I have been approached by several parents lately who tell me they want to take their child out of public school and home school him or her, but they would like some advice on how to begin. I imagine these friends are not alone in their desire to home school, so I thought I’d take a moment to share my thoughts on how to begin homeschooling if your child is currently in public or private school.
The first thing I recommend is to DO NOTHING. Seriously. I know that sounds strange, but going from an institutionalized school setting to a home school setting is not only a BIG change for your child, it will also be a BIG change for you. Some parents are eager to jump right into home schooling by purchasing curriculum and textbooks, but you will do yourself a favor and probably save some money by resisting the urge to rush out and mimic at home what your child was doing in school. At least for a while. Really, it is OK to take a few months off. I promise, your child will not “get behind”.
Take time to enjoy having your child at home. Find your daily rhythm of being together. After all, you’ve been used to being apart for a good eight hours out of the day, and it is going to take some time for both of you to get used to being around each other all day. This is especially true if there are siblings at home who need to reconnect with each other.
Keep a journal during this time and record the things that interest your child. Watch and observe your child. What are his natural gifts and talents? What subject makes his eyes light up and he won’t stop talking about it? Then, find ways to help him explore those interests. A child will learn so much better and retain so much more information, faster, when he is interested in the subject. Your child has spent a lot of time behind a desk being told what is expected of him and being spoon-fed information that somebody else decided was important for him to learn. Now it’s HIS turn. Let him lead for a while and you’ll be amazed at how much he learns.
Go to the library together. A lot. Don’t discount videos and games as forms of learning.
Do your own homework on how your child learns. There are so many resources that will help you get a handle on what sort of learner your child is. Do they learn by doing or by listening? Do they need quiet or noise to learn?
After you’ve spent time observing and reconnecting with your child, you will have a much better idea of what sort of home education experience you want to provide for your child and what will work best for your family and with your finances. You may want to do unit studies, use a ready-made curriculum, piece together your own curriculum, or even take an unschooling approach. Any of these are wonderful and are completely dependent on what is best for your family and for your situation. The beauty of home education is that, if one thing doesn’t work, you can try something else.
Finally, you can begin researching home school curriculum and textbooks, if you choose to go that route. You’ll have much better luck with finding curriculum that suits your child and your family after you’ve spent some time observing and interacting with him.
A couple of resources:
I’ve ordered many textbooks from Christianbook.
How Children Learn by John Holt
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt