Checklist: Getting a Homeschool Started
Taking charge of your children's education is a big responsibility. Parents like to know exactly what homeschooling entails before they jump in with both feet. The following information is a checklist to help you get started, it is not necessary to accomplish each of these suggestions before beginning your home school.
- Read books about homeschooling. (Suggested reading list)
- Talk to other homeschooling families about their experiences (curriculum choices, daily activities, successes and failures, etc.)
- Attend homeschool support group meetings.
- Attend homeschool conventions, workshops, and how-to classes.
- Come to a Clay-Platte Home Educators (CPHE) homeschool orientation.
- Join CPHE and receive the monthly newsletter, email and access to activities and classes.
Investigate the Legalities
This is not to be construed as legal advice
Each state has its own rules and regulations that affect homeschools. Fortunately, for Missourians, the state has favorable homeschooling laws. It is essential that homeschooling families determine exactly what their state requires.
- Read the summary of Missouri's state law (MO state law). It is important to obtain and understand Missouri's laws.
If you choose to homeschool a child who is currently enrolled in a public school, the following sample withdrawal letter may be helpful to you. Please be aware that you are not required by Missouri law to submit a withdrawal letter to your public school system. Sample Withdrawal Letter
Please note that in 1990, the law was modified to require parents who wish to remove five and six-year-old children from a public school setting to do so in writing. This is merely a notification, not a request of permission or to be construed as a registration.
Evaluate Your Family's Needs
Homeschooling allows the opportunity for the school to accommodate the family, rather than the family accommodating the school. To do this, families must take time to identify and analyze their specific characteristics and needs. Consider the following:
- Are the educating parents willing and able to spent the time necessary to take on the responsibility to educate the child?
- Will there be more than one student and grade level?
- What are the student's learning styles?
- What are the students' strengths and weaknesses?
- What resources are available?
- What is the family's budget for educational materials?
Select a Curriculum
Once your family's needs have been identified and analyzed, use them to guide you as you acquire curriculum. For example, families desiring a strong measure of structure should consider curricula offering pre-planned lessons and a well-defined course of study. Such families might even consider enrolling in a satellite school offering ongoing counseling and oversight. On the other hand, families desiring less structure might consider a unit study program or perhaps even developing their own curriculum from resources available at home and in the community. The purchase of curriculum is one of the most important homeschooling decisions your family will make so care should be taken to thoroughly investigate the options available.
- Consult curriculum and educational materials catalogs and homeschool curriculum guides (e.g., Mary Pride's Big Book of Home Learning, Cathy Duffy's Christian Home Educator's Curriculum Manual,The Elijah Co. Catalogue).
- Attend curriculum fairs and homeschool seminars.
- Most importantly, talk to homeschooling families using a particular curriculum for a first-hand evaluation.
Plan the Paperwork
Once your curriculum decision has been made, the next step is to put that curriculum into action.
- Obtain or create a workable plan book and log to keep track of student hours.
- Set goals for completion of school work.
- Keep current on records so you don't become bogged down or overwhelmed by having to update records.
- Missouri law requires a record of 1,000 hours, a lesson plan, and a portfolio of each student's progress.
- Understand that schedules, journals and lesson plans are tools, not masters. If your schedule isn't working out, change it. If an opportunity for a terrific field trip comes up which isn't in the lesson plan, find an eraser and fix the lesson plan. Make your schedule work for you.
Now that your homeschool program is ready, create and environment conducive to learning.
- Prepare a place in your home to homeschool, with good lighting, seating, ventilation, storage space, etc.
- Gather the necessary supplies to implement your homeschool program (paper, pencils, notebooks, art supplies, etc.)
- Realign your family's priorities. To be successful, homeschool must come first! (Curb phone calls, reduce other daytime activities, etc.)
- Allocate chores and other family responsibilities so that everyone pitches in.
- Maintain discipline for both parents and students.
- Establish a daily routine.
- Think about how you will allow free time to be spent.
In the hubbub over curriculum and lesson plans, take care not to lose sight of the social element.
- Subscribe to CPHE to stay informed on news and upcoming events.
- Consider teaming up with other homeschoolers in your area, for co-op classes, team teaching, group activities, field trips, etc.
- Take care not to over-commit to extracurricular activities.
- Don't isolate yourself from other homeschoolers. You'll need them, and they'll need you.
Points to Remember
- Be flexible. Don't get locked into doing things only one way, especially since that one way might not work out. If something is not working, don't be afraid to change it.
- As you go, you will find that each child learns in his or her own way. Gear your program towards them.
- Your family is unique, so your homeschool will also be unique. Don't worry if your homeschool doesn't look exactly like some other family's homeschool. Your family will need to make its own decisions and find its own solutions. In particular, don't feel as if your homeschool has to look like the local public school.
- Homeschooling is at least equivalent to a part-time job, and perhaps even a full-time position. So be prepared to sacrifice other activities on your schedule in order to have the time necessary to fulfill your homeschooling responsibilities.
- Homeschooling is not always easy. Firmly establish why you want to homeschool. That will help you get through the more difficult times. Being angry with a former teacher won't give you a good enough reason to succeed.
- Homeschooling provides a great opportunity for family members to spend quality time together. Take advantage of these times to strengthen your family ties.