If you're like many homeschoolers, once you've made the decision to educate your kids at home, you're wondering "Now what?" We hope these tips will help as you wade through the choices of what curriculum to use, what teaching method is the best fit, whether you teach all of your child's classes, and where to go for support.
Main Curriculum Styles
Most homeschool curriculums are designed as one of the following: traditional textbook/ workbook; unit studies, which are flexible focus studies on a particular topic; or classical education, based on ancient Greek and medieval models of education with an emphasis on "the classics". Factors that might help you make the curriculum decision are how your child learns best - whether by reading, listening, hands-on activities, etc. - and what materials you want to cover in a semester or school year.
Whether you're a highly organized person or not, a little extra planning can make your school year flow more smoothly!
First of all, decide where you will teach. If you don't have a room that can be designated as the schoolroom, what about using the kitchen or dining room table? If you are teaching more than one child, will you want them to work together or in different rooms or at different times? Where will you keep your school stuff? Rubbermaid bins might be a good choice for holding schoolbooks, if you're short on space. A desk and standard "schoolroom" equipment are not essential to giving your kids a good education, but consider what factors might be distracting and try to minimize them.
It might take a few weeks into the school year to figure out a time frame that best fits your family. Do you start school first thing in the morning or do most of it in the afternoon? About how long do you need to spend on each subject? Once you've worked these things out, make up a schedule.
If you're on a tight budget, look online for used books or go to a local curriculum fair. For subjects like science, where some hands-on lab materials are usually required, go through your curriculum and pick only the labs that you think are most essential or that use household items.
If you are not using a curriculum, make sure that you have scheduled sufficient topics and projects to cover a full school year. It is important to have a planned sequence, even with very young children, so that they will have a solid foundation as they get older. Ask around or check out books on suggested scope and sequence to get ideas.
Also, please note that although homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, there are requirements that differ from state to state. Check the Switched-on Schoolhouse or Pathway's See our High School Homeschooling Teaching Tip for more information.
It can be a struggle sometimes to teach your own kids! Many areas have a support group for homeschool families, offering moral support, curriculum swaps, graduation ceremonies, and much more. This is a great way to get in touch with other homeschoolers! To find the nearest support group, see the listings on the Homeschool World page.
Many homeschool organizations offer state-wide homeschool conferences every year or two, usually in the summer. This gives you an opportunity to hear a variety of speakers and shop for homeschool products and curriculum. Check with the nearest local or state support group for more information on upcoming conferences. Also, past conference sessions are often available on tape.