Part 2 of my little series will deal with more of the "nuts and bolts" of home education, containing more of the logistics for homeschooling in Minnesota. Keep in mind that some of what I say may be specific to my state; be sure to check out HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) for your state.
So you've decided to homeschool. While you are waiting for your catalogs to arrive, the first thing I tell people to do is join MACHE, HSLDA, and your local homeschool support group.
What? What is this lady talking about?
Oh, sorry. I'll slow down a bit.
If you live in MN, I highly recommend that you join MACHE, the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators.
I tell people that this is by far the best $35 I have ever spent on anything for our homeschool. Many states have similar organizations. Joining the state support group will help you feel more "plugged in", "in the loop", or any number of other catchy phrases.
I consider my membership, and the information I receive as a member, a little like Continuing Education classes. As the teacher, you need to be sure you are availing yourself to this kind of support from other homeschoolers.
My second recommendation is to join HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association). Home School Legal Defense Associationis a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms. HSLDA advocates for home education on the legal front, onCapitol Hill, in state legislatures, in the media and for the home education movement. Even if you never need their services, your membership money can help make sure that our freedom to home school remains secure. We didn't join when we first started homeschooling, thinking the cost too great. They have since added a monthly debit option which has made it much more affordable for our family.
Third, join your local support group. I resisted this at first. I still remember my dear friend Jen (who now lives FAR FAR AWAY *snif*) telling me about our local group. She called it a "support group" and I remember thinking, "I don't need anyone's support. I just took my kids out of public school in order to teach them myself. I don't need anyone telling me how to homeschool!" See, I had this idea that a "support" group would be where a bunch of ladies sat around and as the meeting began, would introduce themselves by saying, "Hi. My name's Melissa and I'm a homeschool mom." And the rest of the group would respond in chorus with, "Hi Melissa." Like some sort of Al Anon Meeting. I pictured them telling me all the steps to "do it right". (I have since learned that there are no such steps!) It didn't take me too many months into the school year before I called her up and said, "When's the next meeting???????" Our local group has a once monthly Mom's Night--oh, how I cherish these nights AND the ladies that come! Each evening has a pre-determined topic that we discuss. It is a great way to meet other moms who are in the same boat as I am; we share our ideas, our struggles, our failures, our successes, our crazy stories of the day...we laugh and we even cry together. It is a wonderful time of fellowship and a great way to strengthen our resolve to keep on keeping on.
These books, among others, will help you to understand the reasons why many Christian and non-Christian families have chosen to educate their children at home.
Optimally, you would have read these books from the time your children are small and you'd be ready to jump right in once they hit--I cringe to even say it--"school age." (me jumping up on my soapbox: as IF there were such a thing!)
I would venture to guess that the number of people who know they're going to homeschool from the time of their children's birth is relatively small.
Many more parents arrive at the decision to homeschool later on.
Like we did, for example. You can read all about that here and here.
As the parent, you have some choices to make. You need to arrive at your own reasons for why you homeschool.
You also need to decide how you will teach your child at home.
You will need to decide on what curriculum you will use and you arrive at that decision my studying curriculum options.
Would you like to know what I did?
I surfed the web and ordered every free catalog from homeschool curriculum companies that I could.
I have pored over more catalog pages than you could shake a stick at. It has helped me to become familiar with what other families use as well since I've read about so many.
My personal favorites, tried and true at our house:
During science time yesterday with Andrew, Christopher, and Elijah, I asked "Do you know where saltwater comes from?"
Elijah shouted, "I know!!!! The Salt Department!"
This was immediately followed by Christopher with "Chickens!!"
Hmmmm. I guess we have some science experiments to do...
Homeschooling is one of the greatest decisions we ever made for our family.
On the other hand, it is one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Usually, my facebook posts (and those of many of my homeschooling friends') contain all the sun-shiny things we get to do because we homeschool. Like, "we did all of our school outside today!" or "we took a field trip to play in the park!".
On the other hand, I know that I've never posted something like "I just yelled 'For the love of ALL that is HOLY--DO! YOUR! MATH! NOW!' at the top of my lungs at my son."
Homeschooling allows all my children to be home with me and with each other all the time.
On the other hand, homeschooling, for our family, means that all of us are home with each other pretty much all the time.
Because we homeschool, I get to see "the lights come on" when a child finally grasps a concept we've been working on.
On the other hand, when things are still dim, I'm the one who has to figure out whether to keep on the same path with that child, or try a new avenue.
With all my children home, I have helpers with my younger kids for playtime and some school time.
On the other hand, I admit that sometimes I'm a bit envious of all the "alone time" other moms get when their kids are at school/daycare.
There are so many different aspects of homeschooling--and home education will look different in each home. I try to remind myself of that all the time.
Sometimes I think, "if only it could quiet down a bit around here right now so Nathaniel could concentrate on his Algebra."
