Yes, We homeschool, and no, I never thought I would.
I started out in college as an Early Elementary Education major with a minor in Communication. I ended going back to my home state and finished my college education with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.
I did a lot of teaching while I was in school. My junior year of high school I taught swimming to eighth graders that were in our high school. My senior year in high school, I taught band to 12 eighth graders. I’m sure parents would flip out knowing that high schoolers were teaching their eighth graders nowadays. It gave me a great appreciation for teaching at a young age.
In college I taught other college students computer programs. To tell the truth, most of the people taking the class knew more than me-but I was more of a “keeper of the peace”. I also student taught special ed classes and a fourth grade classroom, as well as preschool. To say it bluntly, without a teachers license I had a ton of experience.
However, I didn’t feel like it was my calling. I bounced around between jobs at restaurants, grocery stores and was an assistant store manager at Target, running most of the store (and often the entire store) at 22 years old. It got old quickly. I realized working in retail was not my dream job.
I went to work at the juvenile court system by helping out a group of doctors that did psychological evaluations on children who had entered the court system. My boss, who ran the assessment program for the state of Connecticut, also did evaluations for many needs-Adult incarceration, Social Security and Disability, Department of Children and Families, and personal therapy. Unfortunately, the recession hit and I got laid off.
While I have tons of experience, I often get asked “but do you know what you are doing?”
My answer-Sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I know exactly what I am doing. Other times, I feel like I really need to be directed to where I need to be.
Luckily, there are amazing resources. AND there are my children who really direct me to what they are interested in learning.
Having a great group to surround yourself with is a great first step.
AFHE (Arizona Families for Home Education) is a great resource, whether you are religious or not. On the site, they have information about homeschooling, the laws, how to get your affidavit signed and links with support groups. While this group is a Christian group, the information to secular and religious families is golden!
There are also a ton of Facebook groups available. Many people go and ask questions about curriculum, timing, guidance, advice and just uplifting spirits.
Learning out of a classroom setting
Our house is not set up with a classroom. Right now, formal “schoolwork” learning takes place at our kitchen table for at most 2 hours a day. Much of the children’s learning as they are discovering the world around them. We go to the library, go to different programs and events, the kids have gymnastic and dance classes and Munchie takes piano. They hear about things on TV, like the new obsession of dinosaurs. They see the weather change . We are constantly feeding them knowledge through unstructured means. Not all education and learning can be measured.
Character Building, Socialization and Friendships
Character Building (or loosely-“behavior”) is a constant. Even for myself. The kids have their lapses in judgement. I think we should push through school when I am too tired. I try to make our homeschool just like a regular school, and that doesn’t work either. Teaching three different ages is different than a classroom. That also can lead to “character building”-having a younger sibling singing while the older one is trying to do math can be challenging on all of us.
Socialization is another huge thing that comes up with a majority of the non homeschooling population. I have read tons of different books, seen quotes and have struggled with what the “good” amount of socialization is. We live in a neighborhood with tons of kids, but sometimes everyone is busy with their schedules. So, sometimes we do have to schedule in socialization. Because we are a part of a few groups, my kids get lots of social interaction with people of many different ages. And then, the socialization and opportunities for field trips can take over! So, socialization can also be a learning activity as well. If you have ever met my children, you will know that they are not shy. But, some homeschool kids can be shy too-and that’s ok! Homeschooling can allow the most social or least social kids to thrive in a comfortable environment.
Friendships-just like school, friendships can be hard to maintain. People move, classes get changed, one day friends like each other and the next day they are on the outs. It happens with homeschool groups too. My kids attend church so often see the same children weekly, plus our homeschool groups and neighbors make up for a lot of friends. We also have a large military population in our area, so kids sometimes move after a year or two. Although the losses can hurt, it does teach us all about resiliency and reaching out to make new friends, and remembering the good times we had with old friends as well. My husband and I strive to keep our kids involved in activities and to maintain a schedule (within reason) so that our children can cultivate good relationships.
