A couple of friends began their homeschool journey in the past year and had a host of questions for me. I relate, since the decision to start homeschooling is one most take with a healthy dose of trepidation. And between homeschooling philosophies, curriculum choices, and the weight of responsibility for our children’s education all loom before us, it’s understandable to be at least a little hesitant.
- My advice to friends getting started is to count the cost, and find out what you’re getting yourself into. For a tongue-in-cheek, but very honest look at reasons NOT to homeschool, travel on over to Toast Floats. For an interesting perspective on some great reasons in favor of homeschooling, read this fantastic post from Hip Homeschool Moms, written by a public school teacher.
- Find out about regulations for homeschooling in your area. Fortunately for us, the province of Ontario provides some of the easiest guidelines to comply to in terms of homeschooling, but there are places in the world where homeschooling is illegal. Know the rules that apply to your area. In Canada or the United States, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association is a great starting place.
- Next, research the different homeschool philosophies, and homeschooling in general. Here’s a great starter reading list:
The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child
So You’re Thinking about Homeschooling
Next, you’ll want to think about philosophy and curriculum. A great place to start is the Design Your Homeschool site, which has you thinking about the big picture–like goals for homeschooling–before you start to grapple with issues of curriculum and philosophy. Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp is also an excellent resource.If you’ve not been scared off yet, now it’s time to actually get started. But take it slowly. There’s no need to jump in with both feet and do everything all at once. Start with what interests your child, or with what you feel is most important. Remember that homeschooling needn’t break the bank. Buying a lot of curriculum up front before you’ve really found your rhythm (which takes at least a year, and sometimes longer), may result in a lot of dollars down the tube!
Stay true to your values, but be flexible in your approach. By now, you should know if you’re a workbook kind of family or a hands-on learning kind of family, or if you want a literature-rich approach, some combination of the above or none of the above! Don’t violate your principles because you read something somewhere or hear someone say you “should” or “shouldn’t” do this or that. You’ll waste money and time and possibly frustrate your children if you try to make your family fit someone else’s mold. We’ve known right from the start we weren’t the school-at-home or workbook kind. We’ve done very little workbook-y things and whatever we have purchased of that nature has sat on a shelf. We’ve tweaked our approach every year, but we’ve stayed true to who we are: literature-rich, hands-on learners. Having said that, it may take you some time to figure out what philosophy best fits your family’s needs.
If one is available, join a homeschool community. This could have been placed earlier in the list, but I do think it’s important to be sure of your own values before you expose yourself to the host of opinionated homeschoolers out there, because all of us are! :) If you can’t find a local group of homeschoolers to join, find an online community, or find some blogs you can glean encouragement from.
Homeschool will look different in every family, because every family is different. In my opinion, homeschooling is one of the best investments of time and energy you can make in your family. I wish you success on your homeschool journey!