Possibilities. How to Homeschool is full of so many possibilities that I had no idea existed 28 years ago when I started looking into the subject. Our family’s “how to” has changed over the course of the years in a kind of ebb and flow that goes with our family dynamic more than anything else. First you have to figure out why you’re going to homeschool. Then you have to decide that you’re going to be a resourceful, self reliant grown up and figure out in all the world of schools and the history of education what your learning home is going to look like.
Here’s where each path diverges. I’ll try to organize it as clearly as possible so please give suggestions and I can redo this as I get more questions.
1-Why you’re thinking about homeschooling will make a difference in how you get started. The point is to get started.
Check with your state to see what the laws are. HSLDA Home School Legal Defense Association is a great help with this information.
Joining – maybe you’re starting to homeschool because a friend has invited you along on their journey. That’s pretty easy if you can just do what they’re doing to start with.
Urgent Removal – while working at the local homeschool store a few years back almost 100% of the families coming in with older kids who were removing them from government schools said it was for safety and to avoid bullying. They had to get their kid out of there! If you feel there is an urgent need of some sort to pull your kid out then do it and come up with the plan later. If your child is stressed and hurt they’re going to need a break.
Planner – you’re not sure but you’re thinking about it and what it would look like. Depending on your current schedule come up with a mock homeschool experience for you and your kid by starting with just a Saturday, maybe a couple Saturdays or an entire weekend. Some of the best homeschool materials have free samples that you can try or just free stuff online like this:
Phonics and Reading: Go to the library and get some books, read out loud to your kid, watch some youtube on whatever level your kid is at and just do that. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Mostly be patient and work on progressing your kid from one level to the next.
You’ve probably watched a lifetime worth of cat videos on youtube and weren’t even aware that there are hundreds of speech therapy videos on just the letter r.
Sticking with our 9 year old example you can do “guided reading” which sounds complicated but is basically reading with them. Most libraries will let you check out two of the same book and you just start with the super easy ones first. We adopted our 5th kid when he was 10 and I did this a ton until I could see where his real level was, not the one on his government school report. You can see in the 13 minute video above that while the teacher is doing guided reading with some students she’s trained the rest of the class to do independent work quietly at their desk. If you have more than one kid there’s your example of what’s going on with the herd while you’re helping one kid.
It goes like this for every subject out there.
2-Who you’re thinking about homeschooling.
Are these your children, one single child, your grandchildren, someone else’s kid? Can you make all the decisions with the kids or are there other inputs into your plan? If it’s not your kids you’re going to need to communicate clearly with the parents. If it’s your kids you have amazing opportunity to tailor the plan.
3-What are your goals?
It’s really important to figure out what your goals are before you start even though this changes as you go you need to think about it and set some goals that you can work toward. When I started my husband was opposed to homeschooling thinking it was for weird hippie type people. My goal was to impress everyone with how awesome I was at teaching kids and I lucked out with my first kid reading at 4 with no program but going to the library and reading whatever the librarian said was good for each step along the way. There was no homeschool specific curriculum that I knew of at the time (this was before the great www universe) and it wasn’t until 2 years later we started getting free private school hand me downs.
Once I had a reader my goal was to create a rich environment that allowed freedom to do a variety of things. I checked out Kinder and 1st grade math books from the library and copied down the problems to create our first math books. I’m talking all by hand on dot matrix green lined paper!
4-How much does it cost?
This really depends on you and your budget. A few months ago I was telling our 28 year old how we were doing more hands on experiential learning in the Montessori style and had moved away from the textbooks he reminded me that that was exactly how we’d started out before we could “afford” curriculum. Now that I’ve done all my research and love all the curriculum I own for all levels of all subjects any of my kids have ever been interested in we find that we aren’t that interested in curriculum!
If you eat you can turn that into a lesson – history, art, science, math and with no curriculum needed.
On the other hand you can spend a great fortune and order an entire year of private school books, workbooks, manipulatives, and video resources for a couple thousand dollars.
It’s your homeschool so you get to decide.
5-I can’t homeschool my child, we don’t get along
I’m amazed at how often I hear this and the parent thinks it’s something the kid is doing and sometimes it is! The majority of the time it’s the grown up who isn’t wanting to grow up. If you have a serious problem with one of your kids and you, your spouse and your other children all get along fine without them present than by all means put that one kid in school.
