Making the decision to homeschool is a big deal. It is a huge choice to make for your family and it can feel overwhelming. Unfortunately the decisions don’t stop after you’ve made your choice; there are more steps you’ll need to take to help your family have a successful school year. I hope to help give you some answers and resources as you make your plans.
Know the Legal Stuff
One big and intimidating part of homeschooling is knowing what the legal requirements are. Each state has different laws and things they require. But there are some great resources to help this process be less intimidating and scary. It is best for you to do your research so you know you are doing everything legally and not missing anything on your state’s requirement list.
The basics to consider when it comes to the legal requirements are reporting and recording. How do you report that you are homeschooling your child to the school district? How do you keep your school records and do appropriate testing? You can find great legal advice at Home School Legal Defense Association and Laws by state.
Minnesota and Wisconsin aren’t too tricky to homeschool in. There are, of course, legal requirements but they are generally easy to meet and follow. The main thing is to be aware of them and to give the school district the information required, especially if your child was previous in public school.
Once you get a grasp on what is legally required for you to homeschool, you might feel ready to get shopping and buy the curriculum and books you will need. But before you dive into that, I’d advise doing a little bit of research in these areas.
1. Learning styles
First it’s helpful to take a look at learning styles. Each child is going to have a different learning style and needs. Maybe you are nodding along already thinking about how each of your kids may fall into a different category, or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about.
There are 4 basic categories of learning styles: visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinesthetic. Some people like to expand on those and make the list into 7 (or more) styles, but I think these 4 give a good start when considering how your child learns.
Looking at the above list, can you identify how your child learns best? If you give them a basic task at home to learn what helps them achieve success? Watching you? Listening to directions? Reading instructions? Or trying it hands on? If you’ve never really noticed how your child learns or absorbs information it’s a good time to start taking note.
If your child falls into one category, it doesn’t mean you neglect the other learning styles. Instead it helps give you a key to find better success in reaching your child. If you are taking the time and energy to homeschool you are going to want to make sure you take the time to teach your child effectively. Here are some further resources to understanding these learning styles.
2. Teaching styles
Just as your child learns in a certain style, you will also teach in a certain style. There are quite a few categories of homeschooling out there. I will list the 5 main ones you will likely come across: Traditional, Classical, Unschooling, Unit Studies, and Charlotte Mason. These are likely terms you will hear as you later dig into curriculum choices. Each of these methods has its pros and cons. As you look more into each of these options, one may seem like it fits best for you and also with how your child learns.
Very broadly I can define these 5 styles of homeschooling for you. Traditional is more of the school-at-home idea. Textbooks and workbooks are typically used for each subject and it follows a similar structure to a public school setting. Classical is a different approach that divides learning into 3 stages (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric). It is primarily language and literature focused. Unschooling takes the focus off of curriculum and allows the child’s interest to drive their learning. This is by far the most flexible approach and really the main tools you need to pursue this style is a curious learner and a library card. Unit Studies take all the different subjects and center them around one topic or theme at a time. Perhaps one unit is oceans and then all other topics revolve around learning related to that theme. Lastly is Charlotte Mason which is a method that puts an emphasis on quality literature (“living literature”), lots of time in nature, and shorter amounts of time for study.
After you’ve looked into learning styles and homeschooling styles you can now really start looking at curriculum choices. Having an understanding of those first two things should really help steer your choice when it comes to curriculum. There can still be an overwhelming amount of choices out there when it comes to curriculum though! Some of it can be kind of expensive but don’t let that overwhelm you.
Take what you’ve learned about you and your child so far and write down some things you really want in your curriculum. That could be price, teaching style, content, etc. Then you will just have to dive in and do more research. Reviews can be a helpful place to start. I’ll link a few sites that look at curriculum and posted reviews.
Seeing curriculum in person can be helpful in making these decisions. If you know a homeschool mom who can show you some curriculum she uses, ask to check it out! Even if you don’t choose that same curriculum, at least you got to see it as a reference point. If that isn’t an option for you remember that a lot of curriculum has samples or videos online. Check all of that out, or also search for some review videos on Youtube for a certain curriculum choices.
In the end, you are going to just have to pick something and commit. Even if you don’t buy the most expensive or the prettiest curriculum, you can have a successful school year. The curriculum is important, but ultimately it’s just a tool to help you as you teach your child.
Make a Plan
Once you’ve take all those steps, you’re almost ready to begin your school year. You’ve bought a curriculum and now you can make some plans for what your year will look like. I tend to really enjoy planning. I don’t necessarily plan each and every week out for the whole year before fall though. I do set some big picture goals for my child, our curriculum progress, certain breaks from school and some fun extras for the year. I also consider how our daily schedule will work with our family and the curriculum choice we’ve made for the year.
As I am starting to make my homeschool plan for this upcoming fall I’m doing so in a structured yet flexible way. Maybe that sounds silly. But I’ve learned in homeschooling that there is a balance in having structure, yet also being flexible. Which is really the beauty of homeschooling, right? So part of my plan is to keep things flexible and that flexibility will help meet the changing needs of my child and appropriately challenge her throughout the school year.
So homeschool mama, maybe this fall you find yourself homeschooling a fresh new kindergartner, or an older child who will be at home in a new learning environment. Taking on the role of mama and teacher can be challenging, but is also so very rewarding! Just like in most things in motherhood, take it one day at a time… and one sip of coffee at a time, too, when needed!