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So You are Thinking about Home Educating . . .

Home education. Thousands of families have enjoyed the richness and fulfill-ment that this educational and lifestyle choice has to offer. While it is a way of life that is unfamiliar to many, it is founded on an old way of teaching and learning. The one-on-one approach of home education means that in this tutorial setting — where each child’s education can be tailored specifically to their gifts and abilities — learning can take place both more efficiently and more effectively. Home educating parents choose the materials, teach the lessons (or arrange for lessons), and assess the learning that takes place.

Remember that as a home educating parent, you do not have to know everything in order to teach your child. One of the many rewarding aspects of home educating is the opportunity to learn along with your child. It makes a lasting impression on a child when they see their parents experience the joy of discovery alongside them. German philosopher George Simmel once said, “He is educated who knows how to find out what he does not know.” As you give your children a love for learning, that love will in turn will give them a lifetime of joy in the thrill of discovery.

1) Before you Begin—READ

The best way to begin getting the home education picture is by reading. Home education is a different way of life, a new (actually old!) way of learning that is unfamiliar to most people. You will probably find that home education is difficult or ‘doesn't work’ if you have not invested time and thought into understanding its philosophical basis. Check out the suggested book list on our site. It is good to do a fair amount of reading before you take the plunge and begin home educating. It is also very helpful to talk with experienced home educating families to gain insight from them. Check out the Support Group List for contacts in your area.

2) Understand the Home Education Philosophy

Home educating is a completely different way of learning, where the parent takes responsibility for choosing the materials, teaching the lessons, assessing the learning that takes place and providing support and encouragement.

We are interested in teaching our children skills: reading, writing, math, how to do research, and how to use reference books and the library. If they have these basic skills, then they can always acquire knowledge. Do not concentrate on giving them knowledge. There is too much knowledge in the world to have them learn it all. That would be mind-boggling! Give them a love of learning, and it will give them a lifetime to thrill in the joy of discovery.

Be aware of the efficiency of tutoring. Learning takes place much faster in a one-on-one situation. You will find that you will not need as much time as the public school to cover the material. You will also find that younger children get tired faster because it is still difficult for them to focus on one subject for a long period of time. Don't push them to exhaustion!

Do not be afraid to have your older children teach the younger children. One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it.

Remember that you do not have to know everything in order to teach. One of the exciting rewards of home educating is that you will learn along with your children. When your children see you experiencing the joy of discovery, it will make a lasting impression on them.

Be careful not to compare your children with siblings and with children in other families. It may be wonderful to hear about all the good things others are doing, but resist peer dependence. You and your children are individuals; do what is best for your family. There is no right or wrong way to home educate.

3) Establish a Vision and Write out some Goals

Proverbs 29:18 states “Where there is no vision the people perish.” It is common for families who do not have a clear vision to become frustrated and give up before they see the fruits of their labor. We need to know why we are doing what we are doing. Why are you choosing home education? Are you doing it because of religious convictions, for academic reasons, to protect your children from negative influences, to protect your children from being bullied? What do you hope to achieve? Do you want to develop Godly character, to cultivate a love for learning that will last a lifetime, to cultivate creativity, to develop critical thinkers? Maybe you would like more opportunity to study specific topics such as music or art? A vision is more than just knowing why; it includes a plan to accomplish your goals.

Of course a vision without any goals probably will go nowhere. We need a plan for how we will accomplish our vision. So set some goals and make some plans. These will probably change (maybe even frequently), but they are a target at which to shoot. A word of warning—be realistic. We are only accountable for what can be humanly accomplished. Not everything has to be or will be accomplished in a year or two; home education is a marathon, not a sprint.

4)Establish an Approach to Home Education

There are many different approaches to home educating, and it’s not unusual for a home educating family to change their approach as they become more comfortable and experienced with home educating.

Some approaches include:

  • Curricular: Highly structured, using mostly textbooks and workbooks
  • Accelerated Education: The student begins high school when as young as 10 to 12 years old
  • Delayed Academics: No formal studies until a student is 8 to 12 years old
  • Classical Education: Trivium-based form of education using the grammar, logic and rhetoric stages; used to develop critical thinkers
  • Unit Studies: Integrates and relates several subject areas into one theme
  • Charlotte Mason Method: Learning through real-life “living” books
  • Delight-Directed Studies: Learning based on child’s areas of interest
  • Unschooling: Learning through natural life experiences
  • Eclectic: A combination of two or more approaches

When deciding on an approach, you may want to consider:

  • your children’s style(s) of learning (two children may be better served by two different approaches);
  • the number of children you teach at the same time;
  • the level of learning ability (which for any given student, may be high-er in one subject area and lower in another when compared to public school levels/grades);
  • the level of confidence you have as a teacher; and
  • the amount of money you are able to, or desire to, spend on resources and curriculum.

5) 15 Questions to Ask Before Buying Curriculum

When selecting curriculum and resources, choose what will work for your family and help you attain your goals, and be open to changing curric-ulum if it’s not working for your child.
When considering various curricula, ask yourself these questions:

1. Is this curriculum compatible with my child’s learning style, readi-ness, maturity, and reading level?

2. Is it compatible with my teaching style?

3. How much preparation does it require beforehand?

4. Is it developed for home educators? If not, can it still be used for individualized instruction?

5. Are other home educators I know using this curriculum?

6. Have I read any objective reviews on it?

7. Is its theological/philosophical perspective one that I can embrace?

8. Is it consumable? Or will I be able to use it again — or resell it — in the future? What is its re-sale value among home educators?

9. Is it a complete program or must supplemental materials be pur-chased?

10. Does it contain activities that involve higher level thinking and/or real world skills, or is it mostly “fill-in-the-blank” activities?

11. Does it have artistic merit — is it lively, concrete, specific, visually appealing? Will it attract — or distract — my child?

12. Am I just attracted to its packaging and promotion? Am I judging the book “by its cover” or by its contents? Is it effective or just clever?

13. Can I afford it?

14. What good books on the subject could I buy with the money it would take to buy this curriculum?

15. Can I teach this subject without this curriculum? What will this curriculum do for my children that they cannot do without?

6) Get Support

An island unto its own can be a lonely place. Support groups are a great place to glean from more experienced families, share ideas, encourage each other, and socialize! If there is not a group in your area, start one. Even getting together with one or two other families has great benefits. Consider attending a home education convention; it is a great place to meet other families, glean information from speakers, be encouraged, be challenged and look at curriculum. Consider purchasing a membership in AHEA.

Consider joining the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). HSLDA works with home educating families to protect their rights, provide legal representation if needed, provide copies of provincial laws, answer questions and provide a wealth of other information.

Home education is a journey. Sometimes this journey takes you to the mountaintop and sometimes to the valley; sometimes the road is smooth and sometimes it is rocky and rough. But with prayer and persistence you will make it where you want to go. Just wait and you will see that the journey is worth it!

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