There are a myriad of reasons why the number of parents looking to homeschool their children is exploding and with all that change comes the veritable question: “Where do I start?” With the growing number of homeschoolers comes an explosion of web resources but even with all that information at our Googlized fingertips, the doubts and concerns are not lessened. Let me assure you now, if you are thinking about this – You are qualified! You can do this! And, getting started is much easier than you think!
As I was researching the types of information out there now for this topic, I came across some great info at a very unlikely place – PBS.org. PBS Kids has always been a great resource for sneaky educational content for my kids and they loved playing the games and watching the videos. (You wouldn’t believe how much they learned from Ruff Ruffman!) But now a whole new homeschooling section has popped up! This says something for our current trends. PBS keeps their “Getting Started” to four easy tips that I whole heartedly agree with given my experience and the experiences shared by many of my “colleagues.” Oddly it is as if I wrote it. So I’ll simply expound on it just a bit.
STEP 1: Check your state’s homeschooling laws.
I strongly recommend you head right on over to HSLDA (Home Schooling Legal Defense Association) and check out the requirements for your state. While home schooling is legal in all 50 states – each state does differ in its handling of it. Here is a direct link to the state information. You might even consider joining this very worthwhile organization. Then fill out the appropriate forms or write the necessary letter letting your school board superintendent know of your plans to homeschool. This isn’t about asking for their permission – it is about letting them know your intentions.
STEP 2: Get support!
I recommend this step next. Talk to other parents you know that homeschool about their methods and what they think is working. You will no doubt hear something that resonates with you and your family and that will give you a great place to start. Look for local homeschooling groups as well as social media groups such as The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and Practical Homeschooling Magazine. Understand that most parents struggle for a while. You’ll have those moments when you wonder if you are doing the right thing, whether you are qualified to teach your children, and more and you will struggle with the curriculum. Please do yourself a favor and find a good sounding board and some support right from the start. Support groups can help placate your initial fears and answer your startup questions.
STEP 3: Detox!
Here’s where I’ll diverge from the wonderful startup guide provided by PBS for those of you pulling your kids out of conventional school. If you have written your notice of intent and you are looking into curricula and trying to decide on your method, keep on researching it while you allow some time for school detox. Take a semester off. I didn’t do this with my daughter immediately, having heard about it much later in my homeschooling experience, but it makes so much sense. We sort of got to it by accident a couple of years later and if there was anything I would redo – I would have done this first. Take this time to do things with this precious piece of you. Go hiking, visit museums, parks, observatories, skiing, swimming, horseback riding, whatever. Figure out what they really like and find ways to visit places or do activities that relate to it. Encourage them to reads books – anything they want – including Manga. Most of all, chill. No early rising to sit at a table. No deadlines or tasks. No bossiness. Simply relax with your kid(s) and have some fun. Let them know this is an intentional break, how long it will last and what you would love to do during this period. While you are doing that relaxing, you, the parent, can continue to talk to other homeschooling parents and groups about how you want to tackle this whole homeschooling thing. Don’t worry about getting behind. When you homeschool you provide many times the education in a fraction of the time that the info is covered in conventional school–mostly because of your very small teacher to student ratio. Get more information about detoxing here.
STEP 4: Choose your method, but know that flexibility is crucial.
There is a lot of freedom in this and many methods out there from traditional schooling to unschooling. Hopefully, by now you have already heard enough testimonials from your support group to have an idea what method you would like to start with. Many families end up with a mish-mosh of different curriculum, using bits and pieces of things that works well for them and their students. In this family, we have tried just about everything and now strictly unschool with much success! Understand that this is a learning process for your whole family and it takes times to adjust. One of the most important things to remember is now you have a direct teacher/student relationship and while conventional school lasts from 8 AM to 3 PM, most of that time is spent in transitions, classroom management and dealing with the kids who struggle to understand the concepts. If you force your children on the same schedule with a much less diluted learning process, it may not be long before you begin to have your own management issues.
STEP 5: (Ongoing) Take a big dose of patience, and then, take some more.
I was so happy to see this in the PBS startup tips! Patience. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to be patient with your student, but even more importantly – with yourself! This is a learning process on both sides. You may start out with a very clear picture of how this will look and find you get resistance – lots of it. The Facebook groups and blogs are loaded with frustrated parents who are looking for answers. I went through this same process and what I discovered was I needed to lighten up, include more field trips and opportunities for play based learning. I had to let go of the school marm mentality that, while I hated it growing up, it was all I knew. This is your chance to step outside the traditional education box and let your children really discover something about themselves and their world. You will be amazed at what you discover as well.
This is your chance to rekindle the love for learning in your child and to make learning fun and engaging.