Monday, June 16, 2008

Homeschooling Basics

I'm always asked about homeschooling. So many people are interested. A few years back I wrote a paper called "Homeschool Basics" to give out if someone needed information. Now, I am including all of this information on my blog. I will also be posting some information for each subject, how we do homeschool, and some links that I've collected that have been very helpful. I've answered a few common questions here. Of course, this will vary a bit depending on what your state's laws are. If your state doesn't have any laws-awesome! But, if you must test your children, then make sure you are following the information they will need to know for the tests. If you don't have to test, or accountability, you are free to decide what I want to cover and when I want to cover it.

Check out HSLDA to find out the homeschool laws for your state.

**Materials to use besides prepared curriculum...........

There is a wealth of information out there that is not in the form of a textbook. Here are some ways that I have found material for use in my homeschool.

-The Library. There are numerous resources there from literature to history to biographies to math to science experiment books. The "book list" books mentioned later are a great tool. Many of the books listed in these books can be found in the library. Spend some time just browsing the shelves in the children’s section and jotting down books that look interesting to you. I have taken a spiral notebook and listed books with authors and call numbers, and a simple review, so that I can refer to these books later when planning my school year. (I do this for all of the books I’ve come across whether or not they are in the library.) Your personal list will accumulate over time and will be a very handy reference tool.

-Friends. Ask if you can borrow a resource that they are not using at the moment.

-The Internet. You can find almost anything on the internet. Generally if you need information on say birds, for instance, you can type "birds" into your search engine and get tons of links. We came a cross a great link for Paul Revere that has virtual and printable activities, plus Revolutionary War songs you can listen to online. One of my favorite ways to find materials is to type "free educational materials" or "free stuff for teachers or educators" into the search engine. You’ll be lead to tons of links for materials at no cost. Some of these are government agencies that have information just waiting for parents and educators to take advantage of. Some are links to sites that are filled with worksheets, or activity pages. I’ve gotten everything from NASA posters to lessons on George Washington to an entire Sesame Street safety unit from FEMA. Just pick out the things that look interesting to you. It will take some time to search the sites, but I feel it is well worth it.

-Free Stuff. Besides getting stuff from the internet, I have been given "leftovers" many times by friends. The stuff they’ve had sitting around for years, stuff they didn’t use, stuff that may not seem useful. I have taken 15 year old textbooks and (don’t cringe) cut them up and made posters from them. Is anyone really ever going to read a 15 year old textbook again? No, but my children love looking at the posters I have made from them. You may come across other things at little or no cost- magazines, recipes, crafts, poetry, or art prints from catalogs.

-Book fairs, flea markets, yard sales, discount tables, and book sales. After you learn your personal style of homeschooling, you will learn what to keep an eye out for. You can come across some real finds at these places.

-The Book Store or Catalogs. There will be some materials that you will want to purchase. For instance, my two older children enjoyed learning to read using "Bob Books", so I decided to invest in all five boxed sets. Also, you will want to purchase some "tools for yourself" in addition to some good books, games and other materials you find invaluable to your homeschool.

**What about having my child tested?

Legally, it depends on which accountability there is for your state. If your state doesn't require accountability then you can decide whether or not you would like to test. Typically you can order an Iowa Basics Skills test, or something similar and administer yourself, or maybe with your homeschool group. In this case the results are solely for your information and benefit.

**How will I know that my child is learning everything he needs to know?

Don’t worry. You will have some gaps in homeschool. You cannot cover everything about every subject, but neither does public school. But, again, you get to decide what areas are important to you. If you still need piece of mind, try these resources.

-the scope and sequence from the school board. You can call your local school district and usually they will send you a copy of their scope and sequence for a particular grade.

-What Every First Grader Needs To Know" by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. (An overall account of what children should cover in a particular grade level. Books go from K-6th grade

World Book (also gives scope and sequence)

**How do I keep records?

How you keep records will depend on what your accountability requires if you have one. Otherwise, if you use prepared curriculum just keep the used workbooks and make sure you write the date on the page. If you don’t use a prepared curriculum, you can just use a simple spiral notebook and jot down what was accomplished on what day. If you have a time/days accountability you may want to jot down the amount of time spent on a subject as well. This will be proof of days, hours and subjects covered. For instance, if you spend 30 minutes making a recipe from a typical pilgrim meal, and your child measured out all the ingredients, then just jot that down in your spiral notebook, with a notation "math, history (30m)". Do this for all educational activities that your child does, whether watching a spider spin a web or reading a book together. This notebook will be the record book. Or, if you prefer writing down your plans beforehand, just jot down the time that was spent on the subject afterward. You could also jot down how your child is doing every so often in a particular subject in order to make writing your progress reports a little easier. An idea for the child’s portfolio would be to set aside one piece of work each week to put in a special folder just for that particular year’s portfolio. Your accountability group will tell you exactly what you need to send them for their records.

**How long should I take to homeschool?

Unless you have an accountability that has a time of day requirement, that is totally up to you.

**How do I choose curriculum?

This again will depend on your accountability. If you don't have restrictions on subjects, then you are free to choose what you want to cover. A good idea is to go to a Christian book store or regular book store and browse through what they have. Ask friends what they use, if they like it and why. Check out my homeschool methods post to get an idea of the direction you may want to take. Also, you may want to try writing your own with my personal guide from Courtneylane Home Learning Tools!

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