Do you need to start homeschooling right away, and don't have time or money to spend months - or even weeks - planning and buying things? You can do it!
I recently met with a new friend who was considering homeschooling her children. One of the children had been cruelly assaulted by a gang of classmates, and Mom wanted to get the kids out NOW! But, she hadn't actually withdrawn them yet, because she felt like there was so much planning to do to get started. So she was waiting to take them out - until she was ready to undertake the task.
If you've never homeschooled before, it can be a very daunting prospect!
I didn't really realize until I met with my friend exactly HOW daunting this prospect could be - I've been homeschooling long enough that it's now "easy as falling off a log." But, after meeting with my friend, I realized that a lot of people might benefit from a post on how to get started as a new homeschooler with little or no notice.
Perhaps you have months to plan, but maybe you don't.
Relax! You CAN do it, starting tomorrow - if you need to. And you don't need to buy a single thing, in most circumstances.
Here is what I would do if I were starting tomorrow:(of course, this is not legal - or any other sort of - expert advice, just my personal opinion)
1. PrayBe persuaded that this is God's best for your child. Both parents need to be on board with this decision.
2. Check Laws.
I'd go to the Home School Legal Defense Association website and (just to double check) the website of my state's Department of Education, and check out the laws for my state, to make sure that I was meeting the legal requirements for homeschooling in my state.
3. Comply with Laws.
I'd check whatever legal boxes my state required. Frequently, this can be as simple as filing one document and taking it to be filed with your local school district.
4. Keep a Log
Start a Simple Word Processing Document to Keep Records as you go. Plan to make a list of what you accomplish each day, as it's done - a basic diary. Books read, websites visited, papers done, programs attended. This way you have a nice record for legal purposes (in most states, you're NOT likely to need to present a legal record, but better safe than sorry). But also, and perhaps more importantly, if you end the day and think, "Did we get ANYTHING done today?!" you can reassure yourself : ) And, in two weeks when you want to email a friend a link to that great video you watched - you'll be able to find it. And, in ten years, you'll have a memory book to enjoy! I just type my record up on my computer each day in Microsoft Word, while I'm sitting at the computer to do school anyway. It takes about 3 minutes a day : )
A sample (and of course, fictitious) Log entry might look like this:
1 January 2000 - New Year's Day - 6 hours
Bible - Genesis 1
Reading - Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Scene 1
Math - Khan Academy First Grade, Counting Practice
Science - E-Learning for Kids - lesson on skeleton http://www.e-learningforkids.org/science/lesson/mexico-what-is-a-skeleton/
Music - listening to Handel's Messiah - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JH3T6YwwU9s
Art - Drawing Mountain Scene with Pencil
Phys Ed - Riding Bike
5. Gather Supplies.
What do you truly need to homeschool? In my experience:
- Pencils and Pens. (Crayons & colored pencils are a nice little luxury, but not strictly necessary.)
- Computer with internet access (which you probably already have if you're reading this!),
- Library card.
- A table and chairs - the one in your dining room or kitchen will be perfect.
- Access to a computer printer. A printer is a nice-to-have to print out the many free resources out there. But if you lack that, check out this website: Homeschool Printing Company
6. Don't Spend!
I would not buy ANYTHING before starting! So many beginning homeschoolers go out and shop for a box curriculum before they really know what it is like to teach their own kids at home. Then, they get started, and the particular box that they thought would be perfect doesn't work for them. And they ditch the brand new curriculum - losing hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Instead of feeling the pressure to find something to buy before starting, I would plan a simple homeschool "skeleton" day (only the most essential subjects) and use that for a while, to give me an idea of how my kids learn, and how I teach. Then, as "great curriculum" is found (or you write your own), and learning and teaching patterns established, it is a simple matter to plug that curriculum in - one class at a time. And, your day will probably gradually stretch to be a little longer, and include those things YOU think are vital (or that your state requires): A Foreign Language, Art, Music, Home Ec, Auto Mechanics, etc.
But, it is quite possible (and perhaps even likely) that you'll find that the free program you start with is one you'd like to keep : )
You don't need, at this point, to plan a 12-year, or even a 1 year "scope and sequence" for everything your child will learn all year. In fact, there's a good chance that such a plan might cause more harm than good - especially if done so early. All you NEED to do is make sure that your child is learning things each day that he didn't already know, or developing skills that are stronger than they used to be!
After you get started, you can check in with a good "Scope and Sequence" - like the one from World Book - periodically, to reassure yourself.
