“Help! I want to homeschool! Where do I start?”
We are only in our fourth year of homeschooling, so I am by no means an expert, but I have been asked this question so often that I thought it was time for a blog post. (Maybe I should start charging. I mean, our book collection isn’t going to pay for itself.)
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Yes, you can homeschool
Almost all of the time, the people who ask me about homeschooling express doubt in their own ability to do it. Here’s the thing: you are 100% capable of homeschooling your child. You already have everything you need – God gave this child to you to raise. You have already taught her how to eat with a fork (we hope), how to brush her teeth, and count to ten. You have already answered the question “Why?” more times than you count. If your child has been in school, then you’ve probably got hours of homework under your belt too.
This whole time, you’ve been educating your child without realising it.
Also, no matter how excellent the school, no matter how wonderful the curriculum is, no teacher on the planet is ever going to care more about your child’s future than you, her parent.
Homeschooling is hard, I won’t lie to you. It is the hardest job you’ll ever have – but it is also the most rewarding. There is nothing quite like the thrill of hearing your child triumphantly read aloud after hours of practicing phonics and sounding out words. Or the moment they grasp a maths concept that they’ve been puzzling over for days.
Choosing to homeschool is a leap of faith, but you are not alone. God will equip you day by day. I can testify to that; there is no way I’d have lasted a month if I was doing this in my own strength. (My daily prayers for patience are answered in the form of opportunities to practice patience. Many, many opportunities.)
How to start homeschooling
First things first, join the Pestalozzi Trust (or your country’s equivalent). The Pestalozzi Trust is the South African homeschooling legal defence fund.
Legally, you are required to register (and by register, read “apply for permission”) to homeschool. However, most homeschoolers choose not to register with the department of education, because the department doesn’t actually have the best interests of the child at heart. (Read more about the BELA Bill and what the department wants to implement regarding education, and their homeschool policy in particular.) So most homeschooling families choose the route of lawful non-compliance.
If your child has been in public school, many people recommend a period of deschooling – one month for every year spent in the school system. This is a time for the child to get out of the public school mindset, to discover his interests, to heal if needed. It’s a time for you to research the different homeschool methods, to get out of the “school at home” way of thinking, to hang out with your child and go on nature walks, read aloud together, learn a handicraft. Actual academics can wait a while.
Wait – different homeschool methods?!
We follow Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. So that is the first thing I recommend. There are so many things I love about her ideas – living books, the idea of the child as a person not an empty vessel, the inclusion of art and music and nature from the very beginning. We use the curriculum from Ambleside Online, and supplement with Math-U-See, which is a mastery-based curriculum (not a spiral curriculum).
If this is a little overwhelming, and you’re not sure where to start, then don’t spend thousands on a curriculum that might not be the best fit for you. There’s no rush to dive in, and no pressure to keep up with anyone else. Take the time to research the various methods. And don’t be scared to drop a method that isn’t working so that you can try something else.
Books to read
These are some books that I have found helpful. (There are others that people recommend, but I have read and loved these ones.)
Let me know if this has been helpful. Or, if you’re already homeschooling, what other advice would you give to those who are considering it?