What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is meeting a child’s educational needs without participating in the public school or private school model. One parent is usually the teacher, which means the person who knows and loves the child the best is also providing their education. Homeschoolers also include the entire community, including the library, civic events, and homeschool groups, to enrich their educational options. In Homeschooler’s Guide, I share tips to help you get off to a great start!
Why Parents Homeschool
There are lots of reasons, but these are the most cited:
- Concerns about the environment of a child’s school.
- Desire to provide religious instruction.
- Desire to provide moral instruction.
- Dissatisfaction with the academics of child’s school.
- Desire for a non-traditional model.
- Child has mental or physical needs that can be better met at home.
- Child is ill and will be out for an extended period.
No matter what your reason, if you’ve decided that homeschooling is in your child’s best interest, that’s what you need to do.
You may enjoy this conversation between homeschool moms.
Advantages to Learning at Home
I’m always amazed when people have less than positive things to say about homeschooling. After all, learning at home has always been the gold standard. Here are a few of the short-term reasons:
- You can focus on topics of your choice.
- You can go as deep into a subject as you and your child choose.
- Your child doesn’t get bored to death or left behind because the teacher must teach to the middle.
- Your child gets your full attention from wherever he or she is at.
- You can cover material meaningful to your child.
- Your child’s time is respected. Since he or she doesn’t have to deal with the teacher’s attention being diverted to the antics of classmates as it is in a public or private school classroom.
- Time to cover topics schools have cut from the curriculum, or don’t have time to offer.
You may find the long-term reasons may be even more important. They include:
- Homeschooled students score from 15 to 30 percentage points higher than their public school counterparts.
- Colleges are aware that homeschooled applicants score higher on the SAT and ACT tests and are very welcoming to their homeschooled applicants.
- Homeschooled students enjoy high levels of achievement. It may seem counter-intuitive, but their parent’s level of formal education has no discernible impact on the student’s performance.
- If you have an advanced degree, you children will do well.
- If you didn’t get to graduate from high school, your children will do well.
The desire and willingness to homeschool your child is what makes the difference.
The end products are amazing. You end up with adults who are independent thinkers and tend to be more involved with their communities, taking civic responsibility quite seriously. You will also find many entrepreneurs and small business owners within the ranks of the homeschooled.
First, it is legal to homeschool in all 50 states in the U.S., including U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. It’s also legal in a number of other countries.
Most countries do have requirements you must meet, some easier than others. Just do your research and stay current with any changes. This is all doable, and should not prevent you from getting started.
If you’re in the United States, each state has it’s own set of requirements you must adhere to. You can find your state’s requirements by going to their department of education. An alternative and easier option, is checking at HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association). They not only provide all the information you need, but if forms are needed, they can provide you with those as well.
Most authorities will require at least some type of paperwork. Just be sure to provide everything that’s required by your state, and file it on time.
Some school districts are terribly uninformed about what is and is not required to start homeschooling. Many will try to place more requirements on you than your state prescribes. For some reason, the folks at district level will make all kinds of assumptions regarding homeschooling without checking with their district’s staff attorney.
That’s another reason membership in HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) is useful. With a small monthly fee, you have direct access to an attorney who specializes in homeschool law in your area. I receive nothing from HSLDA by referring you to them. I am a member and know how valuable belonging to this organization can be.
Styles of Homeschooling – What Should My School Look Like?
When you first get started, you may want to order a boxed, full curriculum. It will come with everything you need, including lesson plans and schedules. If you’ve never done this sort of thing before, it may be a comforting way to get started.
As you get some experience with working with your children, and your own philosophy begins to form, you may decide to use one company’s lessons for one subject, and another company’s for another subject.
You are free to pick and choose exactly what’s right for you and your children. If that means creating your own materials and curriculum, then go for it. I wrote a short article on How to Start Homeschooling. It mentions the following philosophies:
- Charlotte Mason
- Thomas Jefferson
- Unit Studies
The important thing to keep in mind is that you now have the ability to give your children the gift of education in ways that meet their needs and learning styles. It’s also likely that these things will change as you move from year to year, and your children’s newly expanding and morphing interests.
It’s OK to create your own curriculum, but there is no need to feel like you have to do that. There are a number of companies offering excellent materials. These can range from single subject to complete boxed sets for the complete school year. Prices can vary, so as you research companies, you’ll begin to get a feel for what’s available.
The list below is made up of companies we used for my grandchildren, or that I am familiar with and feel comfortable recommending to you. Make sure you check their sample lessons.
