Getting Started with Homeschooling — Discovering Your Method

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Today, my friend, Kristi is guest-posting. You can find her blogging at — The Potter’s Hand Academy.
This time of year is the traditional time (at least, I’ve found), where people start flooding message boards, Facebook, Twitter, and their homeschooling friends with questions. The questions and reasons are varied, but they all have one common denominator: Where do I start?

Here is my recommendation  to every first time homeschooler, whether your child is 2 or you’re pulling out your high schooler (of course, this is not a complete list of all you’ll need to do to homeschool, but I feel this is the absolute foundation).

The first thing, the VERY first thing you need to do, is determine your methodology (or methodologies). The method or philosophy you use to homeschool will determine so much–namely, your curriculum. If you’ve decided that you want to be 100% delight directed, a Classical curriculum might not work so well for you. If you want to do lots and lots of unit studies or you want to follow the Charlotte Mason methods, you can really sort out pretty quickly textbooks, and that shrinks your “Curriculum to Research to Death” list pretty quickly.

So, how do you determine your philosophy? You can start by setting down your goals. What are they? For our family, we decided that we wanted a method that was Biblical, but also exposed our children to lots of different ideas and world religions. We feel that’s very important. We also wanted something rigorous, that would prepare them well if God called them to college. It had to have lots of great literature (mostly for Mom… I’m a reader), and had to teach them how to communicate well, and how to form their own ideas, opinions, and thoughts, without simply parroting ours or the author’s. It also must follow their individual stages of development, and not push them into another one prematurely, just because chronologically, they’re there. 

A lot of that is simply how we approach our lifestyle of learning, but some of it is definitely method-based. Your goals would (and should!) be different. Your family isn’t mine, and they shouldn’t look the same. Grab your spouse, some tea/coffee/wine/chocolate (you’ll need it), and start with prayer. Then, list out your goals one at a time, with much discussion. This would be a great parent-getaway-weekend project.

Now that you have your goals, it’s time to research. There are amazing books out there to help explain the different methods. Please remember–everyone thinks the one they use is the BEST. Of course we do, if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be using it for our children!! Because it’s the best for me, or for Super Homeschool Convention Speaker, doesn’t mean it will be the best for you. So, do your own research. Here are some great places to get you started:

The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers (a public domain speech, free to read online)
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh Bortins
The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer  

Charlotte Mason
Simply Charlotte Mason (a website devoted to homeschooling using Charlotte Mason philosophies) Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series (6 volumes, only $0.99 on Kindle! You can also find them in many libraries or used book stores.)

Hebraic The Heart of Wisdom Approach by Robin Sampson

Waldorf  Waldorf Homeschoolers (a website devoted to homeschooling with the Waldorf philosophies)

Unschooling Pretty much anything by John Holt. Check out Teach Your Own Children or the Growing Without Schooling website.

Montessori The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori  

There are plenty more, this list is by no means exhaustive.

Blogs are another great place to research and see how things work for other families. Go to conventions, if you can, and talk to people who are actually using the various methods. Also, realize that many of these methods overlap. In our case, we are dedicated to Classical education, but we prefer to use living books, a la Charlotte Mason, to textbooks. We also learn history together, and mix our literature and, in some cases, our writing into it. A pseudo-unit study. I love some aspects of Waldorf and Montessori, so we toss some of that in. And, I’m all about technology, we we’ve got lots of online learning going on, too. But, in all of that, we go back to our Goals as Classical educators, and work from there, out.

Once you pick your main method, the process really does become easier. You have a frame to work within. Some flexibility is required here. You might start off loving Charlotte Mason’s philosophies, for example, and realize by the end of the year that your child really does much better with textbooks. But, if you’ve done your research, it helps a lot by knowing what to look for, and where to turn, when and if that happens.  

I hope this helps new families looking to homeschool in the future. This time of year is a great time to get started. If you’re not planning to start homeschooling until next fall, you’ve got roughly 8 or 9 months to figure all of this out. With prayer and petition, and a lot of chocolate, I promise you’ll figure it out!  

Kristi and her husband have been married nearly 13 years, and have been homeschooling since 2005. They have 6 amazing children, ages 11, 10, 5, 3, 3, and 2. After exploring the US for a while, they’re finally settled down in middle Tennessee. You can read all about their adventures at The Potter’s Hand Academy.

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©2007-2015 Ben and Me. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.