Home Schooling – How to Get Started

It is estimated that over 1.5 million children in the United States are home schooled every year and this number is growing. There are many reasons for this: Dissatisfaction with public school education, religious reasons, ability to customize education to the specific learning style and needs of your child, opportunity to spend quality time with your child. Whatever the reason, it is important to know that every parent has the right to home school their child and it is not as difficult to get started as you might think.

Many parents have turned to home schooling because of dissatisfaction with the education their child was receiving at their local public schools. While many private schools do provide a more nurturing environment, with today’s economy, unfortunately, private school is not an option for many of us. The cost of tuition has skyrocketed in recent years and so, many parents are looking to home schooling as a way to ensure their children receive the best education possible.

Getting started can seem a little daunting. But once you make the plunge and get past the first year, I am confident that you and your child will find home schooling to be the most rewarding thing you have ever done. You will get to know your child in a way that you could never have imagined. This is not to say it will be all fun and games. It is a lot of work for you as the educator. I have sometimes spent more time preparing a lesson than I actually spent teaching it. But the results have been amazing. My child has learned so much and I am able to focus on his strengths, weaknesses and interests allowing me to make our home schooling experience rewarding and memorable.

The first step for you as a parent who is interested in home schooling is to call or meet with the school superintendent of your city or town. They will send you the specific legal requirements for home schooling in your community. Don’t get overwhelmed by the legislation they might send you. It might look complicated but it usually just requires that you teach 180 days per year and spend approximately 6 hours per day teaching lessons. Now, most people who home school will tell you that it rarely takes 6 hours to get through a day’s lessons. Remember, you are teaching one on one with no distractions. Therefore I have found that I can get a lot more accomplished in a LOT less time than they do in a traditional school setting. They most likely will request that you submit attendance sheets at the end of the year so they have a record that your child received schooling. Other than that, they really cannot tell you what you have to teach. So where do you go from here?

Deciding WHAT to teach can be the biggest obstacle that holds back many potential home school parents. Unless you are interested in “unschooling” your child, I suggest more or less following the standard curriculum that is being taught to other children in the grade your child is currently in. As a tax payer, you are entitled to use text books that the public school children are using. So, I always request these at the beginning of the year. This gives me an idea of what the other children will be learning and gives me a place to start. Between these books and other online resources such as EdHelper, I am able to put together a curriculum specific to the needs and interests of my child. Some home school parents purchase curriculums. They can be a little expensive but if you are really nervous about what to teach, this may be the answer. They usually come with books, workbooks, teacher’s guides and even tests and quizzes all ready to go. There are a lot of home school curriculum available for purchase and can be found online. Another option is an online school. I do not have any experience with these, but I know they are growing in popularity. With internet access, your child attends school online everyday. Assignments and tests are given online with live teacher help.

Whichever road you take, remember this should NOT be a stressful situation. Laugh and have fun with your child. Color, draw, paint, make volcanoes and watch them explode! Do jumping jacks while learning the multiplication tables. But remember to cover the basics, so your child is prepared to go out into the world and become a productive member of society. And finally, ask your child what they want to learn about. This is their education. Make it an experience neither of you will ever forget.

I am a stay at home mom with three children. I have home schooled my children, on and off for the last 6 years. My two oldest children are currently attending private high school and middle school respectively. This year, I am home schooling my youngest son who is in fifth grade. We are having a great time.

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