Monday, January 20, 2014

So You Think You Might Want to Homeschool


I'm an Admin for a Facebook Group for homeschooling in my area of central California. It's a group I started two years ago when we made the leap into it ourselves.

I was so freaked about it, I created a group of about six people -- half were already homeschooling (people I had thought were "crazy" before and now relied on like a well-loved teddy bear) and half were newbies like me.

That group of six has now grown to almost 230 people and more are adding by the day as "home educating" is becoming more of an option for many families.

And they have the same burning questions that I once did. So I decided to write a FAQ for them. And since I posted it there, I thought, why not post it here?

(Keep in mind that this is through the lens of someone homeschooling in California. Some information may be different for different states.)

So without further ado:


1.) I'm considering homeschooling my children. What are my options?

There are so many ways to homeschool and no "right way" except what works for your family and saves your sanity and your children's relationship.

For some, that is doing "school at home" through a K12 program where you do the same coursework done in public school, but just at home.

For others, it's going through a homeschool charter (many have cropped up over the last few years) where you use their curricula (or not -- depending on the charter), and you do what works best for the way your children learn or where they are developmentally.

Then there are those who go independent and file an affidavit with state and do their own thing completely.

There are benefits to each way of homeschooling. If you are new to homeschooling and nervous (the way many of us were), you might want to go the charter route at least at first to "get your feet wet." Changing from that to independent or even putting your kids back into regular school is not as difficult as you would think.

Definitely research all your options, figure our your educational philosophy and goals for your children, consider their learning strengths and weaknesses and any other family factors, and that will help you to decide.


2.) What is an "educational philosophy"?

An educational philosophy is something I had not actively thought through until my children reached a crisis point in public school. Mine started with figuring out what I didn't believe should happen in my children's education and then formed from there. I read several books on homeschooling ("Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything" and "The Well-Trained Mind" as well as countless others from the public library). 

I talked with several families who homeschooled to get their viewpoints and how they "did it." I read blogs and websites about learning and articles and posts about how our public school system was failing our kids. I watched a bunch of TedTalks, starting with Sir Ted Robison's famous, "How Schools Kill Creativity" with 21 million views and some change and 13-year-old Logan Laplante's, "Hackschooling Makes Me Happy."

And I considered my children -- the way they learned best. Their strengths and weaknesses. Their diagnosis (or suspected diagnosis at that point) and the things they loved and were intrigued by.


3.) What does a day in the life of homeschooling look like?

This is different for every family. Some wake with the sun and start their day and end in the middle afternoon. They take lunch breaks and recesses. They have a strict schedule of things they are doing for that day/week/month. They might study Latin, Greek. They might be learning the violin or cello or another instrument. They read classics and read, and read and read.

Some other families may have a handful of books or curriculum and start their day when they are ready (some may not even touch a book until the afternoon and homeschool into the evening). Each day looks different. Sometimes, schooling happens organically. Sometimes, it's planned. Most school happens 2-4 hours and then it's done for the day.

Another family may do what's called "unschooling" where there is no curricula or no schedule or plan. The child does what interests him/her and learns in this way. And still other families pull from each of these models and make their own way. There is no right or wrong way to do it and there are scads of publications and blogs that hold that their way is the "best way."

The truth is that this is a personal choice each family makes when they consider all the factors mentioned in #2. And I would guess that many families are growing and changing how they do things from month to month and year to year.


4.) How do I begin Homeschooling?

Often, the hardest part is making the decision to do it. Once you've done that, everything is easier. If you are going with a charter in the state of California, then it's actually a "transfer" since charters are technically a California public school but just set up differently. You would need to be "accepted" into one of the charters first (don't dis-enroll your child without being accepted or you'll be considered truant!) and then follow their recommendations of how to transfer your student(s) over. It's always good to write a formal letter to go in the file at their current school -- again so that you aren't considered truant. However, the transfer paperwork/request should suffice.

If you are not going with a charter, but pulling out to independently homeschool, then you will need to draft a letter to the school/school district informing them of your decision to pull your child out of school to educate him/her at home. It might also be a good idea to pay the minimal fee to join a homeschool advocacy group called HSLDA to make sure that you are covered legally.

They also have samples of letters to send to the school district you can use. You will also need to file an affidavit with the state which clears you from your student being considered "truant". (This is true for California, but make sure you check with your own state's rules/laws about homeschooling, etc.)  There will be documents you will need to keep in case anyone from the state comes to check. Also, you will need to keep some sort of grades in the upper levels of school as your child get ready to graduate, etc.


5.) What curriculum do I use?

If you are not going through a charter and not getting your curricula through them, there are literally a million options. Some like to use an all-in-one curriculum that has every subject within one set of books. Some like to use different curricula for different subjects. Some use online programs or apps. Some choose to use no curriculum at all and to read books and do hands on intuitive things. Many do a smattering of each.

There are a ton of free and paid worksheets and resources online -- it can be overwhelming really, how much out there is out there.  Many cities have curriculum libraries where you can borrow items to try. I also would recommend reading up on reviews, asking other homeschool families. Borrowing and looking through curriculum before spending hundreds of dollars. Going to homeschool conventions and checking it out there, etc.


6.) Is there anything else I should know?

Don't panic. You will have good days that make you wonder why you ever hesitated. You will have days where you question your decision to homeschool. That is completely normal. Most have a period of a few months where you "de-school" and get used to being home and a different schedule after being in public school for so long. If you were a product of public school, it is often just as important for you to "de-school" your ideas of what school "has to be" as well.

This is a good time to spend time playing together, going to the library, going on field trips, hanging out in your pajamas, cooking together, etc. It may feel a bit scary -- like you are falling behind or failing your children, but it's an important part of the process. And remember, your kids are still learning -- they are just doing it differently.

I would recommend meeting up with other homeschool families for field trips and park play dates. It's great to be connected with other homeschool families and share your fears, frustrations, and joys. It's good for all of you -- teacher-parents and students alike. There are infinite number of Facebook groups, Yahoo Groups, etc. All you need is a computer and a search engine. 

Some public libraries may also have classes catered to homeschoolers. Many of them have websites with databases and online resources (such as BookFlix) that are available to library patrons.

There are a ton of places that offer homeschool rates, incentive programs and special field trips -- including Disneyland/Disney World, Legoland, Six Flags, Sea World, aquariums, museums and more!

Check those out.

Breathe.

You are not alone...and you are going to be just fine!

--

For more posts about our homeschool journey, click here. The oldest are at the bottom.

0 comments: