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
- foreign languages
- 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.