How To Start Homeschooling: 5 Easy Tips
Thinking about homeschooling your child, but don’t know where to begin? The best way to begin home educating or homeschooling your children is to just START! Every reason to begin homeschooling is the right reason.
cross posted on my homeschool blog
Whether your decision to begin homeschooling is because of the quality of school districts, educational benefits, religious beliefs, cultural values, your family travels extensively, health issues or simply because home schooling is a great fit for your family; the decision always comes with many questions.
"So, Where Do I Begin?"
You've made the decision and now what? I remember mulling over the idea to homeschool my daughter after she was struggling in kindergarten. But my husband refused to even discuss alternative ideas for education, specifically home educating my daughter. She had a wretched year and I knew 1st grade was not going to be any better at the private christian school we had her enrolled. The very first day of first grade she walked out of the classroom and fell into my arms in tears. She attended for 2½ months and I made the choice to veto my husband and pulled her out and began homeschooling her. This was the best decision I ever made for my daughter.
1. Check Your State’s Legal Requirements
I suggest to check with your home state to ensure you are following all the state requirements as some state homeschooling laws are more strict than other. Be sure to check out the local homeschool laws in your home state.
I live in Illinois and there are not any specific, strict laws that I must follow in order to home educate my own children. Illinois homeschooling is considered a private education and I do not need a teaching license or certificate. I am not required to keep any attendance or grading records, but I do anyway. I am only required to teach compulsory subjects (Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, Fine Arts, Science, PE, and Health), but the state of Illinois did not require me to submit any documentation regarding curriculum etc. I do not have to give my children standardized tests each year, even though I do to ensure my children are on target. Illinois is one of the more lenient states in regards to homeschooling.
2. Selecting Curriculum
This can be a daunting task to say the least. Selecting curriculum is important and you must look at the curriculum methods in the texts and the curriculum content. Knowing your children's learning style ahead of time helps, but if you child is young, this is something that will develop over the years.
When I began home educating my children a decade ago, there were not as many curriculum options available as there are today, 10 years later. There are so many homeschool curriculum choices today, that it can be overwhelming. Ask homeschooling moms what they like, what they are using, what their kids like and what works for them. Keep in mind though, what works for one child, may not work for your child.
There were not as many choices available when I first began, so I ordered and used what was available. The curriculum I used was not the best fit for my children, but it did work. As our years progressed together as homeschoolers, we were able to discern what curriculum would work for us and what wouldn't. Be ready to toss/sell/trade/buy curriculum that doesn't work, because believe me, those tears are not worth it in the end.
Attend Homeschool Conventions
Attend homeschool conventions where you can pick up books, looks at them, read and peruse the contents. Visit homeschool consortiums and co-ops, look at the curriculum they use to see if it fits your children's learning styles. Every vendor at conventions or online wants to sell you their curriculum and they will claim theirs is the best, just know that before you attend or visit. It may take a couple of years to find the best curriculum for your children, and you will waste a few dollars, but in the end, it won't matter. Keep in mind that if your children were attending a public or private school, the curriculum they use may not be the best fit for your kids either.
Even though you purchase this huge Math workbook, it does not mean your child needs to complete every single problem on every single page. Tailoring the curriculum to your child's needs is always the best path to follow. I could assign 10 math problems to my daughter and my son would only need to complete 3 of those same math problems because they have different learning styles.
You will quickly discover what type of learner your child is: visual/spatial, auditory or tactile. Then you can tailor your curriculum and schedules to their needs.
Schedule, Syllabus and Goals
Once you have selected your curriculum, you can make your school year schedule, syllabus and set some goals. Do you just want to get through the school year and textbooks? Do you want to schedule standardized testing? Do you want a rigorous year or a light school year? These are all things to think about and decide prior to your home school year beginning.
My main goal is to get through the curriculum I select. I go through the contents int eh textbooks to see what I will or will not cover. It is okay to skip chapters and units if they don't fit with your family's needs. I then create syllabus for each subject for the full year ( you could complete one semester at a time too). Each week, I would look at each subject's syllabus and create a weekly spreadsheet of assignments I would print out for each child. The would be color coded for specific assignments and assignments were assigned by each day of the week.
I also would plan fun day, field trip days and vacation days. I also kept in mind, that some days may go out the window like a breeze too. Things shift and change whilst learning!
"What is lovely about children is that they can make such a production, such a big deal, about everything, or nothing…I never want to be where I cannot see [them]. All that energy and foolishness, all that curiosity, questions, talk, all those fierce passions, inconsolable sorrows, immoderate joys, seem to many a nuisance to be endured, if not a disease to be cured. To me they are a national asset, a treasure beyond price, more necessary to our health and our very survival than any oil or uranium or name what you will… “Little children love the world. That is why they are so good at learning about it. For it is love, not tricks and techniques of thought, that lies at the heart of all true learning. Can we bring ourselves to let children grow through that love?” —Susannah Sheffer
3. Selecting Homeschool Methods
I would say selecting a homeschool method correlates to selecting your curriculum. You may find that by perusing over curriculum you gravitate more towards a specific homeschool method or perhaps a combination of methods. Since there are so many homeschool methods, you usually need to find one that best fits your family and your children. Keep in mind, what best fits your idea may not be the best for your child AND each child may need a different homeschool method altogether! These are all things you will discover together!
Traditional schooling, roam schooling, unschooling, eclectic schooling . . . what is the best?
