I recently read a blog post which was about steps to start homeschooling. It would not have convinced me, when I was public schooling my own kids, because it never got anywhere close to teaching kids, or kids learning, academic things. It only covered the first steps, which got you from public schooling, to sleeping and eating well and enjoying family life. Well, that is a great start, but it would not have convinced me to do it. Inspired by that, I wanted to write up my own 6 step process, which will actually get you to the place where you are teaching academics to your kids at home!
Step 1: Observe your child’s/ your childrens’ public school classroom learning & count the learning minutes.
Go observe in your child’s public school classroom. Observe each of your kids in their classes, one child at a time, all day, for a whole day. If you have one child, this will take one day. If you have 3, it will take up 3 whole days. Arrange this in advance with your child’s/ your childrens’ teacher(s). Do this not on a special “party,” “field trip” or “assembly” day, but on a “regular” day. Do NOT arrange for yourself to be a “volunteer,” because this may mean you are out in the hall, reading, with other kids, and not observing the teaching and the learning of your own child. Arrange with the teacher for a day to observe your child in class for a whole day. Eat lunch at lunch with your child. Go watch your child at recess. Everything. Not only is this a great way to get to know your child and your child’s school program. It is also a great way to transition to being the one in charge ALL day, of this child’s education, every day. While you are observing, look at the clock. Think about what your child already knows and about how many actual minutes of the day your child is actually learning something new, that is something you want your child to learn. If your child learns for 20 minutes, that he is not good at something, that is something you do NOT want him to learn, so subtract those minutes from the learning minutes, because those are the minutes you’ll have to take to undo what he has learned. If your child learns how to ignore a child who needs compassion, subtract those minutes out, too. Empathy is a skill that is important, at least to me. If the class seems to be learning math, while your child is looking at the floor and daydreaming, don’t count those minutes. Don’t count the minutes when your child is lining up for lunch as learning minutes, unless something important (besides how to line up and not hit one another). The time it takes your child to walk to the lunchroom, should not count, either. I don’t suggest counting recess as learning minutes unless free play time in your homeschool will count as learning minutes! Write down the minutes of new, actual, positive, academic learning your child has experienced. Teacher teaching, minutes, may be 5 hours. Your child’s actual learning, minutes, may be 2 hours. It depends on your child’s learning style, how much your child already knows, how far behind your child is, and similar factors.
Step 2: Investigate Homeschool (like a spy)!
Taking this number of hours and/ or minutes, into your heart, think about the possibility of teaching this child on your own, at home, to help your child “learn” that many minutes per day, at home. First, find out the legal requirements for homeschooling. If there is a form to fill out, print it. Look it over. Then, go to the library or a book store and get some books on homeschooling, which appeal to you. Read at least 10 100 page books, please. Ponder homeschooling. At the same time, join Facebook homeschooling groups for your county and the counties surrounding you. This is a great way to see all of the social opportunities for learning with other homeschoolers, are available. Also, if you have Charter schools in your area, arrange for tours. Check them out. See how a whole bunch of different styles of learning, work. On your tours, look for ideas, but also consider that you may try this school, instead of your school. Try to find the perfect school for your child’s personality, learning style, level of learning, etcetera. If you have more than one child, try to imagine each of your kids in each school. Imagine how well each child will be learning, in each one. Try to find the perfect school for all of your kids. If you are religious, during this time, find out whether there are home education books or workbooks which teach religion to your kids, which they’d enjoy. Some include only religious teaching. Others include academics with the religion. If you are religious, pray about homeschooling and discuss your learnings and pondering, with your spouse, if you have one, or with the children’s father, if you are separated or divorced and must include him in the decision. At the same time, go to some of the homeschool parent meetings in your area (they are usually once a month). Go to some of the homeschool fun events (park day, field trip, etc.), even if it is only with your younger kids or alone. This is a great way to learn about homeschooling in your community. Ask the other homeschool parents questions. Don’t be afraid. Most are very willing to answer and be nice. Ask some of the questions to lots of different people. You’ll always get different answers. Homeschool parents all have different styles, organization, routines/ schedules, methods, kids with different needs from other parents’ kids. There will be different styles, methods and curriculums, introduced to you. Get on amazon or go to the library, and read books about different methods, styles and philosophies you hear, mentioned. On your kids’ days off, try some things with your kids, from methods you think may work. Test the waters with different stuff. If there are used curriculum sales or curriculum displays locally, go to these things. If there are homeschool conferences you can attend and afford, go to them. Learn as much as you can about homeschooling. If a homeschool mom lets you come and observe or see how her homeschool is set up or organized, go for it!
