I am new to homeschooling, and have recently gone through the process of adjusting after having only experienced public schools. I am a planner and inquirer, so I took a couple months to thoroughly research and network before I took the plunge. With the frequent moves and unpredictable scheduling needs of military life, homeschooling can be a great option for any age military kid. The benefits of homeschooling are numerous, like more time together as a family, flexibility in day-to-day scheduling, personalized curriculum, and academic consistency through moves and other changes in family life.
Now that I have jumped into this homeschool life, these are five things I think every new homeschooler should know:
- Know your “why.”
This should be the first step in your transition to homeschooling. Spend some time analyzing your reasons for considering homeschool and what you are hoping to gain from taking on the homeschool lifestyle. Everyone has a different set of priorities that may have led them to consider homeschool for their child, but understanding your “why” may help you to decide if homeschool is the right choice for you child, for you, and what curriculum and/or activities you choose to include.
- Be aware of legal responsibilities for homeschooling where you live, and also where you might move.
Every state varies with laws regarding homeschooling. Many states require proof of education (at least a high school diploma) of the teaching parent. Some states require documentation of school days and hours for a minimum year-end total. Some states require documented results from standardized testing. Still others require letters of intent to homeschool as well as a description of the intended curriculum. If you are located overseas, there may be additional considerations. For example, in Germany, even though no certain state’s laws must be followed, the homeschoolers must be covered under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Homeschooling is illegal in Germany but Americans are exempt because of the SOFA. Take time to familiarize yourself with laws and responsibilities for the state in which you currently reside, as well as where you might possibly move.
- What do you want your homeschool curriculum to look like?
The homeschool curriculum options are abundant and overwhelming. Homeschooling has become increasingly popular over recent decades and the resources available have increased as well. Think back to your reasons for homeschooling and use that to create a vision of how you would like to teach. Does your child enjoy setting their own pace for progression, or being part of a group? Do you envision a lot of hands-on time together with your child, or do you want a curriculum that can run itself? Do you wish to follow a religious-based or secular theme?
Once you have a vision in mind, seek out a curriculum that meets your needs or piece together a curriculum that meets the needs of various subjects. Based on the requirements of your state, you may have to show proof of curriculum that covers certain subjects. There are many ways to find the curriculum that works for you. You can:
- Ask a friend for recommendations (but remember what works for them might not work for you)
- Buy a complete online curriculum
- Join a co-op or group and follow their plan
- Read curriculum reviews (in print from the library or online) to find the best fit for all-in-one curricula or individual subjects
- Compile a collection of educational bits and pieces (books, YouTube videos, downloaded worksheets, and unit studies, etc.)
Your homeschool can be whatever you want it to be as long as it meets the requirements of your state and meets the needs of your child. Some curriculum planning takes less time than others, (think complete online curriculum versus collection of educational bits) but all can be effective with the right planning.
- Resources to utilize.
Resources for homeschooling can be found nearly everywhere. One of the first places to check is your local library. Many libraries offer online learning tools for reading, languages, and research. Many libraries even offer homeschool groups and special events. Of course, your library also offers its biggest asset: books, books, and more books. Don’t forget to utilize the reservation system. If your library might not have a specific book or learning tool, you can reserve what you need from a partnering library. With the proper planning, an entire homeschool curriculum could be provided using library books alone.
The internet is filled with resources for homeschoolers. Teachers Pay Teachers, Homeschool Giveaways & Freebies, and I am Homeschool offer a wealth of curriculum tools, worksheets, unit studies, and tests for little to no cost. Youtube is full of educational videos for nearly every subject. Create a playlist for your child with videos by Khan Academy, PBS, Homeschool Pop, and more.
For military families, the base is also an excellent source for opportunities for your homeschool child. Sports and instructional classes are usually available through Child and Youth Services or Force Support Squadrons. At overseas bases with Department of Defense Dependents Schools, it is also possible to utilize special classes while you homeschool the rest. For example, I homeschool my first grader and bring him to mainstream school for special subjects once a day. This enables us to include Art, Music, Spanish, German, and PE into our curriculum without that pressure on me.
Having support as a new homeschooler is vital. Whether that support comes from your spouse, friends, or an organized group, it is so important to be encouraged and empowered. Being part of a group can be a great way to feel supported and continue to develop yourself as a teacher. Homeschool groups are available online via social media, as well as in person in the form of co-ops and activity groups. I have also found homeschool-related podcasts to be a great source of encouragement in the form of new ideas and a deeper understanding of the homeschool world.
Homeschooling is an exciting and creative adventure that can be a precious time for any family. If you are considering this option for your child’s education, take your time to make your decisions and trust that you know what is best for your child.
What things would you tell a new homeschooler before they start their adventure? Share your tips in a comment!
Posted by Lisa Vaira, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse