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Getting Started Home Schooling Tips

Read these 32 Getting Started Home Schooling Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Home School tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Determine how long your Homeschooling Year will be

Some curriculum come organized for a 40 week schedule. If your homeschooling curriculum doesn’t come with a schedule, it’s best to create one before you embark on your school year. Before you can determine how much work your child will be required to complete each day you must determine how long your homeschooling year will be.



State law may govern your school year. Many homeschoolers keep a 40 week school year that coincides with the public school year. A 40 week school year usually takes 1 week off for Christmas, 1 week off for Spring Break, 2 weeks that are used for holidays and several sick days, and 8 weeks reserved for summer vacation.



If you follow state guidelines and hold school for 180 days, then you must determine your homeschooling schedule and decide which days will be celebrated as holidays. Be sure to include time in your homeschooling schedule for any final tests and studying for those tests as well.

   

How to determine how long it will take to teach curricula


Homeschoolers have a plethora of choices available when it comes to homeschooling. One thing that all homeschooling parents must determine, however, is how long it will take to teach a particular curriculum. Here is a simple way to figure out how long it will take to complete a homeschooling curriculum.



First determine how many weeks your school year will be. If your school is 40 weeks long, then divide the pages of curriculum by 40 to determine how many pages your student will need to complete per day. If your children finish their books early you can use the time to prepare for end of the year testing.

   
Can parents with no teacher-training actually provide their child(ren) with a good education at home?

Learning (and Homeschooling) Begins at Birth

As a good parent, you have always been your child's teacher: you have read to him, played games with him, helped and encouraged him to learn basic skills, introduced him to the world around him. Parents are their child's first teachers, so don't think that homeschooling your child takes special skills or talents that you do not possess. If you are a good parent, you are also a good teacher, and you can homeschool your child.

   
How do I cope with the stress of home schooling?

Home Schooling Stress

Let's face it, homeschooling is hard work. It's not always easy to have so much family togetherness. The amount of planning to keep your children on focus is immense, and there's always the worry that you're not doing it right.

Just as any working person has to learn how to set aside the day, find ways to relax, and enjoy life, so do you. Stress has some very serious physical and emotional consequences if left unchecked. It's imperative to set aside time for yourself to do things that are most important to you.

   
What subjects should I teach?

Picking Your Subjects

In some states, you are required to teach a basic homeschool curriculum, which is just about universally accepted as "standard." It consists of reading, writing, math, English, American history, the history of your state and, possibly, civics or health. In other states, parents are not required to teach this curriculum, but it is suggested. This core material can be amply covered in two to three hours per day. Over and above this, the parent and the student are free to add whatever they wish to their course of study - another wonderful thing about homeschooling! Here are some great ideas:

• If you want to study astronomy, you can spend as much time as you wish—staying up late to view the sky through a telescope from a remote area, for instance.

• If you are interested in ancient history, you can delve into it at the museum and library for hours on end—especially at midday, when the crowds are small.

• If your student is a musician or artist, he or she can focus on music or art for hours.

Homeschoolers have the opportunity to study a topic much more deeply than they would in a "regular" school setting.

   
How can I get started in homeschooling?

Your Start at Home Schooling

As more parents are becoming interested in home schooling, getting started seems like an overwhelming task with much home school information to consider, such as:

• How to develop a curriculum
• What requirements have to be followed
• How to keep your child socialized

The best approach to home schooling is to spend as much time as possible learning about it. Read books and magazines, find online articles, talk to other parents who homeschool, and attend conferences. Finding the homeschooling method that best suits your family will make all the difference in your success and happiness.

   
Am I good influence for my child all day long?

Influencing My Children

Many parents that homeschool are paranoid about the quality of the job that they are doing. I hear parents very frequently asking “Am I influencing my children in a positive way?” This illustrates a humble self-image, which is admirable. The truth is, however, that if you set out to do a good job, you most likely will. The key is to do your research, come up with a plan, and stick to it—no matter what.

Any way you look at it, for better or for worse, your child is your child, which means that you are his or her main influence. Home schooling is a wonderful way to spend time allowing your little sponge to absorb all of the knowledge and views that you have to offer.

