Welcome back for session two in our Homeschooling 101 series. If you missed last week’s discussion about Praying It Up, you can find it here.
Even though this series is intended to give you some basics on getting started homeschooling, I will not cover specific homeschooling laws. As homeschooling laws vary from state to state, please be sure you check with your state’s homeschooling association to square away any legal paperwork or requirements for your state. For example, I live in Alabama and our state is pretty homeschool-friendly, but we do have to be a part of a cover school which collects our grades and attendance. The cover school provides us with an official letter to send to our local public school board to prove that we are, in fact, legally registered with a cover school and therefore not truant. Your state’s laws may be different than in Alabama, so your state’s homeschooling association is a great place to learn about requirements. Now onto step two…
Once you have prayed over your decision and you are confident that God is urging you down the homeschooling path you are ready to move into another round of decision-making, which will also require a lot of prayer and listening to God’s direction – that of selecting your curriculum and extra-curricular activities. Your state might have a core curriculum that they require you to cover (ours does) that include the basics like math, science, language arts, etc. Usually these are subjects that you want to cover anyway, so it’s not a huge burden to meet their requirements on these. You do, however, get to decide how you teach them and which curricula you use. As you begin to decide which subjects to cover, I would suggest you start with the core subjects, and then add to that load as you see God leading. In our homeschool, that means we do math, science, grammar, reading, spelling and history to meet core requirements, but because I want to incorporate more than that I add Latin, fine arts, Bible, PE, and last year, a unit called Intro to Classical Studies.
As you will soon discover, there are a thousand great curriculum choices. You can choose an all-inclusive curriculum, where your whole year’s worth of work comes in one box as a set, or you can choose individual subjects from different publishers. I do the latter because it gives me the freedom to purchase materials from publishers who specialize in that subject. If you are a little shaky about choosing that many different curricula, then a box set might work better for you. The good news is that with homeschooling, you have the freedom to do whichever you want. It can, however, be overwhelming to sort through the many choices in search of THE right ones for your student. It can be difficult to “look” through a curriculum online and truly get a feel for whether it’s what you want. My advice on this is to ask around to some of your homeschooling friends, read through homeschooling blogs that you trust, and narrow down your choices to a few in each subject. Then visit a homeschooling convention in your area and spend time in their vendor hall looking over your choices. Visit the booths of your top choices and look through the textbooks, talk with their representatives about their product, and get an overall feel for how well their curriculum will work for your student. This is your opportunity to discuss any challenges your student may have with reps from the company and get their input on how to modify their programs for your situation. You can also get some pretty sweet deals if you purchase at the convention. Just don’t get too excited and overbuy!! There is SO MUCH good material that it can be tempting to buy a ton of stuff that you never have time to complete.
Once you have your curriculum chosen, you can see how much time you will have for extra-curricular activities. We were surprised our first year at how much time we had to participate in outside activities. We finished our school work in a few hours, so we had several hours each day to fill up with other activities. We listed out all our possibilities for extra activities, church activities, sports, ballet lessons, music lessons, gymnastics, art lessons, field trips, children’s theater productions, library productions, etc. We prayed over each one, asking God whether to plan it or ditch it, and came up with a list we felt comfortable with. I didn’t want to over-schedule, but I sure wanted to have enough planned that we were sitting around bored with nothing to do either. We ended up choosing church activities (of course), ballet, gymnastics, and children’s theater productions. This might sound like a lot, but when school only takes a couple of hours each day (for first grade) then you have a lot of time for fun activities.
One word of caution: Each year we have found that our school workload increases and we have to concentrate our extra-curricular activities to one or two that we really enjoy and want to pursue. This gets even crazier as you add more children to the mix. Your schedule must be one that your entire family can live with – not just what’s best for one child. Prayer can help you determine what that balance needs to be
Come back next week for part three in this series, Planning Your Year.