When thinking about homeschooling it is easy to get overwhelmed. Your mind may fill with millions of questions or you may draw a big blank. The best thing to do when contemplating homeschooling is to take a deep breath, find out what's necessary, and decide what is most important to you. Here are ten suggestions on where to start.
1. Find out the laws where you live. Some countries are friendly to homeschooling and some are not. Search out and comply with the actual laws where you live. In the United States of America it is perfectly legal to homeschool your children, each state has varying guidelines that you will need to follow. Some states require no reporting and no registering and you are in charge of educating your child as you see fit, no questions asked. Other states require you to register with your district and turn in attendance records, portfolios of work, and test scores. Many states fall somewhere in between. We report to the district that we will be homeschooling at the beginning of each school year and then we test annually for our own records, with no other reporting to the district or state. The age of required attendance also varies, some states do not require any school attendance or reporting before the age of eight.
2. Imagine what you want learning in your home to look like. An instructor at a homeschooling course I took asked each of us to draw what homeschooling looks like to us. She then had us list out what long term goals we had for our children and what we wanted our learning environment to feel like. There is no wrong or right answer here. I drew a garden, a table with science experiments, a cozy corner with books, etc. I wanted a place where each person could express themselves and feel their worth while exploring and freely learning.
3. Read about different styles of homeschooling. It's important to do this AFTER number two. You have thoughts and feelings that apply to your children and family situation and no other philosophy gets to trump those feelings. As you read you will connect with different philosophies or draw parts and pieces from each. Educating yourself is one of the biggest parts of educating your children, it will be an ongoing task and you will come to love it.
4. Don't buy anything...yet. Spend time connecting with your family, or reconnecting if you are coming out of a public or private school setting. Give yourself permission to say no to any outside obligations and just hunker down at home reading and playing, or go out to museums, parks, or zoos. Find those things that you love about each other and what each of you are drawn to learn about. (You can do this while you are still working on numbers two and three.)
5. Create a basic routine and then add to it. Having a daily or weekly routine can help your days to flow and help you avoid too much chaos (some chaos may not be avoidable). As you settle into a routine you'll want to begin adding in the things you are learning about from studying different teaching philosophies. Start by reading aloud from a great book together each day and then add a little at a time. You'll be surprised at how much you'll learn by just reading and discussing.
6. Remember your vision. As you come across great deals on curriculum or see the latest, greatest workbooks, always ask yourself if they fit into your picture of what you want learning to look like in your home. This picture may change overtime, but it should change because of your thoughtful evaluation of how things in your home are going or as you step into a new season in life, not as a result of a flashy ad.
7. If something isn't working, don't feel like you have to stick it out. If you don't like it and the kids don't like it, you probably aren't going to learn very much from it.
8. Keep communication open and let your kids own their learning time. If they get to choose a project or a subject to study then they are going to learn so much more.
9. Don't overschedule your days. Homeschooling does not need to look like public school and it does not need to fill as many hours either. Often a morning of learning together and then an afternoon of playing and projects is just right. You can burn out quickly if you pile too much on your plate. Eventually you will find that happy spot where learning becomes a way of life and your structured learning and your unstructured learning and play will start to blend together.
10. Get excited! Learning is what life is all about. If your kids see you excited about learning a new talent or something new about history or science, chances are, they'll get excited too.
While homeschooling may not be the right choice for every family, please don't let fear or anxiety keep you from jumping in and experiencing the wonderful journey of homeschooling. I'm glad I took the leap.
Do you have homeschooling questions that you want answered? Let us know by commenting below.