Now that Christmas is finished, you are struggling with the question:
Should we send our child back to school in January?
Perhaps your son has struggled all year to keep up the pace, or your daughter has found a new group of questionable friends and you feel as though you are losing her.
If your student doesn’t fit into the public/private school mold, or worse, is fitting in too well — you have a tough decision to make.
If you are asking yourself..
Can we do it? Can we homeschool?
Here are five questions to ask:
1. What are my State’s Homeschooling Requirements?
Depending upon whether you live in Texas or Rhode Island, each state has something to say about the legality and requirements concerning homeschooling. Do you have to join an accountability group, or report to the school system, or does your state allow homeschooling without any accountability? Check with Home School Legal Defense http://www.hslda.org/laws/ to find out what you have to do in your state to homeschool legally.
2. Am I Qualified to Teach My Children?
Research shows that the time and effort you put into homeschooling is more important than your level of education. Surprised? You don’t have to have a master’s degree in education to educate your children. You don’t actually have to have a degree at all. What you don’t have in education, you can make up for in commitment. Consider your time outside the home; working full time and homeschooling would be exceedingly difficult, although there are certainly single parents who have made it work. For most families one parent needs to give homeschooling pretty much top billing for family life to run smoothly.
3. Where Do I Find Information about Homeschooling?
There are probably a number of books in your library system that can provide a helpful overview of homeschooling. My personal favorites are How to Homeschool by Gayle Graham and A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.
About twenty years ago when my husband and I first contemplated homeschooling we attended a local homeschool convention. We were totally overwhelmed seeing a hundred plus booths of book sellers crowded into a church gym! We bought How to Homeschool that day and read it straight through when we got home. It gave us hope and a vision that we could do this.
As you are gathering information, seek out others in your church or neighborhood who are homeschooling. Find out why they chose to do so and what their day to day lives are like. Ask about the materials they use and what they like and don’t like about them.
Even better: If you are contemplating homeschooling next fall rather than this January, plan to observe some families actually homeschooling. Get a feel for how it works.
A word to the wise: don’t get too wrapped up in curriculum choices yet, and do NOT try to do “school” at home. You can do much better for your children than traditional textbooks, and for much less money.
4. Where do I Start? Can I Afford it?
How many children are you going to be homeschooling? Do you have children who are close in age and ability that you may teach together? Keep in mind that it is difficult to teach more than two children completely separately; it is much better use of time and money to group children for history, science and fine arts, where age and ability allow.
A Charlotte Mason or unit study methodology, for example, can be used to teach more than one student at a time, making curricula less time-intensive and costly than a typical Classical approach where every child has separate curricula for history, science, language arts, math, foreign language, etc. Charlotte Mason learning is a literature-based curriculum (read: library books!), which allows a very natural, economical,easy to teach and captivating educational method, especially for students who are used to less-than-fascinating textbooks found in most public schools.
And realize – you don’t have to teach every course! Do you have a homeschooling friend who is a brilliant writer, or more of a “math person” than you? Trade kids for those classes! There are co-ops and other strategies for outside classes as well.
5. How Do we Make the Transition?
Expect a transition, which can be exacerbated by a student’s fears about becoming isolated at home.
Don’t expect your homeschooling to look just like public school. It is okay just to spend time just reading and talking about what is read, especially if your children have had a difficult school experience to heal from.
Be patient with yourself and patient with your children. If your child has special needs, you are often the very best person to be educating him. Check the National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN) for additional information and resources.
Seek out a local homeschooling support group, for both you and for your child/children’s sake. A support group is different than an accountability group; a support group is for just that – support. Find others who have children your children’s ages and get together at park or library at least weekly.
Additionally, many support groups schedule regular field trips as well as providing opportunities for special interest groups, lessons and clubs: karate, Legos, Spanish, Drama, tutoring, basketball, volleyball, politics, upper level math, writing, yearbooks, annual “school” pictures, service projects, dances and graduation ceremonies are all areas my children participated in through our local support groups.
As you hang around others who homeschool you will be able to ask questions and seek advice when you encounter difficulties. Know that it is okay to move at a slower pace than you would expect; it is normal when you begin homeschooling. You will know so much more in a year than you know now, both about yourself and about your children!
And there is a plethora of information on the Internet. This blog contains many posts and sample lessons that will help; please join our mailing list to have regular homeschooling support and ideas delivered directly to your email inbox weekly.
Bottom line: if you are committed to homeschooling and feel a strong call to do so, you can make it work.
It means your life and schedule might look different than it did before, but you couldn’t invest your time in anything more worthy than your children. You can do it!
Have you taken your children out of school this year? How has homeschooling worked for you? Is there anything you wish you had known first?