Part One & Two
Preparing to Homeschool
Top Ten Ways to Get Yourself Ready!
- First I would start off by deciding WHY you've chosen to homeschool. You'll find, as you continue your journey, that this will lay the foundation for other decisions along the way (ie. curriculum, methodologies, support groups or none, etc.). For us the main reason we homeschool is to offer one-on-one support that cannot be found in a larger teaching environment. Other factors for us include: our recent move to the country, the cost of a private Christian school for four children, the draw I've always had to homeschooling, and the ability to incorporate other activities that we felt would be beneficial to their learning experience (such as more hands-on experience). Once you decide YOUR personal reason(s) why you are homeschooling, then you are ready to proceed to the next step.
- Read EVERY book that you can find in your local library on homeschooling, and in particular books that relate to curriculum & methodology choices. I am so thankful for a close friend who recommended Mary Pride's book "The Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling". This is a MUST READ!!! After I skimmed through most of the sections I felt better prepared to converse with: vendors at curriculum fairs, other homeschooling parents, and navigate the websites related to this vary vast topic! Although your methods and curriculum will most likely evolve as you continue your journey, it is important to find a starting point. For us that was continuing with a traditionally based program that our kids had used before in school, and supplementing with Charlotte Mason type books, as well as adding in some Unit Studies I've put together.
- Next, find some seasoned homeschooling parents. When my four children were still in school I had a lot more free time. It was during this time that I began searching the web for any trace of homeschool groups and organizations in my area. Sadly I found my area to be lacking in terms of organized groups, but in the surrounding areas I found some wonderful groups that I have connected with. The greatest asset has been this one group leader, who had great pity on me, and invited me over for tea once she heard I was researching homeschooling. She was absolutely lovely and helped calm some of my fears about homeschooling. She allowed me to explore her homeschool areas in her home. I met most of her children while they were working. I was able to speak my mind and ask her about my concerns. She didn't pretend to have all the answers for my particular situation, but she was open to listening. It was a way to validate my journey, and I still attend many of her group's activities this year. Look for that one (or more!) special mentor. Pray for that special connection. Ask around. Don't be discouraged if you don't get many responses at first. I've since realized that homeschooling parents are some of the busiest around! To find a mentor in this journey will be well worth the effort you put out.
- Know the laws in your area. In my mind the best investment I've made this year was to join the "Home School Legal Defense Association". Even though I've discovered that homeschooling is quite legal in my area, and well received, I believe it is prudent to prepare for any surprise situation that may arise. If say, for some reason, someone came to my door asking about our 'homeschool' I can simply refer them to my legal counsel. A woman in our area had an issue with someone regarding her right to homeschool. This organization went to bat for her family and all turned out well! Protect yourself. Think of this investment as homeschooling 'insurance'. And if you are pulling your children from public school you will have to research if they'll require a legal documentation. Our area has an optional one that can be submitted. Know the laws and protect your family!
- Find a homeschool convention you can attend. Homeschool conventions are basically like big homeschooling fairs that showcase different curriculum, and feature many different service vendors related to homeschooling. They also offer keynote speakers on various topics of interest to homeschooling families. I attended my first one last year, sans children, and collected some more useful information for my family's journey. It will be a great investment of your time and finances!
- Look for support groups that will meet your family's needs. Now I realize not every homeschooling family requires a support group, but for the majority of us this is something vital to our well-being as 'teachers' in our little schools. I found a few very good support groups: some online, some that meet in person, and some that offer activities for all our children to participate in. Not all groups are created equal so I recommend inquiring: what is the cost? what is the commitment? do I have to adhere to any one main philosophy to join? are children of all ages welcome (ie. your nursing infant, your high schooler) and what type of activities do your offer?
- Share your vision with your closest loved ones. Of course they may not ALL be receptive but I find that if they see that you have a plan, and have done your research well, most people are fairly open minded. If they don't believe in your plan, then don't sweat it. Ask them WHY they disagree and take their points to heart. If they're worried you won't be able to keep up with high school math, but your eldest child is only seven years old...well, then you can assure them that you will take it year to year! If you need tutoring you can always get it and so forth. If your family is concerned you may get burnt out, then you could let them know your plan to take breaks (perhaps with your hubby, a friend, or a local co-op~which is a group where parents take turns teaching their specialties!) I've heard the saying that you shouldn't need to defend yourself, and of course you don't have to!, but remember that by making homeschooling a normal and viable education option, you are helping to further dispel the homeschool myths that are floating around! Since I've begun sharing our homeschool journey with others I've had MANY people say they are interested in researching it further for their OWN families.
- Now that you've researched it, it's time to actually BUY your curriculum! Or put it together if you are doing it yourself. It may be as simple as looking for a few books, or as complex as ordering a full-out grade system, but no matter what~ it's always best to prepare yourself! Maybe you are planning to unschool (google unschooling if you have no idea what I'm talking about) but you can still prepare your home environment so it's conducive to learning. You can acquire more reading books, math manipulatives, science experiments, whatever you decide is necessary to your family's goals.
- 10. Lastly, and most importantly, is BE FLEXIBLE! You may go through this list in a different order, you may skip certain points you deem unnecessary, but after all it is YOUR school! Be open to things transitioning half way through the school year. Be flexible to your children wanting to incorporate new books, ideas and tasks. Don't stress if you're feeling inadequate or overwhelmed. It's absolutely normal! Don't sweat the small stuff, but begin to search out the answers you are seeking for the 'bigger' issues (as named above).
And above all else...enjoy your journey into homeschooling! Let it not be a laborious task. I'm sure you'll meet many interesting people along the way :)