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When homeschooling, patience, research and networking are key

You’ve decided that it’s time to homeschool your child. But you also don’t know where to begin. The good news is that it isn’t as hard as you might think.

1. Determine your state’s options.

Some states are more restrictive than others, but many require you document your child’s removal from public school and their enrollment into a homeschooling program. Tests are also required in states like Pennsylvania.

Get in touch with your state’s homeschool association or contact the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). You should also contact the local school district to find out the procedures for withdrawing your child and homeschooling them; no parent wants a knock at the door from a truant officer over paperwork mistakes.

2. Think about how your child learns.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you don’t need to use a “one size fits all” approach. Your child may learn best with a traditional school curriculum, while some parents choose the “unschool” approach of letting their child determine the course of their own education.

In any case, it doesn’t take six to eight hours a day to educate your child. That type of time is required when dealing with 30 children in a classroom, lunches, movement between classrooms, and other breaks. Your child may work best by working four hours straight or does better working on one subject for an hour, then taking a half-hour break. In any event, be prepared to reevaluate your plan more than once especially if you’re new to homeschooling.

3. Reach out to the local homeschooling community.

Laura Clark, who homeschools her children, told PBS that talking to other parents was invaluable. “I’ve never talked to anybody who hit the ground running and immediately knew exactly what they were doing,” she said. As with other things in life, consulting with people who have been homeschooling their children for a while may give you some insight on how you should proceed.

It isn’t just about curriculum, either. Sharing information is important, since other parents may have knowledge about activities in the area that you don’t. Many places have tours that don’t require a student to be part of a public school, and if you coordinate with other parents for a group trip the options grow even more. Homeschooling co-ops are also becoming popular, where parents trade expertise in different areas.

4. Figure out a curriculum.

There are literally hundreds of homeschool curriculums out there. The HSLDA has a fairly comprehensive list of class courses, online classes and distance learning, tutors, and correspondence schools along with complete curriculums. A word of caution: many of the homeschooling programs available are faith-based. If you are secular-minded or choose to practice religion in a different form, you need to carefully review the materials before selecting them for purchase. You should also check the curriculum with your local school district if necessary.

The experts’ advice for brand new homeschooling parents: be patient. Helen Hegener, the director of the American Homeschool Association, says that it usually takes about a year for parents to settle into a specific routine. But she added parents should keep things in perspective. “Homeschooling should be an enjoyable thing for kids and parents,” she said. “There’s work to it, but it should also be enjoyable.”

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