7. Start with a basic, simple plan. These are the materials I would start with:
(note: these suggestions work for a very wide range of grades and levels, but for very big kids, scroll on down : )
Start each day with Prayer, and Read from a Bible Story Book each day. If your child is little, read to her. If she's older, have her read to you! If she's big enough that she's past the storybook age, have her read aloud a chapter from an easy translation of the New Testament. As she gets older, choose more challenging translations. If you need links, check out the top right of my sidebar. You can even listen to an audio Bible, or listen to Bible stories online together (again, links are at the top of my sidebar)!
Online: Khan Academy. and/or
Offline/Paper, but still free: Amy Maryon's Math
Note: Khan academy offers nearly all of the subjects (taught from a secular perspective) and Mrs. Maryon's Program is available for many subjects and grades.
Again, Amy Maryon offers a free curriculum.
If your child does not yet know how to read, or if he has problems reading new words that he has never seen before, read my post on Teaching Reading with Confidence.
If the children are very young (Preschool thru early reader) Starfall is a GREAT site to sign onto each day (you can even have them do this while you're learning how to teach them reading, from my above post : )
For "reading books" (once homeschooling is underway) just go to the library or a local thrift store each week and check something out that your child will enjoy (if he enjoys reading). If he doesn't enjoy reading, find a book that you know he CAN read and that you'd like him to read, and have him read it to you each day. Having children read aloud is very important for learning to pronounce and comprehend new vocabulary, even into higher elementary grades. Keep the book on the easy side if your child is not a strong reader.
The following subjects are ones that many homeschoolers (and many traditional schools) only do one or two days a week. You may choose not to do every one every day:
Tune your kid into a video each day or two - like one of these by Answers in Genesis
Or watch a video from Moody Science
Fifteen or twenty minutes per day is enough for elementary kids, no need for a marathon each day.
This will keep your child's scientific mind growing, and you will quickly find additional resources.
Watch Liberty's Kids. There are 40 episodes - you can watch free on Youtube, or the entire set may be purchased rather cheaply.
Have Fun With History has some great, old "filmstrip" sort of videos- like what I was shown in school!
Drive Thru History also has some wonderful Christian material (there are minor flaws here and there, but overall it's extremely good). You'll find some full episodes on Youtube (look for episodes about 30 minutes long), and the program can also be purchased later if you find that you love it.
Also, I often simply search for a topic on Youtube adding the words "for kids" at the end - many teachers make great videos on individual history topics. I might type in: "Martin Luther King for kids" on Martin Luther King Day and find a great selection to watch. You'll soon find favorite channels and decided non-favorites from those you find. Be cautious. Sadly some teachers use bad words when they teach, and others unabashedly advance certain propaganda that you may not agree with.
Don Potter's Direct Path to Cursive
Just download and print.
Free online lessons at Typing Club
Late High School:
If your child is in the later stages of High School, try "First Year of College Free" at Modern States - complete with free lectures & free online textbooks! These lessons prepare students to take CLEP tests (College Level Examination Program). If you need financial help affording the actual exam when you're done with the course, they even offer test-fee scholarships : )
In addition to the above, there are some popular free online plans most of which I have never used, but that I will mention in case you'd like to check them out:
Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool
Good and Beautiful Literature, early grades
CK 12 (thanks to the new friend who recently told me about this one! : )
eLearning for Kids (not a complete curriculum, but lots of lessons - we have used this a little) (sadly, as of 2020, this one is being taken down)
Freedom Homeschool (thanks to THIS BLOG for my awareness of this link!)
As you get into a nice rhythm, check out some of my other posts on homeschooling resources - most of which are cheap or free:
Also, I Pin schooling ideas for each subject in my
Things you DON'T need to do before you can start homeschooling:
A PlanI know, I know, sounds crazy! But you really don't need to spend much time planning at all! Just follow my list of things resources above, and do each one in turn. Plan 1/2 hour each for the first day, and adjust your time to suit as you get settled in! If the planning thing interests you, read more here: Once A Year Lesson Planning for Homeschool
Teaching Style:You don't need to research decide what method of homeschooling you'll use long term. In time, you'll have a feel for whether you're eclectic, Charlotte Mason, Unschooler or whatever. Or maybe you'll NEVER research and put yourself into a neat little box. And that's okay : )
Learning Styles:You don't need to decide your child's learning style. Maybe in time, you'll feel that your child fits one of those categories nicely - after you've read a lot about it. Or maybe not. "Boxes" aren't necessary for homeschooling, but if they work for you - that's your choice : )
If this topic interests you, you might enjoy this post
Rethinking Learning Styles
A Classroom:You don't need a classroom. Really. No desks and whiteboards or chalkboards are necessary. And certainly no completely equipped chemistry lab for the kindergarten. I DID buy a little desk at a thrift store when we started schooling, but that was because I had a preschooler at that time who really wanted to go to a school with desks, and it was a good selling point for her. I knew at the time I bought it that was its purpose, and we quickly moved out of it.
