Monday, August 16, 2010

So, You're Thinking About HomeSchooling?

There are some things a family has to do in order to homeschool.  They have to know their state's regulations, they need to inform a district, they probably need to report progress and grades periodically.  Then, of course, there is an amazing variety of choices.  A family can arrange for a remote school to prepare a curriculum for them, or they can take classes over the internet or by video.  They can scour the internet and put together their own school year piece by piece.  A family can unschool eclectically, or use a pre set program religiously.  There are secular, Christian, and public school K-12 programs.  For me, these were the easy decisions.  What I had to conquer was self doubt.

This is only our second year homeschooling.  Before they were even born, I had (only half jokingly) told my husband that I would homeschool our boys; then life happened.  Having children with special needs also means a lot of specialists.  To help with school we have had physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, special educators, aides and social skills classes.  We've had evaluations, interventions, tests, reward systems, weighted items, therapeutic devices and many, many suggestions.

As a mother, I wanted what was best for my children.  I understood that all of these well trained people were trying to help them.  I also knew that it wasn't working.  By the third grade, I had some very clear revelations.  My children learned best in our home - without distractions, sensory bombardment, and constant transitions.  Their academics were becoming advanced in comparison to their classmates, but their maturity and coping skills were lagging behind.  I also noticed that interactions in the classroom situation were far more difficult than practicing social skills in real life.  Against the advice of the experts, and even some of the people closest to me, I made the decision to homeschool.

I'm not going to lie.  I was terrified.  I had done a lot of research, and I felt like I knew what to do, but could I really handle this?  The answer was yes.  Not only did we do it, but it was a wonderful first year for all of us.  We were able to cover all of the required material, and the boys were also able to take the subjects they loved and go as far as they wanted to with them.  They could bring home piles of books and documentaries about history and science and pour over them.  They were able to write stories and draw pictures and find ways of expressing themselves without constant interruptions and transitions.  We learned math in a new way that helped my visual learners to see concepts and to touch them.

I might not have a college degree in teaching, but I know my children better than anyone else on this planet. As I prepared for our second year, I realized that every bit of doubt was gone.  This is truly what is best for our family, and we CAN do it.   (quite well, thank you!)

Here's what I would suggest to anyone ready to begin their own homeschool journey.   If you have no real life cheerleaders, find some support online.  There is a huge community of homeschooling families, and there are sure to be some that are just like yours.  Next, spend some time on the internet doing research.  There is a whole new language to learn.  Some terms seem intimidating, like IHIP.   Then, you'll learn it's only an abbreviation for what you plan to study that year.   You might see a post refer to the HSLDA which is a legal resource.  Lapbook, Unit Study, Boxed Cirriculum, Unschool, Co-Op, etc.  - new words, slight confusion, but it will all come together, and if you don't know,  ASK!   Homeschool families love helping each other!  There can be some differences in philosophy, but overall, you will find that it's a very welcoming community, and not very many of its members are out to eat their young.