homeschooling isn't as scary as it seems
Home-schooling, like parenthood is a crazy ride. I often find myself scratching my head wondering why I chose to do something so insane, but then I realize how much more successful and happy my boys are than their public school counterparts - and that makes the craziness all worth while. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (found at http://www.hslda.org/) , "In 1997, a study of 5,402 home school students from 1,657 families was released. It was entitled, "Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America." The study demonstrated that home schoolers, on the average, out-performed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects. A significant finding when analyzing the data for 8th graders was the evidence that home schoolers who are home-schooled two or more years score substantially higher than students who have been home-schooled one year or less. The new home-schoolers were scoring on the average in the 59th percentile compared to students home-schooled the last two or more years who scored between 86th and 92nd percentile." (1) Many of us face the same fears and concerns when thinking of home school vs. public school. What if I'm not good or smart enough, will I hold back or stifle my child's intelligence? What about sports? (my husbands favorite concern) What about college? The following are my advice to those considering homeschooling: *Children are Never Too Young To Learn I started teaching my kid from the cradle with things like 'Baby Signs'. Then I read and sang, whatever would get the point across. Even though public school children don't receive formal education until they are around the age of five, they have hopefully been taught certain things by their parents. Children are expected to know their ABC's and Numbers, for instance, before the first day of Kindergarten. Homeschooling in these early years, is no different than most parents preparing their children for public school. Reading to your children, singing, etc. are great ways to acclimate them to learning.
*Don't Stress On your worst day of teaching you're still better than a stranger. We know our children, and their moods. If they are stressed or sad it will affect their capability of learning. A school teacher may not have the time available to coddle a child's emotions. Therefore, they may get passed over in understanding topics covered when they are 'having a bad day.' *Check The Laws In Your State There are several web based companies that list the homeschooling requirements for each state - like the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Each state is vastly different. My state has Zero requirements, but some require the homeschooling parent to submit a full curriculum, have the children take scheduled tests, etc. Knowing what's required of you will help to lessen your stress. *1/2 Days As a coach to new homeschooling parents, I've found that due to the 1 on 1 attention of homeschooling, we only need to 'school' for a few hours..anything else is overkill. Also, the younger the child the less time it takes (with my 3 y/o we only do about an hour). *Go With Your Gut You know your kids better than Anyone, so you will understand the best ways to reach them and guide them. Don't let others' advice cloud your connection to your kids - You're the Queen/King of their World - No One Else! Don't get sucked into expensive curriculum's, if you feel doing hands on experiments will keep your child's attention the longest, focus on that. There are many books available to new homeschooling parents who are interested in learning the options available for curriculum's. I Found Guidance From The Core Knowledge Book Series (it goes through all the elementary grades I'm not sure about high) For instance "What Your First Grader Needs To Know" By E.C. Hirsch Jr. *Everyone is Different Your neighbors', sister's, cousin's friend might need to plan a schedule down-to-the-millisecond curriculum - but that might not (and probably won't) work for you. I've found, as my kids get older, that I let Them make the schedule. Sure I have to force them to sometimes learn the "boring stuff" but overall they are much more enthusiastic about learning if I let them pick the topics and times. For instance, when we went grocery shopping, they got to touch a lobster. SO we spend several days researching lobsters. Learning their migration taught both about habitats and geography, learning their eating habits helped them learn anatomy, coloring a picture and writing a description helped them with their vocabulary, etc.
*Socialization This is the term every home-schooler learns to hate. Shockingly my kids are not brought up in a cave, so they do have interactions with other humans. But, the number one concern everyone will express, will be "Don't you worry about socialization?" In a word - NO! I take my children with me to the gym where they can play with the other children for an hour or so. Other than that, they play with each other. Frighteningly, if my kids were any more sociable they would be running for office. Generally, without being picked on or forced into uncomfortable situations, children can become much more respectful of others. Father's tend to be concerned with sports. Without belonging to public or private schools, some sports are limited to children - BUT - most communities have town sports that are not controlled by the schools. Also, you can have your children join a private sport - like gymnastics or the martial arts. AGE SUGGESTIONS: *Infant (Age birth - 1.5 y/o) This is all about the Mom-Bond. Singing softly, sounding excited about everyday things - "Do you smell this pretty yellow flower?" things like that. Your baby is a sponge just soaking up the learning at this stage, you're just there to give the guidance they need. *Toddler (Age 1.5 - 4) Be prepared to be kept on your toes. The baby who lazed about and soaked up info, as an infant, is now mobile and ready to investigate. Be prepared to have to research something at the drop of the hat to answer all the "Whys". Read, read, read!!! Work on early flash-cards of numbers and letters and shapes for easy recognition. Use t.v. channel sites like PBS or NOGGIN that have educational games, I've found that if the child can associate with a specific character, they are more likely to pick up on the technique of the game. *When you have a youngster (Age 4 - 7)It is difficult to Not Buy all the extras. The fact is, at this age range, its best to stick with computer research, printouts and workbooks. They are just learning to read, do math, etc. Again as mom you know their strengths and weaknesses. Build on those. If you buy a curriculum you might find you feel pressured to keep to a certain schedule. After demonstrating writing skills just give them a pencil to have at it. My 6 y/o will be bent over a paper for hours writing words he knows - without any guidance from me.
*Elementary (Age 8 - 11) They can now rebel - "I so don't wanna learn that!" So, having some structure from a well balanced curriculum is suggested, either one you developed or one you purchased. (Purchasing one can also help with info you might not know, like certain math or science subjects.) Observe them during their play time and you will get infinite ideas for research. They are still in the learn by experiment, stage of life. Open doors for them to learn by teaching them how to utilize the internet and the library. *Middle School (Age 12 - 14) The rebellion is now in full swing. Generally those 'tweens' have a more difficult time toeing the line. Again, home-schoolers tend to be a bit more respectful, but sadly, that won't erase the budding Independence of a pre-teen. Giving responsibilities to your pre-teen, such as chores, or assisting their younger siblings in their learning will give them a sense of accomplishment. Also a great year-long project is learning how to organize a charity event like "Locks of Love" or a food drive. Designing the signs, contacting the charitable organizations, etc are great ways of sneaking education under your child's' nose. *High School (Age 15 - 17) I personally believe teenagers need to prepare for two things the most: college and the work-force. You become less the teacher and more the tutor. Therefore, finding well organized educational materials is a top priority. Let them develop a schedule that works for them. Observe their learning to find their weaker points and guide them through those. Don't neglect the subjects they succeed in, but you can utilize their successes to temper their struggles. Resources: (1) http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/20041050.asp ; Dr. Brian Ray, Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America, National Home Education Research Institute, Salem, OR, 1997