Thinking about homeschooling? Need help getting started? Here is how you can do it!
Probably the #1 homeschooling question I get asked is, “how do I get started?” But the answer to that question is never simple. It depends on many things, including your reason for choosing to homeschool, your child’s learning style, your child’s learning abilities, and the dynamics of your family. Each family homeschools differently. If you are dedicated to your child’s education, you will find what works best for him or her.
Why do I want to homeschool?
The reasons that people choose to homeschool can vary greatly. Here are some of the main reasons why people choose to homeschool:
For Individualized Learning You don’t agree with the idea that all children should be learning the same things at the same time. You’re not a fan of standardized or “common” standards. You want your child’s learning to be customized for your child.
Because of Special Needs Your child has special needs that are not being properly addressed at the local school.
To be Religious You want your child to use a religious curriculum and private school is too expensive.
To Catch Up Your child is falling behind in school and you choose to homeschool so that your child can have one-on-one attention for these subjects.
To Get Ahead Your child is smarter than all the kids in their grade level in the local school and the school does not allow your child to move ahead academically.
To Specialize Your child is an actor or athlete and needs the flexibility that homeschooling provides.
Way back in the ‘80s, when I decided I would homeschool the children I would eventually have, my reason for wanting to homeschool was so that my children could have individualized learning. I wanted them to have the opportunity to learn from more than one teacher and one textbook. In the end, almost all of the above reasons to homeschool have come into play for us.
How will my children learn?
The curriculum that is used in your local school was created for a classroom of 30 children. This is how teachers are able to keep all children doing the same thing and how they make sure all the necessary topics are covered. These types of curriculums are not necessary when you are working at home, one-on-one with your child. There is a whole world of learning opportunities available to you. You can pick and choose the one(s) that work best for you and your child.
If you’re just getting into homeschooling for the first time, you might feel anxious about the approach you will use with your child. This is natural. But you actually don’t need to decide now. It’s a good idea to test out different approaches before you decide what’s best for your family. Even then, you can change your mind at any time. What works for you one day may not work the next. It’s important to be flexible and patient sometimes, knowing that if you keep your eyes open, you will find something that works.
Here are some of the most popular learning approaches:
Boxed curriculum This is all your curriculum for the year, all in one box. These are available in both secular and religious sets. Pros: This approach is easy to get into because it is often the same textbooks and workbooks that are used in traditional schools. In this way, this choice has a familiar feel and you don’t have to do as much of your own research. You just choose one box and you’re done. Everything is pretty much spelled out for you. This is a good choice if you want your children to be learning the same stuff the kids in school are learning. This is also a good approach if you plan to put your child back into a traditional school soon. Cons: Boxed curriculum is expensive and not very flexible. Large sections of a boxed curriculum often go unused, since it won’t all be applicable to your child and your needs.
Unit Studies This is when the whole family studies a certain topic together for a period of time. All school subjects are integrated into the topic. There are some unit study curriculums available on the market. Pros: Themes create heightened interest in a topic, leading children to want to know more. Having all the school subjects integrated together is very natural, reflective of the real world. This approach also lends itself to field trips, projects, trips to the library, and learning from primary sources. This approach is adaptable to all learning levels and styles. Cons: This approach is not a good fit if it is important to you that your child does all the same things the kids are doing in school. Some parents feel they are not creative enough to facilitate these dynamic learning experiences.
Unschooling This is 100% child-led learning. Children are allowed to learn what, when, where, and how they want. Pros: This approach allows children to get deep into any topic they choose. More than just learning, these children also learn how to learn and they become able to teach themselves anything they want. Cons: This approach is not a good fit if it is important to you that your child does all the same things the kids are doing in school. This is also not a good fit if you like to have a lot of structure in your learning experiences.
Learning Centers You can take your child to learning centers for part-time school experiences. Celebration Education has a learning center in Santa Ana. Pros: Your children get to spend time with other kids in a learning environment. Your children can take classes that interest them or classes that you are more comfortable having someone else teach. Cons: If you're not in a charter school that pays for these classes, you will have to pay out of pocket.
Co-ops or Pods You and a couple of other families get together for educational experiences. Moms (parents) trade off teaching days or subjects or the families share the cost of teachers. You can comment below if you are looking for other families in your area to co-op with! Pros: Your children get to spend time with other kids in a learning environment. This is less expensive than learning centers. Cons: Other families or parents may flake on their responsibilities or teaching may be of poor quality.
Eclectic This is all of the above. You patch together your own curriculum and learning activities, drawing on a variety of resources. Pros: This is a very flexible approach. You tailor all learning experiences to your child’s immediate needs. Cons: This approach requires a lot of research and familiarity with different approaches and curriculums.
I’ve used all of the above approaches except boxed curriculum. My favorite is unit studies. As a family, we enjoyed studying many great topics over the years. We also did a fair amount of unschooling and from time to time I would pull in other resources when there was a need.
How can I homeschool legally?
By law, all children are required to attend school. The following options are the legal ways families can opt out of attending the local neighborhood school.
Homeschool Independently Once a year you file the Private School Affidavit (PSA) with the state to establish your own private school just for your family. This is The most flexible option, but parents are responsible for obtaining curriculum, paying for classes, and for all other educational expenses. Instruction on how to file the PSA can be found on California Homeschool Network’s Website.
Charter School Free. This is a public school that offers independent study programs. Some of these schools have set curriculums that you must follow, others allow you to choose from among a variety of approaches and curriculums. Some have learning centers that your children can attend and some allow you to use education funds to pay for classes through approved vendors. See a list of charter schools here: http://ochomeschooling.ning.com/page/charter-school
Local Public School Free. This is independent study through your local school, school district, or through the county department of education. These programs generally have your child use the same curriculum that is used in the schools. See some of these school programs here: http://ochomeschooling.ning.com/page/local-school
Private School Satellite Program (PSP) This is independent study through a private school. Some of these private schools provide curriculum and classes, others don't. All provide record-keeping. See a list of Private School Satellite Programs here: http://ochomeschooling.ning.com/page/private-school-satellite-1
Personally, I have always liked the freedom of the Private School Affidavit and this is how I homeschooled my kids all the way through.
This was just a quick run-down of your homeschooling options. Now that you have this information, it is likely you have even more questions now than you did before. Don’t worry, you’ll get it! Homeschooling is probably not what you thought it is, but it can be way better than you expected!
- Heather Martinson
Heather Martinson, Founder
Heather started Celebration Education in 2006. Students in grades K-12 take up to two days of classes each week at Celebration Education’s Learning Bottega in Santa Ana. There are less than ten students in every class. Celebration’s approach is fun and interactive learning at the speed of kids and their interests. Classes can be paid for with charter school educational funds.
PS: Heather welcomes families’ questions about homeschooling and Celebration Education. She may be reached by phone, text, or email.