Sunday, August 16, 2009

How to Homeschool: Getting Started

So you've chosen your path. If you've picked the whole boxed curriculum, or taken pieces from various publishers to create your own whole curriculum, then a lot of the work is done. Ordering, organizing and scheduling are pretty much all that's left on your to-do list. Now I, ahem, am not an organizing or scheduling expert and even if I were, my anonymous advice to you wouldn't necessarily help much. You need to do what works for you. I could tell you to order your materials and schedule to go: Math, Science, Reading, Social Science. I might start you off at 8am and give you 15 - 30 minute intervals through the rest of the day. But that system may not work for you or for your child. You'll have to do the best with what space you have. Maybe you've got a whole basement or a dedicated room. Maybe you've got the dining room or kitchen table. Maybe your child gets into everything and isn't gentle or maybe they never mess with anything other than their toys. But I will give you some schedule guidelines that are general enough they can give you a starting point if you're still feeling lost. These are helpful for both rigid and flexible paths.

Start the morning with ease, such as: review what you taught yesterday, but not in a pop-quiz style; start off with a morning song or a learning song; give them a coloring sheet or journal assignment that would take 10-15 minutes at most. Now that their mind is awake, jump in with their least favorite or hardest subject, which are usually one in the same. Find a way to incorporate an activity they like at the end of that lesson. If they dislike math but like physical activity, call out a math problem and give them an activity to perform the number of times as the answer. "2 times 2 jumping jacks". If they dislike history but like art, use the end of the lesson to bring in a coloring worksheet or spend a few minutes working on a time-line collage. They've done something difficult and had a little "break" so the next subject should be their next least favorite. End that lesson in a similar manner as the first. By now it's likely time for lunch or at least a snack. Montessorians and Unschoolers take meal times as opportunity for further lessons. Montessori incorporates basic household duties into their daily work; which teach responsibility, foster independence and hone manual dexterity. Unschoolers and Montessorians will also incorporate a school lesson. Counting, measuring, dividing, geography, botany, biology, chemistry, and reading can all be part of making meals. Work on manners and social graces at meal times, too. After lunch is a good time for their favorite activity. They are full of energy and excited and not often all that focused after lunch. A favored work will engage them enough that they can use that energy to complete and enjoy their task. See if your day will allow you for 2 more lessons. It is quite possible, as homeschoolers rarely need as much time for a lesson as is allowed in a traditional school. For the next to last lesson pick something they like or are indifferent about. Preferably it holds some challenge for them though, as their minds should still be able to focus at this point. For their last lesson, pick a subject that tends to be easy for them. Their minds are winding down and ending this way also gives them an "up" rather than bringing them down and discouraged about school work. Let them run around a bit and clean up before dinner. Use your evening routine as gentle reinforcement of the days lessons for the younger kids. It's a bit harder to sneak in calculus in a casual manner.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why Homeschool: How to Home School

Now that you've identified the primary reason you are homeschooling as well as any secondary reasons, it's time to start thinking about curriculum.


It is a difficult task to choose a curriculum for homeschool. What style teacher are you? What style learner is your child - or even harder, children? Do you want it all set out before you or do you want to have freedom? Do you like textbooks or life experiences or a little of both? And not least - How much money do you have to invest?


If you want to follow a traditional path a "boxed curriculum" or "complete curriculum" may prove very useful. There are many options out there from secular to religious. While this isn't exactly easy, it is probably the most simple of the options. There are still all the reviews and samples to check out. Remember, though that you aren't marrying this curriculum. If it's not the best fit, you can try a different program the following year and if it's just terrible, you can switch mid-stream.

I'm not going this route, so I have no "official" opinion on these but here's a short list:

Secular

K12 Virtual Academy (a good place to start as some states, like mine, provide it for free)

Curriculum Services

Oak Meadow

Christian (there are, I'm sure, curriculums for other religions, but they are a bit harder to find and many are piecemeal)

Sonlight

A Beka

Calvert School

Perhaps you're on the opposite end of the spectrum and the thought of having your child on a strict curriculum, or even having yourself on one, makes you bristle. More than just bristle, maybe you want to run away screaming. Perhaps "unschooling" is for you. Although, I think the "un" part is a misnomer. The unschooling child and unschooling family probably spend much more time overall on school than the ones on a strict curriculum. In that respect, it is probably the most difficult method for the parent-teacher. That being said – I would recommend this route to only the most involved parents. I don't mean micro-managing I mean you put a great deal of thought into all your child encounters. From the time they wake, to the time they go to bed, you've thought out their day. You know they can get color theory lessons while they dress, counting practice while they brush their teeth, measuring/weighing lessons at meals, life science lessons at the park, economics lessons at the market… The list goes on and grows on as they get older because you'll have to fit in complex concepts like calculus and abstract knowledge like world history (abstract in the sense that there's limited hands on material you can encounter for certain eras). I myself am not disciplined enough to go whole hog into this world, though I do take from it. Check out Unschooling.com for some more information including a link to their yahoo group. E-how has a brief article to get you started, How to Unschool Your Child, be sure to check out the related articles link on the left of that page.

There are other methods that are in between these 2 extremes. Maria Montessori, Charlotte Mason and Rudolf Steiner (Waldorf School) come to mind. Each of their methods have some general structure but are child led. You'll find support in terms of teaching guides, outlines and lists, but there is no set plan for the day to day. Mother nature, good books, art, and hands on practice are the common threads of these methods.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why Homeschool: How to start school at home

First you need to assess the main reason(s) you are homeschooling. For some it is one big easy answer, for others there are also some smaller reasons and it may even be all the normal reasons.
The public school system cannot adequately handle its student load.
We're in a bad school district.
We cannot afford private school - of any variety.
Traditional schooling is too rigid.
I have a special needs student.
I have an advanced student.
I believe my religion should be a part of my children's education.
I believe my religion should be the basis of my children's education.
I enjoy spending time teaching my children.
I don't want to miss out on the "little child of wonder" phase.
I have developed my own philosophy for the best method to educate my children.

There are other reasons of course, but these are enough to get you started.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why Homeschool

That is a hard question that I'm sure you all are asking yourselves. Even if the answers seem easy to you, I'm sure you put a lot of heart and effort into making the decision to be sure it was the right one.
So now you know why you want to do it, but how are you going to do it? That is an equally tough question. There are so many choices out there from super rigid to so flexible it hardly exists. Both of these choices require lots of hard work; as do all the ones in between. But you know that, it's why you're looking around, searching for guidance, searching for an understanding soul because goodness knows a lot of judgement comes your way when people hear "We homeschool". It comes in the form of teachers, people who send their kids to public or private school, little old ladies who may have figured out their lives to a tee (unlikely) but don't know you for squat and even other homeschoolers.
That's why I'm here. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by support, but none of them is on this adventure with me (yet, I may have gotten the idea into a few peoples' heads). I'm starting out on my own with little in my pocket, too much in my head and 3 kids and a husband to juggle. Let's get started.