Have you ever thought about homeschooling your children, only to have it stop right there as a thought? Not really knowing where to begin, what will be required of you, not being sure if you have what it takes? I have had several people ask me about some of this recently, and it got me thinking that maybe I should share what I’ve learned along the way that might make it a little easier to find the information you are looking for.
If you have even ever remotely considered the possibility of homeschooling your children, the first thing you should do is to think long and hard about your “why.” Why would you homeschool, and why not? Cover the pros and cons with your spouse (or if you are a single parent, I’ve heard there are plenty of single parents out there who homeschool their children), and make the list as extensive as you need. Maybe your lists will be really short, maybe your list of cons will be bigger than your list of pros, but the one pro that you have outweighs everything else. The beauty of doing this is that you will define what it is you want from the start, and you will have a good idea of the hardships you will face.
Once you know why you would like to homeschool, your next task should be to figure out your state’s laws regarding homeschooling. I think some states have county regulations as well, so do your research. Click this link if you need to get started in finding your own state’s laws. Each state has different guidelines, and some states have more than others. I live in Wisconsin where there are very few laws/requirements, but I think states like New York and California have some of the most (correct me if I’m wrong). I’ve heard of people who moved to a state with fewer regulations because they felt that homeschooling wasn’t really much better or different than public or private school in their state since there were so many regulations (obviously homeschooling is very important to those families), and I’ve heard of people who chose not to homeschool because of those regulations and who don’t feel comfortable or can’t make that kind of a move.
With school starting earlier and earlier for young children, it’s important to figure out what your state will require of you as soon as possible. If your kids are in school and you are considering pulling them out to homeschool, make sure you have your ducks in a row before getting started. Like I said, where I live there is little law other than by the time they are 6 at the start of a school year, we need to report that we have a homeschooled child at home, so we didn’t have to worry about much of anything until fall of ’15.
Once you know why you want to and what would be legally required, I would recommend trying to find ways to connect to other homeschoolers. Some people feel like they need to be a part of a co-op or something, and while that might be nice, I think what is really more important than that is to simply make friends with some homeschoolers and also find a group you can be a part of. I know there are groups that charge a fee to be a part of, but I’d rather not do that. I know of two local groups for me that are both free. The parents that are a part of it simply post things online…people will plan field trips through this, schedule a park day, or invite other moms to go out one night for dinner. Through one group, I made a few connections that have been very valuable.
Another way I started to find other homeschooling parents was through our library. I took the kids regularly when we lived in the city, and I got to know the librarian who in turn introduced me to a few other homeschooling families. I also met a few moms who had questions about homeschooling, and some chose to try it out, others decided on a private school, and some didn’t have a choice but to send their kids to school for the time being, but they were all grateful to be able to have a discussion with a homeschooling parent and get an idea of what they would need to do to get started, or to have something to think about while they weigh their options.
We met one family who became our friends through the YMCA. Miss Lady was in swimming lessons for beginners, and I recognized one of the moms as somebody I had done sewing work for. I knew she homeschooled back when I had done that work for her, so we got to talking and hit it off. Now I can say that I have several homeschooling friends and acquaintances, but I have to say that it was hard to find friends to begin with. It was hard to find somebody who could point me in the right direction as far as homeschooling (that first homeschooling mom that I met through the librarian), and it took even longer to get connected with other homeschoolers.
I know there were a few factors that slowed me down in this progress to meet others, so I’ll share just to give you some hope if you’re having a hard time. First of all, most of what hindered or slowed my ability to meet people was the fact that I was either pregnant (and tired or sick) or had a new baby. The second reason we didn’t get out more was that even though we were in “the city,” it was a small city with smaller resources. Even though the online group that I am a part of is for our county, we lived at the furthest corner from where most of those activities were taking place so it took about 45 minutes to get to anything…not necessarily a terrible drive, but when you are pregnant or have multiple little children to try to pack up and wrangle while out and about, you tend to limit the activities that require interrupting naps or take a lot of time or require much focus from the kids. So even though I did the best I could to put myself out there, we were sort of “stuck” at home for a long time. The last reason I would say that meeting people was hard is because I think (maybe I’m wrong) that a lot of homeschool moms are like me in one of two ways. The first being that I have a hard time talking to new people and knowing what to say, and until deciding to homeschool I wasn’t often one to put myself out there. The second is that I only have time for a few close friends, not a laundry list of people. And I think that some of them are just private people.
Then there are your teaching capabilities. So many people think they can’t homeschool because they aren’t “smart enough” or they aren’t a teacher…not true! As long as you have a desire to learn, you will be a great role model to your children, and you can learn along with (or slightly ahead of) your children. The resources you use will make all of the difference. Don’t count yourself short. You are smarter than you think.
And then there is the whole curriculum thing. You are really going to have to figure out what works for you. You should also spend time figuring out the learning styles of your children and yourself. Chances are not all of your children will learn in the same way you do. Learning styles can include audio, visual, or hands on…among others. There are some online quizzes you can take to figure this out. As for a curriculum, you will just need to take your time with that and be willing to learn that not all resources you pick up will work for you, and what works for one child may not work for another. I personally have some basic resources for basic skills, but everything else is just a miss-mash of stuff that we pull together as we find things that we like.
The library is often a homeschooling family’s best friend. There are bountiful free resources, helpful librarians, and often, great programs that your children can participate in for free. Our library has a card for teachers (and homeschooling parents) that allows us to check out books for 8 weeks. This is great for us because we just don’t get to the library as often since we moved. There are a few resources that will be available to you that you cannot access without that card as well.
And keep that “teacher’s card” in the back of your mind. There are lots of companies that have a teacher’s card or discount that homeschooling parents can partake in. Pizza Hut offers the BookIt program to homeschoolers, JoAnn Fabrics has a teachers discount that is good for things besides just fabric (though that’s cool too), and Walmart offers a rebate for all school supplies during the school shopping season in fall ( I don’t know if they do this the rest of the year). That’s just to name a few that I know of, but I know that there are others out there.
You don’t need a fancy “classroom,” you don’t need a bunch of materials or an expensive curriculum. Just take it step by step, day by day. Find friends…not even so much for the kids as for yourself, because you need it…though they will probably have children who can play with your children since you both homeschool, right? And try to find a mentor, preferably somebody who you can talk with personally, not just online. Try to get those around you excited about the possibilities homeschooling holds, because it will make it a lot less stressful to you if people understand the benefits. Encourage family and friends to help teach your children…not just quizzing them on things they think are important, but encourage them to work with your kids, teach them how to build things, or fish, bake, or cook, or sew, or whatever it is that they do that is different or special.
I am sure I could go on and on about this topic, but I need to stop myself! If you have questions, please, let me know, and I’ll do the best I can to answer. It’s not always easy, and yes, some days I question myself, but it is so worth it. When I revisit my “why,” I know we are doing the right thing for our children and our family, and it helps me to build up strength on the hard days.