Friday, 11 June 2010

Homeschooling 101 -- Three Steps for the Start

Are you thinking about homeschooling?  Or, are you just starting out?

Either way, you're probably full of questions right now: what curriculum should I use? what kind of schedule should I have? what equipment do I need? how do I convince my friends/family that it's a good idea? should I go see a psychiatrist?

As a homeschooling veteran of seven years, I have three simple pieces of advice for newbies: first, don't rush into anything, especially not curriculum purchases.  Mistakes on this front can be expensive, and it's also likely you'll change your mind a lot as you get more informed and get to know your children better.  If you're desperate to get started, then just use the library for a while.

Second, read anything you can get your hands on with regard to homeschooling.  Terrie Lynn Bittner's book, "Homeschooling: Take a Deep Breath -- You Can Do This", has a lot to recommend for itself as a good beginner's book.  Its reviews on Amazon are outstanding.

But don't just limit yourself to books.  Blogs and Yahoo! groups (like Homeschooling Boys) offer a wealth of up-to-date, hands-on information.  Some of my favourites are listed in the sidebar to the right.

Finally, sit down with a pencil and paper so that you can brainstorm what your aim is for homeschooling your children.  This step may seem a bit underwhelming, but I believe it's one of the most important stages in a homeschooling journey.  Times will come when learning at home gets a bit bumpy, or diversions arise, or distractions appear, and then you'll be glad to have a sort of philosophical satnav to keep you on course.

Some possible aims are: providing an atmosphere without bullying, focusing on character-building traits, strengthening family ties, seeking flexibility, letting a child enjoy innocent freedoms for longer, providing an appropriate environment for a child with special needs, accelerating your child's learning, or any number of other goals.

Setting goals will help you decide what method or style of homeschooling you'll adopt for your home: unit study, lapbooking, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, principled, classical, unschooling, or a combination of these (called "eclectic").  This will, in turn, lead you to make wise curriculum choices, that is, those that support your goals rather than something that just looks slick, is popular, or is on sale.

Setting goals will also keep you from straying when "the grass looks greener".  Last year, for example, a friend of mine was looking into a school that specializes in foreign languages for her daughter who's the same age as my #3.  I feel I'm particularly weak in this area, so I was tempted to enrol my children in the same school.  However, as I investigated its total package more carefully, I realised it was far more restrictive and generic than I wanted in the individualized, child-led system I've adopted as my goal.

Of course, your goals may change over time, but don't let that stop you from defining what you're wanting right now.  So get that cup of coffee or tea or can of Coke or whatever, grab a pencil and some paper or your journal or your calendar, and start making some notes about why -- right now and this minute -- you want to homeschool.

When you've reached the stage where you sort of like what you've written, then why not tell me in a comment?  I'd love to hear from you about the goal you've set for your own home-learning journey.

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