1. Find Out What Your State’s Legal Requirements For Homeschooling Are. It’s different for each state. Some states make it easier than others but usually it boils down to a few forms that have to be submitted every fall. Google “homeschool in [your state]” and you will find state homeschooling organizations that will probably have it all outlined for you. Even better, find someone in your state who homeschools and ask them to help you figure it out. I’ve noticed that the paperwork/requirements sound a lot simpler when explained by a real live homeschooling parent than all the legalese that appears on homeschooling websites.
2. What Educational Philosophy will you follow? If you already know the answer to this, immerse yourself in the philosophy’s literature. If you don’t, you don’t need to decide right away. Plan on learning about your options, trying a few things out and taking AT LEAST a year to settle on something.
There are homeschoolers who use a K-12 program that looks just like public school with a virtual teacher, standard curriculum, homework, and a lot of guidance/requirements. On the other extreme are unschoolers who don’t do anything that “looks” like school but swear that their families are getting great educations. In between are a billion other options. You don’t have to investigate all of them. I believe you will be led to the one or few that are best for your family. Put your feelers out, see what comes back and check out the things that resonate with you. You don’t have to adopt one philosophy either. You can be an eclectic homeschooler and do a little of this and a little of that. As a reminder, my family has chosen Leadership Education as our educational philosophy and I’m pretty biased in favor of it so take what I say with that in mind. Homeschool conferences, usually held throughout the summer, are great places to get exposed to different philosophies and ideas. I’ve never been to one but I hear they are fabulous. They can also be overwhelming so don’t go to one yet if you are afraid this could be bad for you.
3. Take It A Year At a Time. You don’t have to decide what you are doing for school for the next 12 years, just focus on this year. Every summer you can reevaluate and adjust as needed. If you discover mid-year that something is really not working, you can make changes then too.
4. Demystify Public School and Homeschool. If you’ve never spent real time in a public school classroom you probably have some totally unrealistic ideas about what goes on there. I’m not saying it’s bad – a lot of great things happen there. My best friend was a 4th grade teacher for several years and I visited her classroom many times. She’s the best teacher I know. She once told me, “If I could have a class with just 5 kids, at the end of the year I could give you 5 little geniuses. But I can’t do that with 25 kids.” Yes, the teachers have been specifically educated and trained for this but even the best ones, like my friend, only get to use a fraction of their skills and knowledge to teach in the public school environment. They spend most of their energy on classroom management, not teaching. Seeing is believing. Find a teacher who will let you visit/help in their class and you will see what school is really like. It will help you feel less stressed about trying to do it yourself at home.
5. Find The Right Resources. There are thousands of homeschool websites with curriculum for sale, project ideas, networking groups and online communities. Once you know which philosophies you want to explore (choose just a few) find the best resources associated with them. Ask your friends, join the online community, talk to people, you’ll find what you need.
g. www.familyforum.co (Annual Family Forum event in SLC and the audio downloads of past years talks and classes)
h. www.familyforum.co/store/family-builder (The Family Builder Training Program)
j. www.tjed.org/twih/sample/ (This Week in History, online resource for bringing history to life)
m. The Student Whisperer (on Mentoring Scholar Phase)
n. For the Love of Learning: Give Your Child a LOLIPOP Education (all about Love of Learning Phase and organizing clubs and classes for kids ages 8-14.)
o. The Life of Fred (Math Curriculum that teaches math through a series of very amusing stories. Covers beginning math all the way to calculus.)
6. Fill Your Tank. If this homeschool thing is right for your family you will know it and at some point, you will feel great clarity, peace, hope, excitement and enthusiasm about the whole thing. Then, you will panic again. It’s a cycle that most people go through several times. This is normal. The key is to keep your tank filled. Figure out what inspires you, makes you feel at peace, gives you clarity, hope, and enthusiasm and get some of it regularly. For me this is book clubs, talks with my TJED friends, TJED seminars (attending them live or listening to them), reading with my kids, reading with my husband, dates and getaways with my husband. If you keep your tank filled, your panic attacks will be less frequent and less severe. You will start to recognize the cycle and head off the panic attack before it really hits.
7. Only Talk About This With People Who Will Support You, For Now. Some people will take the news that you are homeschooling very badly. That does not mean you are doing the wrong thing. You and your husband are the only ones that need to agree on this decision – if you KNOW it’s right for your family, you don’t need anyone else’s permission. But, at the beginning of this journey, you do need support and encouragement and you really don’t need anyone else’s doubts piled on top of your own. So protect yourself. Don’t discuss it with anyone who just wants to talk you out of it. Later, when you are feeling sure of yourself you can have a long discussion with them, hear all their concerns and maybe even resolve some of them. Sometimes a loved one just needs a chance to express all their fears and concerns. They care about you and your kids and they are afraid. Or, they may think your choice, being so different than theirs, is a judgment on them. If you can listen sincerely and not engage in a debate, it may relieve some pressure and tension. As you plod ahead on the path you’ve chosen your family and friends will begin to see the proof in the pudding and most of them will line up in firm support of you. My best friend, a public school teacher at the time, didn’t really want to know anything about Leadership Education until she started noticing how much my oldest daughter was learning and doing as result of our homeschool. After reading A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille, she realized she wanted to do this too and is homeschooling her daughters.