We have been homeschooling for six years, since my daughter was in kindergarten, but in many ways I feel like we are doing it for the first time this year. That is because ever since our first year, we have been a part of a Classical Conversations community, but we recently decided to leave CC and to follow a different path. The transition has been overwhelming, exhilarating, and exhausting all at once, but it’s reminded me of some basic steps EVERY parent who decides to homeschool has to take.
Consider Your Reason for Homeschooling
Are your reasons for homeschooling primarily academic? Faith-based? To have more flexibility as a family or for other activities? Beginning with the end in mind is important, whether you are brand new to homeschooling or changing course like us.
Determine Your Homeschool Style
We have used a classical approach for the last six years, but I began to realize that even “classical” has different meanings to different people and companies. I went back to the drawing board to consider different philosophies of education and different ways to homeschool.
Online quizzes are one way to narrow down your options, and then do some internet searches for different resources. I began reading up on what Classical education really is and discovered I still prefer that style, but not in the way it has been modeled to me for the last six years. I also discovered that the Charlotte Mason approach has a lot of appeal as well, so I began reading up on both of those.
Talk with Other Parents
While internet searches and books are a good way to begin, it is also incredibly helpful to talk with other parents who are a few steps ahead of you. Enter social media! I found some excellent groups on Facebook where I was able to get many questions answered, and I also began a group for the same reason. I also asked homeschool friends what they were doing and looked at their curriculum. If you have friends who homeschool, ask them what they are doing as well!
Understand Your Options
There are SO MANY ways to homeschool out there that is can be overwhelming! One thing to keep in mind is that you are not bound to one company or one curriculum or even one approach. I did look at a couple of companies where I could buy an all-in-one box for each grade level for my kids, but I honestly think that companies have strengths and weaknesses, just like people do.
I love the Latin curriculum at Memoria Press, but am getting my grammar and writing from Well-Trained Mind, our science and history from Bright Ideas Press, math from Saxon, and my literature scope and sequence from Center for Lit – plus we have a hodge podge of other books in our home to round things out.
Also consider if you want to be in a group and how that will influence things. I looked at an amazing local co-op that had a science class that using a certain book. If we had joined (which we didn’t just because of the drive), it would have made sense to just use that book for science and not get another. Thinking about that before ordering curriculum can save money.
Don’t be Afraid to Change Course
As I’ve been looking at everything, I’ve gone back and forth A LOT! At first, I was entranced with one company and ordered a history text from them that we used in the spring. I love the book and so many others from that publisher look amazing, but as we tried this one, I realized there were aspects about how they set up their curriculum that didn’t work for us, and so I went from thinking I would order nearly everything from them to getting nothing, at least for this year.
The same thing happened with a couple of other publishers before I finally settled on what we would use. It’s totally okay to do this! Remember, you are not making a decision for life, just for the next year, or even the next semester.
If something does not work for your child, whether it is a curriculum or even a group you join, don’t feel like you have to keep doing what doesn’t work because you paid for it. Time is too valuable and short to waste it on something that is not working!
Make a Decision and Stick With It
At the same time, at some point you have to just jump in and swim. Can’t decide between two math curricula? Pick one and just try it. If it doesn’t work, change. But get what you need and get started.
Find Other Families to Do Life with
The age-old question about “socialization” for homeschoolers is honestly not an issue in my opinion, but your kids do need and want friends, and so do you. Look for homeschool meet-up groups for play dates and field trips, but don’t limit yourself to those.
Our kids are involved off and on with sports and theater, and regularly with American Heritage Girls, Trail Life, and church activities. While we are always trying not to overdo it so that we are never home, those connections are important for all of us.