* Follow a designated lesson plan and cover the basics. You're a great influence, so don't doubt yourself!

   
questions, what do i do now?, Now what?

Ok, the kids are home…Now what?

One of the first things I recommend is that you sit down, make a list, and check it twice! Once you have the answers to these questions, deciding how and what to teach will be easy! Some of the questions to ask your self are:

1. Why are we homeschooling?
If you decided to homeschool because the public school taught something that was not of your belief system, you have the ability to leave that out of your child's education.

2. What do we want our child/ren to learn?
We want our children not only to learn “academics”, but also to learn lifeskills. Mom isn't going to do their laundry forever!

3. Do we want them to attend college?
This will determine what course of study a high schooler needs to follow i.e.: 4 science credits, 2 math credits…

4. How long will we homeschool them?
If you plan to homeschool till they enter college, you can take it slower, and not have to worry so much that they are “at grade level.”

5. How much time are we willing to invest?
If you don't have the time to do hands on projects, for example, you would want to look closely at any curriculum you are thinking of buying.

6. How much money?
Science project are a wonderful learning tool, but if you don't have the extra money to buy the materials needed, they can't learn from them.

Take some time to sit down and evaluate and reevaluate your list. It can be a real eye opener.

The most important thing to remember is to relax! If you pick something just doesn't work at your house, it isn't the end of the world. Mistakes will be made, and you will recover from them!

   
How much does homeschooling cost?

Homeschooling Costs

Homeschooling can cost anywhere from $0 to $2,500 per year. A family can create an entire curriculum from materials available free online and from the local library. (Online schools do charge a fee.) Cost depends on your philosophy.

If you use a boxed curriculum, you can purchase a very nice one for as little as $300 per year, with optional correspondence-teacher review services for somewhere near $200-$500. You can spend as much as $2500 per year in the boxed curriculum, this cost includes an advisory teaching service, networking, private "networked" park days, field trips, resource libraries, and many other extracurricular resources.

   
What if I don´t feel qualified to teach my child myself?

Qualifications

Virtually every instruction book available (math, English, history, writing) is self-explanatory because homeschooling is a do-it-yourself field. Many book/learning material companies are owned by homeschooling families; others want to court the huge, growing market in home ed. These companies provide detailed instructions for the successful use of their products.

*Any parent with average reading comprehension skills can successfully teach his or her own children.

   
Is it a good idea to let my teen homeschool while we are at work?

Homeschooling Alone

Some teenagers feel relieved to be taken out of a peer-dependent environment and are pleased to do schoolwork while mom and dad are away in order to keep this latitude. Other teenagers fare better working part-time jobs during the day and doing their academic work in the evening and on the weekends.

Teenagers are at a perfect age to benefit from an apprentice situation or mentoring relationship. If you are thinking of allowing your teen to homeschool while you are at work, my only suggestion is to make sure that you know your teen very well. You must have a good relationship with him or her—you must be able to talk to each other without the normal hindrances that come between teens and parents or the experience will be difficult.

   
How do I choose a home schooling style?

Home Schooling Styles

Unlike public school, where all of the students follow the style laid out by their teacher, a homeschool education gives families the opportunity to develop a learning style that suits them best. You need to assess your family situation and how your child learns. Some good questions to think about are:

• What kind of a teacher are you?
• Is your child a self-motivator?
• Is your child a visual learner?
• Is your child an avid reader?
• Is your child a computer enthusiast?

*All of these considerations, and more, will help direct you in the right direction. Try going to a home schoolingcurriculum convention and gather advice from the representatives from the different companies there.

   
Don´t teachers know something about "teaching" that parents don´t?

What do Teachers Know?

A school teacher's job is to present the curriculum chosen by the school administration to 25-40 children at a time in a classroom setting and moving them through the school year on time. A homeschooling parent's job, however, is much different. Here are some advantages to homeschooling:

• While homeschooling you will be working with your child in a setting you choose and recognize to be what is right for him or her.

• You can adjust your focus at any time to meet the changing needs of your student and your family.

