We’re kicking off a new series here at Vintage Kids | Modern World for those of you just wondering about homeschooling! Maybe you’re wondering if it’s right for you? There are a lot of factors that go into the decision to homeschool, and we want to give you some information to make that decision a little easier! We have an amazing team of guest bloggers that will be popping in now and then to give you their unique perspectives and to answer some of your most curious and pressing questions about that weird sub-culture that homeschools their children…
I am so excited to introduce you to a dear friend, Shanda, who blogs over at The Upside Down Pastor’s Wife. Shanda homeschools her four children, and she has some great tips to get you going in the right direction…
I want to homeschool, but…I don’t know where to begin!
I will tell you right out of the gate that we are not a “glitzy” homeschooling family. If you are looking for how to begin a creative, jaw-dropping homeschool, this particular article may not be for you. I want to help “normal” moms (like me) get a better grasp on where to really begin. Our homeschool is not going to win awards for the most creative, most educational, or the best of anything, but I assure you we are not mediocre-hum-drum, either. What we do might end up on facebook, but it won’t be pinned on Pinterest, and that’s okay.
We are down-to-earth and real, and we are a simple “nuts and bolts” homeschooling family. We have been on the homeschooling journey for fifteen years, since our oldest was a year old, and we have been blessed with four children ages six to sixteen. My kids are currently in first, third, sixth, and tenth grades. I want to touch on the things that were most helpful for me when I first started homeschooling. It is my greatest hope that after you read this, you will feel like…
HOMESCHOOLING IS NO LONGER AN IMPOSSIBILITY…
BUT A POSSIBILITY for your family.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Lao Tzu)
I believe in my soul that the most important single step you can take in beginning this journey is to…
1. PRAY! PRAY! PRAY! Pray before you research, make phone calls, talk to friends. Pray before you make a definite decision to homeschool. Make sure this is God’ plan for your family, because it is a lifestyle commitment, and it isn’t to be taken lightly. You will have challenging days ahead, sometimes you will have many of those days in a row, and you need to know when you feel like you are at the end of your rope that God asked you to hold onto the rope in the beginning. Your faith will be stretched, but the blessings are sweet. I promise.
2. HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) These are five letters you will need to know, and know well. HSLDA is your friend! After you have had confirmation from God that you are to begin the homeschooling journey, this is THE FIRST PLACE YOU SHOULD GO. When you get to the website, click on “My State” to find the legal requirements for teaching a child in your state. Please note that each state has their own laws for homeschooling. Some states like Michigan and Indiana are very lenient with their homeschooling laws, but other states like Pennsylvania and New York are strict. You will find the compulsory attendance age for each child listed for each state, the required subject areas you are to teach, and how many days or hours are required for instruction/learning. You don’t have to be an HSLDA member to glean knowledge from their website, but I strongly urge you to become a member because of the legal protection and benefits they personally offer your family.
3. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH.
Learning Styles| There are three main learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile. You should be aware of your child’s learning style. (It may take you time to discover it, and that’s okay!) Don’t feel locked in, because everything you teach doesn’t have to cater to their particular learning style. However, do allow their learning style to shape some of the things you do with them. Your child will still learn even if you haven’t chosen a curriculum specified for their learning style. Being in tune to your child’s learning needs will make you a better teacher, and you will know when to give your child learning breaks within the day if needed. Being mindful of your child’s learning style also gives you an idea of what types of focused activities you can do with your child to enhance their education.
Methods| There are many different methods for homeschooling: traditional, classical, literature-based, computer-based, unit study, Charlotte Mason/living books, online, and even un-schooling. (Don’t be concerned if you don’t know what these are just yet! We’ll be covering each one in subsequent blog posts!) We personally homeschool using an eclectic mixture from most of these methods. Since this article is about beginning, I would humbly, yet strongly, suggest (especially if you haven’t taught before) using a traditional method for your first year. The traditional method mirrors closely the type of teaching/learning that takes place in public or private school settings. Students generally have textbooks and/or workbooks, and teachers have detailed instruction manuals. The traditional method leaves very few gaps in the scope and sequence of learning. Choosing the traditional method for your first year will give you a solid spine from which to springboard other activities from different methods if you so choose. You will have more confidence in the subsequent years of homeschooling to branch off into different teaching methods once you have a solid year completed. The traditional method will also give you confidence in your instruction, because most lesson plans are written out word for word for you. When you get into the groove of homeschooling, you probably won’t need to rely on those word for word lesson plans as much (or at all), but you will have gained a wealth of knowledge about how to present a quality lesson to your child.
