Excerpted From Home Educators Resource Directory

When a family is new to homeschooling, they have many questions, and when they get the answer to one question, they are often met with ten more to replace the one they got answered. It doesn't matter if you are starting your homeschool journey with a preschooler or a teenager that just can't "do school" anymore, there are always questions and periods of "oh my goodness, what are we going to do?"

Here are some answers to those often-asked questions.


Where do I start?
Start at the beginning. Know your state laws for homeschooling. Know that homeschooling is 100 percent legal in all 50 states. Be prepared to stand up for your rights. A good place to find your local laws is Home Educators Resource Directory (homeEDdirectory.com/herd_state_resources). Select your state, then state laws. In this category should be a link to your state's Department of Education and the homeschooling laws for that state.

The next step is to find support. The best support often comes from other homeschooling families in your area. You can find local support groups in the directory (homeEDdirectory.com/support_group/list). Support groups are wonderful for many reasons and many have co-ops where parents pool together their knowledge and resources to teach their children in a group setting. Park Days and Field Trips are another great resource. By having a group go, there is often a "school" discount offered at places like museums, zoos, aquariums and even plays and concerts.

What do I teach them?
Choosing what to teach to your children is usually up to you and your child. There are many forms of homeschooling that you can choose from. Here we will define some of the different options for you:

Deschooling : What a family that recently decided to homeschool goes through while they are decompressing form the requirements of public or privates schools. This is a time when families talk about in what direction they would like to proceed.

Homeschool: Any school that is in a home setting with a parent or guardian teaching.

Unschooling: Child-led learning. This is where the parent serves more as a guide or sounding board than teacher. When a child is very interested in something, parents oftentimes allow them to explore the subject at will.

Virtual School: A virtual or online school is one that is either public school at home or private school at home. They use a set curriculum; have a teacher, and specific requirements that must be met. Students are allowed to move at their own pace, as long as they meet the minimum requirements. These schools are relatively new and offer official high school credits and diplomas.

How to Start Setting your Homeschool Goals Where do you begin to set goals? Consider what your child knows already and what you hope for him to learn this school year. A goal can be simple: "Through this unit study, my son will memorize the U.S. Presidents in order and by number." This goal is straightforward. A more difficult to measure goal might involve behavior. If your son has messy handwriting, for example, a goal such as "My son will improve his handwriting" requires an action plan; "My son will improve his handwriting by doing copy-work daily for a month." At the end of that time, review his work. If you can see a noticeable difference between a sample from the beginning of the month and a current sample, the goal has been achieved. If improvement is still desired, a new goal can be set.

Homeschool Resources to Help You There are many homeschool resources that can help you. If you have a pre-packaged curriculum, it is likely to come with goals for your student. The Core Knowledge books (also known as "What Your _ Grader Needs to Know" books) are available for grades preschool through sixth grade. They can serve as a roadmap if you choose, giving you educational benchmarks for which to reach.

Homeschool co-ops and support groups can aid you in setting goals. Talking with other homeschool parents in a similar situation can provide much-needed clarity.

Align your homeschool schedule to your goals and family

To meet your goals, a schedule is a must. Whether it is a firm or flexible schedule depends on the goals you want to reach and your individual situation. Perhaps you will choose to have the children work like a traditional school day, from 8 a.m. to 3p.m. You may start earlier and be done before lunch or choose to sleep in and end around dinnertime.

A schedule can be loose, too. It does not necessarily mean that from 8 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., your child does math drills, followed by 15 minutes of spelling practice and then 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. is science. That may work for some families, but personal experience has shown that it can be better to have a general idea of when things will be done, such as math, spelling and science before lunch, and other subjects after lunch.

A relaxed homeschooler and an unschooler may not want to have a "schedule" per se, but a rhythm of learning. On Mondays you could explore science, Tuesdays could be history and so on.

Keeping track of it all!

Outside activities and obligations are part of your homeschool schedule, too. A good idea is to have one master calendar with everybody's events, where everyone can see it. Then each individual has a calendar with his or her events and homeschool assignments. What should be on the schedule? Any time you need to leave the house - homeschool co-ops, field trips, library visits or programs, doctor appointments - should be on your schedule. This serves as a reminder of where you need to be, as well as planning schoolwork around those events. Vacations and breaks from schoolwork can - and should - be scheduled in. Things will go more smoothly if everyone knows what is expected of them and what is on the schedule.

Remember, if the schedule doesn't work ... try something else. That is the beauty of homeschooling. Find what works for your family and have fun.

Home Educators Resource Directory (HERD) is owned, managed and maintained by parents passionate about giving their children the best education. The Directory's mission is to provide resources, support and information helpful to the diverse community of educators around the globe. Along with offering a rich store of varied resources, the Directory maintains a catalog of local and global support groups and calendars highlighting local events. homeEDdirectory.com


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