If you are at this page I would guess either you home school and are looking for ideas or are considering homeschooling, and I welcome you. I have been in both places. We all have different reasons at coming to this decision and here is mine…
I have a unique situation, I was in public school until 7th grade, after which I spent some years in foster care and I ended up being home schooled, briefly, in my high school years. During my later teen years, I met several large families that home schooled, so even though I spent time in the public school system, homeschooling wasn’t a foreign concept to me.
Fast forward a decade…I was pregnant, with a full time job, and I just assumed I would take maternity leave and go back to work, I mean that seemed to be the normal, my homeschooling days and knowledge were long in the rear view mirror. Life is FULL of surprises! My son was born 2 months early and not only didn’t I feel comfortable leaving him with anyone else, I couldn’t find a child care provider that would take him. He had no special needs but the liability was high, and sometimes living in rural communities has drawbacks. On top of that, my son was only about 3 months old when I found out I was pregnant again, so we decided the best decision, given that most of my paycheck would eventually go to a child care provider, was for me to stay at home, and so I did.
When the time came to start thinking about school, I felt burdened and heavy with the thought of sending them off. I spent hours researching home school, read several books, but it always came down to the thought, “can I do this?” and I am here to say, yes I can! All mothers are overwhelmed with just becoming a mother, but the very things that give them the grace to be a mother, can give them the ability to be a homeschooling mother. I knew my children, I knew what was best for them, I spent everyday with them, and just because they turned 5 that didn’t change. I just couldn’t send them off to a situation I didn’t feel was best for them and so the decision to home school was made, at least in my mind. I will note here, that my husband fought me on this decision but I will get into that later!
You might be wondering the WHY or at least my reason of wanting to home school… All parents home school for different reasons, in fact most home school for lots of reasons. I home school because I want my kids with me, I want to share their experiences, I want to learn with them, but I also home school because I am not happy with our school systems. Forgive my numbers as they are from the period when making the decision (though I know they haven’t changed much at least for the better), but America is in the 49th percentile of reading for all UN countries, math and science are a bit better but not much and the schools keep teaching sex-ed at earlier and earlier grades. Please know that I am not against sex-ed but in elementary school…are you serious? There are of course other reasons but those are the bread and butter of it and at the end of the day, I just knew it was best for us.
Bringing my husband on board was a bit harder, as he had all the excuses you hear…socialization, education, sports and my favorite, “You’re not a teacher, how can you TEACH them”, but once he read The Well Trained Mind, he began to change his way of thinking. This book is a must and starting here will save you so much time! Sports was still a little bit of an issue but putting the older 2 kids in a bowling league, Taekwondo and summer baseball, he began to see that things would be fine. So, we took the leap and together decided to home school.
Is home school right for you?
Homeschooling can be a hard decision. The decision might require some families to go from 2 incomes to 1 (though some parents opt to keep their jobs and home school for a couple hours after work and over the weekends, while others choose to work from home), some might have pressures from family members or the community, and that’s just naming a couple of reasons. At the end of the day, only you and your family will know what is best, but I can honestly say that for every drawback about homeschooling, there are 4 wonderful, can’t take away, awesome things for homeschooling as well!
You’ve decided to home school…now what?
Check with your state- If you haven’t already, check with your state to find out what is required of you. I live in Indiana, and I am required to teach no less than 180 days but beyond that, and a few minor things, there are no strict guidelines, however, I know that is not the case in every state.
Curriculum- Know that homeschooling can be a heated debate not just the “for and against” but also because there are so many ways to home school and even more curriculum choices. Being overwhelmed is par for the course, but I would sit down and write out why you are homeschooling. Do you like or dislike Common Core? Do you want to include religion or not? Do you want a traditional education with books, workbooks and the like or are you more into un-schooling and experiences or are you wanting a mix of both? Do you want a curriculum from a box (already planned for you) or do you want to pick and choose? Are you a planner or not? Once these questions are answered you will be able to find a curriculum.
We personally don’t follow any particular curriculum and got many, but not all, of our suggestions from the above book The Well Trained Mind. We use workbooks but also do hands on things, and while we have a schedule, we are flexible. I plan on outlining what we have used, what worked, what didn’t, our schedules, and more at a later time, but know that curriculum can be trial and error, which is why joining a home school group to gain discounts (or to swap) might be a good idea (I’ll talk more about that later). Also, depending on the age of your child when you begin to home school, you might not yet know how your child learns best, making your choice of curriculum a possible wrong choice, if it doesn’t best suit your child. No matter how great a curriculum or tool is, if it doesn’t help or educate YOUR child, then it is useless.
Another concern about curriculum is cost and while homeschooling can be as expensive or inexpensive as you like, it is something to think about. There are programs out there that send your materials for free but in return they set up schedules for you, making you check in with actual teachers (sometimes daily), taking away alot of freedom. There are “box” programs that just send you, at a significant cost, a box of everything you could imagine for a certain age or grade level. There are people who check many books and textbooks out from the library, in fact, when I was teaching my children how to read, I did just that. I later bought the book for my younger child but it was a nice way to see if it would meet our needs. Someone doing this would need to plan well and be flexible, but they would have little costs.
A last thought on curriculum is this, remember why you are homeschooling…you don’t need or probably want to just have the normal school experience at home, you want to have some fun while learning and you want your children to WANT to learn, that is what is important, so keep that in mind when choosing, it will take you a long way!
Schedules and Planning
When planning and scheduling, much like above, remembering why you are homeschooling will help a lot! If you want a loose environment then a loose schedule will be needed but having a plan, even if you know you won’t achieve every bit of it, is a good idea. My schedules have changed so much in the last 3 years and you will find that the same will probably happen to you too, and that is ok! Homeschooling is an evolving process, what works for some, won’t work for others and as children grow, schedules will change even more. Being flexible and making it work for your family is much more important than stressing out about it and making the experience a bad one. I recommend trying sitting down and really giving this thought, remember not to over schedule yourself or your children and give yourself some breathing room, because things happen. I will post in more detail about my schedule but know that I am still learning what is best for us and what works for us, might not be applicable to you.