Homeschooling is quickly becoming a viable alternative for many military families. Additionally, homeschooling is becoming more ‘mainstream’ in the civilian world, adding to its viability as an option for military families. Military families move an average of once every 2 to 3 years, often in the middle of a school year, and that instability is what compels many military families to opt for schooling their children at home.
Take a walk down the aisles at either your local library or your local bookstore and the section on education and homeschooling can be a bit overwhelming. So where do you begin? Here are some suggestions and resources to help get you started.
First, you need to consider why it is your family is choosing to homeschool. When we made our decision to start homeschooling, the first thing I did (because I am a big list maker/writer-downer/journaler) is to write out not only my reasons WHY we were choosing to homeschool as well as a few goals. Our list of goals is actually quite fluid, changing not only from year to year, but also subject to subject and even unit to unit. You’ll find that your goals will actually help you choose what path to take with regard to curricula.
In addition to your reasons and goals for homeschooling, you need to look into your state and local homeschooling requirements. Some states regulate homeschooling more stringently than others. The Homeschooling Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.org) is a wonderful resource for this information. You do not need to become a member of HSLDA – though I would recommend it – in order to access this information on their website. You can also look up your state’s department of education and search for homeschooling laws and policies. Following the state’s guidelines for homeschooling is very important and should be one of your first steps.
Now it’s time to look at curriculum. Once I had a good idea of our goals, I sat down and really thought about the ways in which my children learn best. I have one child that absolutely loves to read and often times needs to be reminded to pull her nose out of whatever book it is that she is buried in to join the rest of the world. Because of that, I knew that whatever curricula we chose should rely heavily on literature and give her ample opportunities to read as part of her learning. My other child is much more of a kinesthetic learner, preferring to “do it” as opposed to simply reading about it. Therefore the curricula we chose for him needed to have plenty of hands-on learning.
From there, I started researching curriculum. I researched not only by reading books about curricula but also by talking to other homeschooling parents and asking them what worked for them and why it worked. This part of the process can be incredibly overwhelming as there are literally hundreds of choices for each subject. Do not let yourself become overwhelmed! Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint race. Do your best to find what works for your child(ren) but also give yourself the leeway to change curriculum if need be. Case in point: we started off with what I thought would be a fantastic language curriculum only to get about halfway through the year and then realize that it was horribly dry and boring. So we switched! I purchased the curriculum used and was able to sell it for about what I paid for it so I really wasn’t out much money and we found something that worked much better for us.
Your local library should have books on homeschooling as do most mainstream bookstores; and there is always the internet. My top recommendations for resources are the following:
1. The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Baue
2. 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy
3. The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition by Jim Trelease
There are hundreds and hundreds of methods and curriculum options out there. Some people prefer to go with an all-encompassing curriculum choice, such as Sonlight or Abeka. Some people prefer to piece things together, choosing different publishers for language, math, history, science, etc. And some people eschew the idea of structured school all together and, instead, opt for a more relaxed approach to education and learning via the ‘unschooling’ route. Every family is different. Every circumstance is different. The key is knowing both your children’s learning styles and what your goals are for them. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint!
Image Credit: Abandoned Art School 66 by xshamethestrongx, on Flickr