Learn about homeschooling in general

Are you brand-new to the idea of homeschooling? Have you done a lot of research already, or are you just starting out in your own learning about homeschooling? Maybe you’re an experienced homeschooler who loves to learn more about this adventure that you enjoy! Rather than putting your child into a classroom, IDEA supports you as the world becomes your classroom. In such an environment the educational boundaries dissolve and learning becomes a moment-by-moment life experience.

The most important thing to consider is “What are your priorities for this year?”

Each homeschooling year is different. There might be changes in your family situation and/or your children’s needs. It is worth re-considering the big picture each year. Are you pregnant or do you have a new baby? Are there serious health issues going on in your family? Are your kids older and able to do some of the schoolwork on their own, or do you have younger children who cannot read? Will you be moving or re-modeling? All of these things and more can affect your choice of curricular materials and your daily schedule. Homeschooling should be high on the priority list. Think of homeschooling as THE thing you do; instead of just one more thing you do. What’s more important than spending family time together learning new things?

If you have extenuating circumstances in your life this year (expected or unexpected), you may need to make some adjustments in your homeschool schedule. Take time to think through what is most important for your children to learn this year, and focus on those things first. Consistency is key to regular progress especially with math and language arts in the early years…. and math and science in the later years. Maybe you have older kids who can help with the younger ones or can occupy the baby for an hour while you teach a young student to read. Set aside time each day that is devoted to school work. On the other hand, if you miss a day or two here and there, don’t fret. Homeschooling is a one-on-one teaching environment: you can cover far more in less time as a homeschooler than can be done in a classroom. Even a small chunk of time every day can result in much progress!

Here’s a link to an article and more great advice for new homeschoolers from homeschool author Susan Wise Bauer: http://bit.ly/1KtK3IA

You might want to investigate learning styles.

Everyone processes and learns new information in different ways. There are many ways to categorize learning styles: one of the most common includes these three: visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic. Understanding your children’s learning styles (and your own) can help you understand how you learn and what methods of learning best fit you. Everyone has a mixture of learning styles, but most people strongly prefer one of these three, and each preferred learning style has methods that fit the different ways an individual may learn best. For instance, a visual learner might prefer books with pictures and diagrams. An auditory learner might prefer audio books or discussing what they are learning. A kinesthetic learner might benefit from math manipulatives or science experiments.

At our Orientations, you receive a helpful learning styles assessment along with materials and teaching techniques that can help you present information in a way that best suits how each of your children learn. If you want to get started investigating learning styles right away, and to see teaching tips and curriculum suggestions for each learning style, go to our Curriculum Options page within First Steps.

Educational philosophies: Although you don’t need this information to successfully homeschool it may be helpful to you when you are considering what homeschooling will look like in your home and/or considering what curricular materials to select. There are lots of ways to determine educational philosophies. Let’s talk about teacher centered versus student centered. (More info about teacher vs student centered: http://bit.ly/1Dar8Ak)

Teacher-centered instruction: These philosophies focus on what the teacher wants his or her students to learn. Getting the knowledge out and to the student is the main focus. The students and teachers are accountable for what they have learned. Teachers are in control and they plan out activities and learning strategies according to specific times during the lesson.

  1. Classical Education – Refers to a broad-based study of the liberal arts and sciences, as opposed to a practical or pre-professional program. It is rigorous and systematic, separating children and their learning into three sequential stages for grades K-12: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric.
  2. Charlotte Mason – The 3 mottos are: “I am, I can, I ought, I will”, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life”, and “Education is the science of relations.” The philosophy is that children should be introduced to subjects through living books, not through the use of “compendiums, abstracts, or selections.”
  3. Holt – John Holt taught that when children are very young, they have natural curiosity about the world, trying diligently to figure out what is real. As they become “producers”, rather than “thinkers”, they fall away from exploration and start fishing for the right answers with little thought. They believe they must always be right, so they quickly forget mistakes and how these mistakes were made. They believe that the only good response from the teacher is “yes”, and that a “no” is defeat.
  4. Thomas Jefferson Education – Also known as “Leadership Education” is a philosophy and methodology of education which is based on the Seven Keys of Great Teaching and the Phases of Learning. It prescribes a distinct approach for students of different developmental ages. These are called “Phases”, and correspond with the physical/emotional/intellectual readiness for the lessons of each phase. The suggested corresponding ages are a general guide, with exceptions that vary widely.
  5. Eclectic – This is very personalized as it uses a mix of various educational philosophies and teaching methods you choose. Perhaps you are using literature based but want to incorporate some projects. Or maybe you are using textbooks and work books but want to also do projects or combine 2 subjects like history and art in which your student’s art work is all about the period in history they are studying. Another idea would be helping your student create a meal for your family of the foods people ate at that time in history.
Student-centered instruction

This is when the planning, teaching, and assessment revolve around the needs and abilities of the students. Regardless of variations in developmental levels, all children are exposed to the same content in the same time period and the teacher’s role is to facilitate growth by utilizing the interests and unique needs of students as a guide for meaningful instruction. Students develop analytic skills that can be applied to other problems and situations, rather than accept their teachers’ explanation.