You can also call any of these companies, and a representative will be happy to spend time discussing their products with you. The list below is in alphabetical order. I do not prefer one over the other, as each meets a specific set of needs:
- Bluestocking Press
- Life of Fred Math
- Living Books
- Memoria Press
- Rod and Staff
- Saxon Math
Cathy Duffy Reviews is a great online site you may want to begin with. They offer a good list of publishers offering homeschool curriculum, and reviews of those publishers as well. They also provide a list of online schools with complete programs and courses with a religious focus and another with a secular focus. I think it’s a good place to start your search.
Planning for the Year
Once you’ve chosen your curriculum, setting up the year is pretty straightforward.
These steps will help you get started:
- Get a calendar and a lesson plan book. (Instead of the plan book, you could use one notebook for each subject.)
Set you calendar first:
- On the calendar, pencil in all holidays and vacation days. Everything else is a school day.
- Pencil the school days on your calendar too.
To create your daily plans, you need to know how much material you’ll cover each day. You could plan for daily lessons, weekly lessons, or unit lessons. The choice is yours.
To determine how much material you’ll need to cover during each lesson:
- Go through the contents of each of the subjects you’ve decided on. Divide the number of school days you have and divide that into the number of lessons you need to cover in each subject.
- Don’t expect this to come together in one session. You’ll need to modify and adjust. As a matter of fact, unexpected things will pop up regularly through the year, so you’ll always need to make some adjustments.
- Don’t try to do too much.
That’s just life. Relax. You have complete control over where and how you fit things in!
- Core subjects, like math and English are usually taught daily. Others will require from one to four days each.
- Pencil each subject you’ll teach into each day you’ll teach them into your planner. Remember to add in lunch and other breaks, including playtime.
If this is your first year homeschooling, you probably don’t want to create detailed lesson plans past the first couple of weeks. Give yourself time to assess what works for you and your children and what doesn’t. Then move forward with the rest of the first month.
Do some more assessment and move forward with the next few weeks. You’ll get the hang of this and it will become second nature to you.
As you’re creating your yearly schedule and lesson plans, some materials will become obvious. I recommend you review lessons at least one week in advance so you can be prepared with any materials that you don’t already have. As your school years progress, you’ll discover that you’ve developed quite a nice supply and seldom need to make special purchases.
Scheduling Your Day
You can begin your day when you choose. If you and your children do better a little later in the morning, that’s when you begin:
- Begin with the core courses.
- Spend individual time with each child.
- Guard your time against outside intrusions.
- Keep your procedures as simple as possible.
Remember your schedule is a guide, not a dictator. If things need to be adjusted, adjust them.
Where to Put Your Classroom
If you have an area in your home that can be devoted only to your school, great. If you don’t, don’t worry.
The kitchen table makes a great work surface to spread out on for writing assignments or building projects. The living room will make a great place to sit and read and do other quiet work.
You don’t have to stay in the house, either. Working in the shade of a tree or an awning on the patio can also be a great place to homeschool.
Housework and Other Time Thieves
Schedule those things into the morning routine, before your school day begins, or after your school day ends. Ignore everything that isn’t a true emergency until your school day is over. What’s a true emergency? If it doesn’t include cuts, scrapes, broken bones, or something on fire, it’s probably not a true emergency. Everything else should wait until your school day is over.
Lots of well-meaning friends and family will have all kinds of great things they want you to spend your time on. Unless it’s something that will benefit your children and their education, you probably don’t want to allow it to take over your day.
Disapproving Families and Friends
Just like everything else in life, there will be people who disagree with what you’re doing. If you’re like most homeschooling families, you’re going to have a few disapproving folks expressing their opinions. If you have done your research and know why you’re homeschooling, what they think doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. There’s a saying that nothing succeeds like success. Keep your goals in mind, and know you are doing something wonderful for your children. They are going to be your greatest success!
For the days that require a little more support, take a look online. There are lots of people out there who have been in your shoes, and can give you tons of good information and support. One excellent choice is to find a homeschool group in your area. Your children can get together with other homeschoolers, and you get to spend time with homeschool moms who have plenty of experience and helpful advice to keep you focused and moving forward. Last year, close to 2,000,000 children were homeschooled in the U.S. alone. You’re going to be great at this.
There is always a need for helpful, knowledgeable advice on homeschooling. If you have blogging experience, you might want to document your homeschool journey.
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