Step 3: Make a tentative plan and try school at home with your kids, on a school break.
I recommend this because so many are so worried it is not possible. Many want to try this homeschool thing over Summer Spring, Fall or Winter break. That is a great idea. Keep in mind, though, that the way your kids behave during this time is NO indication of how they would behave if you actually homeschooled, because these are kids who have been told to sit still and be quiet day after day. Their spirits have been suppressed and they have a lot of energy and rebellion to get out of their systems, because of it. If you do this over summer break, you’ll have a better idea after 2 months of freedom from school, for your child, of what your child’s behavior will be like. If they are worried about the upcoming school year, though, stress at this time, may creep in. I can’t lie. It’s true.
Teach one science lesson to all of your kids at lunch. Do the same with history and geography. Read aloud to all of your kids at once, both with picture books and novels or chapter books. Have your kids do writing all at once, together (the same/ similar) assignment, when possible. (Each child has a different ability. I have one child write 2 sentences, and an older one write 100 words.) Math and spelling are, most of the time, best, separately, for each child, at their level. Field trips can be free. If you want to have them learn about rocks by driving to a spot and looking at the rocks on a hike, do so! If you want to go to a natural history museum to learn about rocks, do so! Keep in mind, you only need to have each child, learning, as many minutes per day, as he did in school, when you observed all day! You DO NOT have to have them learning every subject, every day. Maybe you learn a different subject every day. This is all up to you. Allow yourself to be spontaneous, and take advantage of the local homeschool groups’ field trips or learning events! Also, take advantage of any free or cheap, community offered learning events. I take my kids to the University almost monthly, for a science day. We learn tons!
Step 4: If you are religious, seriously pray about it with other decision maker (if any) in your child’s life. If you and this person feel you should do it, then do it.
Do the legal stuff you have to do. Don’t fret about supplies or curriculum yet. A library card or stack of books, a pencil and a paper are great to start with. Those are all I had when I started. It worked out great, even then! Explain to the kids after you’ve started, or before you’ll start. It does not matter. By now, your kids probably know you have been thinking about it, anyway. The first month of homeschooling, you’ll probably learn very fast, what to do and what not to do. Your kids will also be adjusting a lot. My kids had to get accustomed to not having to raise their hands to ask me a question or to ask if they can go potty. My kids and I came up with plans for our schedule, together. This made them part of the process, which made it more enjoyable for them. They loved our first month of homeschooling. During this time, we discussed often, the differences between public and home school. You may run into people who are happy you homeschool, who don’t homeschool themselves, but it is a rarity. Be prepared. Just remember, it is your choice, and you are the parent. You do not need their approval. You may even have close relatives (such as the grandparents) who are against it. If you do, seek support of the other homeschoolers you know, online, on the phone or in person. They are great at helping you through this!
Step 5: Work Home Education into your Budget!
Please do not think this step is a skippable one. It is so important. Whether you budget weekly, every 2 weeks, or every month, figure an amount you can afford, into every budget. Pull it from some other category. If it is only $5 a month because you are extremely low on cash, do that. Use that $5 well! If you are more blessed in the financial arena and have $50 a month, great. Use that $50 a month wisely. Consider carefully each purchase! You may want to use it for school supplies in August, but it is February now. If that is the case, buy a few necessaries, and save the rest for the July/ August back to school sales. They are great! If you want to skip the school supplies, or you have them already, you may decide to use the money for learning field trips which cost money. If that is what you prefer to do with your money, go for it! It is good to have money, though, isn’t it?
Step 6: Change is going to be constant. That is good!
You are the one who gets to change the curriculum. You are the one who gets to see what is working, by way of schedule, routine, or what is being learned. If you change your way of teaching daily, that’s fine and normal. If you change only once a year, that’s fine, too. Do whichever works for your family, best! You will gain experience and change things with time. Enjoy the journey! You are homeschooling!