Sunday, January 12, 2014

Where do I start?

If I had a dollar for every time someone said, "I'm thinking about homeschooling; where do I start?" then I'd have, well ... a lot of dollars. Seriously, I get asked this a lot, and sometimes by total strangers. The other day one of my photo prompts was for a "collection", so I took this picture. It was for a homeschool photo challenge, so I figured a picture of my homeschool books would be appropriate. Most of my books are pretty dated. I haven't bought a new book on homeschooling in a long time. After 15 years into it, I guess that's understandable. I should, however, take a look at what's out there the next time I find myself at a bookstore. It's never too late to try something new, I suppose. I just counted and I have 25 books on homeschooling. They're all on my bed right now — boy, what a mess.

Getting back to the "Where do I start?" question, I always tell people to do two things. First of all, buy a book on homeschooling. Don't go online first. You'll only be totally overwhelmed. There is so much information on the Internet. I know that sounds like a good thing, but not first off. A simple how-to book on homeschooling is a better choice. It will be more complete, verses a website that might send you to this link, that link, and every other link in between. I started homeschooling back before we really used the Internet like we do today. All I had were books. I still think they're the best way to start. So ... how did I start homeschooling?

My girls went to an awesome private school, but it simply got too expensive. It was competing with our house payment, and we just couldn't swing both. We decided to put them in a fairly new school our church had started. We figured that would be good because it was at our church, it was a Christian school, and the tuition was way lower. They started in September, and by October, I was pulling my hair out. We had so many problems. I only knew one homeschool family, and to be honest, they seemed kind of flaky to me. They spent most days at the beach, and I wondered if they were doing any work at all. Because of that, I had a really limited view on what homeschooling was. Things weren't going well at the church school though, so I bought my first book — Should I Home School? by Elizabeth & Dan Hamilton. I read it right away, and then quickly devoured every other book I could get my hands on. I decided, however, to have the girls stick it out that one year at the church school. It was hard, but we got through it. I used that time to educate myself and prepare our home for school in the fall.

The second thing I recommend to people is to check out the Home School Legal Defense Association. It is a Christian-based organization, which isn't always everyone's thing. Even if they choose to follow a secular style of teaching, HSLDA offers lots of information on local and state homeschool groups. I've been a member there for 15 years now. What do they do exactly, you might ask? This is from their website:

HSLDA is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms. Through annual memberships, HSLDA is tens of thousands of families united in service together, providing a strong voice when and where needed.

If I were to add a third thing to my to-do list for families considering homeschooling, it would be to attend a convention. Most states have them once a year. Some states have more than one. I attended several while I lived in California, and I've been to two since moving to Montana. The last one I wanted to go to was cancelled, so I'm hoping they announce a new date soon. Even though I've been homeschooling 15 years, I still learn something new at these conventions. They usually have start-up workshops for people who are interested in homeschooling. The workshops aren't just how to teach math, how to teach multiple grades, and stuff like that. A lot of times they have workshops for dads, teens, even how to organize your classroom or what curriculum to buy. They always have a merchandise hall. That can be overwhelming, but it's a great way to get a hands-on look at what type of curriculum is available.

Books on homeschooling really helped me, along with going online, talking to other people, and attending conventions. The books were the most helpful, to be honest, which is why I have 25 of them. There are so many different types of books too. One of my favorites when I first started what a book simply called Home Schooling by Deborah McIntire and Robert Windham. It was simple, easy to read, and full of great reproducible forms. For the upper grades, I really liked Barbara Edtl Shelton's book called Senior High: A Home-Designed Form-U-La. To this day, I still use the forms in those books to keep records and such, although I usually make them myself. Another good one was Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days by Nancy Lande. I really liked this one when I was starting because it was a collection of stories from 30 different families sharing one of their homeschooling days. I found it especially helpful to see what other families did during their homeschool days. You can find all these books on Amazon, although they are quite old by now. Most came out in the 1990s when I started. One good thing is that many of them are available pretty cheap — some as low as 1-cent plus shipping. Don't forget your local library because they tend to carry a lot of books as well, both newer and older ones.

When I started back in the late 1990s, only 850,000 of the children in the US were homeschooled. I believe that number has gone up to 1,770,000. That's a big increase, and it means that 3.4% of school-aged children are being homeschooled. I taught Nichelle from 4th grade through 12th. Nicole did 2nd grade through 12th. The boys have been homeschooled since preschool. I'll continue with them until they finish high school. Then they can choose if they want to go to college like their sisters are doing now, or create another path for themselves. I have about 6.5 more years devoted to homeschooling my children. We've had our ups and downs, but for the most part, it's been a journey none of us have regretted taking.


  1. I was a former public school teacher. I taught in two different school districts for a combined 15+ years. Then my son started having problems and a new administration at his elementary school started to make his third grade year a hellish one. After talking to an attorney, who said I did have a good case against the district, husband and I decided to pull him out and homeschool. I was lucky that another friend, also had issues and introduced me to her educational specialist, who helped us transition over. I'm credentialed, was in a grad level education program, and also am trained to teach Spanish. Still let me tell you, teaching your own child is a real challenge. But he's doing so much better. He went from a child that his third grade teacher said would fail to one that is excelling. His STAR test scores also have been at grade level too. I also tell parents, that are in similar situations that they don't have to stay in a school that is failing them rather to look at the options out there. Most public schools don't tell parents this. Son's last administrator tried to talk us out of doing this. I refused to have my son become a stat.**I did one of my grad papers on how boys fail in school. I refused to have my son be one of them.

    1. That's a great story, Kim. I'm really glad it's worked out for the better for your son. Some kids just thrive in that kind of environment, whereas others need to be in the system to be happy.

  2. A lot of people ask me about this topic, which is funny because I don't homeschool. This a great post--I'll totally recommend it!

    1. Thanks, Melissa. I always tell people that it's not for everyone. What works for us, might not work for someone else. Not everyone can homeschool, and not everyone should. It's just a personal choice.