01 September 2011

Homeschooling 101

Homeschooling 101

Are you wondering where do I start? Wondering if you can really do this! Relax, if  I can do it I know you can.Taking charge of your kids education can be a big but rewarding responsibility. Homeschooling allows you the opportunity to meet your child(ren) individual needs. For many knowing where to begin in the homeschooling process can be confusing. Although there seems to be so much information available, it may still be a little overwhelming and even confusing.

Now you need to ask yourself these questions:

*Am I committed to the responsibility of the task of educating my child(ren)? It is a daily commitment to teach and plan your homeschool.
*What are your reasons to educate your child(ren) at home? They are unique to each family. Some look towards a better educational, concerned with spiritual, moral, social issues, safety, and maybe you have a child(ren) with special needs.
*Set goals for your homeschool journey. What are your needs and ask yourself what you want to accomplish in educating your child(ren). If you just want to give your child(ren) a better education. Then make your goals around that. If you have a child(ren) with special needs your goals will be different. I hope you understand the point I am trying to make here. Your goals do not have to be the same as another homeschool family.

Getting started:

1. Research and understand your state laws. The Homeschool Legal Defense is a good place to start.

Look into becoming a member of the HSLD. I highly recommend doing it. For me having a child with special need and having that peace of mind knowing that I have someone behind me to defend my legal rights if needed. This is something that is important to my family and may not be as important to your family. Do take the time research it and see if it is something that you feel you may need. Find out what the benefits of becoming a HSLD member.

2. Most states require some form of record keeping. Find out what they require and ask other homeschoolers, " how they keep records." Remember you are responsible for record keeping. Make sure you know what your state requires. Just because one homeschooler does it one way does not make it the correct way. It's your responsibility. Get yourself organized with record keeping from the start of your homeschool journey. Most states require a hard-copy of records that prove schooling actually did occur.

Options are endless on how you organize: record books, notebooks, file boxes, visual presentation projects. test and evaluations. Records can be organized by year, and subject units. Keep each child separate. There are programs for keeping track of it all. Just don't forget hard-copies. Find out how long your state requires you to keep your records.

Some software includes:
Edu-track Homeschool record keeping.
Home School, Inc.  Free web based planner and scheduler.
Homeschool Skedtrack  Free planner, and scheduler.
Homeschool Reporting online- online lesson planner and record keeping.
Homeschool Tracker  Complete software program. Includes everything. They have two options available: Basic software is Free  and the Plus Software is $49.

Don't forget you can also go to any teacher resource store or online and pick up a basic planner and record book also.  Make your own using a spiral bound notebook for each child. List child, date, subject, and what you accomplished for that day.

3. Is your child already attending public school? Make sure you know what you need to do take them out. Every state has its own regulations. Make sure you follow them so you won't have to deal with the problems later. Homeschool Legal Defense has links for each state.

The hardest choice of them all is selecting a curriculum. This will be the most important decision you will have to make. So take care to thoroughly look into all the available options. Remember be flexible. Don't get stuck into doing things inside the box. You can make any curriculum fit your families needs in most cases. Don't let the curriculum dictate you teaching your family. Remember you are in control of your child(rens) education.

First evaluate your family's needs.
*Will there be more than one child and grade level?
*Do you know your child(rens) learning style?
*Are you confident and experienced, or insecure and in need of more guidance and assistance?
*Budget for buying educational materials. Cost needs to be consider. How many children will this curriculum teach and what other alternatives are there?
*How much time do you have for planning? How teacher friendly is this curriculum? How much time will it take for you to prepare before you actually teach the material?

Where do I look for curriculum?
Online resources are:

Homeschool Crew Reviews
The Old Schoolhouse Products and Reviews
Cathy Duff Homeschool Reviews.
Homeschool Reviews- reviews by other homeschoolers.
There are many other sites out there to learn about curriculum's.

