I have received quite a few requests lately, asking how to homeschool. The reason for the sudden interest, is of course the pandemic we are living in, and some tough decisions parents and schools are trying to make about school in the fall. So I thought why not do some writing on the topic, as it may be helpful for some of you out there.
The question, “how do we begin homeschooling?,” is quite a loaded one. The short answer is sort of, begin however you want. Unfortunately, that isn’t a very helpful answer. To me, home education isn’t about which textbooks you are using – it is about nurturing a love for learning, and an opportunity to have more time with our children, so we can instill excellent values in them.
However, I understand that at this point in time, many of my friends and thousands of other parents, are choosing to homeschool for reasons other than beautiful thoughts of instilling values and having more quality time. They are choosing to home educate this coming school year because they are at the end of their rope, unsure what the right choice is, and just want something smooth and steady, that hopefully won’t be disrupted should a virus spike. If that’s you, you are making a wise choice. Nothing against schools at all…we need all the choices we can get right now…but you may be surprised at the peace homeschooling brings you . We could all use a little peace.
So let’s get down to the topic of how to start. I can only give my recommendations and tell you how I started this homeschooling journey. Personally, I home educated all six of mine until last year when they went to school, and well, you know what happened around March…so I chose to just begin homeschooling again, and we probably will until the end now. It is just a smoother, wiser choice for my family. Whether you are only planning on a year of homeschooling or end up continuing forever, here are some tips to get you started.
Join HSLDA (homeschool legal defense) https://hslda.org. For $12/month they can answer every legal question you have, there site lists the homeschooling laws of each state, and in a pinch, if a nosy neighbor tries to declare you are homeschooling illegally or aren’t doing it correctly, their attorneys will represent you for free as a member. It’s just good protection.
Assuming you are not using the school systems e-learning program (if you are then this article won’t help you much), you (and your partner if they are involved) will want to decide how you want your day to look. Think about it. This is an opportunity for a new lifestyle for you. Do you want the day to be rigidly scheduled? Laid back? Are you looking forward to finally filling those bookshelves with books, or do you want everything neat and tidy on the computer? Evaluate your family and your needs. Remember, every family and every child is different. You may feel a bit forced to homeschool right now. Take a deep breath, take your time, and think of the new way of life you are beginning. Take advantage of this time…slow down, and discover your homeschool philosophy.
Yes, there are homeschool philosophies. In other words, several basic ways people seem to pull off homeschooling. Somewhere along the way, a wise person researched this idea, and wrote them all down, and now we call them homeschool philosophies. And hey, you can create your own philosophy too! Reading through these common paths for home education can be helpful in getting your wheels turning when you are new to homeschooling. Here are the most popular philosophies:
- Charlotte Mason/Whole Book
- Unit Study
I will just give a brief description of each, and include links that can help you dig deeper.
Charlotte Mason/Whole Book approach
Not that it matters, but if you are curious – this is my favorite way to educate my children. The proof is in the pudding, and I can tell you it works. Charlotte Mason was an ahead-of-her-time educator in the late 1800s-early 1900s…that point alone stole my heart when I discovered her ideas. I prefer rebellious women. To keep this brief (because I could go on and on about this method) here is a link to a very helpful book if this method intrigues you.
Long story short (maybe)…whole book means no textbooks. Freeing, right? Often times textbooks are used for math, because after a certain age that is necessary. For every other subject whole books are used, because you can find a book for pretty much every topic you may want to study. The premise is reading, narrating, writing, with the use of journaling, and timelines. You’d be amazed what can be learned this way. Reading excellent literature naturally leads to better spelling, writing, and reading. Let’s not forget, whole books were around before textbooks, and guys like Abraham Lincoln did alright.
The Traditional Approach
This one is easy to relate to for most of us because it is the closest to traditional schools. The traditional approach usually involves what is called a boxed curriculum. There are many companies that offer this type of curriculum. You simply order the grade level you need, and everything comes planned out for you in a box, including teacher books with answers…yay! This is an excellent time saving choice, and may be the most comfortable decision for someone who is feeling rushed into the decision of homeschooling, and a bit uncomfortable with where to start. It is also preferred for moms who like a more rigid schedule. Rigid sounds like a bad word, but it isn’t if that is what makes your life run smoothly! Do what works for you.
