Recently, I posted a survey asking individuals about their current interests and concerns about homeschooling. One of the questions included in the survey asked, “What are your biggest homeschooling issues?” I included several answer choices, and allowed survey takers to choose all responses that applied to their situation. Those who completed the survey highlighted several issues; however, the overwhelming issue was “knowing how to begin homeschooling”.
Although I’ve addressed this topic in the past in blog and video form, my previous focus on this topic centered on navigating the learning process. I presented some additional probing questions to a few survey participants, and found that their concerns about beginning to homeschool were rooted in understanding the basic steps from the very start of the process. So, I took a step back and identified 5 tips to answer the question of how to begin homeschooling BEFORE you ever purchase a piece of curriculum:
Do Your Research
You may or may not be aware, but although homeschooling is “customization central”, there are specific guidelines you need to follow. Your state of residence outlines these guidelines, and you must follow them in order to remain in compliance. Requirements vary from state to state, so you’ll want to make sure you are clear on what’s expected of you before you begin. If you have no idea about your state requirements, try a google search – “home school requirements for [insert state name]” or go to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association and search under your state.
Also, you’ll want to research what local programs and organizations can be of assistance to you. For example, are there co-op groups you can join? Are their supplemental programs you may find helpful. My daughter, Sydney, will be taking advantage of the homeschool P.E. program at our local YMCA for the upcoming school year. I wouldn’t have known about that program without doing some legwork.
Assess and Ask (or Observe) Your Child
If your child is old enough, it’s a good idea to involve them in making the decision to homeschool. This is especially important for children who will be transitioning from a traditional learning environment into the homeschooling environment. You don’t want to blind side your child by uprooting them without warning, as this creates an uneasy environment and may unintentionally communicate that their input doesn’t matter.
If your child is not able to articulate their feelings about homeschooling, you many want to simulate the learning environment you plan to utilize and then observe how your child responds. Are they positively responsive? Distracted? Additionally, identify how your child responds in their current learning environment and determine whether a change would benefit or hinder their learning process.
Choose a Method
There are several homeschooling methods you can use to educate your child. However, don’t let that overwhelm you. Here are five of the most popular methods and a quick description for each one. For additional details visit Homeschool.com.
- Eclectic/Relaxed – This approach includes a combination of materials from different curricula and resources. Typically, instruction takes place in the morning and free time occurs in the afternoon.
- School at Home – Educational programs for this approach use a pre-packaged curriculum and do not include a lot of variation. You can create your own lesson plans or use pre-selected plans (included with the chosen curriculum).
- Unschooling – This method is based on interest-led learning. All content is driven by your child’s interests. There is no formal schedule to determine when instruction will take place. This is a “go with the flow” method.
- Classical – Parents using this method focus on the goal of teaching their child how to learn for themselves. All instruction is focused on the five r’s: Reason, Record, Research, Relate, and Rhetoric.
- Charlotte Mason – The basis of this method is that your child is deserving of respect and consideration. Therefore, the learning environment allows time for play, creativity and self-expression.
Set a Schedule
Unless you are thinking about utilizing the unschooling method, you will want to determine the best time of day and days throughout the week that best support a positive learning environment. Consider factors such as who will be teaching your child, whether your child is most alert in the morning or afternoon, work schedules, and other family, work, or personal obligations that may present a scheduling conflict.
Also, be aware that as your life changes, your preferred schedule may also change. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments where necessary. This is the beauty of homeschooling.
Test Your Plan
Finally, test your preliminary plan (i.e., method, schedule). The summer is a great time to do this because you can use a weekday if your schedule permits or a Saturday. Simulate your school day and assess what works and what doesn’t work. This way you’ll be able to try and tweak things before you commit to a specific course of action.
You can use free materials for your lessons, so you won’t need to spend any money while you’re testing. My Ultimate Homeschool Resource Guide has several resources for free worksheets and materials.
If you’re ready to get started on your homeschool journey and need more guidance, you may want to check out my course ==> 5 Steps to An Affordable and Successful Homeschool Program. In this course I take a more extensive look at the five steps I’ve just discussed in this blog post, with the goal of helping families create a strong and effective homeschool program for their children. You can also access the course by clicking on “Work With Me” in the navigation bar.
Are you currently homeschooling? What are some tips you’d share with someone who has questions about beginning their homeschool journey? Leave a comment below!