On the other hand, how many 9th graders get to do Algebra with "CAN SOMEBODY COME WIPE MEEEE??????!!!" resonating in the background?
Many moms look forward to snow days...stormy days with no school.
On the other hand, at our house we take "way-too-nice-to-be-inside days" and play ball on the yard, or take our work out on a blanket and read together. We use stormy, blustery days to get a lot of work done.
Some days, what I wouldn't give to have a lunch lady at our home.
On the other hand, I get to teach real-life skills to the kids by having them help with meal preparation.
I guess I'm just trying to keep it real.
There are moments (hours?) of mayhem in our homeschooling household.
It isn't always rosy.
It isn't always pretty.
It isn't always orderly.
It certainly isn't easy.
On the other hand, I know I will never regret our decision.
Even when it's hard.
Some would call it morbid, but kids are so matter-of-fact, they talk about just about anything and it doesn't seem to phase them.
For example, at supper the younger kids were talking about I-can't-even-remember-what.
I do remember it was about as exciting as, say, the weather.
"Tomorrow is supposed to be a high of 72."
"Hey--what it be like if Mom died?"
What was that? Who said that?
"Let's see...if Mom died, well, we'd have to learn to cook." said Christopher. "But, Isaiah's a good cook, so--y'know." (said with a shrug)
I guess he figured it'd all work out.
I sat there rather stunned...waiting...hoping someone would say something about how sad they'd be, how utterly lost, how no one would have any clean socks, no one would know where anything was. Please say something...please say something...anything. Well, I take that back. Not just anything.
It was then that Andrew chimed in with, "We wouldn't have to goto church anymore! Wait--nahhh, Dad'd make us."
It seems toddlers are never so busy as when you are trying to accomplish something yourself.
Like, say, when you're homeschooling.
In the middle of explaining Algebra to your 8th grader, you hear "Mom! Ruby got into my purse!"
During a particularly fascinating dissertation on vowel sounds, you hear that the water is running in the bathroom sink.
Twirling the globe in an attempt to point out the setting of the latest book you are reading with the children, a little person makes her way past, working hard to bring the step-stool with her. She's clearly up to something. Up to something she can't reach, quite obviously.
What's a mom to do??!!
Be proactive instead of reactive.
I need to remind myself of this daily. Ok, hourly.
I firmly believe that children need to learn to entertain themselves and to NOT need to be entertained by others.
Moms need to lay the ground-work, though, in order for it to happen.
I'm also a firm believer in totes. Totes, tubs, bins, whatever you wanna call 'em. Big totes, little totes, baskets, boxes, etcetera.
If similar items are in a bin that the child can carry, they are more likely to only empty out the one bin, rather than dump everything from the toy box onto the floor.
We have several tubs, each with a specific type of toy in it. They stack easily on the floor or a shelf and are easily carried/pushed/dragged by our little folks.
Now-- for me to say "Go play" rarely results in "play."
However, "Hey--how about taking out the car rug and the boxes of cars? That'd be fun!" is usually pretty effective.
But when I'm doing algebra/grammar/geography, and my toddlers need some direction, I seem to draw a blank more often than not and I default to "go play."
So I finally made a list, for my sake as much as anyone else's.
Our list includes:
cars and the car rug
cereal laces (cheerios, fruit loops, etc. for lacing on a shoe lace. edible craft!)
Some of these are "go in another room" type activities, while others are more for "sit up to the table and join us" type fun. Some involve a slight mess, like play-do and cereal. You'd have to weigh that out to see if you had time and energy to clean it up that day. Some days, a little mess is fine. Other days call for a more so-help-me-if-I-have-to-wipe/sweep/vacuum-up-one-more-thing type of project.
Remember, we are homeschooling.
We are home.
Our kids are home.
Therefore, all the kids will be around--pretty much all the time.
I can't tell my younger ones to go away so that I can be with the big kids any more than I should tell my big kids to go away so I can take care of the littles.
My point is that I need to be proactive when they need a little direction instead of reactive when they've found stuff to get into when I shooed them away.
I keep my list in the kitchen on the side of the fridge so that I can assign one of the bigger kids to go get them little ones started on something if I can't leave what I'm busy doing with another kiddo.
We call this "toddler time" and the big kids have as much fun as the little ones! It gives big kids a chance to play with some things they've outgrown. The little ones think spending time with the big ones a super fun treat. Building block towers, setting up pretend farms, construction sites, using silly voices with dolls--it doesn't take much at all to get them busy doing something you'd like for them to be doing!
How do you keep your little folks busy?
(you must know--I have been known to let a child rip pages out of a notebook for the simple reason that it kept her quiet, happy, and not bothering anyone. It cost me 10 cents monetarily, but much was gained for the mommy's state-of-mind. I have also let them float boats in the sink, even though I had to wipe up the bathroom floor with more than one bath towel. So even though this post may imply that our home is all sunshine and lolli-pops, I assure you, it is not.)