• You can work certain times of year, and less during others (if your state doesn't require school-year-strict attendance records).

• You can spend more time on a "weak" academic topic and less time on a strong one.

   
How can I possibly teach my children?

Teaching Your Own Kids

I repeatedly hear that homeschooling has given many parents the opportunity to educate or re-educate themselves in certain subjects. For example, one mother wasn't interested in early history or word roots and grammar because of the negative feeling she carried over from her personal school experiences. However, upon reading about these to her son, she found herself becoming more interested as time went on. She also never considered herself artistic.

Another mother claimed that, n order to teach art to her son, she obtained a “How to Draw” art series, which gave the exact layout of different objects. She was so amazed when her rockets, spaceships, and buildings came out well that she has actually took up drawing classes!

*Use homeschooling as an opportunity to learn new things and add dimension to your life!

   
What if my child doesn´t measure up?

Measuring Up

We hear stories all the time of homeschooled kids that went to Harvard, Yale or MIT at 12 and got their doctorate. Are you worried that your child won't measure up to these success stories? There is nothing to measure up to! Each child is unique, and no two can be intelligently compared.

You can't judge a child by test scores—standardized testing only measures how well a child can take a test! Contests, like spelling bees and geography bees, are not barometers of intelligence. A brilliant person may "freeze" up in front of a crowd and be unable to demonstrate his intelligence, but give him a quiet room with a computer or a notebook and pen and he might give us pages and pages with his thoughts showing us his intelligence.

Try not to fall into the trap of comparing. Everyone is good at certain things and not at others. If you can let your child show you the best "self" that he or she can be and you can love and respect that person, both of you will have a wonderful experience homeschooling, no matter what!

   
What if all my child´s friends are in school and she feels left out?

Friends

Sometimes, it happens that all of a child's friends will be in "regular" school and that child will feel different. Explain to your child why you decided to homeschool and explain it with a sense of pride. If need be, buy some "school" things to help your child feel more like he or she is in school. Try these ideas:

• Buy a typical classroom desk
• Hang typical elementary posters and bulletin boards to help with the "school" atmosphere
• Hang an alphabet freeze as a border

Creating a school-like environment can help kids to adjust to home schooling—especially if they have been pulled from a school to be homeschooled.

   
Is teaching high school hard?

Is Teaching Hard?

Most people who homeschool high schoolers don't find that teaching them is difficult. Usually, study habits are already set up and the child is accustomed to completing a certain amount of work. Also, students who have been in school typically enjoy finishing their schoolwork early, leaving enough time to work a part-time job, becoming an apprentice, practicing a sport, or taking college classes.

Parents of teenagers who have never been in school might have to be more involved in finding out how to teach algebra, chemistry, or other tough subjects. Many families in both categories solve this problem by pooling resources and hiring a tutor to instruct a small group in a particular subject once or twice a week. Usually this type of arrangement is conducive to a positive learning experience. The children know why they are there and they want to be there, so it works out well for all.

   
What if my child goes back to school? Can she get in?

Going Back to Regular School

If you and your child decide that "regular" school is better for you both, don't worry about your child getting back in to school. Children who are US citizens cannot be denied public education unless they have been legally expelled or some other extenuating circumstance exists. Depending on which state you live in, there are different routes to enrolling your child into public school. If you declare yourself a private school, then keeping good records of daily activities and the subjects studied is crucial in deciding to enroll your child in school. If you enroll in an independent study program (ISP), either private or through a public school, you will have no problems transferring back into the system.

If you do decide to go back to "regular" school, don't feel like a failure. You have to do what is best for both you and your child. Sometimes, that is not homeschooling.

   
If I have three children, do I teach three levels of each subject?

Teaching Multiple Grades

One great thing about having two or more children in a homeschooling setting is that the younger ones want to keep up with the older ones. There is less total work when children are fairly close rather than far apart in age.

Some families report that their children set up natural, healthy competition among themselves. In the case of English, the younger child may have to catch up to be on the same level as the older, but will do that on his or her own. A few subjects may require individual teaching, but that is more the exception than the rule.

