10 tips for getting started homeschooling
1. Research and understand homeschooling laws in your state.
Each state has different laws regarding home learning experiences. For example in my state I am considered an administrator of a private school, and my home is that school. I also need to meet certain requirements within what my state expects my child to learn. This changes from state to state, some being more involved some being less.
2. Determine your educational philosophy and goals.
There are educational styles and there is educational philosophies. The educational philosophy is called a pedagogy. How you write one is basically by asking yourself questions that have to do with education. Questions like what do I believe about teaching and learning? How do I learn with the student? How do I know when I have not only taught but taught successfully? You want it to only be 3-4 sentences long just a short paragraph as it changes over time as your homeschool and your children grow.
3. Create a flexible schedule and structure for your homeschool.
You have the incredible opportunity to stop homeschooling when there is a death in the family, to take a break when a new baby is born to the family, to keep going through the summer because you took a long winter break and more. Play to the strengths of homeschooling and you will be able to create a schedule that works for your family. Try to do EVERYTHING in the curriculum and the co-op is a surefire way to buy yourself a ticket on the burnout train to screw-this-ville.
4. Choose appropriate curriculum and resources that align with your goals.
You will want to see which curriculum aligns with your educational styles and your individual pedagogy. Usually curricula will have some sort of sample and I suggest you start there especially if you are doing this with older kids. It really helps them to have a sense of what to expect when you are the one leading and facilitating a structured experience whether it's around their own interests OR around a predetermined subject.
5. Set up a designated learning space in your home.
The kitchen table is a whole classroom- and it will help so much if you have your resources, books, writing materials, paints, canvases and paper, math manipulatives and more right next to your table. Are you and your partner willing to dedicate an entire cupboard to homeschool materials? How about moving a bookshelf into the kitchen so you have a small space to store things? It does not have to be a whole school room, although you can have a really cozy reading nook in your livingroom that is multi purpose. The point is you don't need vast swaths of space dedicated to pinterest perfect playrooms or instagrammable school rooms. It is best that you cater this area to what you will use for YOUR PERSONAL experience with facilitating education rather than trying to invent school at home- that is also a one way ticket on the burnout train. Its not fun and its not possible. You have so many other restraints and so many other advantages than teachers do so you'll need to find a way to balance that. Often, I have found relief in community sharing their REAL homeschooling spaces rather than scrolling instagram for ideas.
6.Build a support network of other homeschooling families and educators.
This is one of the most important moves our family ever made for ourselves. We needed to include our children in experiences where they were not only socializing but growing with peers they would see over and over again. This allows for so many chances for growth because we are faced with opportunities to challenge ourselves and to challenge our childrens less than favorable decisions in the aid of community and like minded parents. No parent wants to see their child hit and on the other hand no parent wants their hitting child to face no reprecussion of correction for hitting. There is a balance that is maintained between learning socially and learning individually when you have a community to go and connect with. Facebook has helped me so much in finding community and it has also aided me in adding to community and offering art classes. Then, instagram helps me to grow closer to everyone because I can quickly post about what I am doing on there and it cross posts. That is my personal thing, I don't expect everyone to read that and feel relief. You will find your own comfort zone through the uncomfortability of just making new friends as an adult.
7. Plan for regular assessments and evaluations of your child's progress.
Once a year, every year, I give myself a teacher evaluation. Not to be a complete hard pressed dictator on myself but to just sit down for a moment and get real vulnerable. Did I handle this in a way that a parent should? Should I have been more in a teacher mode then? Because as a homeschool parent you are tempering the fine line of being not only their teacher and guide but also their parent. This has to be the one thing each homeschooler has spoken on the pressures of regardless of our personal ideas around education and learning. Take the time to assess YOURSELF and then take the time to compare against a rubric. Depending on your state, your child will be required to test from time to time. In my state my child does not need to but I still take time to compare the rubric of the curriculum chosen for my children, the rubric of the local public schools, and then evaluate what is actually important to life learning and what is actually busy work that would be better spent committing other things to memory.
8. Incorporate hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.
If you do not have a chance to connect with community right away then plan for hands on field trips! These do not have to be expensive. They can be trips to the library, trips to a park, trips to a graveyard (you can sure learn a lot of local history by looking up the oldest gravestones!), trips to a farm with just your family is a visit so sometimes there's little to no admission, you get the main theme here. The main focus should be leaving the house to come home and take the information gathered through the experience and then compile it in a way where the experience of learning is tied to the way you gathered the info then it becomes committed to memory.
9. Encourage creativity, exploration, and individuality in your homeschool.
A huge advantage of your homeschool isn't just that you can take breaks whenever you want its that you can watch documentary upon documentary about an interest with no interruptions. It's that you can watch YouTube videos on how to do something and then well, go and do it. There is no time constraint stopping you and your student other than the ambition behind the action and perhaps supplies.
Encourage your child to embrace that they want to work with their mind and code through enrolling them in a class on outschool learning how to code on Minecraft. Alternately, if that is out of the budget you can learn new things with them! Look up 'Minecraft coding tutorial for newbies' on YouTube and see what you find! If they want to work with their hands its much the same. You can offer so many resources to them when you go off on your own and plan or prepare different videos or projects for them to do. My son loves it when I do this because it gives structure to his interest. The rigidity of following me ironically allows more freedom to go safely INTO his interest because freedom without any structure is chaos.
10. Stay organized and keep good records for future reference and evaluations.
In my state we need a certain amount of yearly hours to meet the standards of the state. Keeping excellent records is vital, as not everything we do will count towards those hours. In your state it may be different, and you will have to look into that, the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) is an excellent resource for all of this, and you can search for the laws that will apply to you by each state. You'll want to look into the history of this because there are people who have fought for you to have the rights that you have today or people who have fought against homeschooling and how you represent homeschoolers in your state will be vital for change in the next generations. No matter where your state is you will find accurate and up to date info at the HSLDA. These records will also help you hwne you are planning future lessons, as you could be teaching all day long but what real learning is happening if the material doesn't slowly build upon itself? What learning is happening if you're attempting to lecture to a 7-year-old who learns much better with hands on and visual examples? Don't be afraid to challenge yourself and move into a higher truth because of the assessment of yourself rather than to stagnate and stay in one spot. You've got this and if you have any questions reach out to me, I love to talk about this!