My bloggy friend Tracey wrote a comment on a post recently I'd like to share and answer publicly. I'm always excited when someone, especially someone who works with children in the public school system on a regular basis, has some genuine questions about homeschooling hows and whys. I know I sure did a few years back! So, here's the first question:
How do you know where to begin?
For parents of older children, there are many testing resources available through homeschool publishing companies like Bob Jones. Some, like the Singapore or Horizons Math programs, offer their tests for parents to print for free on-line, and the results will tell you which of *their* programs to purchase at their child's level (everyone wins!).
I think we're all so used to delegating the education of our children to others that we over-emphasize ideas like "certification" of teachers and the value of a public education. That's not to say certification can never be helpful to someone who wants to teach a class of 27 children with varying abilities, or that public education can never be of benefit to anyone. More that, because that's what we're used to seeing and what we think of as a "normal" and unsheltered upbringing, that we look a bit suspiciously at people who do things differently.
Elf was just beginning first grade when we pulled him out of school. D had some of the same concerns Tracey did before we made this decision. However, we got to the point with the school district where we knew that he was being abused and not helped at all. Better, we reasoned, for him to put up with a slightly inferior education with love than to go through that. We were committed to teaching him the most important things like reading, writing and basic math. We'd cross the next bridge when we came to it.
With a little kid like that (Elf was six), it isn't too hard to know where to begin. You probably did a lot of this work with your first grader yourself. Every day, you sit with books and read together. Maybe write two sentences about the weather or your new pumpkin plant. You can get those basic math workbooks from the larger stores and do those. You could make up your own worksheets for free using the math worksheet site in my sidebar to the left. (Printer ink costs, though. Cheaper in the long run are the workbooks. But for extra practice when your kid isn't "getting" something, these are invaluable.)
One way to know how to begin is to figure out where you want to be later, and work backwards. It's a smartie-pants answer, but also what I really did. I don't believe in apples-to-oranges comparisons (public and homeschool), but I would like my children to be reasonably on-par with their public school peers in that they wouldn't be working on their ABC's in fifth grade. Maybe we are reading a book then that they covered in third and vice-versa, or maybe we studied octopi and never got to starfish, but generally speaking we'd like to be up to pace.
After you've homeschooled your child for a bit, you become more confident in your abilities. You were your child's first teacher for several years, and he learned quite a bit! No reason the learning in your care has to stop now. But there are many things, now that I've gotten started on this educational experience, that I do NOT want my children being indoctrinated with. I teach them that there are other viewpoints out there about God but do not steep them in them. We study the Bible as the basic reading textbook, although we do read other things as well. In science class, we can talk about how seeds grow but also mention which day God made the plants.
Do you know there are different kinds of homeschoolers? I'm more of the type that likes the lessons laid out and I like to know from one month to the next what we'll be studying. I like to plan ahead reasonably well, but I'm not overly concerned about it. I buy mostly Bob Jones curriculum and try to get through it in a year. It doesn't always work, though, because we've done whole units on Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand as our Flat Stanleys have travelled. That means less time to get the workbook done on the American Revolution. Less time to get English done as we learn to write letters and proofread them. So it may be a bit deceiving to see that we are still midway through the second grade curriculum for a child who is entering third grade. I've found, though, that these concepts do circle back. Nouns are covered NEXT year as well as this, and so on. Unless you're doing high school-level work it should not be an issue.
Conversely, Emperor is about two and a half grade levels AHEAD in the mathematics department, and Elf is half a year ahead. We're using the public school curriculum (they were getting rid of it for a newer edition and gave me a workbook and teachers' manuals!!), so this is a case in which I can compare the actual apples-to-apples. I think homeschooling gives a child a chance to excel in areas there is talent, and to slow down and learn the basics slowly in areas of difficulty.