We are living in unusual times. Face masks, sheltering in place, social distancing, slowing down and staying home. More families are contemplating homeschooling than ever before, either due to the CDC’s new recommendations for schools or simply because they’ve found that the slow schedule and family time has been a beautiful result of the quarantine. Whether you were always interested in home education or if you find yourself unexpectedly exploring alternative schooling options, I wanted to offer a few resources to help you get started.
I was homeschooled kindergarten through 12th grade, back in the dark ages when homeschooling was not common. I have also homeschooled my own children for the last five years, since my oldest started kindergarten. I am by no means an expert, but sometimes just hearing from someone who has gone ahead can provide guidance. I hope these resources are helpful.
There are as many ways to homeschool as there are ways to raise children. Find the freedom to unashamedly do what works for you. That being said, here are a few steps I would recommend for getting started and a few resources to help you along your way.
First, explore your state’s regulation and requirements
If you’re concerned about state regulations and requirements check out the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. They fight for homeschooler’s freedoms across the country, provide articles and practical steps on how to get started, and lay out the requirements to legally homeschool in Texas (spoiler: there are no record keeping requirements and no check-ins by the state, so it’s a great place to homeschool)! The Texas Homeschool Coalition is also a great resource for any questions you might have about home education in Texas.
Second, find a friend who has gone before you
Homeschool mamas are some of the most resourceful, helpful women I know. Those who are homeschooling have most likely researched, read and tried out various methods and a smattering of curriculum. Find a mama who is a little further down the road than you and who is doing school in a way that looks lovely to you. Ask questions. Try out what she recommends. My biggest advice is find a community. Don’t try to do it alone.
Third, figure out which homeschool method fits your teaching style and your children’s learning style
One of the most helpful things you can do before you look at curriculum, books and programs is to learn a little bit about homeschool methods. Figuring out if you prefer to read books for each subject, do hands on activities and field trips, follow a more traditional textbook method or maintain the rigor of the classics will help you narrow down curriculum options greatly.
There are five main methods of homeschooling:
- Charlotte Mason
- Unit Studies
- Unschooling (also called Interest-led Learning)
Pam Barnhill has a helpful blog post about the different homeschool methods. She is also a fabulous resource for homeschool organization and morning time plans, but stick with figuring out your homeschool method before researching morning time or loop planning.
After those three steps, just get started. Enjoy your children. Read books. Explore nature. Go to museums (when they open again). Enjoy being together and learning together. I will list more resources below for further reading and I’m always available for questions!
General Homeschool Resources
One of the best books I have read on homeschooling is “The Brave Learner” by Julie Bogart. It was one of the most unique and encouraging books on parenting and homeschooling I’ve read in a long time. She gives such a refreshing and honest perspective on homeschooling, but also hands you so many practical tools to keep your homeschooling engaging and magical.
If you are skeptical about homeschooling, or worried that public school alternatives will not prepare your children for higher education and the “real world,” read “Dumbing Us Down” by John Taylor Gatto. He taught in New York public schools for over 30 years and provides a shocking read on the reality of compulsory education in America. Be forewarned that this is not an easy read and gives an extremely frank and honest look at school. This book helps shatter the mindset that we as a society need “expert” teachers to educate our children.
If you are overwhelmed or need some perspective on life as a homeschool mom, look no further than Sarah Mackenzie. She has an invaluable podcast called “Read Aloud Revival” and her book “Teaching From Rest” should be required reading for any homeschool parent. She’ll help you balance life, teaching and mother and remind you of what is important and you raise and educate your children.
If you would like practical resources for what a homeschool day can look like, or how to organize your time, or how to school children in multiple grades, I would highly recommend “Morning Time” by Cindy Rollins and “Better Together” by Pam Barnhill. Both are practical, insightful and chock full of ideas and resources to get you going.
Conventions and Online Resources
Great Homeschool Conventions – This is a convention I attend every spring in Forth Worth. This is a good convention for learning about specific curriculum, homeschool methods and practical tips. My favorite speakers include Andrew Pudewa, Sarah Mackenzie, Pam Barnhill and Rachel Jankovic. Start with those, then explore by topics that interest you.
Homebound Online Conference – This was a FREE online convention put on by Julie Bogart and Susan Wise Bauer. Start with the talks by those two wise women.
Wild & Free Conference – I’ve attended these conferences since 2015. They are less about curriculum and method and more about encouragement, mother culture and empowering and reminding you that you are the best teacher for your children. You can subscribe to their monthly bundles and have access to articles, podcasts and previous conferences.
Charlotte Mason Resources
The Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling involves reading rich, living books with your children, exploring nature and providing them with a gentle education and childhood. Living books, as opposed to textbooks, are usually written by one person with a passion for a subject and is usually written in story form, making it much more engaging and captivating than a textbook. “For the Children’s Sake” by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay is a great starting point on the Charlotte Mason education. I appreciated this book’s attitude towards children, the respectful parenting approach and the philosophy of education.
Carole Joy Seid is a veteran homeschool mom and speaker on the Charlotte Mason method. Her conferences are also online this year and would be a valuable resource to anyone wanting to give their children a literature-rich education. The podcasts listed in the sidebar of her website would be a worthwhile listen.
Classical Education Resources
If a language and history-intense classical education is more your bent, Susan Wise Bauer has written an exhaustive handbook on classical education. “The Well-Trained Mind” is a thorough introduction to classical education, but then it also provides a year-by-year curriculum guide from kindergarten through high school. Also, if creating a classical education for your children is overwhelming, please check out Classical Conversations. It is a classical education co-op that meets once a week and is very popular across the United States. We have participated in a Classical Conversations group for six years. It is our community and also a great backbone for our curriculum.
Unit Studies Resources
A unit study based education groups academics by topic, and covers multiple subjects while studying that one interest. For example, you might cover science while studying sheep, but also write a paper about your field trip to a local farm and end by calculating the cost of raising sheep to the price of selling wool. It’s a wonderful, hands on, book-centric education. Five in a Row and My Father’s World are popular unit study curriculums.
School in a Box Resources
Sometimes the best thing to do when starting to homeschool is to just start. And the easiest way is often to find a curriculum that comes with everything you need to do school at home. Perhaps you like the structure of traditional school and you and your kids would thrive continuing that schedule at home. If so, curriculums like Bob Jones and Abeka, which provide everything you need for every subject and grade, might be helpful to research.
Interest-Led Learning Resources
Perhaps you and your children learn best when pursuing your own interests. Maybe you need a semester or a year of deschooling, a time to thaw out from the pressures of compulsory education to fall in love with learning again. One of the best books I’ve read on interest-led learning was “Project Based Learning” by Lori Pickert. It was a great guide for observing all your children are learning as they read and play and also provided a framework for guiding your children to explore their interests deeper through reading, writing and developing projects. John Holt is also an author you might find encouraging.
The wisest advice I ever received as I started to homeschool was, slow down, don’t worry about “curriculum” or subjects or making homeschool look like traditional school. Enjoy your children, for your relationship with them is worth far more than comprehensive academics.
Create a rhythm that works for your family, find a math curriculum that excites both you and your student, let books take you around the world and to different time periods, get outside into nature and call it science. Allow yourself time simply to figure out how to learn and live together. Your children are people too, they want to learn, it may not be what you think they should learn, but take the time to follow their interests and you might just be surprised at the “subjects” they cover along the way.