What Is Homeschooling And How Do I Start?
Many people ask me what homeschooling is and how to do it. How do I ‘homeschool’? Where do I start? What curriculum do you use? What do you do all day? What is your schedule?
The answers to these questions are different for everyone. Each and every parent educates their children in a different way. That is the beauty of this wonderful adventure. What I can say is that, is that homeschooling is a home education program. You can choose to teach your kids in any way you find best! Every child learns differently. Every child has different interests. Every child has different strengths and weaknesses. A home education program allows you to change and tweak and tailor your homeschooling to your child’s specific needs or way of learning.
There are so many wonderful resources out there, many of which are free. But, the best advice I can give to someone who is just starting out is to READ. Read in the morning, read at lunchtime, read after dinner and before bedtime. Read. Read. Read. I am a huge bookworm and have worked toward instilling the love of reading in my kids from birth. At 16 months old, my son would bring me a book to read to him over a toy any day of the week. Make reading fun! Use different voices for the characters, be animated, whisper when the characters whisper, shout when the characters shout, emulate the sounds in the story. This draws the child into what’s happening and caters to their imagination, deeply rooting those seeds of creativity and wonder.
Each state has it’s own rules and regulations regarding a home education program. You should visit your state or county’s public school board website to find out specific information on how to register and what is expected of you. In my state (Florida), children do not need to be enrolled in a home education program until they are 5 years old. The form to fill out is called a Letter Of Intent and is accessible from my county’s public school board website. We keep a portfolio (I will go over our organizational resources and format in another blog post) that is reviewed each year by a certified teacher in an end-of-year evaluation. Our evaluation is due once a year, on the anniversary of when the kids were enrolled in our home education program.
Now, don’t be too hard on yourself trying to work out a schedule. The thing about homeschooling, is your ‘schedule’ will change quite often. As kids grow and age, your family dynamic will change. Your activities will alter your daily rhythm and the amount of time you spend (and what part of the day you spend) on home education will adapt as well. That is just what homeschooling is, an ever changing, morphing adventure. Just because you start with an idea or vision, doesn’t mean that will stay a static routine. I don’t know anyone whose routine is stagnant month in and month out. But again, that is the beauty of homeschooling. Treating everyday as a routine and implementing new and creative parts of your routine from inspiring sources, and changing activities that aren’t working for you or your family is a luxury in and of itself. The flexibility is a huge benefit of homeschooling.
So what does our routine look like? Again, it changes from week to week depending on our activities, but typically….
Early Morning: We have a snack when we wake up and we read. I used to read storybooks with pictures every morning to the kids and sometimes I still do. But, we have switched to chapter books with no pictures as they get older. It expands their vocabulary and comprehension and allows their imagination to blossom. We also often go for a quiet morning walk. I have found that getting right out into nature first thing in the morning centers us, increases their inquisitiveness, and reduces the typical bickering that can occur between siblings. Many times, our morning walk inspires what we will learn for the day as well. We eat breakfast before we sit down to learn. A full belly is a well-working brain.
Late Morning: This is when we sit down to do ‘actual schoolwork’. As I said there are so many wonderful curriculums out there, but we follow more of an unschooling method, which is basically, child-led learning. I follow their interests and create lessons based on what they want to learn about. So, our style is very eclectic or piecemeal. I pull resources from many different places to put together a comprehensive study that incorporates all aspects of learning. Which brings me to my next topic-Unit Studies. I am a HUGE fan of unit studies. They are my favorite way to teach and to learn. They are statistically shown to improve comprehension and memory retention. It is more of an experience than a lesson. And my goal as a homeschool mom, is to show my children that all of life is a school. I want to instill in them a love of learning. That learning is for life, there is no end, no standard or requirement to meet or fulfill. They will still be learning when they are 30, 50, 65 years old. I believe this takes away the ‘chore’ of learning and makes it far more interesting. So, I create unit studies on a theme or topic. We will including reading, writing, art, science, history, geography, math, etc in a one or two week lesson. This allows us so much freedom to spend more or less time on what we feel we need to.
Afternoon: We usually wrap up ‘school’ in around 3 hours and eat lunch. As I usually finish eating quicker than my children, I again, read to them while they are finishing up their lunch. We typically reserve our social and extracurricular activities for the afternoon-unless there is a specific event we want to attend. This is when we go to the park, have play dates with friends, do sports, visit the library, go on nature walks, ride our bikes, go swimming, etc. I like having our afternoons wide open to do my chores and get dinner prepared etc. I find I’m more productive and less frazzled with my regular mom and wife duties when I know we’ve already completed our daily school lessons. There’s nothing hanging over my head.
Evening: Evenings are usually always family time. I try to include my husband in our homeschooling by sharing what we’ve done for the today, showing him the kids’ projects and having the children discuss what they’ve learned. But, because all of life is school, and the kids’ learning is typically centered around their interests, this usually comes naturally. They are bursting at the seams to tell Daddy what they’ve learned, what they did, what they’ve made or created, and ask him questions on the topic as well. I chuckle to myself inside, because, without realizing it, they have created for themselves, a daily review. They’re learning the information, applying the information and repeating the information-which means on some level, they will retain the information. And that makes me feel, that as a family, we’ve completed a job well done. We always read after dinner/before bedtime to fuel their imaginations and dreams through the night.
So, in summary, how do you start homeschooling? Just read and walk and play and talk and bake and pretend with your child. Get messy and clean up. Ask questions and find the answers. My absolute favorite thing about homeschooling is that I am learning alongside my children. And not just facts about animals or something like that. I am learning about myself. I am learning how to be a better mom, a better teacher, a better wife, a better daughter, a better granddaughter, a better friend, A BETTER ME.