Homeschool 101

Do you have doubts and fears about being a successful homeschooler? Of course! Even seasoned home schoolers can have these.  What subjects to teach, how to structure the education, how to get organized, what styles of teaching (yes there are styles), which curriculum to buy, all of these questions can be completely overwhelming.  It’s OK.  It is normal and you are not alone.  NMHEA is here to help you with your questions and doubts.  You can do this.  You can homeschool and you don’t have to be an expert, a teacher, or even have a college degree to do it.

Step 1: Why have you decided to homeschool?

Think about it. Write it down.  It can be as long or as short as it needs to be. There are a lot of reasons to homeschool and if they are meaningful to you, they are valid.  Some of the more common reasons are for security of your children, religious beliefs, better education, special needs, and avoiding indoctrination.

Now take your list and put it where you can read it for encouragement when you need it.  Put your  list in the front of a planner, as a poster on the wall, or any other way you choose, but keep it handy to encourage and motivate you when you need it.

Step 2: Be Legal.

In the state of Mississippi all you need to do is complete and submit a Certificate of Enrollment stating that you will be homeschooling a particular child.  The form should be completed and returned to a district attendance officer before September 15, of the current school year.  If you remove your children from school during the year you will have 15 days to complete and submit the form.  Currently it is a paper form, but there are conversations going on to create an online form with the state.  If and when that occurs, this paragraph will be updated and link placed here.

In addition to completing the state requirements, it is also a good idea to take out a little insurance in regards to protecting your homeschooling rights.  Home School Legal Defense Association is a group of lawyers who all work together to support and defend homeschoolers, homeschool laws, and homeschool rights nationwide.  For a minimal fee you can have peace of mind knowing that if Child Protective Services or a truant officer shows up at your door you have someone to call that will tell you how to handle it and how to protect your rights.

Step 3: Choose your teaching style.

Traditional Education

Think about how children are typically taught in a classroom.  There are textbooks, workbooks, homework, learning is divided into subjects, etc.  This is the traditional approach.  Typically in this approach the teacher (you) would instruct the child from a teacher’s guide and the children follow along taking notes and reading in their corresponding books. Learning is controlled by the teacher and how he/she presents the material.

Classical Education 

The Classical Education learning approach, also called “The Socratic Method” is based on the Trivium, a method of teaching children according to the phases of a child’s cognitive development (concrete, analytical, and abstract thinking).

Classical Homeschoolers build learning opportunities around three phases of learning/thinking: Concrete (K-6th) where the main focus is absorbing facts and building educational foundations; Analytical (7th-8th) where students become more argument-oriented and are ready to be taught logic and critical thinking; Abstract (9th-12th) where students become more independent and articulate in their thinking and communicating, readying them for learning rhetoric, the art of speaking, communicating and writing.

This approach to Homeschooling is primarily language-focused, literature intensive, and works to find the links between all fields of study; for instance, the Classical educator will seek out and teach the links/relationships between Math and Science, Science and History, History and Literature, and perhaps, Literature to Art or Music.

Charlotte Mason Method

Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason (1 January 1842 – 16 January 1923) was a classical English educator in England at the turn of the twentieth century. She proposed to base the education of children upon a wide and varied curriculum. 

The Charlotte Mason method of learning is centered around the belief that children deserve to be respected and learn best from first-hand, real-life situations; they are not blank slates or sacks to be filled, but instead, can deal with ideas and knowledge. Mason believed that the knowledge of God, as found in the Bible, is the primary and most important knowledge to impart.

The three-part idea behind the Charlotte Mason approach is that education is an “Atmosphere”, a “Discipline”, and “Life”. The Charlotte Mason philosophy is intent on educating the whole child, not just the mind of the child; she designated the need for some form of physical activity each day. Knowledge is demonstrated from narration and discussion, not test-taking.

Unschooling

Referred to as “Child Led Learning” or “Natural Learning”, does not use curriculum or any scheduled or formal lesson plans. Founded by John Holt, the Unschooling movement is based on the belief that children will best learn Math, Language Arts, History, Science, Art, etc., in the same manner they learn to walk and talk…that is, naturally.

Unit Studies

Take a specific area of interest and use it as a catalyst to develop an in-depth study that spans across all the major subject areas – Math, Language Arts (reading, writing, spelling, grammar), History, Science, Art, etc.

Say, for instance, your child was interested in Ancient Egypt. Using the Unit Studies approach, also called “cross-curriculum”, the parent(s) might incorporate books (both non-fiction and historical fiction) about ancient Egypt, assign spelling words or a writing assignment centered around a specific area – like Egyptian gods or  goddesses, review maps and finally, discuss the topographical and geographical elements of the region and how it played into the trades available and agricultural practices.

In a Unit Study, a parent might discuss the embalming process and rituals performed on the dead, and then round everything out with a craft, like making an Egyptian pyramid from sugar cubes and gold paint.

The idea behind the Unit Studies approach is to completely immerse children in a particular topic, recognizing that on the whole, all of us tend to learn more when we are fully interested and engaged in a subject.

Unit Studies seem to be a favorite of large families with children of varying ages because a single unit study can easily be modified to meet each child’s needs, levels and capabilities.

You can determine your educational approach using one or more of the previous methods.  Understanding your child’s learning style helps to determine which method you want to use for which subject.  

Step 4: Determine your child’s learning style

Learning styles or modalities have to do with how a child comprehends information the quickest.  There are three main styles; auditory (hearing), visual (seeing), and kinesthetic (touch or physical experience).

Even within these styles are subcategories.  For instance one visual learner may learn best by reading, another may excel when a concept is illustrated.  An auditory learner may love hearing books on tape, whereas another memorizes better when something is set to music.  Their learning style may also vary by subject.  Math may require illustration, but history may only need to be read.  As children grow their learning style may change or mature as well.  

There is no “right” learning style or approach to educating your child, there is only the one that works best for them at the present time. Choosing curriculum that satisfies both your education approach(es) and your child’s learning style will be a better fit than chasing the newest brand on the market.  What  works for your homeschool mom BFF may not work for you.

Next Page: Choosing Curriculum