Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Advice to Newbie Homeschooler

Someone I know and like a lot just started homeschooling.  They are at the point I was at last year, no...more like in January of 2011 when I just began with Lilah, when every decision seemed monumental, when every subject felt like it must be planned and documented down to the number of hours spent doing it,  and when the worry was intense.  Those are the hard days.  They are the days of worrying about:
  • What would she be doing if she were in school and does that matter to me?
  • What does my spouse thing about what we are doing and how can I help him/her to understand this new journey we have undertaken when he/she is not home to see the magic that occurs randomly and spontaneously each and every day?
  • Will I do a good job?
  • Will she learn and grow and thrive?
  • Did I make a mistake?

My heart aches for this Mom because I want to be able to whip out a crystal ball and show her what her future holds.  Her child is bright, inquisitive, driven, endearing and curious.  She already has interests she wants to explore.  Her summer has been spent making friends who are homeschooled too so that when her school friends go back to their place of learning, she will not be alone trying to make her way (by she, I mean both Mom and child).  They have a plan of what they want to study and how, but the intensity of the emotions they are feeling hides the fact that all they need to do it there for them.
My recommendations for a family new to homeschooling are:

Write down a chart of what subjects you want to teach and what resources you plan on using, including library support and field trips. Brainstorm everything you can think of that deals with this subject.  For example:

Story of the World + Activity Book.  We will keep a Book of Centuries as our living timeline.  We will plan on finishing one chapter a week.  Supplemental reading will be provided by library materials in our weekly trip to library.  Netflix/youtube will provide video supplementation.  Possible trips include: Peabody Museum in New Haven and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  Will incorporate mapwork, art projects, cooking and journaling.
We will choose books across a variety of genres.  We will listen to audio books.  We will watch movie versions of the books we read (if available) and compare and contrast.  We will blog about book recommendations.  We will possibly join a book club. Activities include journaling, blogging, weekly trips to library, book sales.  If interested we can lapbook.  At times we will read the same book and discuss.  We will take advantage of author visits at local book stores.  Will read all Nutmeg nominees or Newbery Honor Books (which I usually like more than the award winning books).
Write down what you do on a weekly basis in each subject area.  Even when I am not “teaching” a subject, I am amazed at how many things we accomplish on a weekly basis in that area of study.  If I did not write these down I would most certainly forget.
Share your writing with your spouse.  Do whatever you can to make he/she feel like a part of your day.  Have your child email daily with what plans they have for the day.  When something comes up in family life that relates to something they have learned, ask your child to share his/her knowledge.  They will be proud to share what they know.  
Talk to your friends often.  We tend to feel like what we are doing is the norm, when most people do not see it that way.  In order to have someone truly understand what your are feeling and experiencing, it helps if they have walked in your shoes. 
Realize that there is no perfect way to homeschool. Unlike school where everyone is taught the same way at the same time, no two homeschoolers approach learning in exactly the same way.  Two families may both use Story of the World.  One may read a chapter a week, the other may take six months on just the Greeks alone.  That is fine.  There is no right or wrong.  Like I have said before learning has no expiration date.
I think this family is going to experience a transformational year.  When the angst they are experiencing passes (or diminishes) they are going to flourish in the freedom that this type of learning allows.  I have a feeling that a year from now, when they are approaching year 2, like me, that this was the most amazing experience they could have ever chosen for their child, themselves, and their family.
What advice/suggestions would you give to a brand-new homeschooling family?

This post is linked up at Hip Homeschool Hop Button 

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