21 Jul 2014 How to homeschool
by April Fortner
People often ask me, “How do I start to homeschool?” There is a lot of trepidation involved with being responsible for your child’s education.
A myriad of reasons can cause people to do school from home (quality of education, travel, special needs, flexibility, security, influences, religious reasons, etc.), but many people who want to homeschool don’t know how to start. Here’s a quick guide.
There are so many resources — just look up homeschooling blogs, and you will find so many ideas it will blow your mind (I’m a Pioneer Woman fan).
Go to a homeschooling fair
Contact CHEF (Conway Home Educator’s Fellowship) or a local co-op like Home Grown Kids to get in contact with an experienced homeschool mom to interview. There are also homeschool co-ops that function more like affordable private schools, like Liberty Academy (yes, you have to teach a class and pay for the facilities).
If you aren’t sure you can handle lesson planning or lecturing (or need additional support), consider an online school that you can do from home. There are both private and public ones (like ARVA). I even know several moms who manage to work while homeschooling.
Pick a curriculum and schedule that works for both you and your child
There are workbooks, video lessons, online sites, etc., and the beauty of it is that you can mix and match them to fit your own needs for each subject area.
For websites, look into using khanacademy.com, studyisland.com, starfall.com, spellingcity.com, xtramath.com, studyladder.com, raz-kids.com, wonderopolis.com, mobymax.com, brainpop.com, rainbowresources.com, homeschoolbuyersco-op.org or mimiosprout.com. The BBC has good typing and foreign language material for free.
I have enjoyed teaching with Saxon math books and Abeka language arts in the past. Many of my friends use MathUSee, Apologia Science or Sonlight curriculum. These resources can often be bought used in good condition. Go to a Mardel book store, attend an Abeka book fair or attend a homeschool fair to see curriculum in person. There are also useful wall posters at Mardel for your classroom (yes, dining rooms can be school rooms too!).
File your intent to homeschool with your local school district or online
They will want to know what curriculum you are using, what subjects you are teaching and what hours you intend to teach. There is a deadline Friday, Aug. 15, that covers the whole year and another Monday, Dec. 15, for the spring semester (for those starting in the middle of the year). Check the Arkansas Department of Education website for details, laws and forms regarding homeschooling.
If your student is in third through ninth grade, you will need to sign up for state testing in the spring. You can do this for free with the public school, for super cheap with CHEF (a quieter environment) or at home if you have a college degree. The Arkansas Department of Education posts old standardized exams with answer keys for practice, as well as many other resources.
Get a membership with the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)
It is inexpensive, and they will provide free legal defense in the extremely unlikely event that you are brought to court for being negligent in your child’s education. Keep examples of your child’s best work on hand to show due diligence.
Make sure your child is involved in some extracurricular activity in the community: church, Scouts, sports, 4-H, etc., and don’t be afraid to go on field trips. Libraries and museums are our favorites. After all, education should be fun! Many local businesses have classes just for homeschoolers, such as Sonshine Academy, Blackbird Academy, Grand Master Han’s Martial Arts and Engineering for Kids. However, don’t get too carried away; it is so easy to over-commit!
A resident of Conway, April Fortner is a wife and mother of four. She has a bachelor’s degree in physics and enjoys cooking, gardening, writing and homeschooling her children. In her free time, she likes to think of creative ways to stretch their income.