This week is 'back to school' week for so many families. In light of this, I thought it'd make a great week for Part 1 of our Homeschool Q and A! (wink)
I thought I'd start at the very beginning - with the questions many people ask before or just as they start their homeschool journey.
I don't consider myself even close to being an expert 'homeschooler' but I also realize that for someone who has never homeschooled, four years might seem like more than enough experience to answer some good questions.
So, I'm hopefully going to humbly answer some of those questions in this series.
Questions from Beginners...
Question: Homeschooling is legal, right?
Answer: Yes. In the USA and Canada, it is legal to educate your children at home. Some European countries have more rigid legislation. If you're really concerned, do a little research about homeschooling in your region.
PS. I've had so many people ask me if 'what I'm doing is legal'. I've always wondered why people are so comfortable with the notion that homeschooling would be ILLEGAL. It is a little flabbergasting to think that, as a society, we are generally comfortable with the government telling us how we will raise our children and how and where they will be educated. (Just some food for thought...)
Question: I'm not a teacher. Can I really homeschool my child?
Answer: Yes. Some people will ask you how you can 'teach' your child when you're not a 'teacher'. It's a frustrating question with a loaded answer. Depending on who is asking me, I will answer in different ways. I want to mention, I respect our teachers very much. I often say homeschoolers should have the MOST respect for teachers because we understand how much work goes into teaching well and effectively. But the notion that a 'qualified' teacher can better educate your child is false.
The idea that 'just a Mom' could provide a better education at home for her children is shocking to some, but actually very true. Study after study have shown homeschoolers performing at least one year advanced to their 'schooled' peers. Homeschoolers are also evaluated as being deeper thinkers, better communicators, and more self assured than most of their schooled peers.
Actually, there have been studies done showing children who are homeschooled by non-teacher parents consistently scoring higher on standardized testing than children who are homeschool by certified 'teacher' parents. Here's a great article from the HSLDA you might want to read!
Question: I've decided I want to educate my child(ren) at home, but I don't know where to start.
Answer: I remember when I was just starting this homeschooling journey - I was so lost. I knew I wanted to take on the role as primary educator for our children, but I had no idea where to even begin. If you feel this way - you are not alone.
As for where exactly to 'start', I'd say, start with prayer and reflection. I wish we had of spent more time seeking God's direction in the early days of homeschooling. Write down some ideas, and journal about why you feel called to this lifestyle. Then, start talking with your spouse (if this is applicable) about what your main reasons are for homeschooling and what God has laid on your heart for your family and children. This will help you develop a bit of a 'mission statement' (even if it's vague) for your homeschool.
All families, no matter their faith base, have some form of 'philosophy' or reasoning as to why they homeschool. That is the starting point. Unless we know the 'why' of our homeschooling, how can we know how to proceed? For us, we have a LOT of 'whys'. I summarized them (in long form...ha) on my "Why Homeschool?" page.
Homeschooling is incredibly personal based on each family and each individual child. That's what makes homeschool so effective and rewarding! Your method will completely depend on your own philosophies and how your children learn and thrive.
Here are my top three practical tips for getting started:
Before doing anything, pray. Ask for God's direction and wisdom...
1. Read lots of books about homeschooling.
I suggest reading both philosophical/cultural books as well as how-to books. As always, reading enlightens and challenges. Both styles of books will give you loads of information and inspiration. For example, Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto really opened my eyes to how conventional schooling is harming our children. Educating the Whole Hearted Child pointed me to scripture, confirmed my conviction to homeschool and gave great practical advice about how homeschooling works in the family. Read, read, read! (See below for some of my recommendations!)
2. Get in touch with your local homeschoolers.
If you know a family who homeschools, contact them and ask some questions. Most homeschoolers are THRILLED to share their heart and knowledge with anyone considering home education. Homeschoolers are a wonderful group of individuals. I have yet to meet a homeschooler that wasn't warm, welcoming, and very open about their journey.
