articles / Homeschooling

The homeschool starting line

Being a parent is tough. As a parent you are responsible for raising a good citizen, spouse, parent, co-worker, etc…You are also responsible for trying to get them the best education possible so that they can do whatever they want with their future whether that be pursuing a career as a teacher, stay at home parent, soldier, or shark trainer (that’s what Josiah wanted to be when they did career week at his preschool last year).

Many parents decide that public school will give their children the best possible education. Many parents decide that private school will be the best thing for their children. Many parents decide that homeschooling will be the best thing for their children. When a parent chooses public school, it’s a pretty straightforward process — your kids go to the district you live in. When a parent chooses private school they just search out the private schools in their area, do a tour, weigh the costs, and sign their kids up. I think most people have a grasp on the concept of sending their kids to school. It’s not that either one is an easy process, but that the process is more easily understood.

When a parent decides to homeschool, all the sudden a door opens and there’s all these questions that have to be answered. Questions that determine the quality of your child’s education.

What curriculum should I use? Which teaching style/method should I follow? Wait — there are different methods?! What are the different methods? How do I find a curriculum? How am I going to pay for the curriculum? Should I get a kit that has all of the subjects from one curriculum company or pick and chose subjects separately based on what I like? Would it be easier to develop my own curriculum? How would I do that? What are the requirements? If I do it myself where do I get the things I need for it? What subjects should I teach early on? What’s a co-op and should I join one? How do I find one? Is it worth it? When should we start? Should I start Kindergarten stuff right on time in August or start earlier/later depending on my child’s needs?

These are just a few — OK a lot — of questions that many people have when preparing to homeschool. Actually, these are questions I get asked by curious people when I tell them I’m homeschooling. Like I said, it can be overwhelming. I’m at the starting line. I’ve done A LOT of research, but I still get overwhelmed and I still have a lot to learn.

Google can actually be pretty useful in answering some of the above questions such as the different teaching styles/methods. The two places where I’ve looked into different curriculums is Mardel.com and Christianbooks.com. Mardel actually has a chart that tells you which curriculum fits which teaching style/learning style and which ones are the most popular. Both websites have total year curriculum kits and also individual subjects.

Aside from Google, I went to the library and started checking out books on homeschooling. One book I found actually had several online resources to help with teaching at home. One of them that I found useful was Mcrel.org. This website gives the national standards and common core standards for each subject at each grade level. If you’re planning on buying a curriculum this won’t be as important because the curriculum companies are well aware of the standards, but if you are DIYing it like I am, it is essential to know what your kid is supposed to know and when.

Here are a list of websites where I download and print off worksheets for extra practice and assessment:

  • Homeschoolmath.net/worksheets — This website has tons of free math worksheets for grades 1-6 and they also have worksheets based on topic.
  • Learningpage.com — This site has K-3 worksheets, animal-themed worksheets, and lesson plans help.
  • Worksheetworks.com — This site is one of my favorites so far! It has worksheets for Math, English, Geography, puzzles, graphic organizers and more. All the worksheets are customizable to fit what you need. It asks you a few questions about your preferences and then it spits out a professional looking worksheet without you having to make it up yourself.
  • Tlsbooks.com  — This site has printable worksheets for multiple grades and subjects.
  • Handwritingworksheets.com — This site allows you to create handwriting practice sheets. You can create practice sheets of names, words, sentences, and even paragraphs.
  • Teacherspayteachers.com — This is another one of my favorite sites. You can search through worksheets, games, lesson plans, posters, and other resources based on grade level, subject, and price. I’ve only looked at the free stuff, but there are things on there that you can pay for (you can choose free, under $5, under $10, or $10 and over). You have to register for this site, but registration is free and all of the content is downloaded as word documents or pdf’s for you to save and/or print.
  • And of course…there’s always Pinterest. I’ve gotten on here and found many of the websites above. I’ve also found the blogs of other homeschooling moms which is also very valuable.

Another thing I try to do is check out local “yard sale” pages on Facebook, Craigslist (I’m very leery about this site because of crazy people…seriously, a guy from my church was shot by someone he was meeting to sell a ring to), and homeschoolclassifieds.com. I’ve not bought anything off of the classifieds website, but basically it is like Craigslist for homeschoolers. You can find used curriculums, manipulatives, and anything else you might need to successfully teach at home. And of course, I got to yard sales when it is warm outside. You never know what can be used as a teaching tool. Of course, the best resource is other moms who are already homeschooling and can give you guidance.

I’ve discovered that once you figure out the jargon (unschooling, unit studies, co-ops, etc…) and once you dive head first into it all it doesn’t seem as intimidating. I just basically research and look at all the resources (online and books from the library) I can to learn about this culture because that’s honestly what it is. Homeschooling is a way of life, just like being a Christian or being a parent. Once you start doing it you approach everything differently. Poor Josiah can’t even watch Netflix without being subjected to a documentary once or twice a week.

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