Get started homeschooling

When you are a homeschooling mother it is very common to receive questions from interested future-homeschooling families about the practical aspects of homeschooling.

How do you select curriculum?
What did you choose?
What do your days look like?
How do you make sure you are doing enough?
How do you schedule it all?

For me, these answers came from asking questions and from hours and hours of research, first on the pros and cons of homeschooling, next on the legalities in the place we live, then on the types and methods of schooling, then on education as a whole, and eventually, once I had narrowed down some kind of a plan, on the actual details of our own home school– what books, lessons we would study, when, why, and how much.

You can’t plan your schooling experience without a vision, so a vision is the first place to start. You need an idea of what your purpose is.
Vision requires some information– for example, you will need to know what your educational philosophy is and how to mold your family’s schedule to meet with that goal. You will need to know how much time you have to give each day and what you would like those days to look like… who will do the majority of the teaching, when, and for what reason.

Is there a “right” and a “wrong” way to educate? I believe so, absolutely. Some of the resources that have tremendously helped me to understand that are:

The Bible.
The Encyclicals of the Church on parenting, family life and education.
Catholic Homeschooling, by Mary Kay Clark
The website of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy
The website of St Thomas Aquinas College
My husband, whose study of ancient greece and rome have formed our ideas about education.
Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series

Once I had immersed myself in those– and that’s not a necessary step, but certainly a step which helped me to develop a vision– I felt equipped to start making decisions about our homeschool. I researched the laws in my state and began to develop an idea of a method I wanted to use.
In our family, we selected Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophies, based on the classical method.

This narrowed down our choices of curriculum for each subject considerably (there is so much out there!) and helped us to select items which we found useful and which fit in our lifestyle and ideas.

At this point I realized that there were simply a ton of wonderful homeschool curriculum companies available out there, and that it was going to be almost impossible to chose just one.
I also realized that they were very expensive. Educating just ONE of my children, and I have several, was going to cost me about as much as an inexpensive private school. And we can’t do that.

So I set to work picking and choosing what I liked from several different sources, using ideas and curriculum from various places and tweaking it so that it worked for us and helped us to meet our goals without breaking the bank.
I checked with my husband at each step along the process. I organized a big picture vision, and then narrowed it down to a year, and then to a term, eventually a weekly schedule, and then to a daily schedule.

Since then, I’ve learned that there are ready-made resources out there to help you do exactly that, regardless of whether you are using the Charlotte Mason method or not. One of them is here:

Possibly the most helpful information I’ve gleaned is two-fold.
First, that in the early years, our job is to make learning accessible (to spread a feast before them, so to speak) but also to guide and direct them to develop good HABITS, the habits which will then become key in their academic development.
I’ve learned to emphasize, above all, hard work and hard prayer, anchoring our day in these two things.
I’ve also learned, especially in these early, formative years, to emphasize the core: Grammar, Arithmetic and Religion. Everything else will stem from these.

In order to do that, I selected strong reading, writing, and arithmetic programs, a strong catechetical program, and pared down the rest to interesting reading in what Charlotte Mason calls “living books.” For the early years, this really is all they need. Science is done in their endless hours outdoors on nature study, and history, geography, art, music, etc are picked up very purposefully, but very gently, via good literature and nonfiction that springs the subjects to life.

What about the period before kids are really ready to “start” but when they are definitely ready for something?
Charlotte Mason suggests spending the majority of this time on habit training and outdoor play. She suggested working on the very basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic… teaching them the alphabet song, counting by rote, and tracing shapes with their fingers and eventually a pencil. In no time they will be ready to hit the books hard, and you will have developed healthy habits in them that will spill into their academics later and invariably enrich their lives. Any mother can do these things– even a mother who isn’t planning on homeschooling, or isn’t sure if she will or not.

Because it’s that time of year– the time of year when homeschool moms are winding down the school year and thinking about how they are going to start their planning for the fall, I’m doing it too.
And looking back over the year, I can see where I’ve failed and where I’ve succeeded, which helps me prepare and plan for the year ahead.

It’s important to sit down with the children, too, and ask them how it went, what they liked, and what they want to do differently.
It’s certainly worth taking into consideration.

Do you have any tips and tricks for getting off to a successful start you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment with some ideas below.

Happy planning!

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