You did it!! You made the decision to homeschool your kids. In the past few years many states have seen an increase in the number of people homeschooling their kids for one reason or another, but how do you do it? This is often the first and biggest question that is seen in Facebook Groups for homeschooling families. Everyone always wants to know where do I start, how do I educate my child, what method is the best? These questions have easy and complex answers that I hope I can walk you through and help you find a direction that is good for you and your family.
There are two places to start. The first is with the family that has never sent their child to school. These are the families whose children are not yet school age but are about to be. For you lovely people the start of your journey is much different from others. You are blessed to be starting with a clean slate if you will. Your child has never experienced school so they have no expectations of what a class should look like. This is where my kids pretty much started. Only one of my boys ever went to anything that resembled school and that was only for 2 years in pre-school. The great thing about starting in this manner is that you can structure your school just the way you want and learn along with your child how they learn best.
The second type of family is one in which something has caused them to pull their child/children from school and start homeschooling. This is a tad harder only because both you and your child will have to take your idea of school roll it up into a ball and throw it away. If your child/children have just been pulled from school, either public or private, you will have to deschool them.
“Woah what did you just say I have to do to my kid?!?”
Good question. You will have to deschool them, which basically means giving them a break from schoolwork.
“Time out! You mean that I am pulling them out of school then not making them do any work? Are you crazy?”
Well, I may be crazy but yes. When you deschool your child you are giving them time to decompress, you are letting them begin to discover their natural love for learning again. You can take this time to do other things with your child, let them have this opportunity to figure out where their interests lie and what their natural flow for a day may look like.
“You realize you still sound crazy right?!?”
It does seem crazy to just stop all structured work, however, I am not saying this lasts forever. This process should only be a week or two. The first few days may look like your child just hanging out around the house doing nothing, but don’t worry that will change. During this time you and your child can go on field trips, check out local homeschool groups or clubs, and even just get to know the things that interest each of you. This is a great time to spend connecting with your kid before you begin to add back in more structured work.
“O.K. but what do I teach them? Do I use a curriculum? Do I sign them up for classes? Do I just wing it?”
What should you teach your child? This really depends on your view on what you want education to be for your child. At my house, I like to be sure that they know many of the basics, math, history, science, writing, and reading. I like to add in times where we read things and discuss them in-depth, but I also try to listen to my kids and what they would like to learn. Since I try to structure my children’s learning to their wants and goals, not everything I do is the same for each kid. Let’s look at the sciences I teach for example. My oldest son wants to go into Marine Biology, he is 12 and has done other basic science work, so this year I got him a college-level Marine Biology book and Lab manual and we are working through that. Now my middle (10) has said many times that he wants to grow up to be a chef or baker so his science this year is the science of baking. We are reading through a book that highlights the science of baking and practicing our skills at baking and cooking. My youngest is still learning the basics so we just spend time pointing things out and learning through experience and discussion. So for science, I do not have a curriculum that I follow I have made up what I want them each to do and it keeps them wanting to learn.
I do use a curriculum for our history and literature, but even this I take liberties with. We use a curriculum called Build Your Library, it is a secular curriculum and heavy in the reading. It has a history, literature, reading, science, and art section to it so you have to supplement for math and anything else you feel is missing. When I use this curriculum I use it as a way to sit and read to the kids and add in discussions. We have reading days at my house where we read the books in this curriculum and stop and discuss both vocabulary words, events, or ideas found in the books. I love these days because I think it is important that my kids get to express their ideas and feelings about subjects.
My kids also take some classes at a local co-op. These are supplemental, they are not meant to be a full course in a subject but something fun to do that may spark their interest in a field or idea that I may not know much about. I also teach at the co-op which lets me pass on what I know to others so that their kids can also learn about something new.
Lastly, I also wing it. Yup, that’s right sometimes I wake up in the morning realize it is going to be 75 and sunny, and just make up a lesson for the day. It might be an impromptu trip to a zoo or museum, maybe a hike at a new park or even getting together with friends for a creek day. All of these things are ways my kids learn that are not from books or worksheets and tend to be the things that stick the best.
“That all sounds great but I still have no clue what to do. Should I teach them in a certain way? I have seen so much about different styles like Waldorf or Montessori or Unschooling. Help!”
