Homeschool Convention scheduled for shortly after we decided to seriously consider homeschooling. Conventions are great places to explore topics in education, discover many options for curriculum choices, and meet other homeschooling families in your area. Fair warning though, it can be a bit overwhelming with all the choices and activities. You may leave with more questions than you started with, but that’s ok. You will find the experience invaluable when it comes to deciding how you want to structure your school.
- Explore traditional and non-traditional approaches to structuring your school- Some of the big names in approaches to homeschool structuring you may want to consider for your family are: Charlotte Mason, Classical Conversations, Easy Peasy All-in One (free!), Time 4 Learning, and A Beka Homeschool just to name a few. These approaches vary greatly in many different aspects. I will be covering each of these programs in greater depth in future posts but just click on the links to each approach to go to the website for further information. Just remember, there is rarely a “one size fits all” approach to learning. You may find you love bits and pieces of different approaches. That’s okay, use what works for your family and toss the rest. Also, if you have more than one kiddo to work with, you will likely find that a program that works for one, may not necessarily work for another. So it’s best to learn about all of them so you know what is best for yours. However, keep in mind that there is no need to spend hundreds of dollars on pricey curriculum choices- higher cost doesn’t always mean a better educational experience. There are hundreds of wonderful, free or lost cost options available. Just remember to research, research, research…
- Learn About Your Littles– Watch your children. Pay attention to how they learn best. What makes their eyes dance in delight? How do they like to explore and experience life? Where are they on the learning continuum in relationship to their age? Do they have any special learning situations that may impact the type of work you will expect them to do? As the parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Plan to take advantage of their strengths and challenge them in their weaknesses. What goals do you have in mind for you child to attain by the end of the year? These can be academic, social, self-care, or independent living skills just to name a few. I know one wonderful family that incorporates their own business into their homeschool. The opportunities for life learning from that experience is extraordinary! What do you want your child to be able to do?
It is very easy to get lost and confused in all the options for learning once you begin you research. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused. That’s ok. It’s a virtual guarantee that at one time or another you will feel this way. Step back and take a break. Remember why you chose this path to begin with and you will surely find your way.