Watch "You CAN Homeschool" on video
OR listen to "You CAN Homeschool" on audio
listen to the audio. In the audio (which only takes 12 minutes), the confident voices of three homeschool moms—Kelly L, Judy W and Jill E—encourage you as you consider the exciting ... and sometimes scary idea of homeschooling.
OR read "You CAN Homeschool" (just keep scrolling down!)
Think back to your first pregnancy. What did you feel? Were you excited, nervous, overwhelmed?
Though women have been bearing children since Eve's time, you had never had a child. If you're like me, it was probably both a thrilling and scary prospect.
You might be surprised to know that if you can give birth (or survive the adoption process) and raise a little one, you can certainly homeschool, too.
Don't believe me? Read on
Part 1: What pregnancy and homeschooling have in common
OK, let's go back to the days of your first pregnancy.
You didn't understand everything happening in your body. The timing might not have seemed right. Your finances may have looked insufficient.
You were probably uncertain about parenthood and whether you were even ready for children.
As so many questions arose...
You read books, attended prenatal and childbirth classes, asked your mom and friends questions. You maybe even chatted with young moms at the grocery store!
You watched others with children and imagined how you would (and wouldn't!) raise your own child.
You were uncertain, BUT...
You managed to give birth. You fed and nurtured your baby. You taught him to smile and respond to others.
You taught him to walk and talk. You taught him how to dress himself and navigate all those pesky buttons, zippers, snaps and shoes.
And perhaps you've already taught your child to recognize colors and letters.
Each new stage brings new challenges ... and opportunities!
Life is full of stages. At each new "act" we feel quite inadequate to handle the part. But after some guidance and practice we become more comfortable. We're even able to help others as they begin that same stage (have you ever answered a question for a young mom-to-be?).
You're facing a new stage now as your child either approaches school age or as you listen to that nagging feeling that your child's school situation isn't a good one.
Whatever your circumstance, the idea of homeschooling has popped up. And with it, lots of doubts may have surfaced too.
My question for you is: "Why should academics be any different from what you've already taught your child?"
Sure, our generation primarily attended school in a classroom setting, so it seems like we're stepping way outside of the norm to even think about homeschooling.
But look at it this way: Who (other than God) cares for your child more than you?
Perhaps you aren't confident you know all the subjects. Rest assured: you can teach your children successfully even while you learn alongside them.
Perhaps you think homeschooling requires more education than you have. But did you need educational qualifications to teach your child to walk and dress himself?
You CAN do this!
Seek answers to your questions. Gather advice. Read how others are homeschooling. Explore, probe, observe.
Then take your first steps and see where they lead.
Part 2: Find some homeschool help
No need for Lone Rangers here...
So do you have to go this alone?
Not by a long shot.
Think back about pregnancy again. Did you ask questions? Did you read books? Did you look for those who had survived childbirth before you?
Sure you did. You can do the same for homeschooling.
Think back to those Lamaze classes. Guess what? Homeschool versions of those very classes are available.
They're called "Local Homeschool Support Groups." Most state homeschool organizations (yes, those exist too!) have multiple local groups that meet on a regular basis.
Just Google [name of your state] homeschool support group and you're sure to find a comprehensive list of groups in your area.
So look one up in your area, gather your courage, and go.
Look for the gray hair
Expect to meet lots of welcoming, experienced homeschool moms. I suggest you keep your eye out for someone who's beginning to show a bit of gray in her hair.
Step forward and introduce yourself. Ask her how long she's homeschooled. If that gray hair is any indication, you'll find she has lots to offer. Pick her brain, ask for ideas, and if what she says sounds good, plan on copying what's worked for her.
Flatter her by asking if she would mentor you in your homeschool journey. Chances are, she asked someone those very same questions when she began homeschooling. She'll probably be happy to share what she's learned along the way.
Remember, homeschooling moms like the ones you'll meet at the support group are teachers and mentors at heart.
Ah yes, the Convention
Another phenomenal resource for getting started is a State Homeschool Convention.
Every year in the spring and summer, most states hold statewide homeschool events. You'll find hundreds of curriculum vendors, top-notch workshop speakers, and hundreds—maybe even thousands—of current and prospective homeschoolers just like you.
What a great way to research and gain support in one exciting weekend! You'll be able to check out curriculum and find special support in those subjects in which you feel a little bit less than capable.
You can sit in as speakers explain the hows and whys of home education.
But best of all, you can meet and greet many homeschoolers who have "been there, done that" many years before you.
Bring on the books
Are there books to help you homeschool? You betcha!
Make a list of things about homeschooling that concern you and start looking for books on the subject. Be sure to browse the books at your homeschool convention.
Dr. Beechick's slim book is jam-packed with practical advice and down-to-earth help. She'll explain all you need to confidently begin teaching your young children reading, writing and arithmetic.
I love her clever suggestions to weave learning into your everyday activities—like teaching math by matching socks and beginning to read by sounding out letters on road signs.
The other book, The Way They Learn, is a fascinating look at how we learn and how we can use that information to understand and teach our children better. Mrs. Tobias brings her sense of humor to the fore as she shares the differences between how our children learn best and how we teach best. Whatever your teaching style and your child's learning style, she gives great suggestions regarding how to successfully mesh the two together.
Both titles have been invaluable to many homeschooling moms as they started teaching their children. I believe you'll find them to be a great resource as well. Besides online, through the links I provided above, you can find both books at a local book retailer.
The best legal websites in town
On their sites, you'll find homeschool regulations and organizations in your state and lots of relevant statistics and information about homeschooling.
