I thought it might be helpful for those who are new to homeschooling (whether just thinking about doing it or having decided to do it), if I put together a list of places to start. I'm not claiming to be an expert and I'm sure there are things I've left out (if so, feel free to leave it in the comments), but this is what I have found to be important when the idea of homeschooling starts coming to the forefront again and again... and you begin to think seriously about taking that leap. I'm still in the beginning years of homeschooling myself (my oldest is turning 8 next month) and often need to be reminded of the last few points below. As Christians, as moms, and as homeschoolers, we need to encourage each other!
- Find out what your state's laws are. HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) is a great place to start. Take some time to read them over, pray about your options, and see where God leads you in this aspect. Also, it is the law, not what the local public school tells you to do, that you follow. And on a personal note: remember, our children belong to God. (...Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. Matthew 22:21).
- Once you have decided what your options are, and what you are willing to do, to become legal... makes plans to get it done and out of the way (here in WA state, one option is to take a parent qualification course in home-based education, which is what I have chosen to do. If you'd like more info on available courses, google it or e-mail me.). Find others who homeschool in your state and ask them questions about the requirements and what they do to meet them.
- Find others in your area (or worldwide) who homeschool... through FB, blogs, etc. and ask questions. It is great to have a support group, whether it's family, friends, or acquaintances. You can also join homeschool co-ops/groups who will have meetings, field trips, and other planned activities (another thing you can google to see what is available in your area). Listen politely to those who may be concerned or weirded-out by your choice to home educate, but don't take it to heart. These are your children and YOU are responsible for their upbringing!
- Read/watch all you can about homeschooling... include learning/teaching styles, homeschool blogs, and magazines. Gather info and create your own ideas of what you think will work best for your child(ren), your entire family, and you as the teacher.
- Research your curriculum choices. There are literally hundreds, if not more. It can be hard to decide. Ask seasoned homeschoolers what has worked best, read reviews from real homeschool moms, ask for samples from the business -if available, buy used on eBay or other websites, and try to spend as little money as possible during your first year of homeschooling. It's a learning process and you do not want to spend more than necessary!
- Plan on taking it slow and ease into a routine/schedule. The great thing about homeschooling, is that you can be flexible & relaxed, or stick to a rigid schedule & make plans... do whatever it is you feel will be best for your family and will best help you to reach your ultimate goals in raising your children (academics, character, morals, etc.).
- Make learning fun for your child! It is more important to teach your child to love learning than to teach them how to read by age 6! If they learn to love and enjoy learning, they WILL learn when they are ready and when it comes naturally for them to do so (and often they won't even know that they are doing schoolwork)... the age may be different for each child. Surround your children with learning opportunities. Books are the best place to start. From infancy on, you can surround your child with great, wholesome books. Of course, this includes the Bible and Bible Story books. Don't use the T.V. or movies as a babysitter (which, I believe, numbs the brain and makes it hard for children to learn), instead occupy your child with wood blocks, legos, coloring/drawing, singing/music, active or educational games, etc. When you do start more formal schooling and you or your child gets frustrated with a school lesson, take a break... read aloud to them instead, play a game with them, listen to music... and try again another day.
Most importantly pray, pray, and pray some more about each step you take! Start each morning with a prayer and end each day with a prayer. We are not just teaching our children academics, we are raising them to be godly men and women to be used for God's glory! "Home Educating" our children is a whole-life experience, not something that starts at 5, 6, or 7 years of age. It starts at birth (or before!) and never truly ends (though when they go out on their own/get married you must step back and pray for them more than anything else and continue being the example you want to them to see, because your actions do make an impact on your child even into adulthood!). Parenting is a tremendous calling, honor, and blessing. And to be successful at parenting/teaching our children does not require a certificate in education, it requires learning to be selfless, learning to serve, and learning to trust fully in Jesus! Same as everything else in life, it all comes back to Jesus. He truly is ALL that we NEED to do all that we are called to do, including homeschooling our children!