How to Home School - a Mums guide to doing it yourself.

2020 has been a crazy year by anyone´s standards. With the dreaded virus enforcing home schooling and the emergence of the "new normal", many parents are exploring alternative models for their children educational development.

We asked homeschooling Mother of five April Karschner (@unitandtiedtogether) to write this blog post on her journey into home schooling so you can be informed of your choices and how to implement them. Hopefully this will give you the confidence  you need should you choose to make a similar decision for your family.

WHERE TO START

Photo credit: @unknitandtiedtogether

The first thing you need to look into, is your country and state’s regulations surround homeschooling.  Believe it or not, it’s not legal to homeschool your children in every country. 

If you are US based I suggest going to hslda.org and look into the homeschooling laws for each state.

For the UK you do not have to follow the national curriculum but your  local council may check in on your to ensure your children are getting a suitable education. For more information you can check the government website.  

To check if home schooling is legal in your country here is a full list.

This will also help you determine what steps you need to take (if any) to inform the state of your intentions to homeschool and what reports you may have to file or tests your kids may need to take. Don’t let the fact that you live in a “difficult” area to homeschool deter you from doing so. The homeschool community is amazing, and more times than not, you can find like-minded families that have figured it out and are willing to help those just starting out. Which brings me to my next point, search for homeschool groups in your country/state and community. Country/State groups can provide assistance if you need to file or report and give curriculum suggestions if you wish to stay on track with core standards. Local groups can provide you with a community and a support system, as well as field trip friends and co-op opportunities. 

 

Photo credit: @terraandtint

 

CURRICULUM CHOICES

The curriculum is usually the next decision to consider. With so many options available, you’re sure to find one that works best for your family. One of the easiest ways to narrow down your options and help point you in the right direction is to figure out which homeschool approach best aligns with how your children learn, your goals for their education, and what gets you, as their teacher, excited to teach. The 9 most common approaches are: 

  1. School-at-Home or Traditional: assumes you will conduct your homeschool much like an institutional school, with textbooks for each subject.

  2. Online or Correspondence Instruction: uses digitally-delivered, programmed lessons.

  3. Classical: based off a three-part process aimed at training a child’s mind, by taking into account the way our children’s brains learn and process information at different stages in their development.

  4. Charlotte Mason: short periods of study using “living books”, coupled with nature walks, nature journals, history portfolios, and lots of practice in observation, memorization, and narration.

  5. Montessori: a child-led approach utilizing free movement, large-unstructured time blocks, multi-grade classes, and interest-based/individualized learning plans.

  6. Waldorf-Inspired: works to engage the head, heart, and hands by appealing to the child through curriculum that integrates academics, arts, and practical skills.

  7. Unit Study: typically, all subjects (except maybe math) are taught together using a unifying theme.

  8. Unschooling: children determine which topics they want to learn about, and how they want to study them, with parental support and guidance.

  9. Eclectic Education: sharing ideas and resources across different methodologies with the objective of educating children as unique individuals.

 

Photo credit: @unknitandtiedtogether

Remember, these are in no way exhaustive definitions. If one or two of these approaches stand out to you, do a little more research on the philosophies, methodologies, and practices.Once you’ve decided on an approach, Google that approach + homeschool curriculum. Lots of options, both religious and secular, should pop up. The easiest way to determine which one will be the best fit is to look at different sample lessons and see which curriculum feels right.

Also, don’t be afraid to mix and match curriculum's. I opted to go with 4 different ones based on my kids’ strengths and weaknesses. Seasoned homeschool moms will also tell you that no matter how much research you do on curriculum, it is very rare that you will love all your choices. If you decide to go the homeschool route for years to come, you’ll probably adjust and shift your curriculum choices as the years go on.

