Quality homeschool education does not happen overnight nor should the decision to take on the responsibility. Research is key in determining the right homeschool path for your family because there are literally thousands of avenues to take: online learning, structured textbooks, independent study, cooperative learning centers, involvement in public school extracurricular or art programs, lead teacher…..the list of options goes on and on.
Your first step should include getting information on the homeschool rules of your state and your school district. Each State Board of Education has differing rules, regulations, and testing requirements for homeschooled children. You will need to contact your state’s Board and your local school district to ensure you are following the applicable rules.
The next step in choosing your homeschool route is to determine how your child best learns. Does he need to read, hear, see, touch, manipulate, or teach? Does she learn best on her own or in a group setting? The answers to these questions can help you decide how to set up your classroom, which curriculum to choose and if you want to be involved in a cooperative school setting with other homeschool families.
There are an overwhelming number of curriculum choices; speak to as many homeschool families as you can to get opinions on the actual usage value of each system. Use your knowledge of how your child learns, her interests, and your own organization and teaching style to inform your choice. If you prefer free-range parenting and learning dominated by your child’s interests, you should avoid structured curriculum and school-day scheduling. If, however, your child functions best with a routine you need to choose a curriculum that supports more linear learning goals and structure.
Whether or not you plan to participate in a cooperative learning system, you should meet with at least one coop and several homeschool families so you can make an informed decision about involving other families in your educational system. Cooperative learning centers provide an opportunity for your child to learn from different teachers and interact with other children. Some homeschool families simply meet together for field trips, experiments, or art and music projects. You may have to try several coop or homeschool family groups before finding the right fit.
Setting up a classroom in your home is not required but may be beneficial, especially for younger children who may need an environmental cue that it is school time. Distractions should be limited as much as possible so that focused learning can occur. But don’t limit your lessons to “school time,” use your everyday interactions as teaching opportunities and search out real world experiences that will enhance and expand on the lessons being taught in the classroom.
Perhaps the most important step in starting to homeschool your children is to make a commitment to patience, creativity, and flexibility throughout your time as your child’s teacher. The ability to follow state and school district regulations while tailoring your lessons to your child’s abilities and interests will take more work that you can imagine but witnessing those lightbulb moments will make it worth it.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.