Here is the key to your homeschool success. You get to choose how you want to teach your kids. As you have seen from my example above I do a little bit of a lot of different styles. Seeing as you may be very new I am going to define a few styles for you so that you can have an easier time deciding.
- Traditional Homeschooling: Traditional school at home.
- Roadschooling: Just what it sounds like school on the open road, this method allows you to learn while on the go and can include not just typical subjects but learning through experience.
- Worldschooling: Like roadschooling but you go much farther and venture out of the country. This method gives you a look at many other ways of life that you may never have seen otherwise.
- Classical Homeschooling: Based in a three-part process that was developed in the Middle Ages.
- Charlotte Mason Homeschooling: This style uses high-quality literature (living books) to teach children, a strong focus on nature study and creating positive habits.
- Waldorf Homeschooling: The goal here is to educate the whole child, with a strong focus on teaching kids in the early years without textbooks and integrating the natural world. This has become a very popular method.
- Unschooling: Here your child leads their education. This is not to say that kids learning this way just sit around and do nothing all day, but instead are free to explore what interests them.
- Eclectic Homeschooling: This is pretty much what we do, a blending of many styles taking what works for you from the various forms.
- Montessori Homeschooling: This is another form of child lead education. You would spend time setting up and making available materials your child can learn from. Your role is as a facilitator rather then just a teacher.
- Unit Studies: Studying a specific unit for a given time period. For example you may do a unit study on Ancient Rome and go into great detail about the history, mythology and lifestyle of the time period for two weeks then move on to a different area of study.
Phew, that was a lot of information I just threw your way. If you weren’t overwhelmed before you may be now and I apologize, however you now have an idea of what is out there. Now to choose, or don’t choose. You can decide how you want your school to look, do you need a more traditional seeming day, or do you want to hit the road and just learn as you travel. Our school has evolved and changed each year based on what we have going on, the age of my kids, and what I think they need at the moment. Currently, we don’t have set times for school because we have a ton of appointments each week. Instead, I have set up a list each week of what I would like the kids to do and when I would like it done. I also let them know each day when I will have free time to work with them on things that they may not understand or a lesson I know they need to do with me. We also try to have at least two days that are reading days each week, plus a day for a hike and co-op. This keeps us learning in many different ways and situations. The last thing I have always done with the kids is real-world learning. Each of my boys has learned to do things like go into Starbucks and order Mom a drink and pay in cash, or debit for it (my oldest started doing this at 5.) They are made to find groceries in the store and must ask the workers to help them when they can’t find things. I won’t ask for any of them. You want to get a milkshake at the coffee shop, ok you place your order. These are all important skills they must be able to do and I started teaching them as soon as they could understand what it was they needed to do.
“Okay, I think I am ready except that my mother’s, sisters, neighbors cat was asking me how the kids would be socialized and how I would know they were learning.”
This is a common problem, although not normally from a cat. You will have many instances where family, friends, and even strangers will question what you are doing. They will stop by with “advice” or decide that the best way to prove their point is to quiz your child about facts they assume should be memorized by a certain age. When this happens your first step is to just take a deep breath, remember that you are doing something different that seems out of the norm, and then as politely as possible let them know you are doing what is best for your family. You can also start teaching the kids to respond in their own ways such as, “can I quiz you next?” or “thank you for being interested in my well-being but my parents have it under control.” Remember that these people just don’t understand why you have made this choice, take a moment to respond and help educate if possible. When all else fails just ask that this not be something that is discussed when you come by.
“But what about college!!!!”
Calm down, college is still in their sights even when being homeschooled. You will learn that there are many universities that are very open to receiving homeschooled students. The best way to prep your child for this is to figure out what is needed to get into the schools that they wish to go to and structure your school with that goal in mind. You can find a good number of examples of people that were schooled at home when you start to research. Plus your child may decide that college is not their goal, they can go to a trade school or find some other passion that will result in just as much success as going to college.
That’s it. Time to get started in whatever way you want, or you can change your mind and try something different. The goal is to prepare them for college, for a job, for life, in whichever way works best for them. If you are still confused, overwhelmed, or just nervous ask for some advice below I will be happy to help. Always remember that what works for you may not for others and you just do you and make sure your kid is getting what they need!
Good Luck and Welcome to the Club.