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All articles are presented to stimulate thought and assist Christian families in homeschooling their children. Articles may or may not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the management of HomeschoolChristian.com.

Getting Started

By Pete and Becky Storz

Whether you plan to begin homeschooling when your child reaches Kindergarten age or will be withdrawing your child(ren) from a campus school, it helps to have a checklist of the materials and tools you will need to begin building your homeschool. Here is a list of things we know will help you lay a good foundation for your family's homeschool. These are not in chronological order or in order of importance, and you will probably find it helpful to work on several of these at once.

1. Learn about homeschooling and write out your reasons, philosophy and goals for your family's homeschool.

The start of building your homeschool is a busy, challenging time. Since most homeschoolers and folks contemplating homeschooling are (or will be) "first-generation" homeschoolers, the whole homeschooling process is, at the outset, new to us. Allow yourself plenty of time - and use it! - to educate yourself about homeschooling: the Whys and the Hows of teaching your children at home. Discussing the various philosophies of homeschooling far exceeds the scope of this article. One may find information about homeschooling philosophies and methods in books - check your local library and bookstores (including Christian bookstores) - and on the Internet. Among the many excellent books about homeschooling, we found the following to be helpful: The Right Choice by Christopher Klicka, The Homeschooling Father by Michael Farris, The Christian Home School by Gregg Harris, and The High School Handbook by Mary Schofield. Figuring out your school's philosophy, goals and reasons for being is very important, and writing them down will help you remember them and allow you to review them. While they won't teach Johnny how to read or teach Janey how to add, they will provide the basis for answers should family, friends, or authorities question your decision to homeschool. They will also help you during a discouraging day or week, enable you to see progress toward your goals, or help steer you back on course when you have wandered aside.

2. Learn about the legal requirements for homeschooling in your state.

Some states require little more than simple notification of a family's intent to homeschool their children. Other states have multiple options for complying with the states homeschooling law, an approval process (by the local public school district), periodic (sometimes annual) mandatory standardized testing, or annual portfolio reviews. Most statewide organizations have on their websites either the applicable state laws (or a link to the laws) or a summary of those laws. The Home School Legal Defense Associations (HSLDA) website also has pages with summaries of each states homeschooling statute or the applicable education laws (see below for more information regarding HSLDA). If you know any homeschoolers or a homeschool support group in your area, they may be able to assist you as well. Be careful to learn the requirements in your state and follow them carefully. Do not put this off till the last minute, as some states have notification deadlines.

3. Join Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and a statewide support organization.

HSLDA is a national organization that provides legal assistance to member families when they have a problem with a government official trying to impose an illegal requirement affecting, or otherwise interfering with, families rights to homeschool or with government social workers investigating false accusations of truancy, neglect, or abuse. HSLDA has many years of experience working with government officials to resolve issues satisfactorily before the issues are brought to court, and can represent members in court should this be necessary. HSLDA also works on legislation, at the national and the state levels, having to do with families and education - anything that can affect homeschoolers rights to homeschool.

While what is offered varies from state to state, statewide organizations frequently offer state-specific educational materials and legal information, contacts for local support groups, a magazine, and conventions. Many statewide organizations work with state and local governments on behalf of their states homeschoolers and help members keep informed about things going on in their state regarding homeschooling.

4. Research and select curricular materials.

Finding and selecting curriculum can be a daunting but fascinating project. The wealth of available curricular materials will amaze you. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum, and a formal all-in-one curriculum may not be a good fit for your child (and don't forget that each of your children is different, too!). How to begin? Your best starting point is knowing your children - think about and find out what they know and observe how they learn new things most easily. Get catalogs from as many curriculum publishers and distributors as possible. A good place with names and information about curriculum publishers and distributors is Books for Homeschool. After you recover from your hernia operation, quiz the folks you meet at support groups. "What do you use for (reading, math, science, etc.)?", is a reliable conversation starter. Ask your questions and listen with your children in mind. If you enrolled in an umbrella school that offers curriculum counseling, go for it! Cathy Duffy's book 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum and Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling have useful reviews of many products. Look for these books at the library, a Christian bookstore, a distributor's catalog or from a homeschooling friend. There is no one-and-only-perfect-for-my-child-anything-else-would-be-a-disaster curriculum, nor will the earth swallow you up if your books don't arrive by Labor Day, so don't pressure yourself into a hasty, expensive curriculum purchase. Homeschooling gives you a lot of freedom to work with how your child learns things most easily. Make good use of that freedom.

5. Visit, select, and join a homeschool support group.

Support groups provide assistance and encouragement to their members through moms meetings, field trips, park days, and other activities. If you don't already know of a homeschooling support group in your area, your statewide organization may be able to provide contact information for a support group in your area. HSLDA also lists some local support groups in the states pages on their website. If you are unable to locate a support group in your area, you may be able to find other homeschoolers through your church or at the library with whom you might be able to set up an informal monthly or twice-monthly play and chat day (essentially, starting your own support group). Support groups also provide opportunities to discuss curriculum, resources, experiences, and more with other, sometimes more experienced, homeschoolers. Every support group has a "personality," so visit the moms meetings and park days for as many groups as are conveniently close to you. Be sure to meet the leaders of the groups (Don't be shy!) so you can ask them about their groups activities and get an idea of how the group is run and what support it offers. Support groups tend to be pretty informal, so you may need to seek out the leaders to be able to talk with them. While it is very possible to homeschool successfully without being part of a support group, the help and encouragement you can find in such a group can greatly enhance your family's homeschooling experience, especially during the sometimes nervous start-up time.

You won't find any expert homeschoolers. We are all still learning. But talking with and learning from experienced homeschoolers may save you a great deal of time, money, and frustration. It could even make the start of building your homeschool enjoyable.

Copyright © 2002, Peter and Becky Storz and Homeschool Christian.com

About the author: Pete Storz grew up in Woodland, CA, near Sacramento. His family attended a Lutheran church, and for grades 1 through 3, Pete attended the private school run by that church, and public schools thereafter. Pete attended a college in Phoenix, AZ, graduating with an Associate's degree. While in Phoenix, Pete worked in a Christian bookstore and tape library, was involved in a ministry that reached out to Jehovah's Witnesses, and ran sound for several local contemporary Christian music bands. Pete moved to "Silicon Valley" to work in electronics and be closer to his parents. He met Becky in 1978 at a church, and they were married in 1980. They have three children, Suzy, Chris, and Katie. Becky first heard of homeschooling on a Focus on the Family program, and about a video seminar by Dr. Raymond Moore that was to be hosted at a nearby church by his daughter. After attending this and a seminar by Gregg Harris, Pete and Becky were encouraged to believe that they could homeschool their children. Remembering that first year or two, when support was crucial but hard to find, Pete and Becky started a support group in 1992 with a special emphasis on fellowship, person-to-person support, and helping new homeschoolers get started. Though Pete and Becky stepped down from leadership after 4 years, SELAH Christian Schools continues to assist homeschoolers in the San Jose, California area. Pete and Becky continue to publish a resource directory for San Jose area homeschoolers as well as other support activities.

See other articles about getting started with homeschooing.