Sunday, July 4, 2010

How to Start Homeschooling


So you’ve finally made your decision to homeschool (you think) and now you are wondering what to do next.

Before I got started a year ago, una amiga called me up and said there was a gigantic homeschool convention going on a couple of hours away. Excited we swooped up the kids and jumped in the car. Two hours later, we entered the exhibit hall at the convention center.

Oy. Bad idea.

It is not wrong to attend a convention if you’re just starting out, but going only to the exhibit hall is ludicrous. First of all, you have no idea what you are going to need your first year, and second, the sheer number of products available will overwhelm you and leave you feeling panicked and confused. You will most likely waste a ridiculous amount of money, too.

So what should you do?


1. Attend a Workshop

Attending a convention can be a great thing, as long as you leave los niños with a sitter and attend one of the beginner workshops that most conferences offer. A good class will calm you down and give you the best information for starting out. You might even attend a few of the workshops to learn about some of the legal side to homeschooling (what are your state laws, do you have to register, etc.) and maybe even where to find support groups in your area.


2. Get a Curriculum

IF you are homeschooling for the first time and you have no background or formal training in teaching children your kid’s age, then I strongly recommend buying a curriculum. Find a good one that will guide you properly. Once you learn from it, you may decide not to purchase another curriculum. You may feel comfortable enough to branch out and put together your own with available materials. But starting this way will help you to get an idea of format and structure, and to learn what works best for your child.

However, for those of you beginning Preschool and Kindergarten, if you really do not want to waste your dinero on buying a curriculum, I will be talking about structuring your day and posting some examples of a typical daily lesson plan in the next few weeks.

When I started out, all my homeschooling mommy friends strongly encouraged me to buy Calvert’s homeschool curriculum simply because it gives you EVERYTHING you need to start teaching. The Kindergarten curriculum comes with two Lesson Manuals for a total of 160 daily lessons laid out in a thoughtful schedule divided by subject. As well as everything else you would need to teach (including art supplies, 30+ books, math manipulatives, workbooks, etc.) And the Calvert lessons are integrated so that they complement each other. For example, if you are studying the weather in science, then there will be weather-related stories in reading comprehension and maybe even math.

Unfortunately, they do not offer a bilingual curriculum. At the time, I could not find anyone who did. (I have just found a company that does, which I’ll discuss this week.) Some companies offered single lessons, but not a complete curriculum. If you are raising bilingual children, you can translate most – if not all – of the lessons, and substitute Spanish-language books that fit in with the topics. For example, you could read nursery rhymes, abecedarios, or books about colores in the appropriate lessons. This will take more work on your part and more money to buy the books, unless you have a great library nearby.

It is also expensive (I warned you!), however, you can find much cheaper used curricula that are in almost new condition on ebay, homeschool swap sites, from homeschooling friends, and used book sales that are at almost every homeschool convention.

I liked Calvert for the reasons I mention and the fact that it is accredited. But other reputable companies offer curricula as well. It is a matter of finding the one you like best, so do your homework!


3. Talk to Other Homeschoolers

The other homeschoolers in my area have been the best resource that I have found. They know what you are going through and can usually answer all of your questions. Si no, then they can point you in the right direction. They are also a great source of inspiration for creating your own lesson plans. But most importantly, they are the support system that you will need to continue to successfully homeschool your child.


4. Join a Homeschool Co-op or Organization

If you have a lot of homeschoolers in your area (and you may be surprised), then consider joining a co-op or other organization. Doing so will open up many opportunities for you, as these groups often receive special discounts to local and national events, products, and more. It may also give you access to community buildings – libraries, teacher resource rooms, etc. – and special classes like music, art, theater, dance, and sports.

Most organize some sort of field trip once a month, if not once a week, which provides your child with supervised, educational playtime.


Con mucho cariño…

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