Social Approval:You don't have to persuade everyone you know that you're doing the right thing. In fact, this might be one of those things that you choose NOT to mention on social media for a while. Only you - the parents - need to agree, and feel that your choice is God's best for your family. After that, thank relatives and friends for their well-intended advice or opinions, and do what you believe is best.
As you begin, a few words of advice - not just from my own experience, but from what I've noticed of others' experience:
1. Keep God First.There is no priority that is more important. Take the Lord's Day off from ALL school - strictly - no matter how much you might feel needs to be done. Make Religion the first subject in your day, and be willing to drop everything if a Spiritual priority arises - whether that means that you see a "teachable moment" about Faith, or you need to help the elderly widow next door, or you need to go to a weekday morning Church service and skip school (our school policy is that if we have a weekday morning service, we get out of school for the day - it really adds to the love of going to Church! ; )
If this subject interests you, you might enjoy reading more here Incorporating Bible into Your Homeschool
Your child will need your presence - your company - even more than your teaching - while they are learning. Going off (physically or mentally) to cook dinner, clean the house, write a book, or surf the net, and expecting your child to "study independently" seldom works, at least before Junior High School, and even then . . . (of course, there are exceptions), Even some high school students do best with Mom nearby - involved and encouraging them - and that's okay! Independent learning is something to build up to gradually, not to demand in the first months of homeschooling. Do NOT make the mistake of leaving your children in the other room with internet access "to do their schoolwork" any more than you would leave them in the middle of a dangerous part of town without you being nearby. The internet has a lot of dangers for unattended children. And homeschool children can end up spending many more hours on the internet than their public school peers. Keep them in the same room with you, so that their computer screen is facing the room and their back is to the room, so you can see at a glance that they are not in danger (or goofing off!), even if you are at the slow cooker putting dinner on for the evening.
I don't mean this in a harsh or mean way, but you must insist on good study habits, good work habits, paying attention, and in general good behavior and respect from your children as a CENTRAL priority. This is the #1 reason that I've seen homeschool Moms discouraged, demoralized, and yes, even quit. My own Mother, of Blessed Memory, was a professional classroom teacher. She said that the first two weeks she was a "drill sergeant" with her students, and then the rest of the year, the children behaved and they could all enjoy the year. In contrast, she watched colleagues who played "nice guy" the first couple of weeks, and spent the entire second half of the year screaming at their classes. If this is a problem in your house, spend some time listening to Dr. Ray Guarendi : ) and/or read Gentle Measures . . . by Jacob Abbott
4. Consider a Break.
There is no reason, in most states, that you cannot give your kids a week vacation from school before you embark on homeschooling, or any other time you so choose (some parents find this helpful so that they and their kids can decompress before getting started on a new venture). In many states, homeschoolers have to provide so many days (often 180) or so many hours (maybe 900) of education a year. But, unless your state says which days those have to be, you can give a week off, and make it up later.
5. Don't Expect FunTrying to make the day "fun" for yourself OR for your kids is a formula for disaster. (I respect that others take a different view on this topic, and feel free to check out the many posts saying the opposite.) Enjoyment in life tends to be the product of hard work. Expect hard work for yourself and your kids as you start the schooling process. Expect some complaining, some "I don't like this," some telling friends (or even strangers) they want to go to traditional school. That's okay, and it's not a negative reflection on you. It's simply a sign that hard work is being done, and that's a GOOD thing. Your children probably won't say (at least not very often) "Oh, Mom! I'm SOOO excited to study algebra again today!" or "Thank you SO much for showing me how to solve for 'X'!" or "I went ahead and studied my spelling words and cleaned the kitchen before you got up - hope you don't mind!" But, in time, God Willing, you'll find a lot of true, deep JOY in homeschooling - especially if you keep your focus on God. But a pursuit of superficial, frivolous "fun" will probably disappoint. If this topic interests you, check out this post What Creates a Love of Learning?
With God's help, you CAN do it! And it has the potential to become the biggest Blessing in the life of your family!
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