  1. Unschooling – Allowing children to learn through natural life experiences. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities led by the children themselves, facilitated by the adults.
  2. Waldorf – Learning is interdisciplinary, integrating practical, artistic, and conceptual elements. The approach emphasizes the role of the imagination in learning, developing thinking that includes a creative as well as an analytic component.
  3. Montessori – Children are given freedom in an environment prepared with materials designed for their self-directed learning activity.
Choosing Teaching Tools & Strategies

Have fun – combine several!

  1. Tools
    1. Packaged Curriculum – These offer standard curriculum that you need for the entire year for one grade level packaged together, either in a box, online, or correspondence. Everything you need is included, with detailed lesson plans that tell you what to do when. These take the guesswork out of scheduling and provide a safety net for people who are new to homeschooling, unsure, or expect to have a very busy year, with little time for creating their own lesson plans. Many first time homeschoolers start out with this.
    2. Drill – This is the repeated review and rehearsing of facts and information. Most experienced homeschoolers find that using a lot of drill and memorization in many subject areas is often ineffective. It does help students to retain facts but it does not really engage their thirst for learning and in fact can kill it, resulting in the nickname “Drill & Kill.” However, it is useful for some applications: memorizing math facts or spelling patterns, for instance.
    3. Literature-Based – Uses “living books” rather than textbooks: biographies, historical fiction, non-fiction, etc. Literature presents information in an enjoyable and memorable format.
    4. Reading aloud, oral review – This is particularly helpful if you have a student who is an auditory learner, who depends on hearing and speaking as a main way of learning.
    5. Timelines, marking maps, etc. – These visual aids especially help the visual learner absorb and recall facts, but most students are likely to gain a better overall view of the geography and era/atmosphere they are studying through using these kinds of visual aids.
    6. Textbooks with quizzes and tests – Textbooks are a common and traditional teaching tool that incorporate structure with subject information. If you have children who were in a building-based public school then this is what they are most likely used to. Both you and they may be more comfortable with this “school at home” model. Some homeschoolers use this method for all their homeschooling years, while others want to venture out at least for some subjects to try some of these different teaching methods.
    7. Project-Based – Use of in-depth hands-on projects to facilitate learning and assess student competence. Using a project-based curriculum or designing your own projects requires much more teacher planning than using primarily textbooks, but it creates lasting memories that help the entire family to retain learning.
    8. Community interaction – Many homeschoolers use the community around them to incorporate real-life “teachable moments.” Examples include a trip to the grocery store for a math lesson or to learn about budgets, a trip to the river to learn about habitats and/or fish, a trip to the museum, to the art gallery, to the botanical gardens, to the farm, to a play, a tour of the newspaper, a hike, and making appointments with various businesses to visit them and learn what they do.
  2. Strategies
    1. Direct instruction – Lecture, practice & drill, assigned questions, demonstrations, essays/research reports, etc.
    2. Indirect instruction – Guided inquiry, essays/research reports, problem solving, Socratic questioning, etc.
    3. Interactive instruction – Brainstorming, debate, role playing, open discussion, laboratory groups, etc.
    4. Independent study – Compare & contrast, research projects, computer assisted instruction, workbooks, etc.
    5. Experiential – Field trips, games, model building, dramatizations, experiments, teach others, etc.
Organize your time & how you might set up your school

To make it easy on yourself keep it as simple as possible. How much time you spend teaching may be different each day depending on the things you have scheduled, the mood of the household, if anyone is sick, if you have multiple children, if your child is having difficulty with a subject, etc. Have a plan, but be flexible. Give yourself – and your children – grace.

Here’s a few links where you can find some organizational tips:

  • Organized Home has three pages specifically for homeschool families: storage strategies, time management, and home management: http://bit.ly/2CFCuzu
  • Donna Young has lots of things that you can print for free: homeschool and household organizers, forms and handouts for many subjects: http://bit.ly/1zJkUFh
  • Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers has Ten Tips for Organizing Your Homeschool: http://bit.ly/1FjKKBx
  • Design Your Homeschool will take you step-by-step how to think through the what, how, where, and when of your homeschooling venture: http://bit.ly/1yUy9A9
  • The Unlikely Homeschool has a lot of tips and ideas, particularly about organizing your time and space: http://bit.ly/ZoW8fX
  • The Homeschool Helper is an app for iPad, Android tablets, Nook and Kindle Fire. It tracks lesson plans, grades, field trips, etc., for a one-time purchase of $4.99: http://bit.ly/1yUykvv
  • And of course you can search Google or YouTube for “homeschool organization” or “homeschool schedule” and spend hours comparing ideas!

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