Summer is generally the time of year when some families begin entertaining the thoughts of homeschooling in the fall. According to the National Center for Education, the top 2 reasons for turning to home education are concern about the school environment and religious or moral reasons. If you are considering homeschooling here are 10 things to do before you start homeschooling:
Know why you are homeschooling
There are many reasons to choose home education for your children. You don’t have to know them all, but you do need to know why YOUR family is choosing this. This isn’t so that you will know what to say to well meaning (or not so well meaning) strangers or family members—it’s so you will know how to plan your path and gauge your own definition of success.
Know the local laws
Educate yourself before you start educating your children. Know the local laws, they differ by state. A good place to start your research is the HSLDA website. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is a nonprofit advocacy organization whose sole mission is to defend and advance the constitutional rights of parent to direct the education of their children.
Connect with a local support group
There are many benefits to joining a local support group which include: emotional support/encouragement, friendships, local field trip opportunities, co-op opportunities, park days and regular meetings. Finding a group that fits your family’s needs, geographic location and personality can be a bit of trial and error. If the first group you find isn’t a perfect fit, don’t give up, keep asking around and trying other groups until you find one that does work for your family.
Find and maintain support for yourself, even if it’s online
In the early days of our homeschooling journey I received most of my support, encouragement and inspiration from online friends. I first joined the Homeschool Lounge which led to reading homeschool blogs where I began to form personal relationships (via email and the telephone) with homeschoolers across the US (and China!). These friendships have sustained me and are still very valuable and important to me, although I now have a group of local homeschool moms I can lean on too.
Have the support of your husband/wife.
I suppose this one is a bit out of order, but having the support of your spouse is key. Initially when I began homeschooling my husband gave his support as a throw away—he was giving me kindergarten with the intention that the children would attend traditional school in the 1st grade. However, after he saw what I was putting into it and how much our children were thriving he became my biggest advocate and supporter. I could not imagine homeschooling without the support and encouragement of my husband. I don’t suggest you try to do it either. There are hard days and moments when you question yourself. You don’t want to have a spouse who is also questioning you on those days.
Make time for your homeschool
This is probably one of the hardest disciplines, because you are teaching your family at home—and home is where the interruptions and chores are! You need to make time to not only teach your children but also to plan and prepare for teaching your children. Then, you’ll most likely also need to train the people around you to respect that time too. This is hard, but take yourself seriously as a teacher and try to throw in a couple teacher “work days” too for good measure!
Don’t think it’s all about the curriculum
There are so many options for homeschool curriculum. It can be overwhelming if you let it be. The best word of advice I can give is this: it’s not all about the curriculum. There are students who thrive with one curriculum and others who do poorly. You need to find a curriculum that meets your family’s needs, budget, and suits your child’s learning style and your teaching style. Don’t over-think it and make yourself crazy. Choose what seems best for you and trust it. If it doesn’t work, change it or supplement it. I promise, it’s not all about the curriculum—-even though choosing it is fun!
Don’t worry if you don’t have a teaching degree
There are many mothers in the homeschooling community with teaching degrees and I’ve yet to encounter one that has told me that I cannot homeschool my children because I don’t have one. Most homeschooling mothers with teaching degrees will say that their degree did little to prepare them to teach their children at home. Teaching 15+ children in a school environment is vastly different from teaching your own children at home. Homeschooling is not a new idea. Many great leaders and successful individuals were homeschooled. If you get to a point where you feel you cannot handle certain subjects there are other options: tutors, co-ops, family friends, your spouse, online learning etc. Don’t let your lack of degree discourage you.
Have fun with it
Homeschooling is an opportunity to give yourself (and your children) the education you never had. I learn (and relearn) so much through homeschooling my children. Model a lifestyle of learning by being a lifelong enthusiastic learner yourself! Jump in and enjoy it. In addition to providing an education you are building a relationship and making lasting memories with your child. Enjoy the process. One day you’ll back on it and think it went too fast. That’s what they tell me anyway.
This post is part of the iHomeschool Network 10 in 10 Series