Are you interested in homeschooling? Are you frustrated with your child's progress at school? Maybe you look at your squirmy 5 year old and can't imagine how he will ever sit still and do well in a classroom. Maybe you feel your child is developmentally not ready to cope with school 5 days a week 9 to 3. Maybe your school district has poor outcomes. Maybe you love the idea of the beautiful private school down the road but just can't afford to send more than one child. Whatever your reason for being curious or serious about wanting to homeschool, welcome!
DIRECTION FOR THE JOURNEY I hope this post will give you some direction, point you toward some helpful start-up resources and help you get a better idea if this whole homeschooling gig is for you and your children. I will try to continually update this page as I find helpful links and homeschool programs. I hope I can provide you with an overview of where you would need to go if you wanted to pursue this way of educating your children. I know how overwhelming starting out can be. Seriously! you are taking responsibility for your child's education--just that by itself can feel overwhelming. And then comes all the questions about whether or not its really in the child's best interest. And what about your interests? How will you ever get the toilet clean? Or have a cup of tea in peace? What about teaching multiple grades at once? Online everyone is claiming to have the answers. Pinterest is plastered with photos of people homeschooling in perfectly pristine homes with perfectly groomed children doing fancy crafts and art projects. Eek. You don't feel like you could ever even compare with that. Afterall you can't even get your child to clean their room--as if you can teach them algebra! We haven't even mentioned curriculum options! STEPS TO START HOMESCHOOLING
The good news is, with a little help, you can navigate it all and start to see a vision of what homeschooling can offer your family and clearly make the right decision for your children. You need to make an informed decision about what is the best choice for your unique family. Whatever education choices you make for your children, the fact that you care and are involved will give them the best outcomes in life. So without anymore rambling on, here are my top Steps of How to Start Homeschooling (or to just explore homeschooling for your family).
1. KNOW THE STATS AND GAIN CONFIDENCE Firstly, I think you should start with why homeschooling is even a consideration. Research some facts; find some adults who were homeschooled. Do homeschooled children do well? Are they successful in adult life? Is socialization really an issue? What have the studies on homeschooling said? Get yourself some basic facts and find answers to your top questions about homeschooling. Have you ever wondered if homeschoolers do well at university? Now is the time to find the answer to those niggling questions. The research available can be a bit biased (aka: sponsored by homeschoolers) and a little hard to sort through, but just get a general idea of how this whole thing works. As a part of this step, if possible, meet some real homeschoolers. Find an adult or university student who was homeschooled. Find some local families if you can and ask them if you can meet them and hear about their experiences. Talk to the kids. Keep in mind every family is different and "homeschooling" umbrellas all sorts of educational ideas, which is one reason why outcomes can be different and good data can be hard to find. Your homeschool doesn't need to look like theirs. Still, meeting a real homeschooled family or some adults who were home educated can be a good way to see homeschooling in real life. If this isn't possible find some online examples of kids who are homeschooled or have been homeschooled. ARTICLES TO START YOU OUT: 10 Reasons Homeschooling is Best Socialization and homeschooling Homeschooling in Australia and Outcomes Homeschooling on the Rise in Australia Research about homeschooling article Survey of Unschooled Adults After writing this post, I found this "You CAN Homeschool" video worth checking out. 2. KNOW YOUR WHY AND YOUR VISION Once you have a clear picture that homeschooling can work and is a viable and responsible education choice for your children, sit down and understand your why. Why are you homeschooling? What do you hope to achieve? What outcomes do you desire? Where do you want your children to be when they leave your homeschool? What does success look like for you?
MAKE A PROS AND CONS LIST
This is also a good time to sit down and make a pros and cons list of the current educational options available to you.
Resources for building a why:
Calvert Academy Pros and Cons of Homeschooling List
Free Building Why Page Mini Course
A Homeschool Mission Statement
3. KNOW YOUR FAMILY
Before you go any further, take a step back. Who are you? Who is in your family? What makes up your family? What are the unique elements of your family? What time of day does your family function best? What are your family's interests? How do you enjoy spending time? What are your shared values?