With so many quality homeschool resources, you'll never have to go it alone!
Part 3: Getting started (at the front of the book, that is)
Your home: the perfect learning environment
Remember—you've already taught your children from birth. And you certainly didn't need class time to do it.
You very naturally, during the day, took advantage of your children's interests and abilities and their insatiable desire to learn. You didn't set aside two hours a day to teach walking, talking and feeding oneself!
Homeschooling is a lot like that. With an environment for learning, you can use teachable moments to educate your children naturally. Read great literature, let them help you with chores, and they'll learn right alongside of you.
Hey, even a trip to the grocery store can be educational. Look for foods that all start with the same letter sound. Bread, bananas, butter ...
Practice math skills with food prices. Practice making polite conversation with the clerk at the checkout.
Okay, let's all take our first step ... right now!
As your children mature, you can add more formal lessons in math, science, reading and writing. But YOU have the advantage that you can take advantage of teachable moments, whenever they arise.
And when you teach one-on-one, you don't need classroom management skills. Education at home can be custom-tailored for your unique children.
I mean, can you imagine lining up 20 twelve-month-old children and trying to get them to take their first step at the same time? That's ridiculous! Some wouldn't be ready and some would already be running around the room.
But you can teach one child at a time to walk, no problem.
The same is true of Homeschooling.
When they learn at home, your children get their own personal tutor. Even classroom teachers know one-on-one tutoring is typically the best solution when children struggle to learn. Homeschool provides the best student/teacher ratio around.
Let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)
Many parents have younger children but are afraid to teach even their young students because they see high school looming ahead. It feels like something they could never do.
This is a lot like a story that Jill E—a very experienced homeschool mom and curriculum consultant—tells about herself.
When she was little, Jill would head off to her first day of school each year with a brand new dress, shiny new shoes and a big smile. And every year she'd come home crying.
Her mom would ask (as I'm sure you've done more than once), "What's the matter, honey? Why are you crying?"
Jill would cry, "I can't do it! It's too hard! The books are all too hard!"
And her mom would ask, "Well, are you looking at the back of the book again?"
"Yeah, it's just too hard."
"But Jill, how does the front of the book look?"
"Oh, that looks like I can do it."
And Jill's mom would wisely reply, "Don't worry about the back of the book, Jill. Just start at the beginning. By the time you get to the back, you'll be able to do it."
That's pretty solid advice for homeschooling too. Don't look at the end before you look at the beginning.
And when you do get toward the end, know that you don't have to teach classes like Calculus, Chemistry and other advanced subjects alone (or at all!).
There are co-ops and online classes. You can find outstanding curriculum written specifically to help high school students learn independently while mom or dad acts as more of a coach than a teacher. Community colleges can help advanced students with anything you feel is beyond your expertise.
So, would I stand on the shoulders ... of anyone?
Homeschooling is a legal and legitimate form of education. Many of our nation's founding fathers and many household names were homeschooled. (Ever heard of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Claude Monet, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony, C. S. Lewis, Ansel Adams, Michelle Kwan, Tim Tebow and the Jonas Brothers? They were all homeschooled for a year or more.)
Homeschooling is a time-honored method that produces great results.
Study after study has consistently shown that homeschooled students score significantly higher on standardized achievement tests than do their public schooled peers.
Though the accompanying "You CAN Homeschool" podcast cites an older study, the Home School Legal Defense Association has released a new extensive examination of homeschoolers' academic performance. According to the 2007 study featured in the Homeschool Progress Report 2009: Academic Achievement and Demographics, homeschooled students on average scored 34-39 percentile points higher than the national average on standardized tests. Click here for the full report, or check out Brian D. Ray's Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling (2005) to see many more studies.
The "homeschool S-word"
A lot of prospective homeschoolers worry about socialization.
And indeed, you might catch flack from others who suggest your kids need to be in school in order to be properly socialized.
But homeschooled children receive many unique opportunities to grow and interact with children and adults of all ages. Instead of spending the better part of each day in a pressure-laden environment of same-age peers, homeschooled children spend most of their time interacting in more natural settings. And studies find that homeschooled students are typically involved in many activities outside the home such as sports, music, church activities, theater, homeschool groups and more.
And rest assured: the vast majority of homeschool students become well-adjusted adults who are productive, pleasant, contributing members of society.
In 2003, Dr. Brian Ray conducted an extensive survey of adults who had been educated at home. He reported its results, including detailed findings and statistics, in his 2004 book Home Educated and Now Adults: Their community and civic involvement, views about homeschooling, and other traits. But here are just a few interesting results:
- Compared to national statistics of US adults, home educated adults were far more likely to be involved in ongoing community service, be active in the political process and be members of organizations such as a church or synagogue, community group or professional organization.
- Compared to the general population, home educated adults were much more likely to be "very satisfied" with their work and over twice as likely to be "pretty well satisfied" with their family's financial situation.
- Home educated adults were over twice as likely to report being "very happy" in life.
And isn't that the point? To raise educated, happy, well-adjusted, conscientious adults?
So hear this encouragement: if you homeschool, you won't be alone. Many, many families have successfully gone before you. Moms just like you, with no special credentials or training, have homeschooled with excellence for years. Many are doing a great job homeschooling right now. You know your children best. You can be their teacher!
Homeschooling works, and you can do it.
Just take that first step.
Want to learn more? Click here to discover 7 Reasons Families Love Homeschooling.
Not sure you can homeschool? Listen to this encouraging message!