This is not the story of why we started homeschooling. You can read that here if you’re interested. Rather, these are the steps we took to actually begin our homeschooling journey, one of the best choices we’ve ever made as a family. I hope this is helpful to anyone considering homeschooling.
Here is a little background on my family… We are Americans, but at that time we were living in Ontario, Canada for my husband’s job. All four of our children, ages 6-16, were in pubic schools. Initially we only pulled our youngest out of school to homeschool him, but within two years, we also pulled both of our daughters from high school and middle school because they begged to join us and we could all see the amazing benefits of homeschooling! (By that time our oldest had finished traditional high school.)
The first step was probably the easiest step of all, at least for me. It was simply deciding to “go for it”. I remember thinking homeschooling sounded so natural! (Because it is natural!) This was also when I found some support, which I think was critical for boosting my confidence.
I will always be grateful to the homeschooling mom who gave me the idea and the courage to homeschool in the first place. She was a great resource as I was finding my own way. More about that in a bit… Naturally, I thoroughly discussed the subject of homeschooling with my husband. I’m so glad he trusted my mommy instincts and gave me his full support, even though he did have a few concerns (all of which I’m happy to say no longer exist.) We also prayed to our Heavenly Father for His direction, and felt His approval which was very comforting.
The second step required a bit of research. It was to find out the specific homeschooling laws for where we lived and take the necessary actions to comply.
Of course, the homeschooling mom I knew was helpful since she was also a neighbor, but I went online to find and read the homeschooling laws for myself. In my case, they were/are very similar to the laws of Utah and Arizona (these are the states we have homeschooled in since). All that was required by law was for me (the parent) to give my child’s school board, written notification (a letter) of my intent to homeschool. Easy peasy! By the way, HSLDA has a great website for learning each state’s homeschooling laws and regulations.
Since we were pulling our son out in the middle of the school year, our third step was to select a last-day-of-school date, notify his teacher, and as a courtesy (so my son wouldn’t be accused of truancy), notify the school’s principal.
When I told my son’s teacher, she was surprisingly supportive. Together we chose the day of the class Valentine’s party, which was only a week away, as my son’s last day of school. The vice-principal summoned me into his office and told me I was making a huge mistake and would ruin my son’s life (ha!) but that unpleasant experience only increased my resolve, and later my husband told that principal a thing or two!
The fourth step was to give my son time to adjust. This is often called, deschooling. In other words, we spent meaningful time together without worrying about “school” stuff as we formed a routine that worked for us.
You can read more about deschooling here. For us, deschooling was letting my son wake up naturally and eat breakfast in his pajamas. It was casual days of nature walks, bike rides and trips to the park and library. It was quiet snuggle time on the couch, reading books together. It was visiting my homeschooling friend and watching their homeschool in action. It was playdates with younger neighbors. I would say our deschooling time lasted several weeks, but honestly, since we ended up unschooling, we just fell into a natural rhythm that continued for the next few years.
The fifth step was observing my son’s learning preferences while reading up on homeschooling styles and curriculum. I was immediately drawn to unschooling. It just fit us. I also realized that every homeschooling family operates differently and it’s always best to be true to yourself and do what is right for your own family.
I won’t go into the different homeschool methods here because I honestly don’t know most of them, and some states have certain curriculum requirements, but we have always lived in states where we had complete freedom in that area. We chose to unschool for the first several years of our homeschool journey, and have since evolved to eclectic learning. For us, unschooling meant letting my son take the lead in his education with my guidance, and going at his pace. He did not enjoy textbook lessons and worksheets so we quickly scrapped the expensive boxed curriculum my friend had talked me into buying (that was how she homeschooled). What he did enjoy was finding books and DVDs that interested him in the non-fiction section of the library. We watched a lot of The Magic School Bus. We studied frogs (in our backyard), dinosaurs, rocks, weather patterns and Canada. He learned his 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) with very little formal lessons and in ways he enjoyed (a whiteboard over paper, games, unit studies, etc.) We took a lot of nature walks and did a lot of crafting and easy science experiments. We played with Legos and play dough. ♥ The best part was having a happy carefree little boy again and gaining time with him that I would’ve missed out on otherwise.
♥ So there you have it! I hope our experience gives you an idea of how easy it can be to start homeschooling. ♥