ABC’s of home schooling

02/16/2011  |  April Tolbert

When you hear the word “home school,” what comes to mind? For many the question is where to start or even why to start. It may appear daunting at first, I know I had some reservations before I began home schooling two years ago. What follows are some simple tips to determine if home schooling is right for your family. I call it the “ABC’s of Home Schooling.”

A stands for “analyze”

Analyze your motivation for choosing to home school. There are many reasons parents choose to educate their children at home. Religious convictions, academic rigor, special interests, and meeting the needs of a physically or mentally challenged child are but a few. Military families sometimes choose home education to mitigate the frequency of moving and changing schools. Determining your reasons up front will help guide the education process. Another part of the acronym would be to “ask.” Ask other parents who home school about their experiences. It is very helpful to interview multiple educators to gain wisdom from their personal experiences. As in any life venue, a seasoned mentor will prove to be an invaluable resource. They will help a newcomer find their footing during the initial process and will share in victories as well offer sage advice with the challenges that home educators will face during the journey.

B stands for “by-laws”

Find out what your state guidelines are for home scholars. Each state varies. Some states have a laissez faire attitude while others dictate very specific requirements. North Carolina, for example, requires your home school have a name and be registered with the NC State Department of Non-Public Education, report standardized test scores, etc. Another important “B” is “believe.” Believe in yourself. Believe in your student. This is essential to successful home schooling. No one knows/cares for your child more than you and the student-teacher ratio can’t be beat! Most of the curriculum / teacher’s manuals give the home educator many tools that make the process easier.

C stands for “choose”

Choose a method of education. Just as in traditional classroom education there are many methods of home education. Some of the more popular approaches are: The Charlotte Mason Method, Classical Education, Unit Studies, Scope and Sequence, and on-line classrooms. Some parents have an eclectic style blending two or more methods. Once a method has been chosen, the curriculum may then be selected. The choices for curricula are endless. Options such as using the library and internet at no cost to buying entire preprinted consumable material are all available.

When purchasing curriculum, there are many resources available now. Material may be purchased directly from manufacturers such as Sonlight, Abeka, etc. A more economical option for many is using eBay or Amazon to purchase curricula. Furthermore, many cities have a home school store. Items in such stores may be purchased new or from consignors as gently used. Specific on-line programs usually have their own resource list that will need to be purchased.

There are also many great “how to” books out there. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is a quarterly publication that has some great information with a “freebie” section enclosed in each issue. This publication evaluates various curricula and styles each year. There are many books (many are method specific) that provide excellent guidance and information. One book that I have found most beneficial has been The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauers. There are also some bulletin boards on the internet that provide support and information for families. These are usually linked to a specific group and / or state education forum.

Another important resource that I recommend would be to get involved in a home school group. Most groups meet from once a week to once a month for two to six hours and charge some type of family or student fee to pay for resources (paper, art supplies, building fee, etc). This allows the students and parents the opportunity to socialize with each other, do field trips together and get group rates on many items. Mentor relationships and curriculum sharing are often born in these settings. Some groups have a tutoring model which may be beneficial for the student, teacher, and group as a whole. Other groups offer art, music, drama, home art lessons, and/or athletic team competition. Traditional academic programs such as science olympiad, science fairs, and spelling bee competitions are also available to home scholars in many regions. Some assemblies perform Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and various seasonal programs. The possibilities to have these types of encounters are endless.

Personally, I am a resident of North Carolina and home school my three boys with the classical method of education (Classical Conversations). We participate in a weekly home school group. I would like to see more of an advanced communication network for information sharing among military families that have chosen to home school. My experience has been that there seems to be a little more connection for active duty families than reservists. I really enjoy the flexibility of home schooling and find this meets the needs of my family.

Mrs. Tolbert is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner and holds a Master of Science in Nursing. She left full time primary care practice in 2008 to home school her three boys. She’s married to an Army Reserve Chaplain who was deployed in 2009 and mobilized stateside for 2011 during which time she continues to home school.
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