When you decide to start homeschooling, it feels like there are a zillion decisions to be made. You have to pick out curriculum (and there seem to be several thousand of those!), decide a learning style, figure out where you’re going to homeschool in the house, set up a schedule, answer a bunch of questions from friends and family, decide whether or not to join a co-op, find a co-op, navigate the laws of your state, and so much more!
Whew, are you overwhelmed yet? I sure was! It felt like I was spending ten to twelve hours a day doing nothing but reading up on the seemingly infinite possibilities and decisions that needed to be made.
Before you start racing through and finding the answers to all of the questions above, it is important to stop and think through a couple of very important questions first. I suggest you actually get out a new notebook or journal, and use it as you go through this process. Writing out your answers will help you not only sort through the infinite possibilities for you and your children, but also to help calm the chaos that homeschooling will bring. Writing it down helps to keep things simple–and that goes a long way towards ensuring success!
The first question you should ask yourself is WHY? Why are you homeschooling? There are as many different answers to that question as there are different types of homeschoolers (and that’s a lot!) You may have a good idea of why, but so many of the decisions you make down the road will be made by the answer to this question. Are you homeschooling for faith reasons? The schools weren’t a good fit for your child? Are you angry at the schools? Does your child have special needs or a learning disability? Are they gifted? Does their learning style not fit within the normal school system? For most people homeschooling, it isn’t just one reason, but a combination of several reasons why they are deciding to homeschool. I explained our reasons for homeschooling earlier this summer, and it can be boiled down to this: we want to teach our kids to be self-directed learners.
One of the big lessons I learned as I was beginning this journey was that our reason for homeschooling plays directly into so many of the decisions we needed to make. Like I said, we had several reasons for homeschooling, which sometimes got jumbled up in our head as we sat and talked about it. By sitting down and writing it out, we were able to quickly see that while we had many reasons, they all boiled down to the simple goal of teaching our kids how to be self-directed learners. The rest of our reasons were good side effects of that one major goal. There were many curriculums that we really liked, and a lot of options before us; but having that simple answer helped us eliminate a lot of curriculums that were good, but wouldn’t help us achieve our goals, and instead focus in on the types of curriculum that would. In short, it took us from thousands of options down to a couple of dozen options.
The second question you should ask is What is My Child’s Learning Style? Some kids are visual learners. Some are auditory. Some kids have trouble sitting still, while others love to read to learn. Some benefit from a traditional classroom, while others might thrive in a montessori style. Every child is different, and just like with the first question, knowing your child’s learning style will help you make choices as you move forward in homeschooling. Some homeschoolers swear by Charlotte Mason’s approach, while others are adamant that Classical Learning is the way to go. Still others are passionate about UnSchooling. There’s so many options! But no one method is perfect for every learning style, so knowing your child’s learning style will help you narrow down your options even further when picking curriculum and opportunities. It is natural for us as parents to pick the curriculum and teaching method that is our own learning style–but if our children have a different learning style, that can lead to major frustration down the road. Not to mention the problems that come when you try to use the same curriculum that worked so well for one child but not for the next who has a different learning style.
HSLDA breaks learning styles down into three easy to understand categories: Lookers, Listeners and Movers. Their page on learning styles has great information to help you determine what not only your child’s learning style, but their strengths and their weaknesses within it. Write down the answers you find, because it will help you in the days to come!
Tomorrow, we’ll begin to break down the different philosophies in homeschooling, to help you pick the one that best fits you and your family!