Step 1: Make the Decision
If you're totally new to homeschooling and weighing the pros and cons of teaching your child at home, it's best to start at the very beginning.
What is homeschooling?
Simply put, homeschooling is when you (the parent) do the actual teaching in the home, deciding what subjects and which curriculum you'll use. You also directly determine how your child's progress will be evaluated, including grading, testing, and recordkeeping.
However, in today's homeschooling world, it's also possible to deviate somewhat from the traditional method by getting assistance from other outside educational sources like
- Homeschooling co-op classes
- Tutoring programs
- Dual enrollment options
- Charter schools
- Satellite schools
- Distance learning online schools
- Homeschool umbrella organizations
Redefining traditional homeschooling, these alternatives allow others to teach all or part of your child's classes but still leave you in charge as the primary person responsible for your child's education.
NOTE: Be aware: government-funded, virtual school programs offering free curriculum through the public school are not homeschooling. These K-12 programs often result in longer school days and impose severe limitations such as
- Government-picked vs. your pick of curriculum for your child's individual needs
- Attendance logs and compliance with public school attendance laws
- Work sample requirements for school authorities
- Teacher oversight, leaving you, the parent, only as the "learning coach"
- Elimination of all Bible-based curriculum and resources
- Graduation standards and state testing mandates
- No allowance for family unit-studies since all subjects are grade specific
Who can understand and value your child more than you? As both parent and teacher, you'll discover that homeschooling is the best way to educate your child. It is flexible, fun, and allows you to
- Adjust your educational program to fit your child's individual needs
- Grow closer as a family unit
- Develop your child's specific interests and God-given talents
- Spend time working on weak areas while building on your child's strengths
- Give your child more opportunities for hands-on learning
- Teach an academic skill or concept until your child learns it
- Build your child's confidence and self-esteem
- Tie subjects together to enhance your child's understanding of a single topic
- Take control of the moral and godly learning of your child
- Help your child love learning, rather than just making a grade
Still not sure if homeschooling is right for your family? If you don't feel qualified to teach because you're not a certified teacher, think about this:
The ability to homeschool doesn't require a degree or an impressive educational background.
Parents with a high school education can provide a superior education that even surpasses public schools. That's right! The ability to homeschool doesn't require a college degree or an impressive educational background.
In a 2009 HSLDA study, statistics showed that "Homeschoolers scored 34-39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests." Whether parents were certified as teachers had no impact on these high scores. In fact, students received slightly higher scores if neither of their parents had ever held a state-issued teaching certificate.
What is necessary to homeschool successfully?
To be a great homeschooling mom or dad, you'll need
- God-inspired goals - Picture your child when he's 18 years old. In addition to academics, what godly character qualities do you want to see reflected in his life? A heart for Christ? A love for others? Spiritual fruits reflecting a distinctly Christian education?
- Commitment - Making the decision to homeschool for grades K-12 can be overwhelming. Many parents find it easier to just take it one year at a time. However, no matter if you teach one year or twelve, it's important not to switch during the middle of the school year and homeschool for the entire year.
- Organizational skills - Homeschooling creates its structure. You'll find yourself less frazzled, your kids more relaxed, and your home more functional with an organized homeschooling schedule that includes a time for school, play, and clean up.
- Good parenting - Gentle but firm discipline is the secret to successful homeschooling. It's best to get your children's input, then set and enforce practical family guidelines to keep your homeschool running smoothly.
- Practical financial planning - Living on one income requires a workable homeschool budget. You'll need a creative mindset to think of more economical ways to have fun and cut costs on daily living expenses.
- Personal sacrifice - Are you ready to learn the art of servanthood? Homeschooling requires hard work and patience. You may need to set aside much of your personal time for the benefit of teaching, loving, and being together with your family.
- Teachability - Your children won't be the only students in your homeschool! You'll find yourself just as excited to discover new things right along with them. Best of all, you'll delight in the new insights and wisdom as you walk with Christ and learn to rely on Him each day.
Depending on your child's grade level, homeschooling involves spending more than just a few hours studying each day. In reality, homeschooling is a lifestyle that encompasses everything you do by incorporating everyday activities and academics into one exciting family learning experience.
Although everything you've read so far may seem unfamiliar and overwhelming, rest assured. Thousands of parents before you have learned how to homeschool with great success, and here's the good news! You can too!
- Search the Bible for a scriptural basis for homeschooling and know why you are planning to homeschool (Genesis 18:19, Deuteronomy 6:7-9, Ephesians 6:1). Ask God the best way to educate your children and consider each child's needs, your spouse's needs, and the educational opportunities available in your community.
- Write a formal homeschool mission statement listing overall objectives and goals for your children's education.
- Read HSLDA's "The Myth of Teacher Qualifications."
Let others know how to get started with homeschooling!