Maybe your child is ready to enter kindergarten next year, and your feeling more than the normal sadness of sending him to school in the fall and not seeing him for a good part of each day.
Or maybe your child has been in public or private school for a year or more and is struggling academically, or socially, or emotionally, or spiritually, and you wonder if bringing her home would help.
Or maybe your child is doing great in school and loves it, but there is an undefined something that makes you wonder if there is another educational choice that would be better for your family.
Or maybe it is none of these reasons at all, which is highly likely, because people today homeschool for all kinds of reasons. Gone are the days that you could assume that someone who homeschooled fit a typical religious, political, or social profile. Homeschooling is growing wildly in popularity among all kinds of families and parents.
If you are thinking about homeschooling, here are some steps to take on the journey of deciding if it is for you, and, if so, how to do it.
1. Decide why you want to homeschool
What values and goals are important to you and your family that homeschooling will help meet better than a “regular” (public or private) school? Are you interested because of the academic aspect? The social side? The chance to teach your child spiritual lessons? The flexibility of the schedule? If you are unsure, take a look at some of my reasons and see if any of them resonate with you.
2. Learn about how to homeschool legally
In South Carolina, there are three legal “options.” You can read a summary of them here, and get additional information on Carolina Homeschooler. You can also read the actual law here. If you are elsewhere, you can get good information on homeschooling laws across the country at www.hslda.org.
3. Decide on your educational philosophy
Yes, I’m serious. Because the next task on your list (choosing a curriculum) depends on this one. Every textbook ever written for a child, whether taught at home or at school, has a philosophy driving it. Jamie Martin of the “Simple Homeschool” blog has written two excellent posts (Part 1 and Part 2) giving a brief overview of the more popular approaches among homeschoolers, and this article has a good summary as well.
The philosophy our family has adopted is the classical approach, although I fell into it by accident after discovering a Classical Conversations community five minutes from our home. Our first year of homeschooling, I could not have told you what my educational philosophy was, which made that year a bit harder.
4. Choose your curriculum
NOW you can go to this step. Start by checking back on point 2 so you know what your state requires you to teach your child (ours says we need to cover reading, writing, math, science, and social studies in the primary grades). If you have decided what approach best fits your family, you can start perusing the incredible variety of materials available to homeschooling families. Be prepared to be overwhelmed. A simple Google search of “homeschool curriculum” brings up over 9 millions results. Christian Book Distributors sends out an entire catalog just of homeschooling materials several times a year, and each company represented in it has their own entire catalog as well. Going to a homeschooling convention will introduce you to even more ideas.
When you come down to the nitty-gritty, though, there are two ways of doing curriculum in your homeschool: buy it all from one publisher or piece it together from different publishers. Most people take the second approach. The first is sometimes more attractive because it feels simpler, but a lot of people who start with one publisher for everything end up being dissatisfied with some piece of it along the way – because our kids are unique and generally don’t fit into one box.
5. Decide what your homeschool will look like.
Start by remembering it does not have to look like school. You don’t have to have a desk and chair and a dedicated homeschool room with a map and whiteboard on the wall. You don’t have to teach every subject every day. You don’t have to have school for 7 hours from 8-3. You don’t have to have to do school all in one chunk of time either. You can, if it serves your family, but that is the point. What schedule and physical set up will work for your family? Our homeschool, for our second grader, follows the schedule that I share here. We do most of our schoolwork at the kitchen counter and on the go in about three hours a day, but not always at the same time everyday. I know other families who do a lot of their schooling in the afternoon and evening. You have to decide what will work for you, which is the beauty of homeschooling.
So what do you think? Could homeschooling be a good fit for your family? Ultimately, there is only one way to find out … to take the plunge and try it out. Worst case scenario, you back pedal and change course after a semester or two. Best case scenario? You discover the same joy of homeschooling that many other families have found and a path for learning that will bless your family and children for years to come.