Perhaps the hardest part of getting started with homeschooling is coming to the actual decision to homeschool. Perhaps your child has been in traditional school for sometime and the thought of taking control of their education scares you. Perhaps you feel as if you are not qualified. Perhaps you have read some of the horror stories of parents becoming frustrated and quitting. STOP! Take a deep breath in…and release. I’m going to give you some of the best wisdom you will ever here… are you ready? … Like any job, you will have good days and bad days. No one knows your child like you do. No one will ever understand your child like you do. You child is a unique individual and deserves a unique education plan that is tailored to their individual needs.
1. Know the Legal Requirements
To get started the first thing you need to do is to know the laws in your area. I highly recommend using the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.org) as a means to understanding the legal requirements of your state. I have lived in several states due to my husband’s job. I have used them for assistance with Notice of Intent, finding curriculum, and assistance with finding specialists for my son with a learning disability. HSLDA lists each states laws. There are some laws like Oklahoma in which there is no notice of intent (a withdraw letter is required for those leaving the public school system) or reporting of grades or days. There are some states with moderate reporting such as Arkansas in you give a notice of intent to homeschool and maintain your records. Then, there are the states with a large amount of oversight, such as New York and Florida, which require annual reviews. Despite the amount of regulation, the important factor is the need to provide your child with the education they need.
There are other homeschool legal assistance companies available. I do not have knowledge of them; therefore, I cannot vouch for their services or quality of work.
2. Choosing which method of homeschooling to use
The best thing you can do for your child is to take a few weeks to deschool. Let their minds relax while you work on things that are review for them. Do not take them out of school to not school them for a time. You can use this time to freshen up on topics that were hard for them to understand, perhaps they did not properly memorize the basic math facts or learn how to use the scientific method. For a couple of weeks, explore the type of learning they enjoy.
I have one child who
dislikes, hates, HATES, LOATHES, workbooks and sitting at a desk all day. I’m telling you that child will become the most stubborn, pigheaded, and strong-willed child if I make him do workbooks all day. My daughter loves workbooks. My other son he’s a 50-50 mix. We have worksheets that are required but we use a lot of hands-on, multi-media, multi-resource, multi-medium ways of learning.
No matter the method that they learn, there is a homeschool method out there for them. Perhaps, your child works best with traditional school methods. We use eclectic methods depending on the topic. Perhaps you need a traditional method for language arts and math but can unschool, or child-led, history and hands-on learn science.
I spent hundreds (possibly over $1000) on the traditional schooling methods, both boxed curriculum and computer based, trying to find the method that he would learn best. I should have tried different methods before committing to buying one. My best advice to you is to search for some used workbooks through Facebook groups, used book stores, or local homeschool groups. You can purchase these for cheap. Try these out. Take your child with you to find the method that works best for them. I will write about how we homeschool using mixed methodology later.
Talk to other moms. Trust me we are all secret curriculum junkies. We have our preferred method of schooling and curriculum choice, but we are always happy to share what we have with others. Most homeschool moms see homeschooling as a type of service ministry when a potential new homeschooling family is looking for assistance. EXPLORE BEFORE YOU BUY!!!
3. Find a local support group or cooperative
YOU CANNOT HOMESCHOOL ALONE! I’m going to say this and paint a target on my back. Your children need interaction with other kids. The kids do not have to be the same age as your child. Children can interact with others of all ages. However, they need the social interaction as part of their developmental needs.
Mom… you need social interaction with other moms. One morning, I yelled at my kids. It was a horrible morning with fighting between them and with me. I went to our homeschool group and I felt sick for being a horrible mom. Then walks in one mom who had an advanced degree in psychology, seven to nine kids, her hair and make up was done, her clothes were pressed, and she was smiling. She looked like she had it all together. She asked me what was wrong because I was unusually quiet. I told her. I felt the sting of shame. Then she told me that yesterday she had yelled at her kids too and literally felt like she had steam coming out of her ears. Oh finally, someone to talk to! She gave me some great advice and I found a good friend.
Homeschool groups are a great way for kids to learn. In Oklahoma, we had a cooperative with a variety of classes and sports. Now, we have moved to a new state and use a national cooperative. The change is based on my needs while working on my doctorate, not on my kids learning needs. (more about that later)
4. Attend homeschool conventions
These events are like teacher training for homeschool parents. This is perhaps the best kept secret of all. There are many homeschool conventions around the country. Some are national conventions, others are state specific. Find some and attend.
5. Find local resources
Depending on your location, you may have free or cheap classes for homeschoolers at your local library, museums, and zoos. If there are none or your are in a rural area, talk to your local library about volunteering to start a homeschool day once or twice a month. Libraries need patrons and working with the libraries will help benefit both parties.
6. Do not be a recluse
Often homeschoolers are painted as anti-social, anti-school, and anti-government individuals. Those who are not familiar with homeschoolers follow the negative perceptions portrayed by the media. Become active in your community through scouts, 4H, civic organization, your political party’s local organization, etc. Teach your children to give back to the community in which they live. Children can help serve in many ways…picking up liter at at a park, pulling weeds in flower beds around the town, etc.