This approach taught many of our forefathers quite well. It consists of three stages of learning, known as the trivium. Those stages are in this order…grammar, logic, and rhetoric. I find this approach fascinating and I think I would have enjoyed it had I tried it years ago. There is a popular organization for homeschoolers across the country, called Classical Conversations. These groups meet once a week and the mothers share in the teaching. I think it is a great system, relieving the homeschooling parent of the burden of teaching every subject, and also a social outlet for the kids. A search on their site will turn up any classical conversation groups in your area.
The theory behind the classical approach is to teach children to think, question, and debate, which will prepare them well when facing social injustice, give them an ability to defend their faith, and many other issues in our world.
The Unit Study
I have to be honest – the unit study moms fascinate me. If you are patient, love to plan ahead, and are into hands on projects…you my dear will love the unit study approach. I am not any of these things, and that is why you fascinate me.
In a unit study, many subjects are covered around one topic. For example, when younger children are learning American history, and it is time to study the pioneers, a unit study favorite is to read the Little House books, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. If you haven’t heard of those books, then your childhood wasn’t as good as mine. I am so old, the pages of my Little House books have become yellowed and fragile (but that is another article I will save for middle aged moms). Back to the task at hand…
As the books are read, often aloud to each other, history is discussed, timelines created, recipes researched, cooked and eaten, clothing can even be sewn by the children if you are so ambitious. Narration is common in the unit study, meaning children write what they have learned. Through this, words which are misspelled are pulled to practice spelling. It can be similar to the Charlotte Mason method, but with more hands on, multi-sensory activities.
The approach that seems to cause the most controversy, yet also yields great results. You have to have to right mindset, and a family that plays along, to gain an excellent education from unschooling. For starters, we have to redefine education.
For many home educators, especially unschoolers, education is not about filling the mind with facts, as if it is a bucket, only to dump those facts onto a test page, then very likely forget most of what was learned. Unschoolers are not into memorizing boring facts and taking tests. (often math is the exception here) They are very much into the belief that learning is a life long process, and children should be allowed to discover their own passion and focus on those passions. Why force children to learn things that mean nothing to them, when they could be learning things that they will truly continue to use?
The belief that the entire world is a classroom, is part of the unschooling philosophy. Museums, road trips, nature walks, and plenty of exposure to all ages of interesting people are part of the unschooling “curriculum.” A home that unschools will usually have many books lying around, art supplies, instruments to try out, and very little television viewing, if any. The goal is to have many interesting things around the home, so children will gravitate toward what interests them.
It is a tough approach to grasp if you’ve never seen it in action. I am all for it, and definitely incorporated the philosophy into my own home through the years. It is a wonderful gift to give children, if possible…the gift of time to pursue their passions.
You guessed it – the eclectic approach is a mix of a few different ideas. It is the most common approach, as life is always changing, and homeschool families have to remain flexible.
For example, someone may really enjoy the unschooling method, but they are uncomfortable using no textbook for science, so they incorporate a traditional approach for science. Whatever works!
You Do You
In the end, no one can tell you how to homeschool. Hopefully reading about others’ thoughts and philosophies of home education can get your wheels turning, and you will begin to get a vision for how you want your homeschooling day to look.
I believe we are going to see quite an increase in home education in the fall. I would also like to encourage mothers (and dads) to not panic if you are feeling thrown into this. Your children will survive. You love them. You know them better than they know themselves. And trust me, that knowledge will increase even more as you homeschool.
You are going to do just fine. If they don’t have the best academic school year of their lives because you are balancing a million different things, and often the first few months are learning by trial and error…your children will catch up. They’ll still grow up to be who they were meant to be…because YOU are their mom…and you will have an opportunity to get to know them in a way you couldn’t when they were away from you all day.
Let’s all support each other this school year, no matter the choices. Our worlds have all been turned upside down. I am happy to answer any questions about homeschooling – just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck on your journey!