I’m So Overwhelmed - Where to Start

When my oldest son was preschool age, we were considering homeschooling. At the time, we felt overwhelmed about where to start. I like to break overwhelming tasks into smaller chunks, so I decided to break the homeschooling starting process down into steps.

Step 1: Research the homeschool law

I decided some research would be a good place to start. The first thing I decided I needed was the law. I was familiar with what homeschooling looked like having been homeschooled myself. Since I grew up in Wisconsin and now lived in Minnesota, I didn’t know if it was legal to homeschool in Minnesota. Well it turns out it is legal, not only in Minnesota, but also in all 50 states. However, there are different legal requirements for each state. So I familiarized myself with the Minnesota homeschool law. My favorite resource for this is Home School Legal Defense Association or HSLDA for short.

Step 2: Research homeschooling in general

I was homeschooled myself for 12 years, but unfortunately that doesn’t make me an expert at homeschooling my children. There are many homeschoolers out there that are older and wiser than me and there is a lot that they have to offer. I prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes when I can, rather than making my own. So, I went to the homeschool section at the library and checked out piles of homeschooling books. One of the books that I found was most encouraging is “So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling: Fifteen families show how you can do it!” by Lisa Whelchel.

Step 3: Connect with other homeschoolers

I needed encouragement and support from fellow homeschoolers, as well as people that I could ask questions and glean ideas from. We became part of our local homeschool group, Home Educated Youth (HEY), and am fortunate enough to have developed a close friendship with another homeschooling family from our church. We also became members of Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators or MACHE and attended their conference.

Step 4: Determine my teaching goals

The reasons why my husband and I homeschool our children, influence our teaching goals. Sometimes I think of teaching as mentoring or discipling. I like this perspective because it helps me keep my focus on the end game of raising a well-rounded, Godly adult, which requires more than just academics. This helps me prioritize and determine my shorter term goals for the year. Some of the things we wanted our son to learn in kindergarten were the 10 commandments, how to count to 30, and the phonetic alphabet. Two of the books I found most helpful in determining my goals for the year were “Home Learning Year by Year” by Rebecca Rupp and “What Your Kindergartener needs to Know” by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., and John Holdren (Core Knowledge Series).

Step 5: Choose my curriculum

This is one of the steps that I found most overwhelming. There are so many good choices out there and so many different styles. During the preschool years for my son I used workbooks that we picked up at local stores (including the dollar store). I decided to continue with these books for his kindergarten year and build upon that with my own homemade “Letter a Week” curriculum. Then after he finished my own curriculum, I freaked out a little thinking that maybe I hadn’t done enough and we needed a formal curriculum. I chose to go through the A Beka K5 curriculum with him. He breezed through it very quickly to end his kindergarten year. The next year, when my eldest son was in 1st grade, we chose to go with A Beka’s 1st grade child kit because making my own curriculum had been a lot of work and I was still overwhelmed with the choices. By my eldest son’s 2nd grade year, I had done more research into curriculum choices and picked and chose different curriculums for the different subjects. I have since discovered the book “100 Top Picks for Homeschool” by Cathy Duffy. This would have been a helpful resource starting out. I also feel that going with a traditional child curriculum kit, such as A Beka or Bob Jones, for the first year of homeschooling, is an easy way to alleviate some of the overwhelming feeling. I recommend this choice.

Step 6: Design a schedule

I started by determining when I wanted to start and finish the school year and how much time I wanted off for things like Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation. In future years I also had to consider such things as the birth of another child. Then I calculated how many school days I would have. From there I looked at each subject and determined how many pages of a book or assignments in a subject to do how often. For example in 1st grade for math we did 2 pages of the workbook per day, 1 test per week, 1 speed drill per week, and flash cards at least once a week. For other subjects, like social studies, I broke them down differently and did 1 section 2 times a week only during the fall quarter and then did a different subjects during the winter and spring quarters. I gave my self a little leeway for sick days or if we got too busy. This was too much for me to remember so I then made a daily schedule for each quarter of the year.

Step 7: Start teaching

We decided to start slow. Rather than start everything on the first day, I chose to start only handwriting and phonics. The next week I added the rest of the subjects I wanted to teach.

Step 8: Keep Records

Keeping records is not only a legal requirement, but I also see it as a benefit to me. I like to be able to look back on the year and determine what worked well and what didn’t. This helps me when I choose my curriculum for the following year for the same child and also in future years for my other children. I also like to keep notes when I see something I might like to use in the future. This helps make each year a little bit easier than the year before.

How did you get started? Add a comment and help others out.

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