   
What about socialization?

Socialization

Homeschooling parents often are asked, "How will your child be socialized if they are not in a traditional school?" If you are concerned that your homeschooling child is missing out on valuable socializing time, note that in an average 6-hour school day, traditional students spend 1 1/2 hours--30 minutes of recess and an hour at lunch--socializing. Additionally, recesses are being cut out of most grades in the majority of school systems in order to provide more lesson time to prepare for standardized exams.

During class time, traditional students sit quietly at their desk unable to talk or "socialize" with other children, or else they are reprimanded for being "bad." Socialization in this setting involves teaching children how to interact with other children of their own age group, which is limiting.

Homeschooling students meet people of all ages and walks of life on a typical day of homeschool, i.e. librarians, postal workers, grocery store clerks and social groups of other homeschoolers of all grade levels. This provides these students with a more diverse social experience.

Students in traditional schools typically get to go on one field trip per year. Homeschooling students are able to take substantially more field trips, which better prepares these students for socialization in the real world.

   
Is homeschooling legal?

The Legal Nuts and Bolts

In every state and province, homeschooling is legal. However, the level of state supervision and regulation varies widely, from very strict in some states to no regulation at all in many others. Check with your local parent-run homeschool association about the legal responsibilities in your state before you contact any state agency.

*You can read all about your states current homeschooling laws in Home Education Magazine.

   
What should I do about critical family members?

Critical Family Members

What should you do about family members who are critical about your decision to homeschool? I suggest you take the time to educate your family about homeschooling.

Most family members are critical simply because they are genuinely concerned about your children and/or are ignorant about homeschooling. Give them some statistics,tell them what a typical day of homeschooling is like, or ask them to come and observe you for a day. All of these things will go a long way toward reassuring the family about your homeschooling decision.

   
What about homeschooling an only child?

Only Child Homeschooling

Since I have two boys, this is not first-hand info. I understand that homeschooling an only child can be done successfully, but it's very hard. Much depends on the child. If the child is incredibly social, it takes extra effort to plan a social life in which the child feels he or she interacts enough with other children.

At least one parent must be the social type to plan a social life for the homeschooled child. Most homeschooling functions are not "drop-off" activities. If you are a parent caring for the child, you might find yourself spending hours with other homeschooling parents (mostly mothers). If you are not comfortable with this much socializing, it could be a problem for you.

   
Does either homeschooling or public schooling have to be better than the other?

Accepting the Choice to Homeschool or Not to Homeschool

Just as with Yankees and Red Sox fans, when it comes to the issue of educating their children most families are for one of either homeschooling or public schooling.

While homeschooling parents might wax poetic all day about the virtues of their style of education, public school parents would wonder how homeschooling parents can isolate their children from the mainstream even if they acknowledge the faults of a public school education.

In reality, homeschooling is a choice that is right for some families and not for others, so if you're considering homeschooling your child be honest with yourself and with your family. Can you provide a nurturing educational environment? Is your public school system below standard or quite good? Can you take the time to construct good lessons and exercises? There is no right educational style, but a right one for each family, so think carefully before committing your child to one approach.

   
I want to homeschool. What should I do first?

Define Your Homeschooling Philosophy

You can decide to buy a boxed-curriculum and follow it scrupulously, from at 8 A.M. to Noon, Monday through Friday Or you may already know that you don't want to follow the "school brought home" technique. Check out my tip section called "Methods" and read about the different types of homeschoolers and pick one that seems to fit you. The beauty of it is that you can change it when you've gained a little experience.

If your child has never attended school, it is much easier to do this since they have no preconceived notion of what "school" is. School is what you begin doing with them! Visit your public library for information about the different methods and philosophies.

   
Is it wise to home school a special needs child?

Home Schooling a Special Needs Child

Are you contemplating whether or not to homeschool your special needs child? Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

• Is the stress of going to school too great for your child?
• Does the school have enough support?
• Is your child accepted and appreciated by the other students?
• Does your child feel like he or she is accomplishing something?

The answers to these and other questions may very well lead you to try homeschooling, where you know your child is learning best and where there is love.

