Welcome to the Homeschool world. Getting Started Homeschooling.
About half of Time4Learning's members (and the more vocal half) are homeschool families. Many parents often ask for our advice on getting started on homeschooling. So here are our thoughts based on our experiences:
Overall, we hear that families who choose to homeschool usually find it to be one of the best decisions that they've ever made. But, this does not mean that it is easy to get started, that it is for everyone, or that you should do it forever. It does mean that for parents who have become convinced that their child would benefit from a change and who have soberly considered the alternatives, finally making the plunge into homeschooling is a fun exhilarating experience. Note that many parents who have homeschooled a child for a few years also talk about the decision to put the child back into school as another great decision. My conclusion: many parents have the right instincts for their child but they tend to postpone making some of these life changes so that when they do make them, they feel very right.
1. Plan to speak to at least half a dozen homeschoolers as you get started. The reason is that the homeschooling community is broad, diverse, and passionate. You will find some people with whom you do agree and others that you do not. Expect to be compatible with maybe about half the people that you speak to and if you start with half a dozen, the odds are strong that you'll find a few that you like. Ask them what they do and what they recommend. Try to find local families who you can share ideas & activities with on an ongoing basis. These groups of homeschool families are a key to success. As over two percent of the population homeschools, you become part of a large, dynamic and diverse community. Try to find people that you are comfortable with. If you don't have personal contacts, try asking locally or searching online for local groups (try google - your city name - homeschool support groups) or look at of the top homeschooling sites . Again, don't be put off that some of these groups are a poor fit for you. Homeschool groups come in all shapes and sizes: large or small, formal or informal, religious or not, special needs oriented or not, conformist or not, etc etc. Pick the ones that you are comfortable with: you will have to search through several groups. Also, you'll find that alot of the online guides are somewhat out-out-of date and full of dead links and emails or phone numbers that don't answer.
2. There are fantastic websites with oodles of articles, recommendations, forums. I would recommend blogs as also a great way to get information and to meet people. To find ones, you can type into the Google search engine: "blog homeschool yourstate". I just typed in "homeschool blog iowa" and found dozens of people from all over the state with children of all different ages and approaches (Christian, non-religious, special needs). You might also type in a special interest such as: "homeschool blog dyslexia" and find a group of people with a specific interest that you could discuss common issues with. You can also look on the big web sites such as http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/, http://www.homeschool.com/, and http://www.thehomeschoolmagazine.com/. They are rich with information but you will probably find them overwhelming at first so don't get discouraged. There are also conventions and get togethers which are definitely overwhelming but can be very exciting and informative.
3. . Be sure to check out your State's legal requirements. http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp is a great guide with links to local sites and to local support groups.
4. Decide on a basic approach. There are many ways to think or go about adopting a basic approach. While there is alot of literature and sites on this subject, Time4Learning suggests including some thoughts about the most immediate and mundane: the organization of the day. Most children do best with a day that has a predictable schedule with diverse activites and which provides for time when you are totally attentive to them and time when they have some separation from you and some freedom. For instance, the morning might be:
8:30-8:45 Opening of Day - Perhaps some rituals and a review of the day's schedule
8:45-9:15 Parent & One Child Working together in core curriculum, ex Reading or handwriting
9:15 - 945 Child working independently - perhaps art
9:45-10:15 Break & Snack
10:15 - 10:45 Time4Learning Math
10:00 - 11:15 Time4Learning Playground
11:15 - 12:00 Educational Play with manipulatives
5. Accept that you will need to integrate the right materials for your children. One of the challenges of homeschooling education is selecting a curriculum that meets the needs of each child. Many families find that what fits one child, may not fit another, or that what worked well one semester, may feel stale and stop working the next. Or in some cases, what works for one child in one subject, does not work for the same child in another subject. Well, nobody said it was going to be easy. What most families discover is that their children's educational needs cannot be met by a single curriculum or medium. And that blending several homeschool programs and approaches can increase effectiveness. Some parents use Time4Learning as supplementary, others use Time4Learning is the primary homeschooling curriculum. Time4Learning has curriculum for homeschool children from Preschool through eighth grade. Time4Learning provides a comprehensive language arts and math curriculum.
We suggest being skeptical about any program which claims to be THE COMPLETE RESOURCE for all children. Each child's needs are different. And program, either online, video, or text-based should be the entire homeschool program, especially for younger children. Its important that young children have daily work with:
- writing and drawing to develop fine muscle skills
- arts program
- speech development
and other areas that the computer or video or workbooks cannot address.
6. Special Needs - All children are special needs. Period. Of course, if you have decided to pull your children from school, you are probably wrestling with this question in one of its many forms. Stay tuned for the next article which helps parents understand more about their child's own special strengths, needs, learning styles, and issues.
7. Learn about learning. As the teacher & curriculum specialist for your child, you should understand the basics of learning to read, a solid math education, how children learn