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The start to homeschooling can be a daunting task for first timers. Especially for those coming from a traditional school environment. For traditional school families there are some preparation tasks, but not a whole lot.
Accepting the homeschooling call
When you accept the call of homeschooling your children you are taking your full responsibility for your child's education, as you should. You now have the opportunity to construct a learning environment that will best serve your child, and meet your child's education needs in the way that develops a love of learning. It can be exciting, yet at the same time a little intimidating.
My family is a homeschooling family. We have been homeschooling at least one of our three children for the past four years. The past two years all of them have been homeschooling. My wife directs a community of homeschooling families, and I serve as one of the community's tutors.
Learning from the experience of others
Now after two years as a hybrid homeschooling/traditional schooling family, and two years as an all-in homeschooling family we have developed a strong passion for the homeschooling community. My hope is by sharing this info, we can help other homeschooling families start better than we did. Below are 10 action items, which can help a new homeschooling family start right.
- Write down why you are homeschooling. Knowing your "why" in any endeavor is crucial. You will hit the wall, you will experiences challenges, and you will be discouraged. Knowing your "why" will help you to push on to finish what you set out to. Click here for help with developing your homeschooling mission statement
- Research the requirements in your state. Each state has their own set of requirement for education, and certain actions may be needed when you choose homeschooling. Knowing and following your state's requirements can help you get started on the right track, without concern of someone knocking on your front door. Organizations such as the Home School Legal Defense Association (www.HSLDA.org) are great resources to find answers for your legal questions.
- Read, read, read...and read some more. Your child should not be the only one learning in a homeschool household. Read about education, read about homeschooling, read about specific subjects you or your children have an interest in. We have learned right along with our children. We have learned about various education models, we have learned best practices, and we have learned what not to do. In addition we've had the joy of refreshing on some of the skills we learned long ago, while witnessing our children learn them for the first time. Some of my favorite homeschooling books are The Core and Echo in Celebration, both by Leigh Bortins, and The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. You can also check websites such as www.ChristianBooks.com, and www.RainbowResource.com
- Research homeschooling curriculums. After you have read and learned enough to make you dangerous, now is the time to look into a curriculum. Fortunately, with technology and the various resources easily accessible, you do not have to recreate the wheel. Complete curriculums are available to you. Your knowledge of state requirements, various education models, and homeschooling in general can help you in your selection of a curriculum. I do not suggest piecing together a curriculum your first year. Choosing a curriculum now does not mean you have to stay with it forever, but choosing a curriculum now will allow you to adjust and learn what works for you.
- Attend homeschooling conventions and parent practicums. When you have become familiar with various curriculums you can attend conventions and practicums where you may find discounts on the curriculum you would like to use. Your learning will continue here as you can learn methods for teaching your children, as well as purchase helpful resources. Conventions and practicums are not absolutely necessary, but they can be helpful, and you will have to opportunity to connect with other homeschooling families. Two great resources for both are www.GreatHomeschoolConventions.com and www.ParentPracticum.com.
- Decide how your family will function. Knowing who will do what, and when it will be done will be very helpful as you start. Will one parent be the primary educator? Will it be split among both parents? Are you considering using tutors or other homeschooling parents to teach certain subjects. This doesn't have to be a full-blown, down to the minute and detail plan. Just some general guidelines. Following are additional things to consider. Will school be Monday through Friday? Will it be during a certain time of the day? Will there be school outings? What dates will your school year begin and end? How will you measure progress? Will you use a testing or transcript service? These are some questions you want to answer, which can serve as a guide.
- Prepare the homeschooling area in your home. A lot of our homeschooling is done around the kitchen table. However, we do have designated places for the school supplies, and materials. This helps the kids be more self-sufficient if there are designated areas for things and even work spaces. Whether you work at the kitchen table, or a designated homeschool room, make sure it works for your family. You do not have to recreate a school classroom.
- Connect with local homeschooling families, groups, and resources. Going at anything alone can be very challenging. Finding families in your area who are on the homeschooling journey as well is very helpful. It provides more options, as well as someone who understands what you are going through each day. In addition, search for resources in the community that you can use to provide additional learning opportunities and enrichment. When you begin searching you will find many free resources. Start with your public library, check free publications in the grocery store, and go from there. Some school districts actually make available some of the extracurricular activities to home educated children that live in the district. Take advantage of these.
- Plan your ideal day, and prepare a few weeks in advance. Once you have done the previous steps, now you can take a few days to a week and plan a few weeks in advance. Decide what you want your ideal homeschool day to look like. When your day looks nothing like that, do not be too concerned. Just learn and make adjustments. We typically prepare six weeks in advance. The seventh week, the kids will get a mini-break by completing a lighter load of school work, while we prepare lessons for the next six weeks.
- Get a good night's rest, and begin your homeschooling journey. There is a saying I heard a lot as a child, "there is nothing to it, but to do it." That is where you are. It is your time to do it.
You were made for this. You will do wonderful!
Your homeschooling journey actually began when you made your decision, and you confirmed it when you wrote down your why. Now it is time to do it. You were chosen specifically to raise, educate, love, guide, and provide for your children. You are fully equipped to do so, and nobody is better qualified.
Your journey will not be easy. It will challenge you and your child. But it will also be very rewarding for your entire family. Be encouraged, be diligent, and enjoy your journey.
Question: What are your major concerns in starting, or continuing, your family's homeschooling journey? Please share in the comment section below.