Wednesday, April 17, 2013

getting started with homeschooling

Recently there have been many questions on different chat places about how to get started with homeschooling. Really, there is much too much information to post on these chat forums so I thought I would provide some information here.
Step 1 - First you should check the laws and regulations in within your state. HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) should have information on their website to supply you with the information you may need.  
Step 2 - My second suggestion is to find support groups within your area. Remember that not all support groups are created equal, so check the structure of several different groups. Support groups are a wonderful way to meet like-minded people, a social outlet for children, and can help meet the educational needs of your child. However, remember that support groups do not run by themselves – they take work. Perhaps you can volunteer to help out in some way.
Step 3 - Next step is to consider the different teaching philosophies and learning styles. There are different approaches to teaching your child at home. You do not need to stick to just one for each and every subject – in fact I recommend you provide a mixture of styles to meet different aspects of learning. Not all styles of teaching/learning work for every family; it may take some trial and error.
Teaching methods:
Classical education – A Classical Curriculum includes reading of  great works of literature and studying logic and rhetoric, broken into 3-4 levels from elementary(grammar) middle school (dialectic) to high school(rhetoric). The goal of this style is to teach critical, independent thinking and develop communication skills. Most classical curriculum uses various source books. (Tapestry of Grace; Veritas Press; Classical Conversations; The Well Trained Mind)
Charlotte Mason – This is another literature based form of teaching, with subjects taught in an integrated way. “Living” books written in story form are used instead of dry textbooks. The goal of this style is to nourish the mind, soul and body of the child by encouraging spending time outdoors and experiencing nature.
(Ambleside; Sonlight; Simply Charlotte Mason; literature based unit studies)
Montessori method – This is similar to the Charlotte Mason style but is primarily concerned with lower elementary children. The Montessorri style provides the child access to materials, resources and exercise designed to stimulate sensory and motor training by observation. Children are included in on daily life skills. Adults are guides while letting the children explore their interests and express their ideas.
(Whole Child Education)
Unschooling – This is a student-directed method instead of teacher-directed. This style avoids use of textbooks, reviewing and formal testing. The natural curiosity and interest of the student direct their daily activities, with a high emphasis on imagination, nature, and art and music. There are no lesson plans or defined “school time.”
(unit studies of any sort could be a starting place for this style; John Holt books)
Traditional methods – Mimicking public school classrooms, this style of teaching primarily uses textbooks, workbooks, worksheets, continuous review and formal tests. Clear lesson plans are usually provided by the curriculum supplier. Virtual school is within this category, most often requiring clearly defined hours of “school.”
(Abeka, Bob Jones, Alpha Omega, Lifepacs)
Accelerated Learning – This is usually used by homeschoolers who choose a faster pace and see no reason of wasting time in traditional education. They typically graduate from high school very early and go on to do online college courses, or learn a trade skill.
Principle Approach – This is uniquely Christian with the idea that all learning centers around God’s Word. Students learn the methods of the founding forefathers and focus on research, reasoning, and recording.
(Noah Plan; Judah Bible Curriculum)

Now for learning styles:

In a nutshell you can break learning into three basic categories: lookers, listeners, and movers. Most children (and adults) are a mixture of all three, but have tendencies toward one or another. Many parents will make curriculum choices based on what makes sense to them, but if their child is a different learning style, the child may not retain the information or may become bored. It is common to have a math or phonics curriculum that works well for child #1, but child #2 needs a completely different approach. Furthermore, there is no such thing as one “right” kind of material for a given learning style.

Below is a checklist (albeit short) of some commonalities in specific learning styles.

Visual/Spatial learners:
-          Tend to be quiet, observant, and remember where things are
-          Excellent at copy work
-          Can assemble most things without instructions
-          Create well-spaced drawings or graphs
-          Vivid imagination
-          Early readers
-          Doodles on paper when talking
Usually visual students flourish when taught with textbooks, pictures, flashcards, matching games, workbooks, maps, timelines and puzzles; or when the teacher demonstrates the skill to be learned.
Auditory learners (Listeners)
-          “Talk your ear off”; easily express themselves verbally; talk out problems
-          Remembers jingles, poems or television commercials
-          Sing/ pitch memory
-          Sound out words phonetically
-          Tend to be poor test takers (can’t sort out visual material fast enough)
-          Are easily distracted by background noises and have trouble paying attention to detail for accuracy in math, science, and history
-          Enjoy listening to radio, CDs, or books on tape
-          Tend to read aloud when reading to oneself
Usually auditory learners flourish when they are told step-by-step what they are to learn, read aloud to others, and memorize rules, plays and poetry. They tend to do best when using CDs, rhymes, echo games (singing and rhythm), puppets, fieldtrips with interview, and curriculums using integrated content.
Kinesthetic Learners (Movers)
-          Relate to others in action rather than words; tend to show anger physically
-          Rarely sit still; prefer playing, jumping, or wrestling in their spare time; often labeled hyperactive
-          Tend to touch everything as they pass by; use many gestures and facial expressions
-          Often make paper airplanes or fans when listening to lecture
-          Have excellent muscle coordination in sports, dance and can often retain balance while blindfolded
-          Tend to dislike long range goal setting, analytical work and proofreading
-          Excellent in taking gadgets apart and putting them back together
Kinesthetic (hands-on) learners flourish when their learning experiences involve touching and “doing”, demonstrating a task for other students, kept moving with activities including role playing, puppets, tracing, math manipulatives, dramas, timelines and maps that he makes himself/herself. The key to teaching this type of learner is using a wide range of methods with lots of hands-on activities.

Other divisions of learning styles break it down into more detailed groups:
Visual (spatial): students prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
Aural  (auditory-musical): students prefer using sound and music.
Verbal (linguistic): students prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
Physical (kinesthetic): students prefer using their body, hands and sense of touch.
Logical  (mathematical): students prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
Social (interpersonal): students prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
Solitary (intrapersonal): students prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Step 4 – Send away for catalogues from various suppliers. Some of my favorites are Timberdoodle, Farm Country General, Christian Book Distributors, Discount Homeschool Supplies, Veritas Press, Greenleaf Press, Rainbow Resources, Beautiful Feet. Several unit studies I’ve used personally used are Prairie primer, American Girls history curriculum, Konos, and Weaver.
Step 5 – RELAX. You have 12-13 years to cover all the information necessary. Enjoy your time with your children and have fun.

Here is a list of as many curriculums that I could come up with. (poor grammar ending in a preposition; I must be from the Midwest)
Abeka, Alpha Omega, Apologia, Beautiful Feet Books, Bob Jones, Cardon Creek, Calvert, Christian Liberty Press, Classical Conversations, Covenant Home, Critical Thinking, Diana Waring, Eagle’s Wings, Greenleaf Press, ETA Cuisenaire, Hearthsong, Heritage Institute, Horizons, Konos, Lake Shore Learning, Miquon, My Father’s World, Oak Meadow, Progeny Press, Rod & Staff, Saxon, Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, Teaching Textbooks, Veritas Press, Weaver.