Getting Started Home Schooling
Can I really do this?
Yes, you can. Each state varies on what it requires, so you should check with HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) to find out what you need to know. Legal questions aside, while it may seem scary to plan out your child's education, it truly is not that overwhelming. You do not need to teach your child everything. Rather, teach him how to learn, as this is the most important skill he'll ever develop. After that, whether he needs to learn algebra or firefighting, simply point him to the right resources and watch him go.
What if I leave out something important in my child's education?
Quick, what was the cause of World War I? How do you divide a fraction? Does a tendon connect muscle to bone or bone to bone? If you didn't know one of those things, did you panic? I hope not! If you think back over everything your teachers sought to drill into you, how much did you retain? Not nearly as much as they'd hoped! This has not made you a "less successful" person, nor would it keep you from learning any skill you suddenly found you needed or wanted. If your child simply learns how to learn, he will be much better prepared for life than many high school graduates. Here at Timberdoodle, we like to say that school is for people who don't have a life - meaning that if you teach your child the essentials, and he uses the rest of his time to live life, he will likely score better on his exams than his peers do, and be much more well-rounded than if he sat in a classroom all day attempting to absorb information he cannot relate to.
What's the deal with learning styles?
Everyone is made to learn things in one way better than in other ways. A visual child learns best by reading or seeing information this child will often thrive on workbooks. An auditory child most easily absorbs information if it is read to him, put to music, or otherwise involves the use of his ears. A kinesthetic learner simply needs to move to learn whether this involves sitting on a balance ball for seat-work or actually doing a science experiment.
The simplest way to figure out your child's learning style is by considering how you were best able to soothe him as a toddler or infant. Watching people or objects will soothe a visual baby. An auditory baby is soothed by sounds or singing. The kinesthetic baby just needs to move or be moved by bouncing or rocking. Of course, many (if not most) children have elements of more than one learning style. Children can also learn to use methods which are not natural to them a very important skill!
So why bother with learning style? If you know your child's best method to take in information, you will be more successful if you gear the bulk of your curriculum choices towards his learning style. Most traditional curricula are designed for the visual learner and are easily translated for the auditory child. Kinesthetic programs are harder to find, but worth the effort if that is how your child learns best. (For more information on this, we highly recommend Talkers, Watchers & Doers by Cheri Fuller. As with all our titles, we suggest that you try your local library before purchasing it from us. Your budget will appreciate it!)
How do I pick the right curriculum?
Set goals. Before evaluating a curriculum, be sure you know what your goals are. Do not list "third grade math" as a goal. Instead list thorough knowledge of multiplication tables and a rudimentary grasp of fractions. Be as detailed as possible. Then compare your goals with the proposed curriculum. While some of you will need to be accountable to your state for some objectives, be sure you do not become enslaved to the whims of friends, family, and other peer groups.
Determine learning styles. Your hands-on learner will struggle with flash cards, but your visual learner will thrive with them. Children can learn in a variety of ways, but when under stress, they function best with their own method. Whenever we are learning something new, we are under stress. Knowing how your child learns best will enable you to choose a program that will present both of you with the least amount of anxiety and will allow your child the greatest amount of growth. Investigate programs with your child's learning style in mind.
Stay with what works. Educational supply journals are full of marketing gimmicks, while educational equipment companies are repackaging duds, all with the goal of selling to the inexperienced and easily intimidated home teacher. What works in a classroom can be totally unsuitable for a home school setting. Most school programs must use a lot of busy work so that the teacher has time to attend to paperwork or the other thirty students. Time is too valuable for both you and your child to spend it doing this type of grunt work. Likewise, just because a product is new does not mean it is better. Even if a reviewer, including myself, finds a product outstanding, that does not mean that your child will benefit from its use. Is your child making the kind of progress you desire using your current curriculum? Does the approach take into account your child's learning style? Is the subject matter challenging but not tear-provoking? Does it fit within your budget? Does it meet your family's standard for content? If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, then you should seriously ask yourself, "Why am I thinking of changing? What needs will be met by the new curriculum which my current program cannot meet?" At Timberdoodle we sell only those products that we deem the finest. But what is best for our family may be totally unsuitable for yours. We invite you to look beyond the glitter and glimmer, beyond the reviews and recommendations, and consider goals, learning styles, and needs. It has been said that advertising and catalogs exist solely to promote a spirit of discontent. If that is the case, then we here at Timberdoodle embrace an unconventional aim. We want you to be successful at teaching your children, with or without our products.