An Open Letter to the New Homeschooler I Met Today

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Image courtesy of fantasista at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear Homeschool Parent,

I ran into you today as I was dropping off our homeschool evaluations at the school district. As I walked in, the secretary looked at me with relief and said, “She homeschools!” Remember me?

First off, I want to say congratulations on making the decision to take the reins on your child’s education. Honestly, there’s no better time to pull your kids out of school than in this day and age we are in right now.

Before the secretary saw me come in, I heard her telling you to hire an out-of-district teacher to help you find curriculum. I wanted to jump in front of you and scream, “No! Don’t!” but I had to compose myself because, after all, we were in the school administration building. Frankly, I was relieved when she turned your attention to me and tried to enlist me to help you. While I did give you some very basic information, the name of my evaluator, and some helpful websites (including mine!), I was dying inside because I couldn’t help you the way I wanted to. Not there. Not while the school employee was standing there listening to us.

I can only hope that you’ll soon type in my web address and find this post here just for you because here is where I will have the freedom to say what needs to be said. It’s not that I don’t trust the school district. I do, but they are school employees and probably don’t understand what homeschooling is all about. So here is what I wanted to say to you then and there:

-Don’t ask people at the school district for help with homeschooling. They likely don’t know any more than you do, and in fact, may well know even less. As school employees, they have been trained in the methods used in the public school setting, which is fine, but homeschooling is nothing like school– at least, it shouldn’t be. It is for this reason that I would strongly recommend that you would not ask a school teacher for help with your curriculum. Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of teachers who homeschool, but the vast majority do not and don’t understand what it’s all about. If you need help, there are so many great homeschooling books and websites out there. Google is your friend. 🙂

Don’t ask people at the school district about homeschool laws. Speaking from experience, they do not fully understand them, which is why it is so important that we as homeschooling parents do. Do your research. Visit the website I gave you that explains the law. Ask other homeschoolers. The problem is that if you don’t know the law and rely on the school district for information, they are likely to require more information than they legally should which will, in turn, cause problems for other homeschoolers. Our state laws were recently changed so that the only thing now required to give to the school district is our homeschool evaluation letter. That’s it. Yet, last year the district tried to get our standardized test scores, as well. Thankfully, I knew they were not entitled to them and told them so. Interestingly, I noticed that the paper they hand out still asks for test scores. I’m assuming that’s for homeschoolers who don’t know better. I truly think this is just another way for them to have control over us. If you know the law, this won’t happen.

The first thing you asked me about was where to find curriculum. I’m here to tell you that that’s the last thing you should worry about. I wasn’t comfortable saying that in the school building because sometimes people fear what they don’t understand, and I didn’t want the employee jumping to conclusions. But honestly, just spend time with your kids. Watch how they do things. Look for what interests them. This is how you can choose your curriculum. You just may discover that your child will do better with library books than with textbooks. Remember, textbooks are not mandatory. They are simply a tool for learning that often aren’t a great fit for most kids.

As the homeschool facilitator, it is up to you what your children will learn. Homeschoolers do not have to follow the school itinerary, although some choose to. You had expressed concern about knowing whether or not you were on track with what you would be teaching. If you are teaching something that you and your children find valuable, then you are on track. There are very few things specified about what we must cover (PA history, US history, fire safety, etc.) I don’t even go out of my way to address these issues because these are topics that come up in day to day living and don’t need any additional materials other than a newspaper, a discussion with you, or reminders about the dangers of fire. You certainly don’t need to waste your money on a curriculum for them, unless your child is so interested that it would be worth it. And even if they are, there are many free printables online on so many different things. You’d be amazed.

In closing, I just want to wish you the best on what can potentially be an awesome journey. Just keep reminding yourself that homeschooling is not school at home, and you’ll be on your way. Maybe someday we’ll run into each other again. Until then, enjoy the ride!

Shelly

 

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A No-Nonsense Guide to Homeschooling

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Deciding to homeschool for the first time can be a scary thing. Whether you’ve decided before your children have ever set foot in a school or have resolved to pull your children from their current schools, the world of home education can seem like an intimidating and confusing situation to find yourself in. In the past year, I’ve had quite a few frazzled mothers ask me the question, “How do I homeschool?”

That question in itself can be answered in so many different ways because there are so many different ways to homeschool, so I’ve narrowed it down to, “What should I do as a new homeschooler?”

That question is a bit simpler and a bit more relevant for those new to the journey. Let me start to answer this query by telling you what not to do.

If I was only given the opportunity to tell you one thing about homeschooling, it would be this: Do not plunge head-first into a school-at-home routine from the very beginning. Just don’t do it. Seriously. I promise you, it will bring you more heartache than joy.

Let me emphasize that I said, “…from the very beginning.” After finding out more about how your children like to learn, you may well decide that this is the best method for you. But I implore you, please do not do it by default using the reasoning that “this is how it’s done in government schools.” Think about it. Why would you try to reproduce something that isn’t working?

The second thing I would tell you not to do is to run out and spend a ton of money on curriculum. If you are new to this, you probably aren’t familiar with how your children prefer to approach things. Watch them. Observe them. Interact with them. Once you’ve spent some time intentionally paying attention to the way in which your kids do things, you will have a much better idea of what will benefit them the most.

So what should you do? Live a full life with them. Go to the library often. Enjoy the park, the bike trail, and the creek down the street. Read to them. Take them with you on your errands and explain to them what you’re doing and why. Bake cookies for the elderly neighbor or the librarians who, more than likely, will soon become indispensible to you.

Keep your eyes open for resources that sometimes seemingly fall into your lap. When we first began homeschooling, I used everything from pamphlets from the electric company (science and safety) to newspapers (current events) to keep my children engaged until we had a more concrete plan in place.

Find out what they’re interested in and provide opportunities for your children to pursue them. If they like to cook, cook with them. If they’re natural artists, buy some good quality art supplies and/or look into a local art class. (The art school that my children attended actually have a class specifically for homeschoolers.) If reptiles are their thing, visit a reptile house or check out one of many awesome documentaries on Netflix or YouTube. Use your imagination to come up with ways to support your children’s hobbies. With the internet and the library as resources, you can literally find information on anything.

And while you’re accomplishing all of this for your kids, spend some time reading about and researching learning styles, and homeschool approaches and philosophies. Check the end of this post for a list of great resources I’ve used.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

If there is anything I would recommend that you purchase from the get-go, it would be:

-lots of paper, writing utensils, and arts and crafts supplies

-a deck of cards, a pack of dice, and some board games

-a map or a globe

-a library card (this is free, but it’s a must-have)

-and, if it really bothers you that your kids aren’t doing “schoolwork,” some spelling/phonics and math workbooks at Barnes and Noble (make sure you apply for the educator’s discount!), Five Below, or, depending on the ages of your kids, Dollar Tree.

Some people begin their homeschool journey doing activities like these and find that it is enough for them and continue to do so. Others, over time, may transition towards other types of learning methods that appeal to them and are very successful with them.

What’s most important is to ease into this lifestyle. Homeschooling can be a rewarding and exhilarating way of life, so remember to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

 

Homeschool Resources

Learning All the Time

Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything

The Homeschooling Handbook

Teach Your Own- The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

 

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