May 24, 2010

If I Only Had a Map

If you are just starting out on an interest-led learning path, you might feel a bit lost. Where do I start? Where am I going?

Believe me, I've been there. You might like my post on setting boundaries and the bare minimum in schooling. I also have one called Advice for First Year Homeschoolers.

If I had to draw a map of this path with the most basic sign posts, beacons of sanity that keep me focused and moving in the right direction, I would whittle it down to these five:

#1 Know your state's homeschool law.

Check out This will tell you when the compulsory education law kicks in. Is it at age six or age seven? Until that age, your child, by law, does not have to go to school. Once they hit compulsory education age, know what's required of you. Join the Homeschool Legal Defense Association before that age, and they will help you handle any legal problems that might come your way.

#2 Stay out of jail.

If you need to show something to school officials, find out what it is and how to do it. Search for homeschool organizations in your area and ask them. They might even have workshops.

If your child has to take a test at the end of the year, find out as much as you can about that test. Ask other homeschoolers in your state about them, and do what you can to help your child meet the standards. At the elementary age, you don't have to worry about scores, just passing, unless your child will be going to a private high school.

If you don't like your state's laws, work to change them or move to another state. :)

#3 Teach your child to read. 

This might seem obvious, but with all the curriculum out there for all sorts of fun things to do, we can feel overwhelmed, and a little guilty. First things first! Once they know how to read, the whole world opens up to them.

#4 Know your child well.

Find out what interests her, what motivates her, and fill her life with those things. Misha has a great post on this at Simple Homeschool.

#5 Think ahead and keep options open.

If your child plans to go to a private high school, wait until the middle of 7th grade and call the school to ask about their admissions requirements. They might look at standardized test scores, and they might have an admission exam. Knowing this ahead of time gives you a chance to prepare.

If your child will be going to public high school, enroll them as a freshman, and that's it. They might have placement tests for math or English, but the school can not deny enrollment to any child in their district. If your child wants to start high school after freshman year, then you will have to deal with getting credit for subjects studied at home. That gets more complicated, but not impossible.

Travel Tips

If your school district allows homeschoolers to take classes at the public school, that can be a "best of both worlds" option. Melissa took band in 6th grade, and Peter and Meg were in choir all four years of high school. Your child could also take math or science at the high school and do other subjects at home. These classes would be free (well, I guess most schools have enrollment fees), and you could also take community college classes for college credit.

Not only can these resources give your child more options, you will also have a teacher outside the home when colleges want letters of recommendation.

Your Destination!

At the end of the journey, we all hope to have happy, emotionally healthy, motivated learners who are ready to take on any challenge that awaits them.

Now you're ready! Oh, and don't forget snacks and a water bottle. :)

The first photo is an actual sign Meg saw in India.


~beautyandjoy~ said...

I was laughing at the photos before I even got to all your excellent info! This is such a great post. Interest led learning was the very last place I expected to land with my kids. I approach their homeschooling one way, they approach it another. And although I make it my job to inspire, be contagious in my passion etc. it still is about them and who they are. You have given me great confidence in this!

I will do my best to stay out of jail, too. :)

Love it. Thank you!

Jasmine said...

great post. teaching reading is not going that well though :(

Kathy said...

Again a timely post. Thanks for all the info in one spot. I appreciate the links to past posts about getting started. You experience is so helpful to me!

Karen said...

Jena, thanks for this... it's nice to feel we are on the right track, and you road map helps :-)

Debbie's L'Bri said...

Well said.

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