If you are new to homeschooling, The Big Questions are
"How do I do it?" and "Where do I start?"
There are dozens of answers to those questions, guaranteed to thoroughly confuse all but the most determined and focused parent. If there was One Homeschool Method I could recommend, I'd point you in that direction. But there isn't.
We want something as recognizable as the traditional classroom; something familiar. There's nothing wrong with that--homeschooling is off-the-beaten, so it's not unusual to look for landmarks to guide your path. But offering a pat answer isn't helpful or honest.
If you go to the friendly neighborhood library for books about homeschooling, prepare to be overwhelmed by the selection.
How about searching the internet? Well, 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? I hope not, because I am here to tell you to stop looking for a formula, a method, an immediate solution on which you can pin all your educational hopes and dreams.
Don't look at your friend who, in spite of homeschooling several children, still has time to bake her own bread, make clothing for her family, grow a spectacular garden, and raise a herd of llamas on their 100-acre farm. Move over Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Don't believe the myth that you need a college degree or teacher certification in order to homeschool. The classroom you manage at home is not mired in bureaucratic red tape, and your lesson plans only have to satisfy you--not a federally-mandated curriculum.
And feel free to completely ignore any advice I give you in this blog, because I don't know everything either.
All of your questions and fears stem from your concern for your child, so in no way am I mocking or dismissing your doubts and insecurities. You want to know that if you choose to homeschool, your child will receive the same quality of education as their public and privately schooled friends. You want assurances that their future will be happy and successful. Of course you are nervous about taking on the responsibility for providing an education for your child.
Let's get down to the bottom line, right now.
The purpose of homeschooling is to provide an individualized educational experience for your child.
And there you have it. One Size Fits All methods simply don't apply to homeschooling. The very act of leaving the traditional classroom to homeschool means your child will not be measured by the learning progress of other children, or an arbitrary age-graded standard.
So let's answer those questions I mentioned at the beginning of this post:
"How does homeschooling work, and where do I start?"
Here are some simple steps I recommend to help you answer these questions:
- Learn about the laws in your state. You can do this with a quick & easy click on the HSLDA - The Homeschool Legal Defense Assocation website. Yes, they are a conservative Christian group, but this doesn't affect the information they provide--it is accurate and understandable, and they will help any homeschooler who needs it.
- Do an evaluation of your own motivations--Why do you want to homeschool? I ask because it is possible that you don't want to homeschool, but something has happened to cause you to consider it. This is important to know, because the "Why" informs the rest of the choices you will make.
- Define your goals, and include your children in their education plans. Most of us think of education as an adult/teacher guided relationship, but if your children invest in their own education, your homeschool life will be much easier. Take the time to outline your family's homeschooling objectives, as this will help you determine what methods and resources will work best.
- How is your family wired? In other words, are you morning glories or night owls? Maybe you didn't know that homeschoolers DO NOT have to 'do school' on Monday through Friday from 8am to 3pm. We are also not required to use specific textbooks or sit at desks. Craft a schedule that reflects how your family might best function as homeschoolers. Please note: this can change as your family grows and their needs change, so don't etch it in stone. As a matter of fact, use a pencil with an eraser.
- What kind of resources your children would enjoy for core subjects? Core subjects are math, reading, writing, spelling, grammar. These are skills on which all other subjects are based. Before you launch into planning for history and science, make sure your kids have a solid grasp of basic communication skills and critical thinking.
- Keep your family dynamics, goals, and needs in the forefront. It's great to have access to so much homeschooling advice, but you must filter all of what you read, see and hear through the filter of what is best for your family. This is where you are going to hear from school-at-homers, unschoolers, eclectic schoolers, and classical homeschoolers about how wonderful their school experience is and you should try the curriculum and methods they recommend. I have a blog because I want to share what our family has learned. However, you can accept all of this well-intentioned help graciously, 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 about your schedule, curriculum choices, and legal requirements. And remember; it's OK to start slow.
- Keep calm and carry on. There will be times that make you wonder why you began this crazy ride. 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 a total stranger may ask your kids if they sleep until noon or have any friends. But never forget the lessons your children will learn about life by living it. The real world is not inside an age-graded classroom, and you are shaping your child's character and helping them discover the world their their place in it. That thought alone can often carry you through the toughest of times.
One of the best perks of homeschooling is finding out that you and your kids can have FUN and learn at the same time. When you find something that you love to do, it doesn't feel like work. It follows that if your kids love to learn, they won't think of school as a drudgery, and neither will you.
Warning: Homeschooling often changes one's view of the world, especially of education. Most of us are products of traditional schools--sitting at a desk, staring at a chalkboard, listening to lecture after lecture, reading the chapter and answering the questions, then taking a test on Friday. Our school years were tainted by peer pressure, peer dependency, bullying, stereotyping--our school experiences looked like your basic John Hughes movie. This was considered Normal.
Many homeschoolers who have stepped out of the traditional schooling box then try to reproduce their educational experience at home. Let me help you get this straight--there is no apples to apples comparison of home education to the classroom. If you try to apply a One Size Fits All strategy to your homeschool, you'll fail. So just don't.
Give yourself and your kids permission to enjoy this new found educational freedom of personalizing an educational experience specific to your family and your children's needs.