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home educators top 10 checklist
I'm anal and over organized - if I wasn't than my children would be dumber than bricks. Even if you aren't a naturally (slightly obsessive) organized person, like myself, there are ways to learn what will work for your family when embarking on a homeschooling endeavor. Homeschooling can be fun, exciting and a wonderful bonding experience between the home educator and the student(s). I've tried many different techniques with my children, to see what would work for us. I've found that every family is different, heck, every child is different. And based on your own family dynamic and the personality of your child, you will need to make up some organizational strategies of your own. The following is my personal check list. It was originally created for the Neophyte Home Educator - one who had not yet begun to home school. But, it is also a fabulous way to start each year or quarter. Therefore, whether you're an experienced home educator looking to put a little organization (and a little less stress) into your life, or if you've never home schooled and are filled with excitement and terror at the thought of what you'll soon be undertaking, the following checklist will benefit you. 1) Communication. Believe it or not, homeschooling is not a one man/woman operation. Having a support system is exceedingly important. You may find you are not 'speaking in a language your child can understand' on a certain subject and your spouse or family member might be able to say the same thing just a bit differently. I've also found that having the children re-iterate their lessons when my husband gets home helps to reinforce the lesson in their minds. Further, it can be stifling to be surrounded every minute of every day - no matter how much you love your children - we all need a few moments to think for ourselves. Pre-arranging 'Stress Relief Days" is very important. Believe it or not, it can be extremely difficult for the Non-Home Educator Parent to comprehend all that the children are learning, even with the synopsis at the end of the day. Be sure to involve your spouse in the schedule planning, test evaluations, discuss difficulties AND successes. A parent who is left out of the loop won't be as supportive when you have an issue. It's like the husband to the stay-at-home-mom who accuses her of sitting on the couch, watching game shows, and eating Bonn-Bonn's all day instead of working. This animosity can lead to arguments and an unhappy household. Set up a Plan of Action against such hard feelings - you'll be thankful in the long run. 2) Check out the local Home Education ordinancesfor your state and your district. You can check http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp or you can call your local superintendents office (but they may try to get you to fill out many more forms). Everything you decide depends on the state in which you live and the regulations therein. 3) Budget. Homeschooling can be either cheap or expensive, it really all depends on you. My advice it to figure out how much you can spend each year on education Then you can break it down: --Art supplies: markers, crayons, paint, art/paper, basic craft supplies --Writing Materials: Lines paper, pencils, erasers, calculator, ruler, protractor, etc. --Curriculum: Whether you need to pay for access to sites like http:www.enchantedlearning.com/ for their printable worksheets or whether you purchase a prepackaged curriculum, or you just want you child to have access to an independent learning supplement like http://www.time4learning.com , you'll need to understand how much you should have available. --Overflow: This category counts for museums, gas, etc that are all related to your child's education. 4) Evaluate. Believe it or not, not every child is no the same level. Even those children being taken out of the "No Child left behind" public schools will emerge with different levels of understanding for the work that had been covered. With this in mind you may find your 4th grader needs 2nd grade reading work. This is one of the joys of Homeschooling, you can structure the education to your child's needs - but first you need to know what they are. You can use standardized tests, or make up your own. I also suggest purchasing a workbook - they can be found for under $10.00 at just about any store such as Walmart or Target or any book store. Let your child have at the book, without any guidance from you. 5) Goals. Once you understand where your child is in their education level, you can plan for where they are going. Understanding fully what you hope to achieve in the near and far future will make a huge impact on how you teach. I advise having Week, Month, Quarter and Year lists of goals. This will help you be less overwhelmed at the beginning of each week/month when trying to put everything together that you'll need. So my Goals look like this -- Year: Guide 1st grader into having a better understanding of spacial awareness, and the impact each individual has on the whole of our world. Quarter: Understand all that comprises the continent of Africa - land, countries, traditions, languages, etc. Month: Ancient Egypt vs Modern Egypt: Understanding how the traditions of the past echo today. Week: Pyramids, who had them made, what were they for? Day: How are mummies made? Did everyone have it done? Who presided over the procedure? So as you can see this is Geography. I have a separate Goals Sheet for each subject (and they are written like a Pyramid Scheme with the Yearly Goal at the top, branched down for the Months, Weeks, etc. Even if you've purchased a prepackaged curriculum, I think it's beneficial to have a clear understanding of what you're hoping to achieve with the lessons. It will especially help if you find your child needs some extra resources. = There are 3 different styles of learning, Auditory: kids that learn by listening, Visual: kids that learn by writing or seeing something done, and Kinesthetic: kids that learn by doing and moving. If you have a very active child that learns by taking something apart then putting it