Saturday, February 6, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Homeschooling. .Part2

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Homeschooling. . .
. . .But Were Afraid to Ask

Part 2: How?

In Part One of this series, I discussed my own reasons for homeschooling—the Why? If you’re considering this lifestyle—and it truly is a lifestyle!—you may be wondering how to make it happen.

Each state has laws governing how parents go about this process. When I lived in New Jersey, we were only responsible for informing our local school district that we intended to educate our kids at home. Other states have far more involved procedures, and it’s always a good idea to be familiar with the laws in your own state and community. A local homeschool support group would have those requirements posted.

But beyond that, what’s the best way to ease your child out of public school and into the homeschooing routine? That all depends on your family. We’ve tried it a number of ways; with two daughters, we simply did not send them to school at the end of the summer. With another, we pulled her out shortly before Christmas break. Your situation will dictate how you handle it. If there is something urgent that is causing you to consider homeschooling—such as an unsafe environment or mid-year relocation—you may have to do it in the middle of school term. If this is the case, it’s important to reassure the child that she hasn’t done anything wrong to precipitate this change. Inasmuch as you can, share with her why you’ve made this decision, and be positive. Kids pick up and reflect their parents’ emotion and moods, and your feeling that you’ve made a good decision will go a long way to helping your child happily anticipate this new lifestyle.

Many parents recommend making the break over the summer, and I agree that it’s wonderful if you can do this. It gives you entire summer to work on planning your homeschooling schedule, choosing curriculum and building up positive expectations within your family.

Research is so important! Spend as much time as you can reading about homeschooling styles, and think about which one might best match your own family. Investigate curriculum: will you go with a complete package that covers all the topics, will you pick and choose among the hundreds of options, or will you do your own thing, supplementing with the library? All are valid choices! And take it from me: no matter what you decide on, you’ll change your mind on something at some point over your homeschooling journey.

You won’t really know what works with your own child until you put it into practice, so try not to invest too much money into any program until you’ve tried it for a while.

My own first year began with one school-aged child at home and ended with two. I was a genuine rookie, and the Internet was really in its infancy, too! I did my research at the library—God bless our wonderful librarians. I didn’t know anything about support groups, and I think I knew one other family who was homeschooling, too. I chose some topics and some workbooks and off we went. When my oldest daughter joined us at mid-year, my husband found a college-level textbook for her to use for math. It wasn’t until that summer that I began investigating “real” curriculum.

I attended our state’s annual homeschool convention, and believe me, my eyes were opened! I didn’t know how much was out there, and I was a little bit like a kid in a candy shop. I poured over all the catalogs that summer and agonized over which choice was best for the three girls I would be educating at home come September. Part of the issue was the age range: I would have an 8th grader, a 5th grader and 1st grader.

We finally decided on a fairly comprehensive program that would include language arts, reading, history, geography, science and math. We were all thrilled when boxes of books arrived, and we couldn’t wait to get started.

It was an excellent program. . .but not for us. The first problem was time. Because of the age groups of my children, I had to purchase three separate grade levels (frequently, children who are closer in age can use the same level). This meant I was teaching three complete packages, beginning at 8 AM and not ending until 5 PM, with a short lunch break. This curriculum was heavy into read-alouds, and I was frequently without a voice by the end of the day. I also had two babies at home and often was juggling feedings with reading.

It was a lesson learned. I realized that the most important first rule of homeschooing is Know Thy Own Child. Why was I homeschooling? Because I know my children better than anyone else could. So why didn’t I remember that when choosing a plan? When we implemented our own way of doing things, everyone relaxed and suddenly, it was fun again. My children were coming to me, eager to share what they were learning on their own. Together we marveled over what we discovered together. We found the joy again.

So the lesson here? Take it slow. Borrow what you can from friends before you invest time and money. Ask questions from other homeschoolers who have been at it longer than you, and take into account those families’ similarities and differences to your own.

But above all, trust yourself. Remember that this is a process, and you’re learning as much as your kids are! Relax, smile and find the joy!

Tawdra Kandle is stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of four children who range in age from 9 years to almost 21 years. She and her husband of over 22 years live in central Florida, where he is in seminary. Tawdra spends most of her precious free time writing and reading, and she loves to travel.
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bigguysmama on Tue Feb 23, 08:21:00 PM 2010 said...

Thank you for sharing about homeschooling. I thought about it a lot, but never was able to do it.

~Mimi from MBC Round Up


Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Homeschooling. .Part2

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