Boxed Curriculum Method
In the beginning, if you are unsure, you may purchase a complete boxed curriculum. I have many friends who use boxed curriculum quite successfully. The curriculum is fully planned out for you and parents will only need to teach from the lesson plans for the full year. You make one purchase, lessons plans are included, assignments are laid out, done. Super simple. These didn't work for us.
Classical Education Method
The Classical Education method encompasses the three formal subjects of the Trivium: Grammar, the science of language usage; Logic, the science of right thinking; and Rhetoric, the science of verbal and written expression. This is the method that I used to teach my children through the Logic level. The Grammar level worked very well for my children, but once they entered the Logic level, we discovered, this teaching / learning method no longer worked for us. Which can happen and is normal. We simply changed to eclectic schooling after one year of the Logic level.
A large part of home educating is just learning to work with the flow! Don't do whatever you think you should be doing or what your friends are doing or what your mother-in-law thinks you should be doing. Allow your children to pursue interests on their own and you will soon discover you have an eclectic method of education going on in your home. What worked for my son in no way at all worked for my daughter. My son would gobble up subjects in months and it would take my daughters one year to complete textbooks. <On a side note, my son is what is considered a gifted child. He doesn't know this because we never told him, although since he is now in a high school Science and Math Academy for gifted students only, I'm sure he realizes; but we don't treat him any differently, except we know what he is capable of when he slacks and needs some prompting.> Each child is different and has different likes and dislikes. By junior high, I was selecting core curriculum based on learning styles and interests. We were able to really delve into my kid's specific interests and really have some interesting conversations. Eclectic Method is the mix and match method of learning.
Unit Study Method
The Unit Study method means that all the subjects are blended together around a common theme and studied. If a child has an interest in butterflies, then design studies in the history of butterflies, the physics and chemistry of butterflies, the mathematics of butterflies, the language and literature of butterflies, etc.
Charlotte Mason is a literature-based approach to education. They use few textbooks or workbooks. The Charlotte Mason method uses narration, dictation, nature study, art and music study, and creating life long good habits in real-life situations.
Unschooling / Roamschooling Method
Unschooling is an educational method that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Students learn through their life experiences by playing, personal interests and curiosity, experience, travel, books, family, and social interaction. Roamschooling encourages exploration by the children themselves. Unschoolers/Roamschooling believe the more personal learning is, the more meaningful and useful it is to the child. Unschoolers/Roamschoolers do not use standard curriculum, grading, or traditional schooling methods in the education of children.
An online school is generally just that, online. Your child is at home, but takes courses over the Internet. Online schools offer online courses and full school/grade programs. Simply enroll your child in an online course or program and they attend classes online once or twice a week. All classes are virtual and assignments are emailed or submitted online. These classes work for parents who may not have time to fully commit to home schooling or if there is a subject the parent is not comfortable teaching. My daughter took Latin online and loved her teacher.
4. Join a Homeschool Co-Op
Check out your local area homeschool consortium, co-ops or groups. Fortunately, my area has numerous homeschool groups or co-ops to select from. But, local homeschool support groups are not mandatory! If you are fortunate you will be able to locate a group that fits your family's needs. If you can't, it really is not the end of the world. We tried out a few different co-ops before we found one that was the best fit and even after a few years, that one stopped working for us too. If you are new to homeschooling, a co-op will be beneficial to bounce new ideas, gather information, trade or buy used curriculum, meet other homeschooling mom, gain support from homeschooling families and find new friends -- for YOURSELF and your kiddos.
Thankfully, I live in a great urban area and I can put the kids in the car and head for the city. Chicago has loads of museums, an aquarium, parks, theaters, galleries, or really whatever I want to do. There are numerous park districts that offer homeschool activities without joining a co-op and that worked for us as well. If you are ambitious, you could even start your own homeschool group. Sometimes, in the beginning of your homeschooling journey, it might be best to just educate your children without a group.
5. Be Patient. Be Excited. Be Flexible.
Most importantly, be excited to learn and to teach. I can say in all honesty, I don't remember one single excited teacher I ever had in elementary school and most definitely not in jr high or high school. I do remember angry and mean teachers who yelled a lot. I remember teachers who belittled and taunted students and basically that I hated learning. I didn't discover my love of history and science until I began teaching it to my children. If you are excited about teaching a subject, imagine how excited your little people will be too?! My kiddos are science geniuses now because I loved teaching it to them so much! I literally detested science all through my own school years, and now, I could read science textbooks all day long - no joke! My kids love to "do science experiments" or unit studies for in depth learning about a specific science topic.
Be patient with your kiddos and be flexible. While my son is a math genius, my daughter is not, and that is so okay with me. I had to recognize this, as frustrating as it was to me at the time. We had to stop and learn to master skills for long lengths of time that I felt were too long sometimes, but it was what she needed. I had to be flexible and redo her syllabus in order to meet her learning needs and style.
I literally have about 12 different spelling curriculum because I had to be flexible with my kids. Spelling is not something one of my daughters enjoys, at all. I tried them all and I can say, none of them worked. I had to realize, spelling is not her thing and really, she could care less how she spells a word. If it doesn't bother her, it doesn't' need to bother me either. That one took awhile for me, but I got there.
And lastly, ignore all the myths about homeschooling . . . homeschooling is what you make of it. If your children are happy and interested in learning from you and you are enjoying it, homeschooling will work for your family. Don't fret about it, just do it! Before you know it, you will be homeschooling your children in your own way.