Getting Started with Homeschooling
© Beverley Paine
Related article: A Concise Guide to Getting Started with Homeschooling by Beverley Paine . See also the First Steps to Homeschooling Articles Index
The following text summarises information found in Getting Started with Homeschooling - Practical Considerations , a comprehensive guide to starting homeschooling in Australia.
Most homeschooling families design their own learning programs for their children, to suit their children's individual learning styles and needs. These tend to be flexible, dynamic, responsive and relevant to the changing learning needs within the family. Some families use commercial curriculums as a guide, or combine many elements, resources, materials and texts to develop your own activities. A few purchase Christian correspondence programs.
Couples and single parents have obtained approval to educate their children at home. No special qualifications are needed. Specify your level of education and any other qualifications which you have attained, and remember these include work skills, parenting skills, voluntary and community work skills, sport, leisure activities and hobbies. Basic literacy and numeracy skills are generally considered essential for teaching children at home.
Most homes are suitable learning environments. Ask yourself the following question - 'Does this house look like a place where learning is valued and happens?'. Good indicators include shelves containing fiction and reference materials; games, toys, art and craft materials; displays of children's work; varied writing materials, and so on. You don't need to turn a room into a classroom, with desks and blackboards unless you really want to, though organisation is important. Usually the children play and learn wherever you spend most of your time, in the family room, outside in the garden or out and about in the local community. The homeschool learning environment includes daily excursions to parks, shops, businesses, educational institutions, friends - the whole community! The most expensive aspect of homeschooling is the topping up of writing, art, craft and science consumerables, with the addition of a few well chosen student work or text books each year. Read the article Homeschooling Resources in Your Home for more ideas.
You don't need to have set times for 'study' unless you want to. Most families concentrate on academic work in the morning leaving the afternoons free for the children to carry on with their own projects. Some families concentrate learning activities into two or three days each week, leaving other days for family activities or excursions. Children progress through planned lessons much faster than their schooled peers and generally need less structured time to do academic work. Homeschoolers often count children's interests, hobbies and recreational pursuits as part of the learning process.
Devising a learning program may appear daunting at first, but is relatively simply, and considered essential for educating your children at home. A learning program outlines what and how your children will be taught. Long terms aims concentrate on what type of people you children will be as a result of the eduactional program; what kind of skills and abilities they will eventually have. Short term aims encompass a broad description of the types of things and activities anticipated in the coming year, with more specific detail for the month or two ahead. Reading widely on educational and homeschooling will help you develop confidence in your learning program, as will talking to other homeschoolers. The Internet is an excellent source of educational ideas.
Several sample learning programs are outlined in Getting Started with Homeschooling - Practical Considerations . This Australian homeschooling manual contains information on learning style, teaching methods, planning and implementing a variety of learning programs, including useful examples. Louise Wilton published, as inexpensive booklets, her children's learning program and subsequent 'review', both of which were approved by the South Australian Education Department.
See also Beverley's article on a Sample Learning Program
You can devise your own curriculum or you can purchase text books and educational aids in each subject area from homeschooling suppliers or educational suppliers. Your curriculum can be based on the excellent National Goals For Schooling In The Twenty-First Century . Most homeschooling families supplement their learning programs with text and student work books from educational suppliers.
Most families put together their own learning programs as they find it is better tailored to their children's individual learning needs and styles, and is much cheaper than buying a whole curriculum they may not use or finish.
Homeschoolers offer a range of resources to their children, including the local enviromnent and community. Parents often list specific texts and reference to curriculum guidelines, such as Steiner, Montessori, National Curriculum Guidelines, etc. Begin with the local library as an extension of your own reference collection. The computer, with educational CDROMS, access to e-mail and Internet, can be useful but are not essential. Many homeschoolers already belong to community and specific interest groups. Making most of the community resources in your local area is the best way to build an excellent home learning program.
Keeping records and evaluating the homeschooling program allows you to know how your children are learning and progressing. You will need to develop a system of recording your are comfortable with, and can use consistently for maximum effectiveness. Many families make the mistake of keeping records for the annual review process, instead of realising it's essential importance to planning and organising the homeschooling program. This can undermine confidence, but nowhere near as fast as not keeping records at all.
Some families use diaries or journals, others use learning contracts, calendars, check-lists. You can use tests if you want to, but they aren't mandatory. Keep dated samples of the children's work. As your children grow, the recording process becomes more important, and forms the basis of a portfolio they can present for higher education or employment entrance. Portfolios can contain significant achievement records, such as meritorious certificates, attendance certificates for extra curricula activities, sports or church groups, and a collection of dated work samples that demonstrate some aspect of progress. Record keeping can also include video and audio tape recordings, photographic albums, children's diaries, scrap and subject books, projects, art folders. Click here for examples of homeschooling recording.
Getting Started with Homeschooling - Practical Considerations offers a comprehensive chapter on Evaluation and Record Keeping, with many examples of different recording and evaluating techniques.
At present in Australia there are no mandatory tests homeschooling children must undertake. Many families devise their own, use tests at the end of chapters in text books, or purchase test materials. Testing is only one method available to evaluate a child's educational progress.
Evaluation needs to include continuous reflection of the educational process, examining progressive development of abilities, attitudes, feelings, preferences, goals, knowledge, processes, skills, and understandings. Learning is a delightfully complex process, full of surprises and wonder. Developing your observation skills using all of your senses will help you evaluate your children's learning and gradually encourage them to assume full responsibility for evaluating their own performance.
Interaction with children their own age is necessary for healthy social development in children. Homeschooling families maintain contact with school based friends, other community social groups such as church, sport or special interest, and also form homeschooling support networks. Your children should have frequent access to a wide range of age groups, including adults, and a couple of close friends they regularly. After-school activities are popular with homeschooling families. Some homeschooling families get together to organise learning activities on a regular basis.
In the early months of homeschooling all families begin by filling up their week with social engagements only to find themselves quickly exhausted with over stimulated children! Finding the balance of social and at home activities for your family can take a little while. Don't over-commit yourself - give yourselves time to adjust to being at home and learning to value the home and local community as resource rich learning environments.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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