   
Will my children miss being in a class with other children?

Home Schooling Socialization

Even though you are teaching your child at home, there are ample opportunities for them to socialize and learn with other children. Sports activities, musical groups, church and youth organizations, field trips, summer camp, and volunteering can all serve to eliminate a feeling of isolation and loneliness.

Getting together with several other homeschooled families on a regular basis is also a great way for them to make friends with other kids in which they have much in common.

   
What are the drawbacks to homeschooling that I should consider before making a decision?

Important Homeschool Issues to Weigh

Unlike finding a $10 bill on the ground, homeschooling has some notable disadvantages. Here are a few to consider before pursuing a homeschooling approach with your child:

You'll have to spend more money on your child's education
You'll have to spend 24 hours a day with your child for days at a time
It will take more effort to find children with whom yours can build quality relationships
Significant time is required to plan and develop lessons, curriculums, and subjects

Homeschooling is a major undertaking that should not be stepped into lightly. Consider these factors and talk to other parents who have homeschooled their children to see if you really want to commit yourself and your child to the process.

   
Do homeschooled children do as well academically as public and private school children?

Homeschooling as Effective as Regular Schooling

Think you can't teach as well as the pros? Maybe you can!

When thinking about the pros and cons of homeschooling, one common misconception about homeschooling is that homeschooled children don't do as well academically as their publicly educated peers. In fact, current research shows that homeschoolers do as well as or better than their peers academically; they score well on SATs and encounter no special problems pursuing higher education.

If you're seriously considering home schooling your child, chances are that you can do it well, so the biggest question you should grapple with is not whether you're child would actually learn from you in your home, but instead whether you are willing to put in the time necessary to truly do the job well.

   
What are the benefits of one on one, or small group teaching?

Homeschooling's Great Student/Teacher Ratio

Unless you've set some ridiculous Guinness World Record, you don't 25 kids.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is its student/teacher ratio. Even the most prolific of parents have fewer children than exist in a typical classroom setting. Other advantages to the home setting are that they can be made free of the constant distractions and time consuming tasks such as attendance unrelated to learning that plague larger classes.

With more time for each student and more learning time in general, it can be much easier to create a focused learning environment without interruptions and distractions in a home school setting, so if your child faces the possibility of joining a public school with classes of 30 or more children, you might want to consider home schooling as a real and viable alternative.

   
What do I need to know about standardized testing for homeschool?

Standardized Testing: The Basics

Every state has its own requirements in regards to standardized testing, which is used to measure the achievements and progress of homeschooling students. To get started, go to your state's department of education website to determine whether or not you are required to test your homeschooling student. Other things to consider:

-the frequency of testing, i.e. some states, such as Washington, require testing annually, while other states require testing every few years
-whether or not you are required to report testing scores to your public school superintendent
-if your school system is required to pay for the standardized testing or if you will need to pay out of pocket
-if the school system is willing to arrange for a testing proctor; otherwise you will have to find your own certified testing proctor

Normally, states that require standardized testing also require you to find a proctor for testing. This means that you can choose what type of standardized test you want to administer to your child. Some of the most common standardized exams used by homeschooling parents include:

-Iowa Test of Basic Skills
-California Achievement Test
-Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills
-Stanford Achievement Test
-Personalized Achievement Summary System

   
What happens when home schooled children share time only with others of a similar background?

One Homeschooling Con

While you might be protecting your child from the dangers of a public school education by providing him or her with homeschooling, you are also depriving them of the education they receive by belonging to a civic community.

In any town, the feeling of community is often built around its schools, so learning in a public school promotes, in a way, the values of citizenship. Home schooled children do not encounter the diverse perspectives in a community needed so risk both not fitting in with their peer group as well as not being able to easily understand other points of view. Moreover, when home schooled children do participate in group situations it is most likely in select group who often are also home schooled and share similar values, background, and social class.

Before committing your child to homeschooling, think not only about what he or she would be gaining by that unique experience, but also what might be lost by eschewing the more traditional route.

   
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Guru Spotlight
Jerry Mayo