written by: Laura Powell
• edited by: Amy Carson
• updated: 9/11/2012
How do I start homeschooling my child? Have you asked yourself this question? This article will answer this question and share candid thoughts about making the decision to homeschool, as well as ideas for setting up a workspace, thinking through daily planning, and other information.
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When I first was introduced to the thought of homeschooling a child, it was before mine was even school age. A friend knew she would homeschool her children, and she asked me if I had ever thought about homeschooling. As a music teacher at a private school, at the time, I thought I wouldn't want to homeschool because I knew a private school could be a good option. What changed? Over the years of being a stay at home mom, with our son, I realized how much I enjoyed spending time with him, and I saw how much I taught him throughout the day, even before we began formally schooling. Through much prayer, my husband and I decided to embark on the journey of homeschooling. Making the decision, I went back and forth wondering would I like homeschooling? Would I feel isolated? Would we make enough connections, for us both to feel good socially? Would it be too isolating for an only child? Would I be able to teach him the things he needed to learn? Would I do a good enough job?
So many questions went through my head in the decision making process. I was thankful for my husband's strong support, and help in making the decision. We both wanted more time to shape our son. The social environment in any school setting has a strong influence on a young child. Grounding him with values, and helping him develop academically at his own pace, as well as still have the importance of play, at the age of five, were important to us. The decision was not made lightly.
I went to a homeschool group for a few years before making the decision, while our son was still young. These conversations with other moms already homeschooling also helped us also find our path. So, once you've made the decision, you'll probably ask, "how do I start homeschooling my child?" Laying a good foundation is important when you make this decision. The next section will discuss ways to help do that.
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Laying The A Solid Foundation
Know Your State's Laws. There is an article on Bright Hub that lays out laws by state, which is a must read. It is linked here, indicated by the colored words. In the state where I live, Illinois, there are no specific guidelines you have to follow. However, in other states record keeping is required, and in some states, in the past, a teaching certificate was required. Make sure you know what your state's homeschooling laws are, so you can begin with record keeping right when you start, if needed, so you won't have to backtrack once you get into the school year.
Choose A Curriculum That Fits Your Child's Learning Style. There are so many curriculae available for homeschooling families. This is a fantastic challenge to work through. I recommend attending a curriculum fair so you can really look inside the textbooks, or workbooks, try the hands on activities that may accompany the books, and get an overall feel for what it would be like to use the materials with your child. If an online component comes with the curriculum you're interested in, see if you can try it out for a period of days or weeks before making your decision, and read reviews to get a feel for what others are saying for how user-friendly the computer program is. Two good websites for homeschooling reviews are www.homeschoolreviews.com and www.homeschool-curriculum.org. There is a whole section on Bright Hub devoted to helping people choose curriculum, so be sure to check that out too!
Determine What Subjects You Will Teach. Depending on the age of your child you will need to decide what subjects you will cover in your school year. It's important to have a plan in mind before you start, so you can buy curriculum for all the subjects you want to cover. The No Child Left Behind Act from 2001 called the following subjects core ones:
reading or language arts
civics and government
4. Plan Your Weekly Schedule. Buy a planner, or print out a free one. Then, plan out what a general week would look like. Depending on the age of the child, you will need to determine if you will be doing each subject every day. For example, with our Kindergartener I've chosen to do Science and History in alternating weeks. One week we do Science 3 or 4 days, and the next week we do History 3 or 4 days, in additional to the every day work. Things we do every day are Handwriting, Bible, Phonics, Language/Reading, and Math. Once you've determined what your school day will look like, use your planner each week to lay out what you will cover. I do my weekly planning on Sunday afternoons. I lay out all the week's work, pull out and organize the worksheets and supplies, and have everything read to go for the week by Sunday night.
5. Plan Extra Activities. To incorporate physical education and music, we take part in community offerings. We do a homeschool p.e. class and a homeschool swim class as well as our church's kid's choir. There are many offerings we could do, such as art classes, sign language, gymnastics, and much more. To find out what's available in your community, check with a local Y.M.C.A. or park district to see what activities they offer, specifically for homeschoolers, or in general. Also find out if there is a homeschool support group in your area. This group should know where to direct new homeschoolers to local activities, as well as offer support.
6. What Might Go Un-Addressed. For young learners, in many cases, curriculum companies don't cover months of the year, and teaching about the calendar. Also, with many currciulums health is not covered. For young learners this would mean you might want to incorporate a unit study on hand washing, how to sneeze correctly, the food pyramid, and other health-related topics. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that you can pick what's important to cover. Other things that you may want to include are character-building lesson plans, how to make a budget/be financially wise, or put in a learning time for something that interests your child, like mechanics, cooking, sewing, or animal care.
7. Set Goals For Your Child. Before you begin it's a good idea to have a couple of educational and character-building goals in mind for your child. I have 3 goals for character building for my 5 year old for the year, that we talk about often. I also have certain educational goals I'd like to see met by the end of the year. By setting goals, you give yourself something to work for, even if the goals aren't completely achieved by the end of the year. See page two for how to set up a homeschool work space.
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Setting Up A Homeschool Work Space
When answering the question, "how do I start homeschooling my child," one important part of the answer is making a homeschool work space. Setting up a work space in which to homeschool your child can be enjoyable, and possibly a little daunting. Here are some things I did to set up our space this year.
Find a space to spread out. I didn't want to do desks, because that was the beauty to me of homeschooling, not having to sit in school desks! So, I put up a long table, in which we work on daily. It's nice to be able to work side by side!
Decorate your space with educational materials. We put up a calendar, our goals for the year, maps of the United States and the World, and scripture verses to memorize. Other ideas would be to put up posters with inspirational sayings, alphabet or phonics posters, or other educational ones.If you're using a kitchen or dining room to homeschool, and don't feel comfortable keeping up posters all year, skip this step!
Use Bins To Organize. I have two 3-drawer organizers with a label on each with the subjects we do. It's easy to pull out what we need from each. Also, I have bins for books, toys, art materials and prizes too. I also think it's a great idea to have a bin or tub in which to put completed work. I use this bin daily to store all the work done each week. I'll go through it at the end of the year and save the work that will bring back memories years from now!
Consider A Couch. We have a couch in our work space, and use it weekly too. It's great to cuddle up on to read books, or even do some of the work that is read aloud!
Offer Incentives. I have little goals to work towards weekly with my son. We have incentive charts and goals on one wall of a closet.
Consider A Class Pet! One of my son's favorite things about the first day of school was having a new class pet, a hamster, to take care of! If you'd like to surprise your child on the first day with a class pet like a goldfish or hamster, it also provides a vehicle for learning discipline with taking care of an animal.
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Enjoy The Journey
Hopefully the question "how do I start homeschooling my child?" has been answered in this article. Whatever curriculum you choose, how you plan your days, or wherever you set up your workspace, enjoy the journey. The years of parenting, and if you homeschool, teaching, go by quickly. The moments we have to shape and share in the lives of a child are short. Whatever you choose to do, making the most of your child's education is important, and it is a decision to think through thoroughly.
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No Child Left Behind Core Subjects: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/nclb/hottopics/def.core.acad.subj.html