FITTING YOUR NEEDS
When you know who your family is you will be better able to make decisions about how homeschooling can work for you and what kind of homeschooling to pursue. For example if your family struggles to get up in the morning, trying to start school at 8 am will just leave everyone frustrated and teary. However if your kids are like my toddler and wake up at 5am ready to run circles around your house, starting at 8 am might work perfectly. Or if both parents are working, trying to use a parent intensive curriculum may not work well. Perhaps you have a family of rumbustious boys, doing school sitting in desks for long hours every day will probably leave everyone ready to kill each other. I had the opportunity to hear a talk by Michelle Huddleson, and this point was her number one tip for successful homeschooling. She said know your family first and then make homeschooling fit into your family NOT your family into someone else's idea of homeschooling. If you take the time to consider your family's needs it will be more clear how homeschooling can work for your unique family.
4. UNDERSTAND HOMESCHOOL STYLES
While it may be possible to randomly choose just any curriculum and make it work successfully, you will have a much richer and more rewarding homeschool with some knowledge of different education philosophies and homeschooling styles.You will then be able to intentionally incorporate elements that resonate with you and make sense for your family and your values. Some of the educators who have developed these philosophies and methods spent their lives dedicated to understanding how children learn and finding effective ways of passing on information. You should learn from their experience rather than starting over from scratch. Your children will definitely benefit from you educating yourself in this area! It will help you to make easier and more informed decisions when you are choosing curriculum as well.
WHAT RESONATES WITH YOU
As a part of educating yourself in different homeschooling styles, reflect back on who you are as a family, what your goals are and what your worldview is to get a good grasp on what styles and educational ideas make sense for you. You may find that you fundamentally disagree with certain ideas in some methods or that certain styles align well with your family's culture and goals. For example, if you believe children should learn to read and write at a young age the Waldorf approach of delaying formal reading instruction until age 8 would conflict with your values. Figuring out what you believe about how children learn best will set you up for success.
A great starting point is this Masterclass by the Fearless Homeschooler. It is one of the best overviews that I have seen of different styles; it also provides a great sample of how homeschooling can integrate great components of many styles. Here is another overview to check out as well at Homeschooling Down Under.
This blog series on homeschooling styles is also an excellent resource to gain an overview of some common approaches. I find it provides a very accurate portrayal of each style, and highlights some of the strengths and weaknesses while being very information based.
From here, if your interest is peaked in a particular style you can research it further through your favourite search engine or Youtube. But don't feel like you need to right now. The point of this step is to get a feel for the different possibilities and the varied ways that kids can be educated and learn well. It is also to help you better identify who you and your family are. You can narrow down and more clearly understand your personal style at a later time and you will probably find it develops over time if you decide to homeschool.
5. UNDERSTAND LEARNING STYLES
As a homeschooler you have the opportunity to know your child on a deep level and understand what makes them tick. This means you can optimize their learning and find ways to help them to master material and learn at their best. For example if your child is an auditory learner, he or she will learn best with songs, audio books and lectures. Your kinesthetic learner, on the other hand, will learn best with hands-on activities and movement. Keep in mind there are lots of different types of learning styles- the main thing is that you observe and know how your child works best, not necessarily which neat little box they fit into. Also kids can be a mix of learning style and sometimes they can change overtime as well. Invest some time in also understanding your learning style and your teaching style as well.
WEBSITES TO EXPLORE:
6. UNDERSTAND REGULATIONS AND LAWS
Before you jump head first into homeschooling know what your local legal requirements and regulations of homeschooling are and what exactly you would need to do in order be within the law. Sometimes the laws can seem more scary than they actually are, so if you have questions or feel overwhelmed reach out to local homeschoolers who help you better understand what the laws actually mean. For example, here in my state in Australia we are required to apply for exemption from school and meet with a representative from the department of home education. It all seemed very intense in the guidelines. However all the homeschoolers I spoke to told me it was easier than it seemed, and that was definitely my experience. When I had our initial meeting with the departmen she was telling me the benefits of homeschooling.
Knowing what you will need to do to meet the current laws will help you to make a more informed choice when you come to curriculum options and will give you a better idea of what homeschooling can look like in your area of the world.
