Some people are like me, and you pretty much know when your child is born that homeschooling is where you’re heading. Some people come to it over time. So, whether you woke up the morning before Kindergarten and said, “Wait! Let’s homeschool.” or said long before you’re children were born, “Let’s homeschool!” here are some places to begin finding what works for you.
1. Not all people homeschool the same way. What works for your friend’s sister’s best friend, may not work for you. The new hottest homeschool curriculum may drive you insane. That reading book with horrible ratings may be your favorite. That is one of the advantages of homeschooling. You can pick what you like. You can choose what works best for your child. You can choose differently for each child based on their personalities and needs. It is amazing. But that can also be really overwhelming. Some people prefer that someone just tell them what to use. Others want to craft everything to fit their tastes.Then there are those that fall in between. Some people live for those huge homeschool catalogues. Others would rather buy a classroom in a box.
This is a great book for helping you sort through all those questions. You’ll need to look at what you ideal of homeschooling looks like? Do you want a traditional American classroom in your home? Does cuddling up on the couch reading books together all day sound more like it? How about climbing trees, catching bugs, playing board games, cooking desserts, and having a in home art studio? Take the time to dream of your ideal. Are you the teacher with all the answers or the guide to point them where to look? Do you kids hate workbooks & being given tasks? Or are they task driven and love being given an assignments? Only you know what is going to work for your kids within your comfort level. (State to state mandates may also determine this to some extent. Some states are much more strict than other when it comes to homeschoolers. Some require umbrella schools and a whole slew of requirements. Others simply want an attendance record. You’ll have to check for yourself.)
Don’t feel the slightest bit bad about choosing differently from your friends. And be a little flexible. Your ideal might be letting them frollic and play and learn things naturally in their own time and then you realize your child is a workbook-aholic. Be willing to adjust as needed. The happy homeschool is the one that works for the people involved. You’ve got lofty expectations of teaching your 5 year old Latin but your 5 year old prefers art- be flexible. You picked a great phonics program for your oldest child and now your youngest cannot stand the sight of it? Be flexible.
2. Not all homeschoolers have the same priorities. One family may be very, very history intensive. Another may be all about self-expression. You may feel the need for your children to learn all the parts of a cell and their function at the age of 4. You may just be happy with exposure to scientific information. Some homeschool with a strong religious theme. Others have no religion. Some have religion as a part, but not the entire basis for everything. Only you know what works for you.
Some homeschoolers spend a lot of money on curriculum for whatever reason (ease of use, content, don’t have to look for anything). Others homeschool for free using the public library. And then everything in between. Some have a set budget, others do whatever it takes to get what they want for their curriculum. All in one curriculums tend to be more expensive, but easier on you because you don’t have to search for your content. You can buy books, borrow, share- whatever works for your family. Neither way is better or worse.
3. Understand not only your child’s personality, but also a little about childhood development. You may think your 3 year old should be able to write his alphabet, sit for hours at a time, and count to 100. But the fact is, most 3 year old just are not there developmentally. You may want your 4 year old to read, but you wanting it does not make your 4 year old developmentally ready to read. You may like the idea of teaching reading and writing together, but then you get an Aidan (my son) who has mental capacities far beyond motor skills, and you would have to delay him in reading by years to make it coincide with writing. Just because you could read at 3 doesn’t mean your child will. And them not being able to read at 3 does not make them any less extraordinary. You will frustrate yourself trying to teach a child who is not developmentally ready for what you are showing them. And likewise, if you wait to show them anything until they can handle everything, you’ll have missed some great opportunities.
4. Time. You’ll sit and do your first lesson with your Kindergartener and be done 20 minutes later. You’ll think, “What the heck did I do wrong? Kids go to school for 8 hours a day- this certainly isn’t enough!” But it is. You quality packed 20 minutes that you so thoughtfully chose with your child in mind will do much more than hours of busywork intended for the masses. Young children don’t need hours and hours of work for them to learn. They learned to talk without such instruction. If you want to pack the hours, and your child enjoys it, go right ahead. But it isn’t necessary. I was shocked when I found out that Aidan at the age of 2 could identify most of the alphabet by sight. Where did he learn that? Refrigerator magnets that he played with while I cooked. If you are reading to them and offering them quality play time, they’re learning. They’ve been homeschooling since the day they were born, you just didn’t realize it.
On the same note, don’t be discouraged that your 8 year old spends all day long working on their work. Some kids need lots of breaks. Some kids get off chasing rabbits in their work. That is okay, too. You don’t have to limit what they can do based on time. If the science lesson got them overly interested in modern agricultural practices, it is fine to let them chase that rabbit where it might lead.
Just because the school down the street says school hours are 7:30am to 2:30pm, that doesn’t mean those are your hours. You may like to have the mornings free for play, sleeping in, and chores. You can do that! Your kids may be night owls and be the most alert and interested from 5pm to 9pm. That is fine, too. You all hate Mondays and would rather do school on Saturdays, that is great! Whatever your needs are, homeschooling can fit them.
5. Take your time. You don’t have to decide today what curriculum you’ll use 5 years from now. Take your time looking through your options. See what your library and community has to offer that you might like to incorporate. You have time.
Now, for some links. I don’t use all of these, but they may be perfect for you.