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Thursday, March 19, 2009

How do you homeschool? (Where to start.)

This is a question I got again today. You'd think it would be easier to answer than it is.

It's a lot easier to say what we don't do.
We don't use a curriculum. We don't make lesson plans. We don't do unit studies. We don't follow any one book or method. We're not radical unschoolers, nor classical homeschoolers. We don't follow Charlotte Manson, Montessori, or Waldorf methods. Yet we utilize bits and pieces from all of these and other sources.

It's easiest to say we're "eclectic homeschoolers", which can mean anything. It's kinda like saying "agnostic" when talking about religion, or "liberal arts" when asked for a major in college. It tells you more about what we don't do than what we do do. It sounds like maybe we haven't made up our minds, eh? Yet, we have. We've made up our minds to follow our own path. We've taken it upon ourselves to make that path. Sometimes it's right on the same path as others, or at least paraells other paths, but other times we're on our own. Sometimes it feels like we need a machete to find our way.

None of this helps a newbie wanting to know where to start though, does it? So here's my spiel for folks wanting to start, but not knowing where.

I recommend you educatate yourself before you worry about what curriculum to buy or what model to follow. As a parent you are in a unique position to know your child(ren) and family best. This is also a good time to look for local homeschooling groups for both support and fun. Don't be afraid to ask about others' homeschooling journies. Most of us remember being newbies and are only too happy to share our experience. By doing some research and meeting other homeschooling families, you'll start to get a feel for the great variety of options out there and what will work for your situation.

If you've pulled your child from school then you may need to take some time to "deschool". I haven't had much experience with this myself, since the only school we did with the kids was one year of part-time preschool with my oldest. What I have seen with others, is that kids coming out of school have different issues than those who've always been homeschooled. I would recommend treating this time as an enriched summer vacation. Take the pressure off your kid(s). While you learn more about homeschooling be sure to also spend some one-on-one time with your child. While going to the library, pool, parks, natural areas, local museums and galleries, watching movies, reading together, etc... you will strengthen your bonds and learn about each other. When this deschooling period has passes (and don't rush it) you can work with your child to determine what path (or lack there of :-) ) you want to take together.

Here are some resources that have influenced my approach to homeschooling
Home Education Magazine
Apple Stars (Collaborative Learning and right brained learning blog)
The writings of John Holt
The writings of Susan Wise Bauer
The writings of Maria Montessori
The Charlotte Mason method
The Waldorf method

A Thomas Jefferson Education
The Well Trained Mind
Dumbing Us Down
Whole Child Whole Parent
Everyday Blessings
Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World

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