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Homeschooling: Getting Started

Basic Information to Start Your Own Research

By Mary Leggewie

I am not an expert in homeschooling, or in legal matters related to homeschooling, but I'm a homeschooling mom, and I thought I would share the bare minimum to get you started on your own research into homeschooling. My own experience is that it was much harder to make the decision to homeschool than to actually do it!

Be sure to explore HomeschoolChristian.com for more information and to lead you to other helpful websites, such as the Homeschool Legal Defense Association to give you legal summaries state by state. Most states have several different ways you can homeschool. For instance, in California, you can file the paperwork to become your own private school (by filing a private school affidavit --"R4"), join a private independent study program ("ISP"), join a government school independent study program ("public ISP"), or be a credentialed teacher or hire one. Some states have next to no requirements, and other states make it downright difficult, but not impossible for you. There is a way to homeschool legally in ALL 50 states. Misinformation can be rampant in some states, so your best defense is to KNOW the law for your state! Rest assured that as a Christian homeschooler, you do not need the government's "help."

Go to a homeschool convention! Most of them take place in the spring/summer. Don't be tempted to spend the entire time in the vendor hall. Attend as many information sessions as you can and buy tapes of what you can't fit in! Don't make buying decisions impulsively. Saving on shipping is not worth a shelf of unused materials. Beware of gimmicks!

Pick up catalogs from vendors and study them at home so you can make wise choices. Many companies sell excellent study guides, and while you're in the vendor hall, you might find yourself tempted to buy all the books that go with it--books you can probably find at the public library! I am certain that ALL homeschoolers will, at one time or another, either run out of money or space! Let the library store "your" books! The public library can be a great resource and it's FREE.

New homeschoolers would be wise to buy as much used curriculum as possible--if you end up not liking something, you can turn around and sell it and not lose much money. See our Used Curriculum Message Board. Don't be afraid to buy a full, canned curriculum (all subjects from one provider) if you are really nervous about homeschooling and can afford it. I do not recommend canned-curriculums often, but if that's what it takes for you to feel comfortable to start homeschooling, then by all means, do it! This is how I started, and I very quickly realized I didn't need it and started dumping pieces and substituting items that worked better for my daughter. Visit our Homeschool Advice message board, and everyone will be very happy to help you piece together an eclectic assortment of curricula based on YOUR child. Use us!

Some of my favorite books on homeschooling are:

Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. This book has a tremendous amount of helpful information. Their view is towards "delayed academics," which you may or may not like, but there is much helpful information to be found for all homeschoolers here. I do not agree with some things in this book, but this is still my favorite homeschooling book.

Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days by Nancy Lande. The reason I particularly like this homespun book is that it shares a day in the life of 30 different homeschooling families. This will show the new homeschooler that there is no one way to homeschool. Everyone has their own style.

A Survivor's Guide to Home Schooling by Luanne Shackelford and Susan White. A humorous look at homeschooling reality!

Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. A compilation of several speeches given by this former teacher of the year from New York. A sad commentary on traditional school.

Government Nannies by Cathy Duffy. A scary look at what the government wants to do for YOUR kids, from the cradle to the grave. Read this book and you'll never want your kids in government schools. I recommend it strongly if you are considering enrolling in a public school homeschool program or charter school.

Be sure to check Karl Bunday's extensive bibliography of homeschooling books at School is Dead, Learn in Freedom.

Magazines and Catalogs:

There are several magazines available on homeschooling available at Border's Books & Music, Barnes & Noble and other large bookstores. Collect catalogs! Some of the best information I've gotten is from reading catalogs!

Handy Phone Numbers:

Homeschool Legal Defense Association, P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134, (540)338-5600. This is a group of lawyers who work to defend homeschooling rights. Membership is $100, unless you belong to one of many support groups qualifying for a discount. Membership is also payable in installments. These folks may help you in case you are challenged legally with regard to homeschooling. They will NOT, however, be able to help you if your case could set a bad precedent for homeschooling, or in cases of divorce and custody. Call them for specific details. They have a fabulous Web site giving law summaries state by state as well as organizations you can contact for local support.

Check your phone book or the internet for local homeschooling stores!

What About Costs?

