Friday, March 28, 2014

Homeschooling 101

note: Because I have been doing preschool at home, I have been curious about homeschooling. Homeschooling is intimidating for me so I decided to talk to a blog friend who has tons of experience homeschooling. Anne Campbell, blogger from the Learning Table, was gracious enough to write a Homeschooling 101 post that answered my questions. Be sure to go check out her Facebook page and blog!

So, you’re thinking about homeschooling, or you’ve just started, and you don’t know what to do next. I was there, and I can relate to those feelings of inadequacy, confusion, and even fear. I have been homeschooling my children for eleven years, and though I’m no expert, I can share what I’ve learned since that first year.

First of all, relax . . . take a deep breath. Listen to me closely: You will not “do it wrong.” I think the biggest fear many new homeschooling mamas have is that they won’t do things correctly, and that this in turn will somehow ruin their kids. Here’s a little insider information for you -- there is no “right” way to homeschool.

You really have to explore different methods and discover what is best for you and your child and give yourself a little time to get into a groove. And, you have to take ownership of your homeschool and not let a curriculum company dictate what you “should” be doing. So number one on your homeschooling 101 list is: BE the teacher, the authority, the homeschool administrator, whatever you want to call it; and take control of your curriculum. You are not required to check off all the boxes, read all the books, do all the problems, administer the quizzes, etc. Once you decide on the curriculum and resources you want to use, remember that they are tools for you to adapt to YOUR needs. The publisher will not be looking over your shoulder!

Okay, now that you are in charge, some practical advice I can offer is to order some homeschool catalogs to look through, and if you are fortunate enough to live in an area with a homeschool bookstore, go there and look at the books. Homeschool conventions are also a way to check out different resources, but beware of the sales pitches. Use these resources to get familiar with what’s available in the homeschool market.

Start making a wish list of just a few things you’d like to start with. In the beginning, a simple handwriting program and some phonics instruction is all you need. Beyond that, you can learn math and science through everyday activities: nature study, counting matchbox cars and baby doll shoes, drawing numbers on the driveway with chalk.

If you’re homeschooling young children, the best thing you can really do with them is read aloud, play, explore the outdoors, and just incorporate learning into your everyday life. Cook together. Go on “field trips” to the post office, the fire station, the zoo, the state park, the art museum . . . Find some families to attend park days with. As kids enter kindergarten age, gently introduce a little more structure, but keep the focus on integrating learning with life. Above all, don’t go overboard and try to turn your home into a schoolhouse with a rigid schedule. You (and your precious kids) will quickly become overwhelmed.

Start off slowly, test the waters with a few resources you like, and plug in with other homeschoolers for support. You’ll do fine. After all, you taught your child to talk, to use a cup, and to use the potty. Everything else is a piece of cake. Have fun, and enjoy your kids. Maintaining a bond with them should be your first priority. Cherish these years, because they fly by before you know it.

About the guest post author:

Anne Campbell is the mother to three boys (who think they live in a zoo!) and a homeschooler for the past eleven years. A former classroom teacher, Anne loves to share resources and ideas and encourage other homeschooling parents through her job as Managing Editor of Blog at Home Educating Family Association. When she started on her homeschool journey, Anne’s oldest son was in kindergarten, and they decided to take it one day at a time, one year at a time. Now she has one student in high school, one in middle, and one in elementary, and all still at home. You can read more by Anne at her blog, Learning Table.

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