How to Start Homeschooling
Do you like the idea of homeschooling but feel unsure of how to get started? Homeschooling can prove a challenge, but it is often both fun and rewarding. And depending on where you live, you can get started fairly easily. Here are the basics you need to get your homeschool off on the right foot:
Get Some Background
The first step in getting started with homeschooling is learning as much as you can about this educational option. Homeschooling can take many different forms and fulfill all sorts of needs, and homeschoolers make this choice for all kinds of reasons. Reading about homeschooling and the experiences of others can provide ideas you can use and help you decide how you want your homeschool to look. You can find helpful homeschooling books at your local library and locate a wealth of information about homeschooling online through dedicated websites and forums. You may also contact homeschooling groups for information. Often, experienced homeschoolers are happy to share their knowledge with newcomers.
Research Your State’s Laws
Though homeschooling is legal throughout the United States, you will have to learn and adhere to the specific laws of your state. These laws concern such matters as notifying your school district or a local educational authority (some states require notification prior to beginning) while others do not. You will also have to know the law regarding:
- Required subjects
- Required days/hours per school year
- Standardized testing
- Teacher Qualifications
- Education for special needs children
Some states are not restrictive and do not set many requirements while others are highly restrictive and have a long list of requirements homeschoolers must meet. You can learn the laws in your state by visiting HSLDA.org and clicking on the map to read about home education in your state. According to HSLA.org, in Michigan, “There are no requirements to notify, seek approval, test, file forms, or have any certain teacher qualifications. The burden is on the state to prove that the parents are not teaching their children.”
Consider Your Homeschooling Approach
There are many ways in which you can choose to pursue homeschooling. Some of the most common are listed below. Remember, you can start with the approach you think will work best for your family. What proves effective for others might not be right for you. The good news is trial and error won’t hurt your homeschool. Try an approach that appeals to you, and if your family doesn’t love it, discard it and try something else. Eventually, you will discover what works best for your family, and in the meantime, your children are still learning. Finding the style/approach that works for you is critical for ensuring that your child learns as expected, avoiding burnout, and ensuring the overall happiness of your family unit.
School at Home: Usually, the school at home approach means you duplicate the way things are done in traditional school. This can mean using the same (or similar) curriculum materials as those used in traditional school, following a similar schedule, and placing an emphasis on structure.
Eclectic: Eclectic homeschoolers basically seek out the materials they believe are best for their children and use them in their homeschool by mixing and matching. This means you might take a textbook from one resource and combine that with a workbook from another resource, incorporate video learning, allow your child’s interests to lead the way for some subjects, and even create some of your own materials. There is no right or wrong way to handle this approach. Essentially, you create a unique homeschool plan that works for you.
Unschooling: This approach is also referred to as self-directed or child-led learning and involves learning through life rather than traditional textbooks and lessons. Unschoolers often refer to the world as their classroom and allow their children’s interests to determine what they will learn. This doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t provide guidance or need materials as an unschooler. Instead, you will note your child’s interests and provide resources, materials, books, and opportunities that help him learn from the world around him.
Unit Studies: This approach usually focuses on one topic at a time but incorporates many different subjects under one umbrella. For example, if your child is interested in airplanes, you may create or buy a unit that incorporates history, science, math, art, grammar, and composition–all in the study of airplanes. You can also plan field trips that focus on this topic.
Classical: Classical homeschooling is a teacher-led approach that focuses on a trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The grammar stage typically lasts up to the six grade and involves increasing knowledge and the memorization of facts. The logic stage extends from middle school to high school and focuses on abstract thinking, applying logic, and analysis. In high school, the rhetoric stage, the focus becomes abstract thinking and the articulation and application of knowledge, especially through writing and verbal expression.
Charlotte Mason: The Charlotte Mason approach is literature based and focuses on learning through real books rather than textbooks. If you choose this approach, your children learn from reading, listening to you read to them, and by speaking and writing about what they learned. This approach also incorporates nature walks, Bible study, and developing manners. Art and music are emphasized as well.
One of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is that you have choices when it comes to how you teach your children and the materials you use. You can use traditional textbooks and workbooks, textbooks and worktexts designed specifically for homeschoolers, online courses, Internet supplements, interactive lessons, library books, videos, CDs, and all kinds of hands-on materials. You can purchase curriculum that is designed for homeschoolers and have everything mapped out for you, create your own curriculum, or use a combination of prepared materials and your own ideas. Get help choosing materials by reading some curriculum reviews.
Most homeschoolers will readily tell you how happy they are with educating their children at home. This doesn’t, however, mean that homeschooling is without challenges. At times, you will feel confused about how to proceed, stumped for ideas, burned out by the responsibility, and just plain frustrated with your kids. Finding other homeschoolers with whom to commiserate and trade ideas can help. You might even trade kids–for play dates or group activities–from time to time. This allows you to get a breather and gives your kids some social time.
Often, homeschool groups arrange regular playground or meeting days and trips your family can attend, and some start co-ops that allow your children to learn from other homeschooling parents. Some groups arrange for discounted lessons from professional instructors, such as those in art, piano, knitting, foreign language, martial arts, and dance. Many secure discounts for curriculum materials, trips, or education-related memberships. If your children are interested in sports, you may even find some homeschool groups that provide organized sports opportunities.
Last but not least, you will need confidence in yourself to get started with homeschooling. Though teaching your child at home may seem a daunting task, you can do this! As a loving parent with a commitment to your child’s health, happiness, and education, you had most of what you needed before you even read your first homeschooling book. Just commit to doing whatever it takes to give your child the best education possible, and you will see results!