The idea of homeschooling, once you start to seriously consider it, is exciting when you think of all the possibilities that lie ahead, and at the same time, terrifying, when you think of all the possibilities that lie ahead.
I remember reading through way too much information and trying to think through all of our options. Would we be eclectic? Unschoolers? Charlotte Mason-inspired or purists? Classicists? Should we opt for online classes or try to be roadschoolers? Worldschoolers, maybe? What in the world was Waldorf and what was the deal with all the little wooden toys and fairies?
Add a little bit of self-doubt, a few unsupportive friends and family, and it’s nothing short of intimidating. Before you freak out though, let me breath a bit of calm into your chaos with these simple suggestions that will help you be on your way to rocking this homeschool thing.
Take a deep breath. Now, don’t read this and think it’s just a nice suggestion. Though deceivingly simple, don’t skip through it. Close your eyes, and take a deep, deep breath. Now, let go of all your assumptions on what a proper education looks like and what homeschooling needs to be. No, your kid doesn’t have to be a genius to homeschool. You don’t need an education degree. You don’t need a ‘school room’ in your home. You don’t even need to be Mary Poppins. Yes, your family can survive on one salary. Pro Tip: You may need to repeat this a few times.
Meet other homeschoolers. Before we decided to homeschool, we attended a small local homeschool workshop and I remember looking around the room and happily thinking to myself, “They look normal!” As time went on, it seemed like everywhere we went we’d randomly meet homeschoolers – at the park, at church, at Publix. It was like they’d been hiding in plain sight all this time and you couldn’t tell them apart from regular people! Except the ones with 6+ kids and a passenger van for a family car, of course. I obviously had some misconceptions about what homeschoolers were like, and actually going to groups and meeting them not only helped dispel some of those myths but also reassured me that homeschooling could work for our family too. Do yourself a favor and meet some real-life homeschoolers. Most groups have monthly support meetings or weekly park days you can visit so you can ask all your burning questions. If you don’t already know of local groups, search online, on Facebook and even on MeetUp.com. You can also check out HomeSchool-Life.com’s Group Search page.
Find out the legal requirements for your state. The Home School Legal Defense Association’s (HSLDA) State Laws page is a great online resource to learn all you’re required to do in order to be compliant in your state. However, a great real-life resource would be real-life homeschoolers at a real-life homeschool group. So, make sure to go check out your local groups.
Define your mission and educational goals. Prior to homeschooling, I never thought about setting educational goals for my kids. I mean, that was the job of the school and their teachers, the experts, no? My only goal was for them to do well. However, I remember reading through Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum before we began homeschooling and it completely changed my approach to this journey. The first few chapters of her book are designed to make you think through what you, as parents, value in education, and helps you define your homeschooling mission and academic goals. She even has a quiz to help you narrow down your educational philosophy and the types of curriculum that would best suit your family (and who doesn’t love quizzes??). Don’t drive yourself crazy deciding which curriculum to choose just yet. Take some time to think about what you really want your children to get from their education. You may be surprised that academic performance will most likely not be on the top spot. If you can’t get your hands on a copy of Cathy Duffy’s book below are a few questions to get you thinking. Yes, get a notebook and pencil out, and sit down with your spouse to answer these questions:
- What should be the role of education in the training and rearing of your child?
- When your children move out, what do you want them to be equipped with to face the “real” world?
- What skills do you consider important for your kids to learn by the time they’re adults? Don’t think only about academics here – think spiritual, technical, personal and leadership skills too.
- What character qualities do you want them to have?
- What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses?
- How do your children learn best?
Set a budget. What I’ve learned the last couple of years, is that homeschooling can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. I admit, it’s easy to fall in love with all the sparkly and shiny new curriculum out there, or the really cool art or robotics classes being offered at the local museum. They always seem to be exactly what my kids need to reach their “greatest potential” and become the next Einstein. But the reality is that you’re most likely going to be living on one income or “just enough” income, so figuring out how much you really have to spend will be very helpful as you start out. Here are some items to consider:
- Homeschool group membership fees
- Curriculum (my personal rule: always buy used!)
- Field trips and special homeschooling classes
- Yearly homeschool conventions
- Teacher planning days (a.k.a. “Me time!”)
Hopefully these suggestions will help you feel confident about this decision you’re making. Taking on the responsibility of your child’s education can be terrifying. I know, I’ve been there. But it’s so worth it. These easy first steps will get you on your way to a life-long love of learning at home.
I’d love to hear about your journey or your personal tips , so make sure to leave me a note in the comments section below.
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