Figuring out Homeschooling

We're starting back to school today, and I wanted to follow up on my last preschool post to clarify where I am with homeschooling.

First, I'm not 100% committed to it, yet.  We're sort of playing preschool, so that I can get a feel for lesson planning, time management, and teaching.  Next year, Lou will be kindergarten age, and we'll have to make some more serious decisions then.  Even still, one mom said she takes it one year at a time, each year evaluating what education format works best for her family, and being willing to make changes next year.  I'm going to adopt this thinking, because it means never being trapped, and always being open to whatever works best for our family. 

Now, if you're in my shoes (i.e. you have no experience with homeschooling, but want to give it a try), you've probably already talked to home schoolers, which means you've heard about million different methods, curricula, and the daunting proclamation, "It can be whatever you want!"  People with experience love to say this, but it isn't much help to those of us who have no idea how to get started.  And if you feel like you need structure, its a little frightening. 

So if you need a place to start, here's what I recommend:

1.  Read a book/article about Charlotte Mason. I read this one by Catherine Levison because our library had it, but there are tons.  This will help you understand who Charlotte Mason is (an early classical educator) and how to apply her methods at home.  Most families I know use Mason's methods or Mason combined with something else (like Montessori or Waldorf).  You don't have to use her, of course, but if you need a picture of what homeschooling looks like, this is a great place to start.

2.  Read Charlotte Mason or somebody.  You don't have to read all of her books at once, but start reading some. You can find a set at the library, or find it online here.  Or if you're interested in a different method start reading about those. 

3.  Join a homeschooling group, whether a yahoo group, or a local co-op, or both!  Getting plugged into a group is great for several reasons.  You can see others in actions, hear there thoughts about various curricula, age groups, and other challenges.  You can figure out which style you like best.  Email groups are great, because you can start observe before your kids are old enough to participate.  I'm excited and nervous about joining a co-op this year - we'll see how it goes.  

4.  Start collecting information.  When you hear someone rave about a math book they love, or if you have an idea for health class years from now, write it down.  You'll collect tons of information like this, and you won't be ready to use most of it.  Just start a list (mine is by age group, with subcategories for subjects) and the information will be there when you need it.  Keep it in a paper file, a spread sheet, or whatever works.

One mother recommended starting a google site (keep it private) where you can archive your lesson plans, links, and other resources.  What a great idea!  I started one last week (oh, distractions) with the two units I've planned.  No html required, it's all formatted for you, and you customize and add each page as you want.  In a couple of years, when J is ready to do what L has already done, it will be there all laid out.  And as the kids get older, they can learn to navigate the site to check on homework assignments and calendars, or whatever.  I'm already digging it. 

There are so many free resources online, for lesson planning, reviewing curricula, buying it, forums for asking questions.  It's too much information, sometimes.  Just start file things away, with clear labels so you can find it when you need it.

5.  Just start. I really don't know how my preschool plans compare to other peoples.  I'll probably start comparing too much eventually, so I'll just save that for later.  Right now just starting, just doing something at home with my kids helps me gauge what I can do, what they enjoy, how it works.  And once you get started you begin to understand how flexible and full of potential homeschooling is, and how it can really be whatever you want.  

Good luck!


Mollie said...

I was homeschooled from birth through high school, and my sister even did it for college! So, I'm definitely someone who feels comfortable with the idea.

That said, my mom likes to remind people that you've already taught your child SO MUCH! It felt natural to get them to this point, and between pre-school and kindergarten, you can ease into it. Soon, it's likely to feel normal to teach your child to read and spell and multiply and on and on!

And yes, Charlotte Mason is a great place to start.

Butterfly Vintage said...

Great Post Laura! I have some books that I will bring you about teaching them through drawing journals and nature which Charlotte Mason used. Good luck!

julie said...

When parents start homeschooling with preschoolers or kindergartners (in other words, kids that you didn't pull out of formal school to homeschool), my go-to piece of advice is always to just keep on doing what you're already doing! You explore art materials with your kiddo already, you read to them, you buy them educational toys, you take them to museums and the library, you pay attention to what they're interested in and get them more books and activities and projects having to do with their interests--that's homeschool! Adding structure to it is totally fine, but that first day of structure is not your first day of homeschool--you've been doing that your kiddo's whole life.

Vanessa said...

I suggest you read The Unschooling Unmanual by Nanda Van Gestel. We favor this method of natural learning and this book is a great summary if you've never researched or read anything about it. Like previous comments, we've already been teaching our kids ever since they were born, why change what is working so well already?