By J. Samia Mair
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
So you’ve done everything suggested in Part I of this series: Homeschooling: Should I do it? You know what resources you have available and the general population of homeschoolers in your area. You have decided that after the considerations discussed in Part I, homeschooling your child is the best educational route for your family at this time. You are ready to begin. “Where do I begin?” you ask yourself. Panic sets in.
The number one concern I believe most newbie homeschoolers face is what curriculum they are going to use for their child. Homeschoolers want the curriculum that best fits their child’s educational needs and learning style, and works within the family routine. Once the curriculum problem is solved, other matters related to homeschooling seem to fall into place, presenting themselves with much less anxiety. So you do a little research on the Internet and thousands of hits appear. You start to panic even more. If you are an English speaker, you find there are too many, way too may, curricula available. You are not sure how you are possibly going to choose among so many possibilities, how you are going to read all the blogs, take all the advice, etc., etc. You confidence begins to wain; you wonder, “Can I do this after all?”
The short answer is “Yes!” Most homeschoolers I know started off this way: looking at a mountain full of choices with not even a spoonful of experience—it’s daunting to say the least. But it doesn’t have to be that way for long. The learning curve for homeschoolers is incredible short; you just need to “get your feet wet”, “take the first step”, or whatever overused expression makes sense to you!
A good place to start once you have decided to homeschool is to research the various homeschool teaching approaches (classical, eclectic, Waldorf, unschooling, etc.) if you haven’t looked into it before. Even if you have in your initial inquiry, now that you have made the choice to homeschool, you want to look at the various approaches more carefully. You can easily begin your research on the web and by reading many popular books on the subject. You want to determine which of the approach or approaches appeal to you. But I would not make any decisions without speaking to other homeschoolers—and this is the key, I believe, to successful homeschooling—reaching out to other, more seasoned homeschoolers, asking them all sorts of questions, and learning from their wealth of knowledge and experience. Face-to-face meetings are the best if you can swing it because the experienced homeschoolers can bring you the materials their children are using. If no one homeschools in your area, make calls, post questions on ListServs or blogs, do whatever you can do to get your specific questions answered and your particular concerns addressed. You will get all sorts of advice and some of it likely will be contradictory, which is not a problem. You are gathering information to educate yourself on what types of homeschooling approach is best for your child and your family. There is no “one size fit all” in homeschooling.
Once you have an approach that you like, you will need to decide on the curriculum question. I always started with what basic subjects I wanted my children to learn that year. Depending on the approach you are using, it might have very specific advice in this regard and your curriculum decisions will be quick and easy. But say the approach you choose is eclectic or just gives a general sense of what to do, then a good place to start is with your child’s age. So, for example, my daughters took a civics course this year (age 11); I wouldn’t be thinking of that course if they were 7 years old. But let’s say you definitely want your child to learn Math, Grammar, and Science. Or perhaps, you decide on Chinese, Diagraming, and Sculpture. It doesn’t matter; the process is the same. Again, turn to your homeschooling contacts who helped you with sifting through the various homeschool approaches. Ask them about the curricula they use and why, and if they avoided others. Learn what other homeschoolers have chosen and use this information to choose for your child. This will significantly narrow down your subsequent search on the web, making the process a whole less daunting. I can’t emphasis enough the value of reaching out to other homeschoolers.
Once you’ve decided on the basic subjects that you want your child to learn, you are more relaxed and the fun choosing begins. You can add additional courses, field trips, athletic opportunities, or anything else that you believe will further enrich your child’s educational experience. Again, ask around—make your life easier.
So, where do you begin once you decided to homeschool? Think of the ‘3 C’s’: Communication, Curriculum, and Confidence!
Stay tuned for Part III of this homeschool series, “Homeschooling: Cautionary Tales?”
Samia Mair is the author of five children’s books, the most recent Zak and His Good Intentions (2014). She is a Staff Writer for SISTERS Magazine and Discover, The magazine for curious Muslim kids and has published in magazines, books, anthologies, scientific journals, and elsewhere.
© IIPH 2015
Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/lynlomasi/7956974362/