How to Get Started in Homeschooling
Hundreds of parents in Connecticut have made the decision to bring their children home from public and private schools this year. These families join the thousands of other families who have been instructing their children from home already. Although the reasons parents choose to instruct their children from home differ widely, their numbers are on the rise. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, there are around 2.3 million home educated students in the United States and the numbers are growing annually between 2 and 8 percent. If you are one of the families who have made this decision, you may be wondering where to start.
Take it Slow
Before you dive in, take an estimation of how deep the waters are, so-to-speak. Transitioning from the classroom to home may take some time. In fact, many homeschoolers would suggest that if you are bringing a student home for the first time, you should spend a little time doing no formal education. This is referred to as "deschooling." During this time, you can reach out to the local homeschool community to make connections, check out libraries and museums and begin the process of learning together. It is actually a great way to lay a foundation for the future and help the child put school norms and culture behind them.
One of the biggest and most pervasive myths surrounding homeschooling is that children instructed at home are isolated with few friends and interests, i.e. "unsocialized." But the opposite is actually closer to the truth. Most homeschooling families can tell you that they could potentially be out of the house every day with something to do if they chose to. You will have to make sure you make time to be at home instead.
Beginning homeschoolers can find classes, playdates, athletic opportunities, music instruction, and more by staying connected to their local homeschooling community and utilizing things like Facebook and Yahoo Groups. A quick search of the internet brings up several different Connecticut groups meeting all over the state from Litchfield to East Hartford.
As a new homeschooler who was, until recently, surrounded by peers on a daily basis, your child will need to get involved in some sort of social or educational activity so that he/she can build new relationships and not be tempted to feel lonely at times. In addition, new homeschooling parents benefit from building their own support community as well. Fellow parents are great resources to bounce ideas off of and problem solve with.
Withdrawing Your Child from School
Before your child comes home, you need to formally withdraw him/her from the school they were attending. You must do this in order to prevent your child from being considered truant. Depending on the district, you may be requested to fill out a Notice of Intent to Educate form. You do not, however, have to fill out this form.
The Connecticut state law as related to home instruction (SB 10-184) reads as follows:
"All parents who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments."
Connecticut Homeschoolers Network, the largest homeschool organization in the state of Connecticut, suggests that you keep multiple copies of your withdrawal paperwork, especially one signed off on by the district Superintendent. Click here and here for more information on the Notice of Intent and filing for withdrawal.
Choosing a Curriculum
Depending on how old your child is and the desired outcomes of your home educating endeavor, you will probably be spending some time researching and comparing the different curricula available on the market. When I began homeschooling five years ago, I made the mistake of not spending enough time getting to know my son as a student and I ended up purchasing a set of workbooks that he had grown bored with six months into the school year.
It is important that you, as the teacher, try and familiarize yourself with the type of student your child is.
- Is he someone who needs to move around a lot?
- Does she write and doodle all the time?
- Can he learn through reading or does he prefer to learn visually?
A great place to start would be to check out a copy of Cathy Duffy's 102 Tops Picks for Homeschool Curriculum from your local library. In this book, the author walks you through the different teaching and learning styles and then attempts to match them to a curriculum.
As a parent, you know your child best. When beginning, don't commit yourself to an expensive, packaged curriculum with fancy features. Start simple as you go through this process of transitioning into a new role in your child's life.
Schooling at home isn't meant to look like school in the classroom! Home instruction can take many forms: field trips, classes, group projects and nature walks, to name a few. Take this opportunity to delve deeply into your child's interests and passions, to make new friends and go places you and they have never been before!
Picture: Courtesy Coral Karrass