By Judith Jolma
"How do I homeschool; what curriculum should I buy?" This is the first question new homeschool parents ask -- as if the two questions are the same. It is easy to think that a list of books and forms and schedules is the key to homeschool success -- If I could just get a better chore chart, it will all come together! Nope! The tool most urgently needed is a mindset and a little investigation into YOUR FAMILY.
That is why you can ask ten home educators “How do you do that?” and you will get ten different answers. Leaving you to ask again, “HOW DO YOU DOOOOOOO THAT?”
What is your goal? Are you teaching grammar rules so they will do well on tests, or are you teaching grammar so they will have a strong command of the English language and be able to communicate effectively? Your answer will significantly impact how you should go about teaching and which overarching method should govern your homeschool philosophy. Each educational method (Classical, unschooling, and Charlotte Mason, for example) sets out with a different end in mind. It is not as simple as teaching a child to read and write.
“The first qualification for judging any piece of workmanship from a corkscrew to a cathedral is to know what it is—what it was intended to do and how it is meant to be used...The first thing is to understand the object before you.” -- C. S. Lewis
The reason you choose to teach your child from home is the most important factor in determining
your method. For example, if you intend to homeschool short term you will need to maintain similar expectations and styles as the school he will return to in the future. If your reason is more philosophical -- you believe education goes beyond academics and is about forming the whole child -- than you will want to choose a method that does not seek to replicate the classroom in the home.
Your why determines your how. There are as many reasons to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. let's explore just a few and see if one expresses your motivations. Remember, it is okay if you don’t see a perfect fit. Your reason can be as unique as you.
Sometimes life throws us a curveball, and for whatever reason a family needs to withdraw from the school system temporarily. Maybe a mid-school-year move would disrupt your child and it makes sense to simply homeschool until you are settled into the new jurisdiction. Some children dealing with severe illness find homeschooling a pleasant way to continue their education without the physical strain of attending class. Any temporary interruption to life can be easily compensated for by allowing the child to study at home under your supervision.
But you should make sure the child keeps up with the standards of the school he will be returning to in the future, so the transition is not too difficult. For example, if the school that the child came out of and will be returning to uses new math, do not attempt to use a different approach in your homeschool. You may not like new math, but it is what the child must learn to use if he is to be successful when he returns to school.
Many parents today are rightfully concerned about the declining standards in our educational system. For those who have lost faith in the industrial school system, homeschooling opens the doors to the highest level of education possible. Even if you feel that your education is lacking and you feel ill equipped to give your child the kind of education that you wish you had had, there are so many resources available to fill the gap that even the parent with the lowest level of education can provide a stellar education to their children.
There are online academies that offer students access to professors in any academic discipline. There are STEM clubs, Literature clubs, opportunities to learn entrepreneurship or a trade. Preschool and Elementary groups abound for young students.
If your desire for your child is to prepare them for a good college education, there are plenty of programs that help you keep transcripts and begin that journey very young. Homeschool sports leagues, community service opportunities, and other extracurricular activities -- especially in middle school and onwards -- are becoming more available than ever.
Safety, Negative Influences and Financial Concerns
School shootings, transgender education, and classroom bullying! You know that your job as a parent is to protect your child, and you are alarmed by the dangers in many schools. Yes, homeschooling is right for you! No, you are not sheltering your child. They will have plenty of socialization and a good education.
Private schools can also be an option for parents who are just concerned about safety. But for many, private school is too expensive. Of course, not all private schools are created equal. Abuse and violence in private schools can be just as bad.
It can feel overwhelming when homeschooling seems like the only option to help us avoid the negatives of what exists out there. You know what you do not want. But what kind of education DO you want for your children? You are the one most vulnerable to feelings of overwhelm. There are no guide rails to help you choose what method to use. There are literally tens of thousands of options. You are deep in the jungle, and you need a guide. The first thing you need to do is a little homework.
