Homeschooling: How to Get Started…

We began homeschooling in the fall of 1997 when my older son was in 5th grade.  That seems like ancient history at this point.  Suffice to say, we have learned what works and what doesn’t work over the years.  I’ve been asked a number of times how does one get started with the homeschooling journey, and I’d like to include what I hope to be helpful information here.

When we began homeschooling, it was a foreign concept to us.  I didn’t know where to begin.  There were two homeschooling families in our church, and I picked one of the mom’s brain for  ideas that may work for us.  After spending the afternoon at her home and observing her two seemingly perfect girls do their school work, I came away a little frustrated.  I had no concrete information to work with or ideas to formulate a homeschooling plan.  I decided I would check out every book on the topic at our local library.  And read, I did!  I made copious notes.

The following are some things to consider:

1.  Craft a “Mission Statement”.

I recall reading somewhere that it was important to develop a “Mission Statement” and to keep it visible.  On the hard days, you will need to refer to this.  The “Mission Statement” answers the question “Why do I want to homeschool”.  It not only will encourage you to overcome challenges that will arise, but also keeps you on course and reminds you of your goals.

2.  Research homeschool laws in your state/country via the board of education’s website & comply with the regulations.  Submit paperwork to your local board of education as necessary.

In our early years, I found the Home School Legal Defense Association to be a valuable resource.  Check out their website:

http://www.hslda.org/

They have helpful information regarding each state, as well as other resources.

Another consideration regarding the legal aspect, is choosing to be a part of an “Umbrella (or oversight Group”.  Basically, depending on your state laws, you can join an umbrella group and avoid having any interaction whatsoever with the state.

3.  Decide on a curriculum.

Now, comes the fun part!  What am I going to use to teach my kids?  Well, there are countless pre-packaged curriculum sets out there.  Below are a few you may want to research:

  • Abeka
  • Bob Jones
  • Saxon
  • Alpha Omega
  • Apologia

A great resource for books and DVD’s is:

http://www.christianbook.com/page/homeschool?navcat=Homeschool

We have dealt with them for more than twenty years and have never been disappointed.  Highly recommend.

The local library is an invaluable resource in your homeschooling experience.  One could literally build a curriculum using library books.  They have many educational DVD’s that can be a great tool.

My older son learned to read using the Abeka curriculum in his preschool and kindergarden classes.  My younger two learned to read using Hooked on Phonics, which I really like.

You have the freedom to assemble your own curriculum, of course.  Mixing and matching is what many homeschoolers do.

4. Learning Styles

Is your child an audio/visual learner?  Are they a kinesthetic learner? Does your child work well with traditional textbooks?  If you don’t know the answers, research learning styles and see which method your child does best using.  Everyone processes information in different ways.  We can set our child up for greater educational success if we teach using their “Learning language”.

5. Develop a Game Plan for each year.

It’s helpful to write down the educational goals for your children each school year.

6. Give yourself grace.

Don’t expect perfection.  Of yourself or your pupils.  If your child was previously enrolled in a brick and mortar school, allow ample time for adjustment.  It helps to verbalize and write down your expectations, so you’re both on the same page.

Assess and reassess what is and what isn’t working for you and your children.  Don’t be afraid to try a different curriculum (even mid-year) or method of learning.  It’s really all about trial and error sometimes. What works for one child, even within the same family, may not work for another.

7. Link up with other homeschoolers.

Most areas have some sort of homeschooling support and/or activity group.  These can provide immeasurable assistance, especially to new homeschoolers.

Co-ops are another great resource to explore.  Usually they’re comprised of a number of families, who alternate teaching various subjects to the children.  They may meet a couple times each week.

8. Extracurricular

If your child expresses a desire, enroll him/her in a sports activity or music lessons, etc.  Find an opportunity for your child to volunteer in your church or community.

…This is by no means an exhaustive list, but is a brief synopsis to get you headed in the right direction.  Homeschooling is not just an educational choice; it is a lifestyle.

We find opportunities for learning everywhere! It has been quite a journey for us, but one I wouldn’t trade for the world. Our older son was dual-enrolled in the community college in 10th-12th grades.  When he graduated from high school in 2006, he was just 3 classes shy of his Associate’s Degree!  We knew we could do this thing called homeschooling then! 🙂  Success!

Our daughter (16) will be a senior, and our younger son (14) will enter 9th grade this fall.  I feel like we’ve homeschooled for forever!  I keep saying, “One of these days I will actually graduate!  I will have been through every grade 4 times!”  🙂  Haha!  Yes, I sure have learned a lot!

If you have any helpful tips for newbies, please comment below.  Life works better in community!

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