So You Think You Want to Homeschool?

BY LAURA SIMON, Guest Blogger with Triad Moms on Main

So you’ve decided to homeschool? That’s awesome! If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a lot of time pondering the pros and cons of taking this step. It’s a lot of work just to make the decision.

Of course, once you decide that homeschooling makes sense for your family, the real work begins. It’s not unlike starting a college term paper: lots of options and tons of empty space. When I started researching, I quickly reached the conclusion that there are approximately ten trillion ways to homeschool. So where on earth do you begin? I mean, it’s only your child’s future hanging in the balance, right?

This month’s article is a two-parter. First I will share the three steps to help you navigate the tough decisions. Then, in August, I will share four more ways to help you make this first homeschool year a success.

Tip One: Craft a Vision

Start by taking the time to analyze why your family decided to homeschool in the first place. Those reasons are probably fresh in your mind, so go ahead and write them down. Rank them in order of importance, if you want. You are creating a vision—a focus—that will guide you through the decisions that follow.

For example, if you’ve decided to homeschool because the actual physical school situation doesn’t work for your children, but you still want them to be learning the same things as their peers at the same time, your vision might lead you to virtual schools, where content is delivered online, and a licensed teacher handles the teaching and grading. However, if you have strong feelings about what is taught and when, and if you want your child to have a very different school experience, you’ll need to choose a basic curriculum that reflects your goals. As a former teacher with strong opinions about curriculum and learning styles, I quickly realized the latter was the best choice for me.

Tip Two: Ask Tons of Questions

Your next step, if possible, should be talking to actual people who homeschool. So your husband’s third cousin’s sister-in-law happens to be your Facebook friend and seems to enjoy homeschooling? Send her a private message. That family at church? Ask if you can chat sometime. The next-door neighbors? Knock on their door. I am fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends who are homeschoolers, and every single one I reached out to was more than willing to write me a book on what they do, what they use, what they love, what they don’t, and why. I started to notice some common themes in the responses I got: some curriculum options were clearly more popular than others, and some teaching and organizational styles were working really well for a lot of people. When I started the process of setting up our own school, I started with the things that came highly recommended. It narrowed my focus and saved me a ton of time and stress.

Tip Three: Attend a Conference

You should also consider attending a homeschooling conference, if possible. There are several in North Carolina throughout the school year, and they feature speakers, as well as a wide variety of vendors. This is a great chance to see curriculum in person, instead of researching online. Of course, a conference can easily become overwhelming, because, as I mentioned above, there are so many choices. If you have done your research with homeschooling families beforehand, you can focus on the curriculum you already think you want to use, instead of trying to look at everything.

These things take time; try not to begrudge yourself the hours spent analyzing, thinking, considering, talking to other moms, and watching other families. You aren’t wasting time. These early steps are an investment in your children’s education, and they matter. Try not to rush them.

Stay tuned for more tips next month. Turn to this Triad Moms on Main column in August!