I really regret not doing this sooner. When I first started, I knew very few homeschoolers. I had a few contacts who ran meetings, but I was too nervous to go. I felt really ill-equipped and was scared I wouldn't fit in, or that I wouldn't measure up. I let fear get the worst of me and it really hindered my first few years of homeschooling.
Once I finally went to a lovely Charlotte Mason group near our home, I was overwhelmed with the warmth, love, and acceptance of all the Moms there. Then I tried a homeschool gym day for kids, and once again was pleasantly surprised by the positivity and kindness of the families there. I was so disappointed in myself for not going to these things sooner. These connections have been such an encouragement to me - not only in resources and knowledge but in genuine support from other Moms who've 'been there'.
I can't encourage you enough - get in contact with real, live homeschoolers and find like-minded families to spend time with! These Moms who've been homeschooling a while will also have great contacts for local groups, co-ops, conferences, sales, activities, you name it!
3. Find great online homeschooling resources.
Let's face it, we live in a wired world and we can really use the internet as a positive outlet in our lives. The online homeschooling community has played a huge role in our journey! There are fabulous blogs, forums, communities, and resources online. Find a Facebook page for local homeschoolers, log on to some great online forums and blogs (there are hundreds), search the web for online magazines and publications you can subscribe to for free. One forum I enjoy and have used often is The Homeschool Lounge.
Question: Can you recommend some good books about homeschooling?
Answer: Sure! There are dozens of great homeschool related books, but here are some of my top recommendations:
- Anything by John Holt (Growing without Schooling, Teach Your Own, How Children Learn, Instead of Education)
- Anything by Charlotte Mason (the Charlotte Mason original homeschooling series)
- Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson
- Dumbing Us Down and Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto
- The Well-Adjusted Child by Rachel Gathercole
- Homeschooling The Early Years by Linda Dobson
- The Art of Education: Reclaiming your Family by Linda Dobson
Question: At what age should I start homeschooling my child?
Answer: It depends what you mean by 'homeschool'. I've always been of the opinion that we are ALWAYS educating our children whether positively or negatively. If by 'homeschool' we mean 'educate at home', then that starts at birth!
We can't possible neglect to remember how vitally important those first years are for a child's development. When our kids were really young, we always viewed attachment and bonding to be a part of their education. As well, children are learning when they're playing, exploring, spending time outside, reading books on Mama's lap, and living every day life.
As for when you should buckle down and actually tell people you are homeschooling in the sense of not sending your child to school? It's up to you.
We started 'officially' homeschooling when our first child was of school age (five years old). I only considered this our official start because I had to tell people this was our plan and we started being more intentional about our learning times.
Most parents start the official stuff at age 4 or 5. Some do delay formal 'education' until 8 or even later, depending on their family's values and ideals, and the child's needs.
Question: How much will it cost to homeschool?
Answer: As much as you want it to cost. I've heard of homeschooling parents spending literally NOTHING to homeschool and their children thrive. I've also heard of parents spending thousands and their students hate every minute of it - so the level of success rarely hinges on how much you spend.
I've never been able to find an 'average cost of homeschooling' stat. I think because families vary so widely, so do our costs.
Our budget for the year is about $800-$1,000 for all three children. There are some programs or curriculum that are as little as $35 and will give you a year's worth of great material for young children who can all learn together (ie: Five in a Row).
There are other programs that are upwards of $800 for a full year's curriculum for only one child. It really depends on your needs and wants. You will learn this as you research, talk to other homeschoolers, and grow in your own methods and style.
The truth is, don't ever let a lack of finances stop you from homeschooling. We are an average family living off one modest income. There aren't a lot of extras, that's for sure. We just choose to sacrifice what we do for our kids because we believe it's important. You don't need a fancy room, pretty supplies, or a pricey program to educate your children well. You just need to be creative, invested, resourceful and committed. Oh, and you'll need a lot of faith - in God, in yourself, and in your children.
Well, I think that's enough for Part 1, I hope this was helpful to some of you! Big hug. Please message me or email me if you have any more questions. You can also comment below.