So You've Decided to Homeschool!
Karen M. Gibson
Author's note: This article is written specifically for Alabama homeschoolers. General information may still apply to all homeschoolers, but information concerning church (cover) schools is specific to Alabama.
So, you’ve finally made your decision. You are going to homeschool. You’ve told the relatives and listened to their flak. You’ve told your friends and listened to all their questions and comments. You’ve reassured them all that you’re just trying it for a year to see how it goes. Certainly you can’t do any worse than the public schools have been doing. Privately, you are pretty sure you can do better. And you are scared to death! So many what ifs! What if you mess up? What if your child hates you for taking him away from all of his friends? What if home educating means your daughter won’t get into that computer science school she’s always dreamed of?
First off – relax. Breathe deeply. Smile. You can do it! But what is your next step? Finding a church (cover) school. This site, LeapingFromTheBox.com has a very good listing of church (cover) schools. It also includes a list of questions that you might find helpful in answering for yourself before you even contact those covers schools. Church (cover) schools vary immensely - as does every home educating family - so it’s important to find one that you will feel very comfortable with.
So, now what? Curriculum. What are you going to teach? And how are you going to teach it? I would suggest that you learn as much as you can about the various methods of homeschooling. There are many – school-at-home, unschooling, eclectic, classical (Trivium), and unit studies are just a few. You don’t need to decide which is best for you right now, but knowing the different methods will enable you to change gears as needed. If a particular curriculum or approach doesn’t seem to be working for you, you will be aware of other options. Most home educating families seem to start with a full curriculum the first year. All will tell you that their methods change from year to year and are also possibly different with each child.
This website has information for some of the methods I have named. Visit the Methods page. You can also find some great information by reading several homeschooling books. It probably won’t be possible for you to read everything there is to know about different home education methods before you need to worry about the actual teaching and purchasing of supplies. That research will probably be an ongoing process for several months, if not longer. I know it was with me!
Now you can begin to consider curriculum, textbooks, and other supplies for your home school. I really urge a lot of research, though, before you go out and buy a lot of curriculum. Try to get a hold of a copy first, to see if you think it will really work. Most homeschooler's will tell you that they purchased way too much stuff the first year that never worked out for them. I know I did. Start getting it little by little if you are going to mix and match. Start out with one subject for a couple of weeks to get the hang of it, then add another one. You don't have to start out week one doing all the subjects every day!
Plus, if your children are gifted, are labelled ADD or are just kinetic, hands-on learners, most boxed curriculums are going to bore the living daylights out of them. You might consider unit studies, rather than texts books for each subject area. Unit studies combine all the subject areas into one topic and include a lot of hands on activities. There are a lot of already created unit studies out there to purchase - you can purchase one at a time, as you need them, and eventually get the hang of it so that you can create your own, if you so wish.
Here are some catalogs that you might wish to send away for:
Just start slowly and build on your success. Don't be afraid to chuck something when it's not working and try something else. You don't have to complete a book just because you bought it - if it's not working, give it up. That's what's wonderful about home education, you can switch horses mid-stream and get a new, fresh horse!
Oh, and you know all those “what if’s” I mentioned in the first paragraph? What if you mess up? You’ll just try again with another approach. We’re all going to mess up now and then. What I didn’t tell you earlier was that home education refers to education for all the members in the home, not just the children! You’ll learn as you go and your children will be better for it. They will see that you don’t have all the answers and that you are willing to learn from your mistakes. It’s called “modeling” – one of the best approaches in education! What if your child hates you for taking him away from all his friends? He can still see him friends after school hours and on weekends. And the opportunities to make new friends, of all ages, are all around. You are not taking him away from anything; you are giving him new and expanded opportunities! What if home educating means your daughter won’t get into that computer science school she’s always dreamed of? Actually, because your daughter will have more time to put into experimenting and learning at home, home educating her will probably further her chances of getting into that computer science school! Many colleges and universities are now actively recruiting homeschoolers.
Congratulations! You’ve just joined the ranks of the fastest growing alternative education movement. You child will be getting one-on-one attention, a custom tailored curriculum, participating in real-life activities, meeting a broad range of people, and doing it all in a safe and pleasant learning atmosphere. Sounds darn near perfect to me!
Copyright May 1999
Originally published in May/June 1999 issue of HEART to HEART News