Attend a homeschool convention or homeschool seminars. Consult curriculum and educational catalogs. Go online and look at the curriculum's websites. Many have their own forums that you can ask questions. Talk to other homeschool families and ask to see what curriculum they are using. We homeschoolers love to talk about what we are using for our kids. Homeschoolers talk shop all the time. Don't try to make your homeschool look exactly like another families homeschool. Your family is unique and what works for one family may not work for yours.

When I started out I was the insecure and in need of more guidance and assistance in my journey. I went with a tradition textbook curriculum. It scheduled everything for me. I was able to buy everything I needed in one place. I was afraid that I would miss something. It told me in detail what I needed to do daily to educate my child. Yes, it worked for me to build up my confidence and to let me know that I can do this. The one mistake I made is that I got overwhelmed with trying to do everything the Teacher's Manual told me to do. Remember, to be flexible if you feel it is overwhelming you and your child(ren) then remember it is just a guide and it's okay to not do everything. I find that homeschoolers are very  passionate when it comes to curriculum and in turn we can become very opinionated. Remember- your family is unique and what works for one family may not work for yours. That is what I needed when I began my homeschool journey. If you choose to educate using all textbooks all your homeschool years-then good for you. You found what works for your family. My daughter doesn't do well with textbooks. My son loves workbooks and that is what he usually buys for himself at the dollar store. For his preschool year I started him with workbooks and I will evaluate every year. I am an eclectic method user. Now after a few years of homeschooling I feel comfortable using different methods in different subjects. I would prefer now not to use a textbook but it is not all about me.

Choose a homeschooling method. Some of the methods available are:

Charlotte Mason
Computer Based/Online
Literature Based
Textbook/Workbook or Traditional Homeschooling
Thomas Jefferson
Unit Study

**These links just provide general information. Do your own research because even these methods vary. I am sure that I have missed some of the methods**

Feel free to design your style and curriculum to meet your family's needs. Don't feel pressured to assign busywork or unnecessary classroom oriented activities. You can mix methods also. Don't feel you have to purchase materials for all subjects from one resource. You can buy a language arts curriculum from one company and a spelling curriculum from another. This is known as "eclectic homeschooling". If you feel you need to buy all subjects from the same place, that is also okay. Don't use a program simply because your friends doing it, or because you've heard great things about it. There are many great programs available, but not all of them will be right for you and for your child. Abandon programs that aren't working for your family. Not every curriculum you choose will be a good fit. Remember you can resell them later if you want to. I personally don't know too many homeschoolers who have used the same curriculum that they first started with. So don't fret if you don't hit the mark the first time. Once you find what your child(ren) and you like you won't feel so unsure of your choice of curriculum. 

Organize our environment. Make sure you have a place in your home that has good lighting, seating, storage place. Gather your supplies to begin your homeschool program. (paper, pencils. notebooks, art supplies, science supplies, etc.)  Do you have a room to use as a classroom, will you be using the kitchen table? Make sure everything is in a place that you can access it quickly. Bookshelves and plastic bins are homeschoolers best friends.

Make yourself a general schedule whether weekly, monthly or yearly. If your schedule doesn't work out, then change it.

Look at your family's priorities! Homeschooling must come first! Establish rules during school hours. Like no phone calls or texting during school hours. You know what your family needs for rules. Establish the rules in the beginning to make your homeschool successful. Don't forget to allocate chores to everyone in the family. Make a weekly schedule for chores. I found that in the beginning I got overwhelmed and laundry and other things got out of hand. Moms don't overload yourself. Then smile and enjoy. Your child(ren) are a blessing.

 Remember we all have bad and good days. Some days no one- not even mom want to do school. Give yourself time off.  Find a homeschool support group. I love all my homeschool social networks but, it does not compare to seeing other homeschool family's in person. Do lots of outside field trips when the weather is nice outside. It will not always be easy. I can say that it has been the best choice we have made for our family.


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