This summer, you might be thinking more seriously about the option of homeschooling your children come fall. You’re probably asking yourself, “Where do I start?” “What are my options for curriculum?” or “Am I even qualified to teach my kids myself?” These are questions that any parent has when first considering homeschooling.
It’s important to remember that as your child’s parent, you can be the best person equipped to help them learn, even if you have no educational training. While being a homeschooling parent isn’t the same as being a trained educator, you can lean into your strengths and take advantage of the benefits homeschooling has to offer. School educators learn how to manage a classroom of 20 or 30 students all with different learning styles, but at home, you can focus on your own kids learning styles and grow to master subjects together.
Pick Your Method
When you begin to look into curriculum to use at home, the possibilities seem endless. It’s helpful to start by choosing a method of education. Let’s look at the 5 most popular styles.
The classical method uses ancient models of education, time-tested and proven to work with various learning styles. Students progress through stages that coincide with their cognitive development. Classical Education uses “Great Books” (classical, literary masterpieces) throughout all the stages of learning. Studies in literature, history, and science are interwoven to give students a more complete and cohesive understanding of these subjects. Art, music, and Latin are also important aspects of a classical education. This rigorous approach requires students to do a lot of reading, writing, and discussions.
This 19th century British Christian educator created her own model for education that’s widely used today. It uses “living books” for most subjects—books that are written in a compelling story-form by excellent authors. Study sessions are kept short: 15-20 minutes for elementary and middle schoolers, to keep attentions sharp. Tests are often done in narration or discussion form. Science is mostly taught through nature walks and journaling. Charlotte Mason Education works well for younger students, but other methods may need to be incorporated in high school, especially for math and science.
This approach uses the established public or private school models of education, and teaches them at home. Learning is completed online or with conventional textbooks. This allows students who are familiar with mainstream education to continue learning in the same style. It also makes it much simpler to go back to public or private schools if needed.
While this method can be easier for parents to implement with its pre-packaged curriculum and lesson plans, it doesn’t easily allow for adjustments based on student need and individual learning styles. This approach is typically more time consuming for the student than other homeschooling methods (requiring around 8 hours of study per day) but it can also be less time intensive for parents. This is a good choice for parents who are happy with the conventional education model.
Resources range from free options like K12.com, to more costly prepackaged curricula like Houghton Mifflin Homeschool or Time4Learning. There are also Christian publishers such as Rod and Staff, Abeka, and Sonlight Curriculum.
This method works best for parents and students who have a sense of adventure, are self-motivated, and like to explore new things. Unschooling is student directed, and allows them to decide what to study based on their own interests. It encourages in-depth and experiential, hands-on learning without lesson plans or curriculum. For subjects like math and language arts, more structured learning is encouraged. The student is viewed as a unique individual who can, if given enough freedom, learn valuable lessons from daily living. A common concern is that this approach can sometimes neglect certain necessary competencies.
The majority of homeschoolers fall into this category, especially those who have been homeschooling for a few years. This pragmatic approach is very flexible and uses a mix of methods to form the best fit for your family and children’s needs. It is important to understand the other methods well, in order to combine them in a way that works. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses, so they can be even more effective (or ineffective) when used in combination.
Because all the methods are available to use with eclectic homeschooling, it has the most resources, but this can also be a bit daunting. Here are a few: Eclectic-Homeschool.com, TheHomeschoolMom.com, and Time4Learning-Eclectic.
Check Your State Requirements
As you are looking into your method options, another important first step is to check out specific homeschool requirements for your state. A helpful place to start is HSLA.org to find state-by-state information. You will also need to contact your local school district to fill out a simple affidavit that states you intend to homeschool. In most places this is required to be completed each year.
Create Your “Classroom” Space
Next, it’s time to create a little place in your home where studies can take place. Think about what you and your family need in order to have the ideal learning/teaching space. You can have an entire room dedicated to school supplies. It can even be at the kitchen table, with a container for each child’s books and supplies that can be tucked away when work is done.
Then, stock up on pencils, erasers, lots of lined paper and whatever other supplies your method of schooling requires.
Create An Organization Plan
Whichever method you choose, everyone needs some sort of plan. Creating a daily schedule (however structure or loose) for each student is one of the most helpful things you can do to keep yourself sane organized as a homeschooling parent. A simple way to do this is to print copies of each child’s schedule at the start of the week and have them mark off assignments as they go. This keeps you as their guide but teaches them to be responsible for their own work.
There is a lot to consider, but do your best to just take one step at a time and enjoy the process of engaging your children in a new and very rewarding way!