*Please note that my suggestion to teach your first year using a traditional method is just that… a suggestion. If you fall in love with another curriculum, go for it! I am speaking primarily to the teachers that feel they don’t have the skills and don’t know where to begin.
Curriculum| After you have some idea about which teaching method you would like to use, it’s time to choose your curriculum. I have relied heavily on the website Homeschool Reviews. You can read reviews from other homeschoolers that have experienced a vast array of curricula from different teaching methods. If you have friends who homeschool, talk with them. They can be a wonderful source of knowledge and encouragement along this journey. The internet is an unlimited resource, but can be a bit overwhelming at first. Many websites allow you to view several pages online from the books/curriculum in which you are interested. Some companies will also send you free curriculum samples, as well. A homeschool curriculum fair is a great place to see inside books before you make your purchases. There are, literally, hundreds of curricula from which to choose. Just remember and be encouraged that your child will learn with any reputable curriculum. You don’t have to make a perfect decision (only a good decision) when choosing curriculum. As you delve into this journey, you will learn what works and doesn’t for your child/children and you. We have switched our curriculum many times. You are not failing if you have to do so.
4. WHAT DOES SCHOOL “LOOK LIKE” AT HOME? This depends on you. Do you want to create a more structured environment or a more relaxed setting for learning? Some families are blessed with enough space in their home to have a designated school room. I know families where each child even has their own desk. If your home does not afford you enough space to school this way, no worries! Most of the learning (on “regular” school days) that has happened in our home over the past fifteen years has occurred at the kitchen table, the couch, or on a blanket outside on a warm spring day.
We have also homeschooled successfully in very small spaces. My children each have their own wooden school crate. They keep all their books, pencils, notebooks, folders, and crayons in their crate. Their crate is mobile, and it goes where they do. If we are schooling at the kitchen table, all items go back in the crate at lunchtime, and come back out after the lunch table is cleared. It’s not ideal, but it has worked for us for years. Currently, we have a school room, but most of our schooling still happens in the kitchen or family room.
We normally begin school right after breakfast, take a break for lunch, and finish our routine in the afternoon. The school time varies for each age group. Younger children will have around 2 hours a day of structured learning time, middle grades have 3-4 hours a day of structured learning time, and upper grades have 5-6 hours a day of structured learning time. Since we homeschool a vast age difference of children, each of my elementary/junior-high students has their own “skills-area” curriculum (math, reading, grammar etc.), but we often combine “content-areas” (history, science etc.). Some days we take a morning off to play educational games. Some days we “double-up” on our work so we can take the entire next day off to enjoy the beautiful weather.
When you homeschool, you will begin to see everything around you as a learning opportunity, because homeschooling is a lifestyle, not just something you do for a few hours a day.
Blessings to you as you embark on the beautiful journey of homeschooling. As with anything, you will have bad days, good days, and GREAT days. The fruits of your labor will blossom and grow as you persevere, and with each year that passes. I believe in my heart that this is not a journey you will ever look back on with regret.
“Do not despise these small beginnings,
for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)
Shanda Sargent belongs to her beloved, Matt, and they currently live in the foothills of the Rockies with their four crazy-amazing kids. After leaving 20 years of professional ministry, their family recently moved across country and is “ruthlessly trusting” God in the midst of plan B.
Shanda has a BA in elementary education from Bethel College (Mishawaka, IN), and she blogs at The Upside Down Pastor’s Wife where she transparently shares her heart’s ramblings about life and grace.