It seems the very element about homeschooling that makes it so darn overwhelming, is also the same thing that makes it wonderful- flexibility. But when it comes to where to start, how to plan it out, there are some concrete things to look at to get you started. Let's start at the very beginning, the first step after sitting down and having the homeschooling discussion, and that is to find out what your state requirements are. HSLDA has an amazing website that lists the requirements per state, which helps you to figure out whether you need to create a portfolio, have your child take a standardized test each year, or just register a form online each year. Of course, that is just a sampling of the requirements, I don't exactly verse myself in the requirements of multiple states, but that is why we have the amazing website that I mentioned before.
On to the really fun stuff, in my opinion, teaching methods! Once you get to this point, there are so many directions you can go, but again, this is still grey, with black and white boundaries. You need to decide what type of schooling you are going to do. There is the unschooling approach, which can include anything from completely self-led learning to taking a direction from your child's interest and working around it. Many people use lapbooks when they unschool, and there are so many options when it comes to online resources that are free. We choose to do an unschooling approach over the summer, which gives me the satisfaction that we aren't just being lazy bums all summer, and gives my children the joy of diving deep into a subject of their interest and the chance to be super creative in the presentation of their ideas. It really is a win-win. Then there is the exact opposite of unschooling, which is schooling at home. I think that there are a lot of benefits to it, although most who argue against it say that the whole point of homeschooling is to get them out of that mindset, I say that they are still learning, only within the safety of your home and under the direction of the people who love them the most... again, a win-win. There is a Charlotte Mason approach, where most of the actual learning comes from making lessons based on books. The website based on this approach has full lists of books by grade that you can use to both nurture a love for reading and teach in a way that makes more sense because of the books. This apparently works on multiple levels, but I personally think it would be a great way to start the early years, for obvious reasons. There is an eclectic approach, which combines these and many other methods into one big happy (and confusing) family. There is a great way to do this, by picking and choosing how you will address each thing as you go, and at times I have even chosen to do things this way, just to keep it interesting. Last, there is a boxed curriculum approach, by far the easiest way to start off if you are not a planner, or are unsure of how to go about it, the downside to this being cost, especially if you have multiple children.
Take some time to explore what each homeschooling type has to offer. There are tons of blogs out there full or information about each one and how they work, just a click away. You need to consider a few things before deciding which path to take; first, consider your children and how they learn. If your child is a kinesthetic learner, mostly hands-on and active, the traditional approach of school at home is not going to work well, and for the same reason that active children (or those considered ADHD) don't often thrive in school. A busy body needs busy work to keep themselves moving, and this, in turn, helps them to learn easier and to thrive. If your child has a great imagination, the Charlotte Mason approach would probably do very well. I have a child who loves to escape into fantasy worlds in reading, and because he has a deep interest in what he is reading, he often memorizes minute details about it, even months later. I'll do a follow up explaining my somewhat eclectic teaching style, which works very well with multiple children and multiple learning styles.
Next, consider YOUR style. This seems silly when it comes to teaching your child, because their needs are most important in this equation, but you need to truly consider your motivation level, your interest in the process itself, and how you imagine the homeschool picture in your mind. This is very important, and you should deeply consider before you decide how to go about this. I have a dear friend who has always felt that homeschooling was right for her family, however, she learned much too late that the requirements of her were too much with the curriculum she had chosen. Depending on the age of your child, you will have varying levels of independence, in younger grades, the more you teach them yourself, the more they will thrive. As they get older, children often desire more independence, and you can loosen the reigns a bit more. There are plenty of options for you whether you are very hands-on, or prefer to let your children lead their own education. There are tons of online academies, some are even free, which are available for children to do self-led schooling. The way to look at it is that it can be customized to fit how you want to approach it!
I think that I have given plenty of food for thought for the moment, so I am going to continue this post at another time in the near future. In the meantime, take some time to consider the things that I have mentioned. Pay close attention to how your children learn, think about what you personally are expecting the homeschooling picture to look like, and talk with your spouse about what expectations both of you have for the outcome of the school year ahead of you. Start researching now into the different homeschooling methods to decide which will best fit your family. Most important, stop doubting your choice! This is, by far, the best thing you can do for your children and the future of our country. Next time, we will talk about choosing curricula, creating schedules, and getting supplies.