1. Start with a goal. My primary motivation and goal is to instill in my son an interest in and enjoyment of learning so that when his time with me is through, he will at least consider seeking higher education in the form of college or a technical school. At the rate he is going now, the second he graduates from high school he is going to run as far away from any further education as he can.
2. Evaluate your child’s learning strengths and weaknesses. When looking at our online parent portal, I noticed that at least in one of Dawson’s classes he had mostly C’s and D’s on daily homework assignments, but straight A’s on all projects and labs. Getting him to do his homework (and then turn it in) is a constant struggle. But, he goes all-out on projects and even seems to enjoy them. He also has always loved historical fiction, adventure and exploration (his dog’s name is Crusoe). He is very playful and loves to be up and around. He gets distracted easily. He needs to have assignments broken down into bite-sized chunks. These are all things I have considered when planning his curriculum and school day.
3. Research. This was a big one! I have spent many hours researching! Just get online. Google what you want to know. Do lots of reading!
*I know that many states have specific homeschooling laws. We are blessed in Oklahoma to have no specific restrictions or guidelines, so the sky’s the limit. But, your state may be different.
*There are also many, many styles of homeschooling. (Honestly, I don’t really know what most of them mean and haven’t taken them too seriously.) There’s the Charlotte Mason style and unschooling style and traditional style. I don’t know. But you and your child will likely operate best under a specific style, so it warrants some research. For us, I am an “orderly” person and will go crazy without a schedule. Although Dawson needs to be up and moving a lot, he will operate best with a schedule, as well. We plan to have household duties until 9:00 each morning, do school hard and fast until noon and finish with reading and projects in the afternoons. I have prepared an outline of our day, leaving room for some flexibility (I do have three other children, a husband, four dogs, an obese cat, a lizard, and my own life.) Plan to do what works best for you! I guess our style is just “our style”.
*Curriculum. Wow! There are tons! Again, you probably will just have to consider what will work best for you and your child, and do some trial and error. Being our first year, I felt more comfortable having a specific curriculum already prepared for me. Maybe we’ll do something different next year. I said earlier that Dawson loves history, exploring and adventure. Voila! I found a curriculum (with great reviews) called A World of Adventure by Dorian Holt. It’s a unit study. It’s perfect for a 13 year old boy with these interests! I found it by just cruising the web, reading reviews, following links. There was no rhyme or reason. I just knew what he might enjoy and started digging. (I had heard of a curriculum called Prairie Primer that is similar, based on Little House on the Prairie, and wanted to find something like that for teen boys. I kept digging until I did.)
4. Develop a plan. I said before that we have a plan. Dawson and I have discussed it and worked out, together, what we think will work best for us. I plan to have him up out of bed by about 6:30 in the morning (with the rest of us). He’ll be required to shower, do his personal devotion time, clean up his room, eat his breakfast, take care of his dog, etc. This will give me time to get the other children ready for and off to school. Our curriculum includes literature, english, science, social studies and fine arts. We will do that first. Then we will do our Saxon Pre-Algebra assignment, any handwriting and typing assignments, and have lunch. The afternoons will be more about personal reading time, doing projects and going on field trips. We’ll also have to do our errands some afternoons. Sometimes he’ll go with me (like when grocery shopping and going to the library). Sometimes he’ll be left at home to do other things. I have told him that the hours between 1:00 and 3:00 are “my time”. Like I said, I do still have somewhat of a life. That’s our plan.
5. Get physically organized. My curriculum came with supply lists. I have looked through those and started collecting our supplies. Then I organized our office supply closet to make room for those supplies and to make finding them more efficient. This took some time but I sure feel better now that it’s done! I am sure there will still be some tweaking in this department once we get started with school.
6. Plan a classroom. Where will your child learn the best? To me, that’s the main goal. And, you may or may not have extra room to have a separate school room. There are many things to consider. We are blessed to have a large playroom upstairs. We are planning to convert one end of it to our school room. It will have Dawson’s desk, a desk for me, a large bookshelf, a bulletin board, a clothesline for hanging artwork, a white board for visual instruction and a world map. Dawson will definitely operate best if he is in an environment that looks like and emulates “school”. Anything else will distract him. But your school room could be as simple as a table. If you need to do it on your dining room table or in your living room, I would suggest having a separate bookshelf and/or supply cabinet nearby to put away all remnants of school when school is over so your child will know when it’s school time and when it’s family time. But, that’s just me.
7. Get excited. Okay, if you’re not excited about it, this experience is going to stink! Do you think your young child or teenager is going to be all about this all the time? Nope! I know mine isn’t. In fact, if we can get through a school year (or school day) without killing each other it might be a miracle. But, I am excited about the prospect of helping my son find joy in learning, and am even more excited to get to spend time with him. I am going to have to let down my expectations a little, and he’s going to have to increase his. But, I really do expect us to have some fun together. If I didn’t feel that way, I would really be dreading it. And if I’m not excited, he’s certainly not going to be.
8. Trust Your Instincts. You are going to likely get very disrespectful comments and attitudes out of people who are close to you if you make this decision. There’s always a critic. And, you might even lose some of your closest friends. Don’t listen to naysayers! You know what is best for your child. Follow your gut, be confident and smile! You can do this! You are doing it for all the right reasons! See, I’m not homeschooling all of my children right now. Three of my other children are thriving in a public school setting. My third child has some developmental delays and other issues, so sending him to private school or homeschooling him in the future will be likely. But, we will make that decision when it’s time to make it. And we will do what we know is best for him.
9. Pray. You will likely wake up one day and realize that you are now solely responsible for the education of your child. You realize that you can now not blame anyone else if your child isn’t excelling. And fear sets in. Just commit it to prayer. Give it to God. If it’s truly the best situation for your child, it will work out. It won’t be easy. But it will work out.
If nothing else, I hope that this post gives those of you considering this route some encouragement. I am not for one minute going to say that I am doing everything “right”. But, I am doing what I feel is best for me, my child and my family.