Curriculum-the big “C”
I think this is the biggest issue people have on their minds with homeschooling their children. What do you teach them? And how? And can I do the same thing my friend is doing? Can they just teach my kids for me?
Ahh, so many questions-is that the questions you have had?
There are so many curriculum types out there that I cannot possibly cover them all. Cathy Duffy does an amazing job reviewing different types of curriculum. There are all in one systems that you can basically just take it out of a book and hand it to the child with some parent intervention, but pretty much self taught. There are online classes, although there is a difference between “Publicly funded home education” (primavera, K12 and others) and traditional homeschooling. I am not really here to debate the merits of either-but with the Publicly funded home education, such as K12 and Primavera-supplies are provided where traditional homeschooling supplies are not.
There is also the “piecemeal” method, as I would like to call it. You pick out different curricula that suits your child. We have had great success with Math U See, Spectrum and Reading Eggs, and just recently joined Schoolhouse Teachers, which has over 340 courses, support for parents and access to World Book! It has been great for me to find new things and ideas to work with for reading, science and social studies with my older too.
Curriculum can be SCARY ! One of the best things to do is to go to a homeschool conference. AFHE puts on a great conference every summer, and even has a free class on “Homeschool beginners” or “Are you thinking of Homeschooling? They also have tons of representatives from all types of books and curricula so you can check it all out instead of online.
If you are thinking you just want to jump aboard now and start homeschooling and want to look at books, you should definitely check out Covenant Homeschool Resource Center in Phoenix. It is a TEENY little place, but absolutely jam packed with new and used textbooks. The staff is super friendly, and they often have different types of classes for parents. I highly suggest leaving little ones at home if you choose to browse.
Curriculum and the Law
Arizona’s laws for homeschooling are very simple. You can read more about homeschooling laws nationwide at HSLDA.org (Home School Legal Defense Association). AFHE, Arizona Families for Home Education is our local branch, and has great information on how to get the affidavit (Paper saying you are homeschooling), and rules about homeschooling. There aren’t many, other than you need to register your child at the age of six, or say that you are putting off homeschooling until the age of 8. College and GED requirements are also important, and AFHE can give you clarification on that. To be honest, I haven’t looked into it as much since my kids are so young, but AFHE does have classes for parents on how to prepare for a graduating homeschooler.
Learning to be flexible
The first thing you try may not work with your child. The fifth thing you try with your child may not work. Each child learns differently, and by focusing on your child alone, you are able to get a curriculum that will fit them. You may try an all in one set like Sonlight or Abeka and realize that you don’t like all the pieces to it. Or, you can try something like Schoolhouse Teachers which has lots of great information for kids of all ages (print off or watch and interact with), or parts of programs. We use Math u See for our Math and I’m still looking for good Phonics and reading comprehension material. I’ve tried a bunch, but I will keep searching. Our two youngest children, Giggles and Dimples, are using Reading Eggs.
Co-ops versus support groups-
Don’t think that they are against each other-they actually can be for each other. Co-ops, or cooperatives, are usually parents banding together to teach different subjects to other parent’s children. Although “Homeschooling” is defined as teaching your own child (no, you can’t take in your neighbor’s children and teach them..well..not really), co-ops take on a role of “tutoring” other’s children in certain subjects. You may meet in a support group and decide that many other people have different strengths and would like to share teaching. This is usually an agreement between a few families on how this arrangement will work-supply and material costs, etc.
But I’m not religious…
While there is a lot of religious reasons for homeschooling, not all homeschoolers are religious. In fact, most groups openly accept their secular (non religious) friends. While you can expect some praying at the religious homeschool groups, most are open and welcome to people of all types. If you are looking for support, friendships for you and your children, I highly suggest checking out many of the different groups available!
Some Groups to Check out!
(sent to us from readers, message us if you have another!!)