Homeschooling, much like parenting, is a calling. Not everyone is called to parent children and not every parent should homeschool. Allowing for this piece of the obvious, I must say that homeschooling is a wonderful option for those who have the vocational drive, skill, and energy to make it happen. Rather like the fruit of a life well lived, healthy homeschooling engenders some pretty wonderful things in family - like a sense of connectedness, personal involvement on a deep level, and the freedom to live according to your convictions. But lest you think that homeschooling is too complicated or intimidating, let me assure you that there are great support groups and organizations to help guide you each step of the way. The friends I have gained from homeschooling groups have become not just great fellow homeschooling companions but sisters and brothers in Christ.
First of all, you and your family must engage in a discernment process. Is homeschooling for us? Do we have the interest, commitment, and will-power to see this through or at least give it a fair trial? This is not a choice to make lightly without careful consideration. Once the decision has been made you need to find out the laws in your state concerning homeschooling. Each state if different and it is best not to simply rely on hearsay for such an important issue. The best place to go for that kind of information is The Home School Legal Defense Association. They are the most professional and engaged organization I have ever come across to inform and equip parents with the step by step process to begin homeschooling properly so you won’t be hit with unpleasant surprises down the road. And they will fully support you as you take this journey into educational freedom. Of course, you have to be willing to be smart and honest. You do need to follow some reasonable rules – like actually teaching your kids, keeping records, and following the laws for homeschooling in your particular state.
Second, you need to do some research into curriculum and what the different grade levels require. There are a number of great options out there. Since I am Catholic I chose to use Seton as my base but I often include resources from other homeschool sites and curriculum guides. That is one of the marvelous aspects of homeschooling. You can add various texts and materials to create a curriculum that best suits the needs of your family. I also add various resources which fit the specialized interests of my kids. Some love history so we get a lot of biographies, maps and historical books focusing on the years they are specializing in while others are interested in science and we follow up with extra supplies in that area. There are kits dealing with the star systems, plants, animals, physical science and much, much more. Also, if your child has a weakness (say Algebra is a real bear) then you can add lots of practical aides which give extra practice in that area. Kahn Academy is a free on-line resource which has been great fun for the kids wanting extra practice in just one, two or more areas in math and they cover a huge range of math and science subjects. Grammar Bytes is a great on-line resource for practice in English skills. There are probably many more on-line resources, you just need to spend a little time and investigate what works for you.
Third, I would suggest you contact a homeschooling group in your area for close-to-home support. You will be surprised how many of us are out there are, and even if you don’t find someone living right next door, you will find someone who is willing to talk on the phone and give practical support and advice – maybe just a friendly ear to listen to your doubts and confusion and bounce fresh ideas your way.
Finally, I would take an honest look at your home environment and consider where would be the best place to house your homeschool. We are blessed with a fully furnished walk-out basement with plenty of light and space which is separated from the rest of the house and allows us a real school environment. I have known others to use their kitchen table and a series of movable book shelves quite effectively. Look at what you have, and if your first arrangement doesn’t work you can always change it down the road. You need to schedule your day with both school and home in mind. Meals, laundry, and cleaning chores still need to be done but since we see our family as an integrated unit we all help out and things get done much faster than if I carried the homecare burdens alone. Knowing how to take care of a home and plan meals is a part of a proper education!
So, get ready, get set, and enjoy a new adventure. Homeschooling has been very rewarding for my family. My kids know each other better, help each other out, and are engaged in the whole family far more than I was when I grew up. As a matter of fact they aren’t the only ones getting a great education!
If you have any questions for me please feel free to visit my website at www.akfrailey.com and leave me a message! God bless.