Take advantage of the Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass, to get an in-depth understanding about educational philosophy and learn about the different approaches. As you begin to understand the underlying philosophy of education, one of them will speak to you. You will develop your “why.”
Special Needs and Learning Disabilities
Disabilities come in all forms from severe to mild, and how to deal with them can be a bewildering question for parents. Homeschooling is a fantastic option for these parents because you can bring in specialists, hand pick the kind of curriculum that best suits your child’s needs and provide such a supportive environment that the child with disabilities can feel empowered to overcome and never say “I can’t.”
I recently asked a developmental therapist if parents have better resources available in the public schools -- with all their testing and special ed teachers and state funds, etc. “Absolutely not,” he said. “In the schools they compensate for learning disabilities (for example, instead of getting 20 spelling words they will only have to learn 5.) But public schools are not equipped to deal with the underlying medical reasons behind the disabilities and learning challenges.”
He said that he strongly encourages homeschooling for such families. But it will take a lot of commitment from the parents.
Social, Travel, Military
Homeschooling is a fantastic option for military families or any family that frequently relocates or travels. If you don’t wish to be tied to a school building and classes, you can give your children the stability that no matter where they live in the world, the home is their school, and you are their teacher. With that kind of stability, frequent moves and travel can become a wonderful way to grow up. It doesn’t have to be a stressful uprooting each time. Some families just wish to education from their RV while traveling. Amazing!
One thing to keep in mind when homeschooling on the go is to maintain a minimalist approach. You would not want a whole lot of manipulatives to store in an RV or to pack up every time the family has to move. Instead prefer the many digital options available. Delight-based learning may serve you very well. Make all your adventures your curriculum. No need for geography, history, science textbooks when your learning is so hands-on. Keep it simple!
The Ideological Education
“The education of even a small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life.” -- Maria Montessori
I homeschool because I believe that education is a mission in forming the whole child in a way that will aid his journey toward becoming a whole person. I teach math with a sense of awe in created order. I teach household chores because we are called to serve and to be thankful. Everything I teach my children is designed to simply unlock the full potential of being human.
I hope that they, as fully formed adults, will have a successful occupation, but education in my home is not about utility. It is about the dignity of life and living well. I believe that education should serve the true nature of the child in their development and personality.
Some may be true believers in the classical model, or the Montessori model. Charlotte Mason may be your hero. Some may embrace the free-range spirit of unschooling. These are all wonderful.
There are some brick-and-mortar schools that do support this ideology and could give my children a better education than I in this regard. But those schools are inaccessible to me because of both cost and distance. So, homeschool is a fantastic option for us.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that your WHY determines your HOW. Once you have clarity on why you are homeschooling, you can instantly rule out so many homeschool options greatly reducing the overwhelming questions about what to buy and how to use it.
It pays off to create your homeschool dream board long before buying a single textbook.
Ask "why am I doing this?" If your answer is because you want your children to enjoy learning, then you can look at your shopping cart and ask, "does this material inspire delight while actually educating?" In the day to day, if you are tempted to grow impatient when your child pauses to discuss an idea, (but you just want them to complete the worksheet,) recalling your WHY will give you grace to slow down and enter into the slow, delightful pace of deep learning.
Think of it as “custom schooling.” When teaching your child at home, you can create exactly the environment, curriculum and schedule that meets your goals, your child’s needs, your teaching style and your family dynamic like no other education possibly could.
Your WHY is the key.
Sophia Homeschool teaches parents how to homeschool. Learn more about our training at Sophiahomeschool.com
Learn how to create a homeschool method and environment based on your family's needs so you can thrive. My Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass teaches parents to work with their budget, schedule, learning style, teaching style, and resources so each member of the family has his or her needs met— including yours! Learn to create a peaceful and joyful learning environment that lasts a lifetime. Identify learning differences and adapt your educational plan accordingly. Unlock the mysteries of teaching multiple grades at once. By knowing what your needs are, you will save thousands of dollars, time, and energy on methods that do not work. We will end homework battles and restore your relationship with your child.