In the US visit: The Homeschool Legal Defense Association
In Australia: Overview of homeschooling in Australia
Homeschooling in Australia
Or visit your state's education department website and look for information on home education.
7. COUNT THE COST
Before you start any endeavor it is always important to count the cost, financially, physically, emotionally etc. Consider the sacrifices that each member of the family will have to make. Consider things like the time commitment from mom, perhaps loss of a second income, Grandma needing to babysit more often. You won't be able to predict everything, but just get a general idea of what you need to sacrifice to make home education happen for your family. Create a general budget for how much your family would like to spend on education and how much you would be willing to spend. Remember education is an investment, but a good education doesn't necessarily mean a big monetary expense. You may have a very small budget to purchase resources, but instead are able to invest more time to put together your own learning plan from free resources. The point is understand what you are sacrificing to do this and what you intend to invest. Get a general budget now, and then when you come to the curriculum question you'll be better equipped to find resources you can afford and suit you.
How much does homeschooling cost- AU
8. FIND COMMUNITY
Who is going to watch your kids when you need to go to the dentist? How will you get a break? Who will you call when your husband breaks his leg? Who will help you catch up on laundry when you get behind?
SUPPORT IS NOT OPTIONAL
It is really important that you know the answers to these type of questions. What support people do you have in your life, and who do you trust to watch your kids? If you don't have any support at all (spouse, extended family, friends), I would discourage you from choosing homeschooling. As we mentioned in the previous point, homeschooling usually requires sacrifice and commitment from the parent who is taking on the task of constantly caring for and educating the children. Not having any ability to take a break or get help puts a parent at risk of mental health issues. School can sometimes provide community for families with none, and I do believe this is important. If you are in this situation of having no support, but want to homeschool, build some basic community first and then once you have trusted and dependable support in your life then you take the leap into homeschooling.
our kids need community too. Who will they be friends with? Or where will you find other children their age to spend time with? What adults outside the home will they interact with and learn from? I also think its important you prioritize finding healthy community for your kids as well. This can take some effort on your part and will develop over time. So don't stress too much but have a plan to be proactive in providing opportunity to build friendships and community. Reach out to local homeschool groups or coop, participate in community sports or classes.There are so may different ways to do this! Actively seek opportunities for your kids to build friendships and relationships with others. ARTICLES TO READ: Importance of Support for Parents Ideas for Building Homeschool Community 9. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE You don't need to know it all. Read that again. Before you start panicking that you failed your grade 9 math class or you despise writing prose or you feel like puking when you study human anatomy, do not worry! You DO NOT NEED TO KNOW IT ALL! You can outsource. You can choose a curriculum that will do the teaching for you. For example, for math you can get your kids to do a digital curriculum that does all the teaching, provides practice and corrects their answers, grades etc. You can do online courses with a teacher or a virtual academy! Seriously for almost every insecurity or weakness you might have, there is a resource that can solve it for you. If you want to do this, you 100 percent can. I know one mom who had a new baby and was struggling to keep up with her 4 other kids so their family hired a tutor a couple times a week to keep the kids going academically and help them overcome some learning difficulties. Of course you can teach yourself too--the point is you can do what your kids and you need! 10. CURRICULUM: WHERE TO START Finally you can plunge into the quagmire that is curriculum. What an overwhelming thing homeschooling curriculum has become as the choices available have exploded! This is a blessing but certainly creates some real challenges, especially when starting out. BE CLEAR ON WHAT YOU NEED Start with the foundation that we've laid in the previous steps and make a list of what you need in a curriculum. For example based on who your family is, your educational philosophy, your child's learning style and your budget you might be looking for a Montessori Math program with hands on activities for your kinesthetic learner that is less that $100. Or maybe you might be needing a traditional boxed curriculum that's secular and tells you what to do and provides feedback on your child's work. Maybe you are looking for a open and go Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum that connects every subject to the Bible? Do you see how laying the foundation for understanding what your goals are and who your family is will help narrow down the curriculum options that suit your family?
