Where & How? A Practical Guide to Home Education – Getting Started (Part 7)

Now that we have dealt with the philosophical issues and the price one has to pay for walking that “straight and narrow” path, let’s deal with a few practical matters related to home education.

For starters, although we have seen a few rare occasions where both parents work, most home educating families are single income, with a stay at home mom overseeing the task of education.

However, if the father understands his God-given authority for the welfare of his family, he will take the responsibility for the education of his children seriously and have his wife help him meet that obligation. (Wife=Helpmeet.)

There is no doubt that this constitutes a sacrifice on the part of the parents, but time will demonstrate that while you may have a few less toys and reduced opulence, you will end up with something far too many people are willing to give up for those temporal items… a real loving family! Turns out the sacrifices made end up being the best investment possible.

Remember, you cannot take your stuff with you to heaven, but you can make sure your children are there.

Scheduling is not necessary, but likely works best for most people. If having a schedule is best for the family, make sure it is one that fits the unique nature of your family and not the school.

Where you conduct your home education can best be described as where you happen to be at the moment. Some people like to have a dedicated room where concentrated learning takes place and where a door can separate that activity from the rest of the family’s busy life.

I am not going to discourage the creation of a special room, but I will suggest two things. Don’t call it a school room because it is not and don’t be surprised if the venue of choice is the kitchen table! If we define home education as JUST BEING A FAMILY, a special room for learning may become too confining to really serve as a place of learning.

Likely the biggest question most home educators, especially beginners, have is which curriculum should be used? The first thing I need to say about curriculum is that it is not necessary.

You heard me! People were learning long before someone got the idea to create a one-size-fits-all method of teaching things that actually fit very few! Suffice it to say that children will be learning, no matter what resources are used or made available.

Un-schoolers, famous for their avoidance of curriculum use, most certainly are not without resources. Books, libraries full of them, become the focus and delight of learning, not to mention the limitless resources and opportunities of the computer and internet.

In fact, most every opportunity becomes an educational moment when living together as a family intent on discovery and truth finding.

Having said that, most people cannot start that free. Most want some kind of structure to begin with. Not that un-schooling is unstructured, but it can be without the comforts of having something tangible to follow.

That said, it is the parents that require the curriculum, not the students, who likely have limited interest in learning what “someone” who knows nothing about them has determined they need to learn.

Parents, mom in particular, like having something they can use to measure progress. Something that can enable her to tell dad that so many pages or chapters were completed when he asks for an accounting of the day upon his return from work.

It’s okay to use curriculum. Whatever works best for your family. However, there are a few things you need to know about curriculum before you choose from the vast selection available.

The first thing you need to know is that any curriculum following a grade level system, is not only founded on a secular school methodology, but likely designed to be delivered by a teacher in a classroom. Most of the curriculum available is of this nature. Remember that “Christianizing” a secular process doesn’t fix it.

Some curriculum is designed with individuality and portability in mind, but most are not. Prescribed programs often using ten booklets as a year’s worth of work, usually include all that is needed to get the job done, according to someone’s else’s idea of what needs to be done. Many parents use this to start until they become more comfortable with using a variety of resources determined by their specific family needs.

There are also a great number of resources that are not really grade specific, but interest based, such as standalone book sources, web sites, and apps, although some of the computer based programming can become rather restrictive. I cannot hide my enthusiasm for the tablet as a supercool tool for learning.

Regardless of what you determine to do respecting the use of curriculum, always remember that you are the boss, the one in charge of what will be learned and when.

Getting caught up in a school-based program can become a handicap, especially past puberty, when children are much more capable of accomplishing a much greater amount of work than what is required at a school, in a much shorter time.

And remember, if the child understands the concept, there is no need to have him or her learn it over and over again, nor to complete the entire array of questions presented. Children are as unhappy about having their time wasted as we adults are.

Finally, be careful of taking advice from others, no matter how well meaning they may be. There is no lack of individuals willing to advise others and these people are often helpful.

However, always remember that your children are unique in this world and what may work for one family or student may be a hindrance for another.

When Do I Start? / What Should I Use? Fears and Concerns Series (Part 2)

*For children who have never gone to school, one of the first questions asked after deciding to home educate is, when do I start the primary level? Is there an official starting point?

Well, there is an easy answer to this question also: start when they are ready. Only schools have fixed start and stop ages for formal learning. Neglecting the unique nature of individual students, this assumption of readiness is based on averages. If your child is ready at that time, great, but if not, then he or she can be either bored or frustrated to tears.

You are in the only real position of leadership. You are leading your children by taking your cues from them. They’re going to let you know when it’s time and then you will be able to proceed without “incidents” related to bad timing.

People often share their troubles with me as a facilitator, or perhaps as one who has been around a few corners in the world of education. Usually while they’re telling me their problem, they’re also giving me the solution to that problem.

For example, “My daughter just the other day came over and told me she wanted to read.”

That’s your cue. Go for it. It’s going to work now because it’s her idea.

They know when they’re ready. We have to trust them a little bit. At the same time we have to offer opportunities for learning, without making them do things they are not ready to do and be just as ready to start them in their formal education at a younger age as at an older age if, indeed, they are ready.

*Another often expressed concern about home education is regarding which resources should be used?

Well, here’s another easy answer: it really doesn’t matter.

Everything works, from nothing at all to regimented programs to everything in between. Anything, whether books, workbooks, apps, games or whatever, can be instrumental in providing opportunity for learning.

Really, all resources are just tools. Find the tool that works, that inspires, that allows the child to grow with the least amount of pain! You simply want to use the right tool for the job.

If something doesn’t work or inspire, find something else or try another method. You are the boss!