Homeschool 101 - Where do I begin?
So you've decided to homeschool. Great!
The amount of information available on homeschooling is staggering. There are state requirements, national and state resources, local homeschool groups, books, and more curriculum websites and homeschool blogs than you could read in your lifetime! So let’s narrow it down.
A great place to start is with your state’s requirements. Here in Idaho we have no reporting requirements. Many other states do require letters of intent to homeschool and/or annual testing or evaluation of homeschoolers.
The ICHE and CHOIS organizations are great Idaho resources. The Idaho Coalition of Home Educators (ICHE) works to protect the right to home educate in the state of Idaho. Their website offers information on getting started, standardized testing, and our legislature.
Christian Homeschoolers of Idaho State (CHOIS) promotes home education in Idaho and holds the annual homeschool convention in the Treasure Valley. They also publish a quarterly magazine for homeschoolers and host a graduation ceremony.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a national organization dedicated to preserving the right to homeschool.
After you have an understanding of the state law and requirements, it’s time to look into local homeschool support, and the nuts-and-bolts of daily homeschool life. If you know someone who’s homeschooling, sit down over coffee and chat about what that looks like. Ask questions. Tag along with them to a homeschool support group. The more homeschool parents you talk to, the better. Every family's homeschool journey is their own. As you see the diversity, you begin to realize there is no one right way to homeschool. Every family and child is unique; the beauty of homeschooling is that your children’s education will also be unique. Check out the CHOIS website for a list of Idaho support groups by region.
As far as curriculum, there are many different ways to teach, from ‘open and go’ books with planned and scripted lessons to you creating your own curriculum. Check out our curriculum resource page for ideas. The ICHE and CHOIS websites both have curriculum website listings as well. Cathy Duffy's website is one I’ve used when I’m curious about a new curriculum. It’s also great to attend a convention or curriculum sale where you can physically look through the books before purchasing.
As you’re researching and talking to other families about curriculum and the how-to of home education, think about the following questions:
What are your goals for homeschooling? We all have a variety of reasons for making the decision to teach our kids at home. Articulate those reasons for your family. Write them down so you can go back to them on the hard days and remember why you’re doing this. Some of the things you might consider include academic goals, character development, life skills, specific sports or music activities, and family relationships you wish to nurture.
What do you want your day to look like? Do you like to keep things structured and on schedule? Or are you a loose and relaxed family, more likely to go with the flow? Do you need to be flexible to work around other activities: jobs, sports, music, and volunteer work?
Remember, you get to choose! You’re designing your home and school life. Make your curriculum and schedule fit you and your children. Work with your personalities; some kids work best independently, others with someone sitting beside them. Some kids like the structure of knowing exactly what’s expected, some like the freedom to experiment and be creative. Either way, choose what’s best for your unique family. And allow yourself trial and error, some things won’t work, and it’s perfectly okay to put them aside and try something else. Home education is a journey; enjoy the twists and turns along the way.