Monday, June 1, 2009

homeschooling -- Where to begin

A good friend of mine is enjoying the sunrise of her homeschooling journey and wisely wants to make the most of it from the beginning. Many of her questions are voiced by others each year as they seek out wisdom from veteran homeschoolers at the start of their quest.

Q - Where do I begin?

If you can avoid getting overwhelmed, it is great to talk to as many people as possible to begin learning about resources, relationships, programs, curriculums, methods, and hear a variety of personal experiences to learn what appeals to you personally. There are a lot of used book sales and conventions this time of year that you might want to try to go to and get a feel for what is out there. The nice thing there is you can see lots of different materials, and often hear from the people that used them why they liked (or didn't) the books they are selling.

Just don't get overwhelmed. You don't need to buy every book, try every method or attend every meeting for your homeschool to be a success. Listen and learn, and then create and enjoy your own unique homeschool.

Q - How do I pick a style?

Have fun (!) and work on figuring out your style for the first year or two. Preschool and kindergarten are great years for exploring education and yourself. Read about the different methods of homeschooling (Charlotte Mason, Classical, etc. - Here is a great summary with some links to understand some of the options) and see what appeals to you. I don't think there's a right or wrong, but each family settles into its own favorites. When Blake was four I started doing a regular school time about 2-3 days a week and planning one day to go out somewhere on a field trip type outing. I learned a lot about my teaching style and his learning style during those fun filled early years.

Establish your priorities. I like to start my day with Bible time, because if nothing else gets done (even though plenty always does), I got the most important thing covered. I have specific academic goals each year in addition to a long term vision of where I pray my kids will arrive before adulthood.

You don't need a preschool curriculum, for now, but if you want something to give you some direction there are a number of options. Amazon and Ebay do have a lot of used curriculum, but without knowing what you are looking for, it might be difficult to wade through the thousands of choices there.

Some sites to start looking into:

Ambleside Online - Preschool would fall into year 0, but their years don't necessarily correspond with grade levels.

Carole Seid seminars - I've never been, but have heard a number of people rave about her -- books, books, and more great books.

Teaching the Trivium - classical learning (I like their 10 things to do before age 10, but I don't agree with completely delaying formal math and I don't stress memory as much as they do)

Five in a Row - unit studies based on wonderful children's books. Before Five in a Row is designed from the preschool set.

Sonlight - Many people love Sonlight, and I plan to use it again in the fall for my little ones since I have Core 1. In my opinion it is one of the better "boxed" curriculums out there, and with a little help from your library and used book sales it is pretty affordable, too. They have lots of great books for reading and are a great company with which to work.

Q - Where do I plug in?

There is endless information and community surrounding homeschooling on the internet and elsewhere. I wish I had studied a bit more before starting homeschooling. I really like Charlotte Mason's approach, but I don't have time to really study it in depth anymore, so I just keep tweaking a bit at a time as I go. It works, but that is one thing I would change if I could go back and start over.

Support groups can be helpful. They often meet only once a month, and can offer a welcoming place to connect with other homeschooling moms.

In your spare time (I know, I know, you don't really know what that is. But, you just might find yourself with some over the summer months). These sites have some other helpful information, articles and links to peruse as you have time:

Eclectic Homeschool Online
Homeschool Oasis
Homeschool Legal Defense Association (loads of articles for encouragement and knowledge!)

And, if you are in the Chicago area, don't miss the Chicagoland Homeschool Network.

What are some of your favorite homeschooling sites?
What advice do you offer to those new homeschoolers?
Maybe you are the new homeschooler -- what questions do you find yourself wanting answers to?
What was the best advice you received from fellow homeschoolers?

Enjoy more information and tips for helping our kids in their quest for knowledge at Five J's Thirsty Thursday.


The Ties that Bind Us said...

Great post! Our Lifestyle of Learning is a great place for homeschoolers to meet and learn from each other too!

5intow said...

The Ties that Bind Us,
Thanks for the tip, I am always looking for great websites to add to my ChicagolandHomeschoolNetwork site.

Joy @ Five J's said...

Wonderful article! You put a lot of work into this great intro to homeshooling. I hadn't heard of a couple of the site you linked to.

Thanks for participating in Thirsty Thursday!

Heather Brandt said...

You mention that with a little help from your library and used book sales it is pretty affordable to use Sonlight. Any tips or info. on how to do that? Do you just buy the instructional manual through them? I'm just starting to plan for possibly homeschooling (I do have a background in teaching so I'm not totally starting from scratch). I really like what I've read about Sonlight so far but would like suggestions on how to do it frugally (since I have some of the books included in the curriculum and know I could get them cheaply or borrow them).

heatherlbrandt (at) verizon (dot) net