START WITH THE TRIED AND TRUE
If you are just starting out and your not feeling confident, maybe consider sticking to a more tried and true curriculum that provides plenty of teacher support. You can always branch out and try different things, but it at least gives you a starting point to give homeschooling a go and not have to worry about missing important concepts. If your child successfully completes one of these programs, they will have a quality education. You can even get a boxed curriculum that will tell you what to do everyday although I feel these are often over the top. A virtual academy is another option if you want something requiring less from you (although please be wary about the screen use this creates for younger children). Quality more traditional curriculum that have been serving homeschooling families for several years include : Abeka, Bob Jones Press, Master Books, Alpha Omega, Saxon, A.C.E., Sonlight, Vertas Press, Apologia, MathUSee, Timberdoodle. More alternative but quality and longstanding curriculum include: Simply Charlotte Mason, Konos (a unit study based curriculum), OakMeadow (Waldorf) are some others some homeschooling family's love.
Montessori homeschooling is a bit harder to recommend a set curriculum for, but Montessori Nature has a great list of resources and the Mulberry Journey has "Where to Start" guide to get you started. Mutisori has a complete curriculum for early grades. Maybe look at the North American Montessori Center's comprehensive Montessori curriculum. VIEW BEFORE YOU BUY
Always try to see a curriculum before purchasing. I have learned this the hard way! Find a friend or local home school family who is using the curriculum you are interested in. Check Youtube for reviews or a curriculum walk through. Download a sample from the vendor. This will provide you with a better idea of what a curriculum is and how it can be used. DABBLE YOUR TOES WITH SOMETHING FREE If you really aren't sure if homeschooling is for you or you are on a tight budget, there are several quality homeschool curriculum options available for free. Easy Peasy Homeschool and Ambleside Homeschool offer complete homeschool curriculums for free. The Good and the Beautiful offer free language arts for grades 1-5. Also if you sign up and follow some homeschooling blogs and websites you'll find lots of freebies will come your way. Beware, ,however, not everything is helpful, so again--the more clear you are on your goals the easier it will be to sift through. LINKS: Free Homeschooling Resources Good and the Beautiful- Free Language Arts Curriculum OTHER PLACES TO FIND HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM: Top Picks Curriculum Fair has a large list of quality curriculum venders with deals, giveaways Rainbow Resource Center have a free ministry to help families choose the best curriculum for them and will recommend material they don't sell. The Peaceful Press Gather Round Homeschool My Father's World Books My Homeschool- Australia Simply Homeschool-Australia Look for your local Buy Swap and Sell Homeschool Group on Facebook SETTING OUT ON THE JOURNEY Once you worked your way through the above steps, you will have laid a very solid foundation from which to build a homeschool. Take a deep breath and take a step forward. You can do this. Create a rhythm for how your days will run. This is something our family is still working on but the more we do this the more smoothly the days go.You can read examples around the web of different ways families set up their days if you need ideas. Don't forget to give your children chores and responsibilities throughout your day which will build character, provide them with a greater sense of belonging and will help relieve the pressure on the homeschooling parent in the long run. Then take it day by day and enjoy the gift of time with your children. This is an opportunity for you to be fully involved in your children's education, to get to know your children, and to really demonstrate your love for them as you spend your days together Remember if you are just starting out, you've never done this before.There may be some roadbumps along the way to smooth out, but keep in in mind there are many ways to educate children well. Sometimes the best learning will happen on the days that go contrary to the plan. Embrace the reality that children learn at different rates and in different ways. Let go of unrealistic ideals and comparison to others. Your homeschool doesn't need to be perfect for your children to gain a quality education and become quality, successful adults.There is no perfect homeschool or perfect curriculum. What truly matters is the you care for your children and are investing in their lives and striving to provide opportunities for learning. May you and your children become life long learners in whatever educational paths you may choose.
OTHER THINGS YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT Free Guide on How to Start Homeschooling Homeschool Start Up: 2 Keys to a Successful Homeschool Year Things to Remember : Importance of Outdoors Did I leave out any important steps? Any you don't think are necessary? Have questions about homeschooling? Leave a comment :)