OK. You’ve either recently decided to teach your children at home or you’ve been doing it for awhile and are ready for a change. Why else would you be visiting this webpage? By now you’ve probably read a few books, maybe attended some conferences or listened to CDs about how to do it. But the more you find out, the more complicated it seems. There are SO many different teaching materials out there and SO many different teaching approaches. You’d like to be an explorer and sample bits and pieces from the homeschool buffet, but there’s always that nagging voice in your head that says, “You just don’t have the time, energy, or money to treat this like an experiment. Just buy a curriculum program and you’re good to go!”
Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, I’d recommend that you revisit your homeschooling fundamentals and think about why you’re doing this, what you hope to accomplish, the distinctive qualities of your family and of each of your children, and the elements of a learning environment. You will find a lot of resources for getting to the heart of what you want your homeschooling years to be like in our GETTING STARTED section.
I’m a person who likes to think in terms of steps. I’ve found if I take baby steps towards a goal, I eventually reach it. But if I try to take on the whole thing at once, I get overwhelmed and all the enthusiasm that powered by energy to reach the goal is sabotaged. So here are the steps I would recommend:
STEP 1: QUESTION WHY YOU ARE DOING THIS. Right now homeschooling is a faddy thing to do, especially since the public schools have become so dysfunctional and homeschooling has become so widely accepted as their alternative. But, do you have a strong enough “Why?” to sustain yourself through the inevitable rough spots? Homeschooling is no walk in the park. It requires dedication, flexibility, a sense of humor, and a whole lot of other traits that I guarantee you will be challenged along the way. When I began homeschooling my boys, people were going to jail for educating their children at home, so homeschooling had to be more than a preference or an experiment. It had to be a conviction. And believe me, if I didn’t have a conviction about homeschooling, I would have thrown in the towel long ago. The guide, A STRONG ENOUGH WHY leads you into developing a strong enough “Why?” that you can weather any storm in your home school and that allows all the “Hows” to take care of themselves. You can get this e-book free if you sign up for our mailing list.
STEP 2: DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO FIGURE OUT YOUR FAMILY’S UNIQUE MISSION AND PURPOSE. Knowing “who” your family is and “what” it’s all about prioritizes everything you do as a family—even your homeschooling. The guide, HOW TO CREATE A FAMILY VISION STATEMENT, causes you to take a look at your family’s goals, values, uniqueness, meaning and purpose and walks you through creating a Family Mission Statement that can become a guide to the way your family operates in every area, including home schooling.
STEP 3: FIND OUT WHO YOUR CHILDREN ARE. So many parents never bother to see their children as “people” and wind up surprised to find they have little or no relationship with them when those children become adults. When asked how he could carve such beautiful sculptures, Michaelangelo is said to have replied, “I see the angel in the marble and set it free.” That’s the real essence of homeschooling—seeing the potential and innate gifting in each of your children and providing them with the resources, tools, and opportunities to help them express all that God has put in them. The guide, DISCOVERING YOUR CHILD’S DESTINY, gives you the knowledge and tools to identify who each child really is, even when you think they are just “blocks of marble.”
STEP 4: UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCES IN THE WAYS CHILDREN LEARN AND DEVELOP. One of the reasons institutionalized schooling is so harmful to children is it uses an assembly line approach, treating children like generic containers to be filled and ignoring the fact that children mature at different ages and stages and they have different ways of learning. A “one-size-fits-all” education just does not work on human beings. HOW YOUR CHILD LEARNS BEST covers learning styles and differences and helps you identify the ways each of your children learns best and SEE HOW THEY GROW gives you a deeper understanding of the mental, emotional, and moral stages of development a child goes through from birth to age 18 so that you will be able to home school each child in an age-appropriate way.
STEP 5: PLAN YOUR CURRICULUM. The enormous volume of materials and methods available to homeschoolers can be very overwhelming. Doing Step 3 will help narrow things down. The internet offers a never-ending source of information as well: basic information on various subjects, online curriculum and supply ordering, articles about methodologies, support groups, and public school curricula. Research, read, and plan what you want to teach and how. No matter what else you do in your homeschool, you will wind up covering at least 4 basic subject areas: Language arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science. The other subject areas you choose to include (like art, music, foreign language, etc.) will be determined by the values and priorities you discovered in Step 2 as well as the recommended course of study in your state. Check out our guide on CHOOSING TEACHING MATERIALS for tips on how to choose materials that work for you and your family and our book I CARVED THE ANGEL FROM THE MARBLE, which focuses on the nuts and bolts of schooling at home and the everyday aspects of teaching and learning together. It covers how to set the stage for learning to occur as well as the best ways to teach the major subjects at home – from language arts, to math, to history, to science. It also has a chapter on teaching high school at home.
STEP 6: PLAN YOUR DAY. If you choose to have a more formal homeschool environment, you can prepare by gathering your lesson plans, materials, and textbooks together – or even by setting-up a room in your house for studies and activities. See our guide on CREATING LEARNING CENTERS. A different approach might mean your teaching preparation involves setting up field trips for the rest of the year in every subject, placing learning objects around your home, or simply getting yourself into a mindset of using every day as a learning opportunity with no set plans or textbooks. However you choose to homeschool, it can only be helped by planning and preparing as much as you can before you start.
STEP 7: CREATE A RECORD KEEPING SYSTEM. There are a lot of different ways to do this, and most of them use some form of charting like is done in the public schools where you keep track of what was studied each day (or week) and the “grade” each child earned in each subject. But the easiest record-keeping method I’ve found is to keep a portfolio of each child’s work. Thick, three-ringed binders with tab separators for each student are an excellent way to keep track of school work, along with whatever may be required from a legal standpoint. Label each tab with whatever subjects the child is studying (for example: Math, Spelling, Language Arts, History, Biology, Spanish). After your child has completed a page under that subject, punch holes (using a three-ring hole punch) and snap the page into the proper section of their book. Remember to date each page or it will be a big jigsaw puzzle to figure out later. This is most useful when your child may be thinking of going on to college, as they often require portfolios of work from homeschoolers.
STEP 8: PREPARE FOR THE LIFE CHANGE THAT HOMESCHOOLING BRINGS. Homeschooling is a 24/7 endeavor. How will you handle all the different demands of teaching at home, being a wife and mother, managing a household, and having a “life” without burning out or driving yourself or your kids insane? The guide GET OFF THE HOME SCHOOL HAMSTER WHEEL gives many ideas for eliminating a lot of the stress, strain, and clutter that homeschooling inevitably brings.
Sign up for our mailing list for tips and techniques for easily and effectively teaching language arts, math, history, science, and more. Browse through our blog for articles that address how to homeschool.