If you are struggling with the hassles of online public schooling or are concerned about sending your children to a private school, why not give homeschooling a try? But where do you start? Here’s my easy checklist to get you organized and on your way.
How to Start Homeschooling
1. Trust Yourself and Your Children
You can do this! Millions of families have successfully homeschooled and you can, too. You don’t need a Ph.D. in education or even a bachelor’s degree.
“Dr. Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute found that homeschoolers whose parents had no college education scored at the 83rd percentile compared to public schooled kids of the same, who scored poorly at the 50th percentile.” (“Can You Homeschool Your Children if You Didn’t Go To College, Elizabeth Y. Hanson)
The only qualifications you need to teach your child are your love for your child (easy) and patience (not always as easy). Believe me, the patience will come. Once you realize you’re able to adapt your schedule to meet your child’s and family’s needs, you’ll greatly reduce your stress level.
Rest assured that if you don’t feel qualified to teach a subject, there are resources to help you both online in the form of curricula, courses, podcasts, and more. And don’t forget about people! Some of the best resources you have are your neighbors and other people in your community.
Hot resource tip — seek out people who use the subject in their daily lives. For instance, ask your pharmacist if she’d be willing to help your child with chemistry. Don’t forget to use the barter system — your child could offer to rake the pharmacist’s lawn in exchange for lessons.
Research the laws in your state:
Homeschooling has been legal in all 50 states since 1993, but every state’s laws are different. Be you’re in compliance with your state’s regulations. For a comprehensive list of state homeschooling laws see Findlaw.
Research homeschool resources:
Read books like Linda Dobson’s The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start, research websites like the Wisconsin Homeschooling Parents Association and Illinois H.O.U.S.E., and listen to podcasts like Homeschool Unrefined.
Research your children:
Honestly, do this. Observe them. Talk to them.
How do your children like to learn? Reading books, digging in the garden, climbing trees, or all three? Do they like to solve puzzles with other children or figure things out on their own? Do they like to teach other children what they’ve learned?
Depending upon which expert you ask, there are four to seven different types of learning styles, including visual learners, auditory learners, and logical and social learners. For a breakdown of the seven learning styles see Time4Learning’s Different Learning Styles.
What are your children’s interests? Legos, golden retrievers, baking bread, building forts, singing, acting, rock climbing, playing video games, writing fan fiction, reading Harry Potter, driving go-carts, drawing, finger painting, card playing, designing apps, conducting science experiments, performing magic tricks, playing musical instruments, building computers, camping, solving math equations, swimming, playing soccer, studying World War II or horses — okay, you get the idea.
If you don’t know how your children learn or what interests them, ask them. If you get an “I don’t know” response, let it go. Give them the freedom to do whatever they want for a day. At the end of that day, record everything they did. Then do this for a week. By the end of the week, you’ll have a pretty good idea of your children’s learning styles and interests.
If your children have attended institutional schools, whether public or private, they will be used to adults telling them what to do, when to do it, and how to go about doing it. Their schooling days were planned down to the minute. Now they find themselves at home with the freedom to do what they want most of the day. Not receiving constant guidance can be unsettling.
Give them time to deschool–to relax, get bored, figure out how to occupy their time and take control of their days. As a general rule, your child needs one month of deschooling for every year they attended an institution.
As your children deschool, research them (see #2 above). But most importantly, simply enjoy having them home and exploring life together.
4. Contact other homeschooling parents and join a support group
Your greatest resource is other homeschooling parents. Ask a homeschooling parent if you can shadow them for a few hours or a day. Pick their brains about the curriculum or materials they use, particularly if you plan on purchasing those same resources. Find out what a typical day is like. What works and what doesn’t. Keep in mind what works for them might not be a good fit for your family.
Join a homeschool support group or start one of your own. Even if you live in a small community, you might be surprised to discover there are homeschooling support groups in your area. Check with your state homeschooling organization or local library for information. Make sure the group you join has the same parenting philosophies you do. And keep in mind that many homeschool support groups are based on a specific religion while others are secular.
Put all your research into action. You now know your children and their learning interests and styles. Which type of homeschooling works best for them and your family? There are six main types of homeschooling: School-at-Home, Classical, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Unit Studies, Eclectic/Relaxed and, my favorite, Unschooling. For a wonderful breakdown of each of these methods and their advantages and disadvantages, see “Discover Your Homeschool Method” by Homeschool.com.
Discuss these styles with your children and select the one that’s best suited for them then agree on a set amount of time (three to four months) to give it a try.
The most important thing you can do is to remain flexible. If you’ve tried one style of homeschooling and you and your children are frustrated or are struggling, try something else. The beauty of homeschooling is that it can be adapted specifically to meet your children’s individual needs.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Congratulations on starting your homeschooling adventure!