back together again, you won't do them any favors by trying to force them into a predominantly paperwork curriculum. In homeschooling we are blessed with the ability to structure the lessons to our child's personality. I suggest reading "Discover your child's Learning Style" By Maria Emma Willis, M.S. (Random House Inc, 1999 available in paperback). ) Curriculum. Now that you understand what you hope your child will learn over the near future, and you understand how he/she must be taught you can start to investigate the types of curriculum's that might fit the bill. This is probably the most overwhelming aspect of beginning the Home school journey. There are literally thousands of different curriculum's on the market. So, how do you decide? --Religious: Well first and foremost is do you want a secular or religious curriculum. If you belong to a specific fail than you may want to find a curriculum that includes religious classes in that faith (and it will narrow the selections), if you don't want any religious classes as a part of your curriculum than you're looking for a Secular curriculum, again narrowing the field greatly. When you have a general idea of the religious category you're interested in, you can move onto --Structure: There are actually many, many different types of curriculum structures out there, but I think the 4 most popular are: ---- Classical: This is very literature based. The book "A Well Trained Mind" by Jessie Wise Susan Wise Bauer (published 1999 by W.W. Norton) is one of the more memorable overviews of the Classical Method. Classical subjects such as Latin and logic are a sample of the types of material covered in this curriculum category. ---- Traditional: This is what I like to call Public School in the Home. It is structured much like PS in that it centers around case studies and lectures, with the learner taking notes from the teachers lecture and being tested or questioned on their knowledge retention. ---- Unit-Studies: This method is Teacher-Guided. The home educator chooses a topic to study and they use it as the basis for all education. For instance, dinosaurs could be the unit - then all vocabulary words, books, math problems, etc would be derived from this single topic. ---- Unschooled: This method has no real definition. Generally it is accepted as the opposite of the Unit study as it is called "Child Led Learning" but in reality you can use unschooling and unit studies. There are no really curriculum - as that would denote a certain amount of structure - and unschooling is all about the freedom to experience the world around them and learn from it. I say I'm an Unschooler & Unit Studies Home Educator. Each month the kids pick the topic and I make a unit study out of it, BUT if we don't complete all the work I put together that's fine, there's no penalty for deviating from the plan. 8)Create a schedule If your child is older (I'd sat 10 y/o or older) than you can include them in the decision making process. Many children are so traumatized by the time they are finally pulled from PS that they need time to recover - de-school - so figure in at least a week or two of relaxing their brains before you put the nose to the grind stone. -- Be conscious of the fact that homeschooling takes much LESS time than PS. If you think about it, the 8 hours kids spend in PS a day will leave kids with only about 15 minutes of 1 on 1 time with the teacher (based on a class of 25 or so). HS is all about personal attention by the teacher, so if you're putting in more than 20 minutes you're doing great. -- Some states have minimum amount of 'hours per year' or 'hours per day' that a HS must use. So make sure you fully understand what you need to do to be in compliance (or they can make you're life miserable) . -- Let you child lead the pack on how to organize the mandated hours. Do you think he would flourish by being assigned a research project and just letting him have at it? For instance you could say, research our state and put together a presentation. This would cover geography, history, and Composition. If you think they wouldn't have that kind of focus or discipline, you can purchase a pre-packaged curriculum or do one of the on-line charter schools if they are available in your area. They are more structured. 9) Set up a Schooling Center. Just like with those who work from home, distractions abound in our comfort zone (aka Home). To help keep motivated to sticking to your schedule, set up an area that is your schooling center, once you are ensconced in that area the rest of the house doesn't exist. It doesn't have to be a separate room or really fancy - we use our dining room, with the walls around our computer (which is in the corner) displaying our bulletin boards and vocab lists, etc. My hutch (which is a beautiful handmade oak piece) is full of workbooks. I chose the dining room, as it's one of the biggest rooms in my house, and we do a lot of messy work for experiments and art. 10) Support Groups: Homeschooling is one of the fastest growing educational trends in the world. Therefore, school groups are popping up all over the place. This is important so your kids can get together with other home-schooled kids for play and sometimes learning. Some home school groups will break up some difficult subjects - Tommy's mom will be teaching multiplication tables next Tuesday - and everyone gathers at Tommy's house. But most groups just like to get their kids together with like-minded families. I suggest the following for finding like-minded families in your area: --Search Yahoo Groups. I was surprised to find several groups for home-schoolers in my state (which has a very small population of home-schoolers). If you can't find one for your area (or your teaching style/religious beliefs) then you can start your own. --Check with your local church, community center, library. These tend to be the places homeschooling groups tend to congregate. --Post in the local paper. Who knows there might be a few other home-schoolers sitting at home fretting about the lack of a group in your area. Post a wanted ad in your local paper might find you some friends in the area.