 

Photo credit: @create_make_and_learn

The most commonly recommended curriculum and resources suggested to me were:

PRE-KINDERGARDEN  

  • The Kindergarten Tool Kit

  • Habitat School House

  • Busy Toddler Preschool

  • Oak Meadow

  • The Peaceful Press

POST-KINDERGARDEN  

  • The Good and The Beautiful

  • Master Books

  • Beautiful Feet Books

  • A Gentle Feast

  • My Father’s Word

  • All about Reading

  • Blossom & Root

  • Story of the World

  • Abeka Academy

  • Khan Academy

  • The Cultured Kid

  • Key’ndergarten

  • Read Aloud Revival

  • Math-U-See

  • Sonlight

  • Saxon Math

  • Handwriting without Tear

     

    I also encourage you to have your children complete the placement tests if the curriculum provides one. Don’t allow a grade level to box you in. There will be a lot less frustration for both you and your child if you teach to their current level, and not to where you think they should be because of their age. This could mean that they test lower, at, or higher than their current grade level, and will give you a better idea of where you need to focus and challenge them.

     

    DAILY RHYTHMS

    Photo credit: @terraandtint

    One of the best pieces of advice I received as we were starting out was to schedule our days in loops, rather than a strict schedule. A loop gives you the flexibility to shift if something comes up or your day doesn’t go as smoothly as you had planned; because you can just pick up where you left off. For example, our morning loop might include handwriting, math, language arts, and science. However, on Monday, math caused a huge meltdown and derailed our day. Instead of stressing out and forcing my kids to complete language arts and science (thus further sending our day spiraling out of control), on Tuesday, we’ll just pick up where we left off and start with Language arts. On the flip side, if my kids are really into their math one day and complete more assignments than I’ve planned, we don’t have to rush through the other subjects just to keep up. Looping your schedule leaves room for life and helps foster a love of learning within your kids. It allows them to linger when something holds their interest, and reset if they found something particularly challenging.


    I also found it beneficial to see how much suggested learning time is recommended by grade level. Remember, in a traditional school setting, teachers have to plan for things like attendance, class disruptions, transitions between subjects, recess, and meals, which take up a huge chunk of the 7-hour school day.

    *From the Illinois State Board of Education’s report “Remote Learning Recommendations”.

     

    TEACHING DIFFERENT GRADES


    Photo credit: @unknitandtiedtogether

     

    This was one of my biggest concerns when weighing our options about homeschooling. Currently, I have a kindergartener and a second grader, as well as 3 other children between the ages of 2 and 3. How is one supposed to manage it all? The good news is, it can be done. The best method I’ve found is to stage the subjects that your kids can do independently with the ones that they need assistance with. This means that you can help one child, while another one works independently on a subject, and the younger kids can play or do an activity around you. Something else I’ve also found helpful is to do group studies, where everyone can participate and learn the same thing. Subjects that this works best for are: Science, History, Geography, Art, Music, and Physical Education. With older kids, you also have the option to provide more in-depth work or projects that deepen and further their learning.

     

    NATIONAL STANDARDS

     

    The last thing I want to address is the topic of national standards and what to do if you wish to re-enroll your kids in a traditional school setting at a later date.   Most veteran homeschool families will tell you to teach to the child and that it will all eventually come out in the wash. Research even suggests that homeschool children tend to do better on standardized tests, stick around longer in college, and do better once they’re enrolled.  However, if you plan on making your journey with homeschool a temporary one, it helps to know what your children’s peers will be learning in the traditional school setting to help keep them on track.

     

     

     Photo credit: @unknitandtiedtogether

    County and State educational websites will include a list of core standards that students are expected to reach at the end of each grade level, so Google these for your particular area. You can also use these standards as a guide when deciding what material to cover with your own children at home. Some states (like my own) will also require children to complete standardized testing at the end of each year to assess their progress and make sure they don’t fall behind their peers. These requirements can usually be found on the hslda.org website.

    Overall, while homeschooling might not have been on our radar when 2020 began, I’ve been grateful for the extra time I get to spend with my kids and for the ability to watch them learn and grow in an environment that I feel is best set up for them during this time. Hopefully, seeing how we approached our new journey has left you feeling empowered and informed to make a decision that is right for you in this crazy year that is 2020.