Two years ago now we put one kid in school because I couldn’t see how to change what I’d been doing for years and this kid couldn’t figure out why he should behave. During that year in school we both figured some stuff out but I regret that I couldn’t stop the “school” portion of our life and deal with the deeper issues. A year ago if anyone told me I’d be homeschooling this kid again AND having a blast watching him think and find projects of his own I wouldn’t have believed it. He came to us at 10 with a shelter/government school mentality that we couldn’t seem to shake but that one year in school where he spent 12 weeks of shop class on safety topics and in the final 6 weeks make one single useful item, he wasn’t impressed since he’s had the chance to help build airplanes at a neighbors shop where the safety briefing was, “Don’t chop off your finger or poke your eye out.”
I had to give up alot of things I love “school wise” this year to focus on this kid and help him find some things to be passionate about. At first I was angry but now I know that he’s worth it! After all the years of homeschooling and learning to do a better job I was still stuck in the “school” needs to get done mentality:( I’m not sure why I couldn’t see that before but watching him think and talk about ideas and make things and rework them as he’s listening to other people’s ideas makes giving up those things so worth it and it’s changed my perspective on those things I loved so that in the future we’ll be doing things differently.
6-How do I plan?
Step 1 – get your house in order. If you’re considering homeschooling a great way to start is by organizing your house both physically and with regular chores. There are many resources for doing this based on number of children, your kids ages, your lifestyle etc. Before you start homeschooling if you “own your home” and get a schedule set up where everyone in your house is pulling their weight, homeschooling will fall in line.
Step 2 – Spouses have to be on the same page. Come up with a budget even if that’s no budget because maybe one parent has to quit their job to stay home and homeschool. Set some small goals for the household and school to get started and set up a time to get together and review. We have monthly family meetings which are really helpful in a household with 9 people 🙂 When the kids were younger we had to spend more time planning but now it’s more staying in the rhythm of the week that makes the family meetings less necessary.
Step 3 – Start slowly! When we adopted our then 10 year old his report card had so many subjects! When I asked him about the various classes he didn’t remember doing music, computers was playing games, and many of them were once a week or every other week things he was evaluated on. Don’t let that fool you into thinking you have to do all of that every day.
We do math all year long, just a bit each day because we only school 4 days a week and we take month long breaks from history, writing and other subjects but reading and math are super regular. This is so ingrained that there are Saturday mornings that my 8 and 9 year old get their math out and sometimes I let them:)
Step 4 – learn google spreadsheets or excel
If you like the cute calendar with stickers and stuff, do it! If you want something more efficient spreadsheets hold alot of information for alot of subjects, people, supplies, and activities. There are many, many examples of lesson plans for you to browse through until you find one to copy and adapt for your own.
So, setting up a homeschool plan for the first week, depending on your kids ages you can just do chores, math, reading and be done. Now if you want to give this an extra boost you can have a no electronics week that first week and encourage them to find something to do. This will help you find out what they naturally gravitate toward so you can put it in the planning. I have a craft kid and a soldier kid so I try to be sure to have a wide variety of craft materials on hand and we buy soldier kits for the different history eras we do.
If you have the money and want to buy curriculum go right ahead but I’d recommend looking around you at the free options in the real world that you can do that first year. Your kids are probably curriculumed out and connecting to learning through the art, history, science or children’s museums can be really awesome.
7-Find a mentor
Things go wrong and while you can read alot online to glean some excellent help sometimes it’s most helpful for someone to come over and actually look at what you’re doing and offer suggestions. Don’t feel like you have to do them all but having an extra pair of eyes is great. When my mom came to live with us we made some great changes because of things she noticed that we hadn’t because they’d become routine. Let people speak into your life and be willing to try different things.
8 – A Family Goal
We’ve noticed recently as we’ve moved into learning about Permaculture that there are many new families homeschooling because they have a family goal to eat and live in a more sustainable way. We’ve been amazed at how this one “subject” permeates our life of learning and has an aspect that is interesting to everyone. The 3 and 4 year old love being outside, the 8 and 9 year old love watering, watching seeds come up and harvesting things, our 16 year old is building quail cages/tractors so we can raise quail for eggs and meat and my husband is learning to make beer, wine and mead. I get to do the weeding 🙂
Maybe a family business, ministry or other opportunity can be a starting point for developing how the learning happens at your house?
Think outside the “school” bus/box and ask yourself what does the world need more of? Do that