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The decision to homeschool can be both exhilarating and incredibly overwhelming. A decision that is quickly followed by the question “How Do I Start Homeschooling?”
Each family has different reasons for homeschooling that involve their background and individual beliefs. For some, it’s about a direct about-face to government school education. For others, like my family, the process of deciding to homeschool came about very organically as an extension of our parenting style and desire to provide a more individualized education than what is offered in government and private schools. Regardless of how you arrive at your decision, there are some tools that can help you begin to navigate the wide range of possibilities!
What Does My State (or Country) Allow?
This is the first question you should ask yourself.
Every state in the US has different rules for homeschoolers. I feel fortunate to live in Texas where the rules concerning homeschooling are not as stringent and allow for a greater degree of flexibility. Some states are not this flexible and have very specific requirements for the homeschoolers in their boundaries.
A good resource for state rules is the Home School Legal Defense Association. They list out rules and regulations for each state so you can get an idea for how complicated or easy the task of homeschooling may be, at least from a ‘red tape’ perspective. You do not have to be a member to access the state rules, but membership may be something you want to consider, especially if it appears homeschooling will be more of a challenge in your state and you’re staying put.
The mission of the HSLDA is to provide members with legal defense for homeschooling if parents need it due to a homeschooling issue. They also have other great member benefits such as access to homeschool advisors. It is a Christian-based organization, but isn’t pushy about it, so that is something to consider depending on your beliefs. They do not require a statement of faith to join, or exclude those who are not Christian.
What Teaching Philosophy Appeals the Most to Me?
Wait, what’s a teaching philosophy?
Your teaching philosophy is basically your approach to teaching, learning, and education in general.
I had no idea how many different philosophies there were in regards to teaching prior to beginning our homeschool experience. The first step in this discernment process is deciding if you want to recreate the school experience at home, or if you are looking for more flexibility. I would consider us more eclectic homeschoolers since we don’t fit neatly into any one category.
A few common philosophies include:
Traditional: Think government school, but just transferred to your house. A more rigid class schedule and teacher at the front of the room type scenario. There are even computer programs affiliated with the districts that are done from home. These often lack flexibility with the exception of the location which is your house instead of the school.
Charlotte Mason: Check out www.simplycharlottemason.com for more information on this method of teaching that incorporates living books rather than traditional textbooks. I find this method intriguing and we try to follow along with some of these ideas. It is more time-intensive with younger kids that cannot read on their own.
Classical: Think Socrates, Ancient Greece, Rome, and even the Middle Ages. It involves 3 stages of learning called the Trivium; Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. They will do more memorization in the beginning, and then as they get older, move into more analyzing and eventually forming their own ideas. Many classical programs will also study Latin. You may find frequent references to the book, The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer. It’s a bit esoteric for my taste, but there is some useful information.
Unschooling: Unschooling is child-led learning at its most extreme, and is more of a ‘life is learning’ and ‘learning is life’ type of attitude. Many people assume Unschooling is a form of ‘no school’, but it is actually quite the opposite when implemented well.
How do I decide, you ask? The best place to sort through this tangle is the book 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy. There is a quiz in the front that helps you sort through what you are looking for in homeschooling including your beliefs to see which philosophy fits you the best.
This scoring system is then used to help you begin to choose curriculum that will align with your philosophy. This book also helps to sort through how your child learns best. I think the best word to describe homeschooling is FLEXIBILITY, which applies not only to this style of learning but also for the parent to be flexible when something isn’t working and needs to change. Don’t be surprised if you have this fabulous educational philosophy plan worked out in your head, and then your kid doesn’t learn well with it. Remember, that’s the advantage of homeschooling. You can modify and change as needed, and that’s OK. It’s even teaching your kids resilience.
Cathy Duffy also has a website that provides lots of curriculum reviews.
Where Do I Acquire a Curriculum?
Homeschooling can be accomplished as cheaply or as expensively as you want to make it. I do think that when you go the cheaper route, it sometimes involves more planning on the parent/teacher, so it is up to you to figure out how to balance the time-vs.-money ratio.
This also becomes a factor in deciding, do you want a boxed curriculum that comes with all subjects and you just open and go, or would you prefer to choose each subject? My kids are at different levels in all their subjects, so I would find it hard to utilize one ‘big box curriculum’, although the ease of that would be awesome.
Early-on in preschool and lower elementary, it is very easy to find free or inexpensive resources online. You could basically plan your entire curriculum off of Pinterest and not have time for everything. I tend to choose individual curricula for each subject, and then add in ideas from online as supplement and for extra practice.
The website www.starfall.com has a very inexpensive yearly membership, but has great resources for Kinder through 2nd grade. I can safely put my kids on there and know they are learning.
You can sometimes find books at the library, Half Price Books, or online book swaps. I often go to Rainbow Resource to order new books. They have everything you could ever want, and if you sign up, their Christmas catalog is so much fun. The website itself is a little overwhelming but it is easy to search for what you need.
Find Like-Minded People
Search your local area for homeschool groups. I’ve found that religious-affiliated groups tend be more common, but many secular groups can be found as well. The trick, much like any other group, is finding ‘your tribe’ for both support and an outlet for the kids.
Plan a Confrontation Strategy
This isn’t about you confronting others about their school choices, but what you will say when others question you. Homeschooling is becoming more common with each passing year, but it is still on the fringe. There is also a good chance at some point that someone, even family or friends, will question your decision to homeschool. It’s best to have a canned answer for your reasons in doing so. Sometimes, if you sense that it’s going to turn into a huge debate, I find a simple, “It’s just what’s best for our family at this time. Can you please pass the potatoes?”, type of approach that works best. At times, people really aren’t curious about why you are really doing it, they just want to prove that you are wrong so it’s best to diffuse and distract. For those who are genuinely interested, you can provide more details about your decision. Only you will know your exact reasons for starting this journey and exactly how much you want to share your individual reasons with others.
Above all, remember to enjoy the ride. Homeschooling is fun, frustration, experimentation, and elation all rolled into one. We think we are teaching our children, but you will probably be surprised by how much you learn about life, your kids, and yourself!
Check out my post Quick and Easy Ways to Homeschool in the Car for tips on squeezing extra learning into your day!