Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Getting Started With Homeschooling

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When I first tell people I'm planning to homeschool, the question I'm most often asked is something akin to "how do you know what to do?"  It's a good question, one I've received from fellow moms and seasoned public school educators alike!  One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is your ability to pick curriculum that fits you, and fits your child.  The endless choices can also be intimidating.  I'm extremely fortunate to have a great resource in my mother in law, who homeschooled (or is in the process of homeschooling) 5 children with great success.  I've picked her brain a lot.  (Mom, if you read this--thanks!!)  I chose a lot of our preschool curriculum based on her recommendations and experience, but I also chose a few extra things I thought would work well for our family. 

I want to know that my child is learning at the level (or above the level!) of her public and private school peers.  So as I've been lesson planning and considering curriculum, I've had a print out of the Typical Course of Study Preschool Curriculum Guide nearby, compiled by World Book.  I've seen this linked to by many homeschooling sites.  World Book says, "As a source of information, World Book offers the results of ongoing research into curriculum requirements and standards. The learning levels include preschool through grade 12. Naturally, there are regional and local variations that cannot be accounted for in every detail. But the typical course of study reflects general curriculum requirements across North America. The information is categorized by grade level and general skill type or discipline."  These guidelines are helping me to determine our units of study.

Curriculum itself can also be helpful in determining what an age appropriate education looks like.  I've chosen to mix and match our school books from several different sources, but many companies will sell curriculum to you as a grade-level package if you'd prefer. We have a rather large (and continually growing, thanks to area thrift stores) collection of children's books in our home, plus access to some fabulous libraries, so an all-inclusive package would have been redundant for us.  I've purchased (or have been given) the following resources to use over the next few years:

- Building Thinking Skills [Beginning] from Critical Thinking Press 
- Preschool - ABC Series, set of 6 workbooks from Rod and Staff
- all of the History/Geography/World Cultures books from the Sonlight P4/5 core
- the Little Hands Art Book by Judy Press
- The Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature (Sonlight's P4/5 core again)

- Mighty Mind
- Read: Getting Your Preschooler Ready to Read 
- Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons
- Ready for Writing
- Let's Write: Beginner's Level
- Sequencing, Opposites, Numbers, Mathematics, Upper and Lowercase Letters, and Alphabet Memory puzzles and game sets from The Learning Journey


Obviously, I have not taught with any of these materials yet, but my initial impressions are very positive, and you'll see that many of these items have garnered great feedback from other homeschoolers already.  I'm eager to start!  
To these, I'll add daily readings from our own collection of children's stories and poetry, and devotions from our children's ESV Bible. In future years, I'm planning to attend a local homeschool conference and curriculum sale in order to personally explore our options as we progress to kindergarten, first grade, and beyond!  

Homeschooling is a big commitment--understatement of the year.  LEAH (New York State Loving Education at Home) phrases it this way, "You will be committing your finances as you purchase your own books, supplies, and pay for various activities, music lessons and such. There is no school bus – you will carpool or drive for all of your activities, also. You will be committing your time and energy as you schedule homeschooling into everyday life. If you want field trips and activities, you will usually be the one driving, guiding & teaching. Also remember everyone will be in the home most of the time and your neat orderly home will give way to books, papers, and all the things you will use to teach."  If you are considering it for your family, I found LEAH's website to be a great starting point.  For those outside of New York, there is still good reading to be had, but you'll need to track down state-specific regulations.

Some additional getting-started reading:

You Can Homeschool
Beginning Homeschool
About Homeschool


I have a healthy fear of this task, because so much is riding on it.  But my overwhelming emotion right now is excitement.  We're just starting down this road and I have so much to learn as a teacher, but I hope that this has answered some questions if homeschooling is something you've wondered if you could do.  If you're reading this post as someone who is homeschooling already, I'd love to hear from you in the comments about what has made educating at home rewarding for you and good for your children! 
 

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