You can spend as much or as little on homeschooling as you like. It depends on how creative you can be! The public library and interlibrary loans can be very helpful. Find out if your library has modem/Internet access so you can reserve and renew as well as search the "card catalog" from home via your computer. There are many Web sites offering used books and curriculum, and most large homeschool conventions have used book fairs with consignment tables. If you've got an unlimited budget, you can spend a lot of money on books, supplies, art goodies, software, science equipment and such. Don't feel pushed to buy a complete curriculum. Many homeschoolers do just fine without it. I personally use the E.D. Hirsch What Your Nth Grader Should Know as guidelines along with the public library. I do, however, have to resort to purchasing books I cannot borrow or find used. Make your Christmas list reflect your priorities! Perhaps Grandpa would love to get your kids a nice microscope for Christmas! I personally believe that a computer should also come high on that list, and you can do fine with a year old computer at half the cost of the new ones!

Also, by getting together with another family or two, you can often take tours that would not be permitted for just one family, and get group discounts! Don't be afraid to set up field trips!

Remember: If you are a homeschooling family, you qualify for 20% educator's discount at many bookstores, including Border's Books and Music and Barnes & Noble. Don't forget to get your teacher discount cards!!! Some stores ask for proof, others are generous about giving them out if you can show "school ID." (I make my own school ID cards.) Again, explore the resources here at HomeschoolChristian.com for help on every homeschooling topic!

Questions and Answers

What about socialization? This is perhaps the most ridiculous but most common question you'll get! My usual answer is "I would prefer my children learn their manners and social skills from others who HAVE them, not from 30 kids who don't." Another great response (but a bit strong) is "Do my children look like they have a problem socializing?" Lately, I've taken to saying, "that's one of our primary reasons to homeschool!" (I smile and make them think that THIS is what they meant!)

But don't you need to have a credential? I have heard more than one credentialed teacher say that they consider their indoctrination while getting credentialed is a distinct disadvantage to them, and that they have had to un-learn some of the "skills" that they learned.

What if I didn't even complete college (or high school)? There have been a few studies done on this, and the consensus seems to be that it doesn't make any difference if you finished high school or college to teach your own kids. As long as you are willing to learn too, you'll most likely be fine. You can consider it a chance to fill in your own educational gaps as I do! See Brian Ray's study on this subject from the National Home Education Research Institute, PO Box 13939, Salem, Oregon 97309, phone (503) 364-1490, fax (503) 364-2827. See his outstanding Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling for studies and information on homeschooling that will change the mind of the most skeptical critic!

What about high school? Many folks are afraid of high school, and although I haven't "been there" yet, I don't see why I should suddenly be unqualified. There are several books out on homeschooling high school and applying to colleges. Homeschoolers have been admitted to over 500 colleges. See Karl Bunday's Web site, School is Dead, Learn In Freedom for more information. At this age, some homeschoolers can do most of their work independently, even checking their answers in the teacher's manual. Of course, this might not work for all!

What if I can't handle it? You'll never know if you don't try. For me, the hardest part was making the decision to try it. The first year, I mentally pictured one year at a time. Now, after a few more years of homeschooling and loving it, I look at the "big picture." This is not to say there won't be times when you want to pull your hair out and question your sanity. For us, the benefits have far outweighed the challenges.

What if my family thinks I'm crazy? You need to think about what is best for YOUR kids. Your family will most likely come back to you and complement you in a year when the begin to see the results of your efforts.

What if I have several kids. Won't I be overwhelmed? Yes, occasionally you will feel overwhelmed. But you won't be waking up babies to go pick up the older kids or doing quite as much shuttling and fitting your lives into the school schedule. The little ones in homeschooling families often learn seemingly by osmosis! Most all families I have talked to report that their children become much closer because of homeschooling, since it's not "cool" to like your siblings if you only play with your age-mates. See my article, "Overwhelmed? I've been there..."

What if I work? This could present a major challenge, and it will be up to your work schedule and that of your spouse. There are many mothers working at home who have been able to fit in homeschooling. Full-time employment outside the home would make it extremely difficult to successfully homeschool and retain your family's sanity, but there are families who have made it work! See our Working Homeschooling Parent message board for support!

For more ideas and support, please explore our site: HomeschoolChristian.com. We welcome your questions and comments on our message boards!

This article was written by homeschooling mom Mary Leggewie, August 1998, and revised in August 2003. Permission is given to those who wish to print and share this page with friends and family. Permission must be obtained to publish this information sheet. Mrs. Leggewie passed away in December, 2007, so permission may be obtained from her husband: Mr. Robin Leggewie P.O. Box 1004, Twin Peaks, CA 92391

See other articles about getting started with homeschooing.