Homeschooling is rewarding, but hard work. You’ll need friends and resources along the way. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your homeschooling journey:
Get Plugged In
Join your local and state support group, participate in local homeschool events, and talk with veterans who can show you the ropes. Plan to attend a homeschool convention—every state has at least one. You can find contact information for your state group—usually the host of state or regional conventions—and local support groups by visiting www.hslda.org/laws, clicking on your state, and then selecting the “organizations” tab.
Tune in to Your Child’s Learning Style
Homeschooling enables you to tailor your child’s education to his unique style of learning. “Children’s overall learning style includes both the channel through which she/he learns (eye, ear, or hand) and the ways in which she/he is most motivated to learn—‘thinking style&rsuqo;” (Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling). Other resources:
Select a Type of Curriculum & Method of Homeschooling
There are almost as many curriculum combinations and educational philosophies as there are homeschooling families. Many families find their teaching style and curriculum choices altering to meet their growing children’s changing needs. Here’s a nutshell description of some general categories: (See Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling for a much more thorough description of curriculum types.)
One of the great things about homeschooling is that you don’t have to be limited to just one approach—you can mix and match, taking what you like from each approach, to maximize your child’s learning.
Attend a Convention or Curriculum Fair
Curriculum fairs, often held in conjunction with state or regional homeschool conferences, provide you with an opportunity to check out the curricula you’ve been researching. Not only can you look through the materials, but you can ask questions of the publisher representatives as well. Beverly McCord, who founded the Arlington Book Fair with her husband Kirk, offers this advice: “Just stand at a publisher’s booth for about 10 minutes and get an earful of what homeschoolers think about some of the titles of that publisher—which ones are the jewels that everybody’s using and which ones are really not that helpful.”
Tap into the Used Curriculum Market
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to buy, check out what’s available through the used curriculum market. You can borrow or swap materials with other homeschoolers, or check books out of the local library. You may also want to explore regional and state curriculum fairs, which often feature used curriculum sales. There are also used curriculum vendors online, and HSLDA has an “ebay-style” used curriculum clearinghouse where members can buy secondhand books and teacher’s manuals: http://market.hslda.org.
Choose a Place to Do School
In the kitchen? Living room? In a school room? Each family finds solutions that work for them. For some creative ideas for streamlining and maximizing your space, check out these books:
Be Creative with Field Trips
Start with nearby chambers of commerce, tourism offices, historical societies, town halls, craft guilds, fire/rescue companies, other support groups, and yellow pages. Next, try your local library or book store for family travel guides for the region in which you are interested and then use your imagination!
Tips for Overcoming Obstacles
Many parents have faced and overcome the same obstacles you may encounter in your homeschooling journey. In addition to asking homeschooling veterans for their advice, consider some of the following suggestions:
Winning over Friends & Relatives
If you have some skeptical relatives or friends, you’re not alone. Many homeschooling families have won the respect, and even changed the opinions of nearby critics through simply providing positive social interaction and allowing their children’s educational success to speak for itself. You can make a difference by explaining why you are homeschooling, having your child put together a scrapbook or portfolio showing samples of his best work for the year, reporting standardized test scores, having your child write articulate letters, or encouraging him to perform some voluntary service demonstrating strong language, math, and/or social skills.
Tackling the ‘Hard’ Subjects Like Calculus or Latin
Maybe you could trade calculus for French lessons! Many homeschooling parents have found they can round out their children’s education by trading teaching time in their areas of expertise—usually referred to as co-oping. Other options include private tutors (could be a friend or coworker) and community college classes.
Making a Transcript
The key here is not waiting until just before college. Help your student start planning his transcript as he’s getting ready to enter the high school years.
Adjusting to Life on One Income
Many families have faced this challenge and share the innovative ways they found to meet their goals.