I Would like to Home School My Kids but Need Help Starting

Updated on March 03, 2008
M.H. asks from Arlington, WA
19 answers

I have lots of questions. First of all this is something I've always thought about but never thought I could actually do. Right now my kids are in a private school, my daughter is in 2nd grade and is very social so I'd be worried about her more than my other one (in kindergarten) who still just cries and wants to stay home with me everyday.I've been keeping track and writing questions down as I think of them...

Pros and Cons
How to get started
What do you do with the little ones when you teach the older ones?
What if they fight learning or don't want to do their work?
Where in your house? Do you have a special room?
When? What time of day is best to work? How long each day?
Good websites
How do I get started
Social problems

Thanks ladies. Any advice will be helpful.

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answers from Portland on

First off, I was homeschooled from the 6th grade on. My mother pulled me out of public school when she did her student teaching to become a teacher. She realized then that the public school system just doesn't work for most learning types.

The woman that left the other comment that says you need special training to teach reading and basic math was exaggerating in my opinion. I do agree that there will be many things when a child gets older that you won't be able to teach, but there are always resources (which should be used to the maximum) to help you in such areas.

You will have to be dedicated to making sure that some work gets done everyday. I would make a "school" area with designated space for school-work. Kids are curious and want to learn, so if you make it interesting and cater to their learning style's they'll want to be there. I used to do 2-3 hours of work a day and I was always up with my peers.

There are many resources in Oregon for homeschool tutors, classes and social events. I'm not sure where they're located here in Portland because I was homeschooled in NE Oregon. The facility was called ESD when I was younger. ESD offered group classes several times a week, public computers and tutors for free. I'm sure there are many homeschool groups around here that will do field trips, etc. It's easy to get enough social time if you're dedicated to it.

I recommend group classes through a program like EDS (they're small and only a couple hours a week), this allows some social time. I took group classes for Spanish, Latin, math, etc. I would also suggest that both of your kids have some extra curricular activities such as soccer, karate, art, gymnastics, boy scouts, or anything else in a group setting. Kids need to be around children of ALL ages, not just their own age.

My brother, my younger sister and I all started college at 16, which was an appropriate age for all of us. We're all years ahead of our peers because we didn't waste 2 years in high school learning the same things they teach in college.

The other lady who responded was correct in stating that you HAVE TO BE DEDICATED. It is a lot of work to home school children. Even though I strongly preferred home-schooling to public school (I always hated public school, it was so boring to me), I'm still not sure that I will home-school my own son. I just don't think that I personally would dedicate the time it takes to make sure all of this educational needs are met.

Good luck with this. I think it's a much better option than the public school system. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

You've received some great advice from other mammas. Read it all!

Homeschooling is not ideal for every family, but I've been watching the growing movement for years (my husband and I produce science and math curricula that homeschoolers really like), and I can honestly say that I would have LOVED to have homeschooled my daughter if my life circumstances had allowed. It is truly the best choice for many children.

Homeschooling also has its problems and trade-offs. This is true of any major life journey we might choose, though, so don't let it stop you. Just do your homework first and get clear about what you want and why you want it.

I strongly recommend that you start by joining a support group to help you consider the legal ramifications and requirements for your state. And you will get loads of practical advice and creative ideas as well. Google "homeschool support groups, your state or city," to find local groups that meet your philosophical requirements. There are also a few exceptionally good magazines out there (there are also a few pretty marginal ones, in my observation). If your wish is to focus on Christianity, I really like Home School Enrichment http://homeschoolenrichment.com/magazine/. If your tastes are more secular or eclectic, Home Education Magazine <http://www.homeedmag.com/&gt; and Life Learning Magazine http://www.lifelearningmagazine.com/ are really excellent. Their websites offer lots of information that will help answer the questions you have asked, and possibly archived articles that will help you get a feel for their orientation.

I wish you well - this is a huge undertaking. But then, parenting is a huge undertaking, yes?

(If you'd like to look at the materials my husband writes and I illustrate, go to www.topscience.org for dozens of free sample science and math activities that run on simple materials.)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Medford on

A friend just loaned me a book called Child's Work: Taking children's choices seriously by Nancy Wallace. It's published by John Holt, an unschooling author. I recommend reading this book, I believe it will answer many of your questions and probably ease your mind. I am not finished with it but so far it seems this book is important for every parent, not just home schooling/unschooling ones.

I would check out the other publications by John Holt as well, Holt Associates Publications. You may also want to get a subscription to Mothering magazine and check out their web site, I'm pretty certain they have many wonderful resources on-line.


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answers from Portland on

I home schooled our daughter from 5th grade thru high school and found it was the best thing for both of us. She did well when entering college. I tried several things to start with, Abecka, just putting together various items such as Saxon math etc., then we tried ACE from the School of Tommorrow which worked really well for us. It is a christian curriculum and very easy to use. Some of the more difficult classes had video's you could rent, kind of a remote teacher idea, that made a lot of difference. I do daycare so we needed something that could be mostly self dirrected. She went on field trips with a homeschool group and had lots of people around her most of the time between daycare and church. We did schooling just about anywhere but mostly at the dining room table. young children and you will need to establish a place, time, andschedule that you stick to until it is just a natural for all of you to do this at this time in this place. Mornings are best so if things get delayed you don't miss out entirely for the day and because you are fresher in the morning. 2 to 4 hours a day is plenty if the child does not procrastenate. (No lunch until your math is done!) www.schooloftomorrow.com was there address. They have a brochure that usually can answer all your questions and I found them very helpful when I had questions or concerns. They can help answer questions about how to get started in your state as each state is different. It takes commitment on your part and dicipline to stick with it but the long term results are worth it. My daughter is about to graduate from college with 2 associates degrees.

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answers from Eugene on

I am currently homeschooling my 7-yr-old ADD son and homeschooled my daughter through 9th grade, when she asked to go to "real" school, so we put her in private school, and then the last 3 years she did a combination of private school (for subjects I'm not good at; literature and history) and homeschool.

I decided to homeschool my daughter when I saw what kindergarten did to my best friend's little girl. She went from a respectful, obedient little girl to a disrespectful, sassy kid (which she still is). My daughter was past the cut-off for starting (she was born in October) and although I could have put her in school early, her best friends weren't going in early, and I thought I would just wait, so she could start school with her best friends. But in that year that we waited, she learned, just in the course of playing and talking and living, all the stuff they teach in kindergarten, and by the time it came to put her in, I realized she had nothing to learn academically in kindergarten, and all she would be learning was the snotty, bad behavior of other kids (like my best friend's daughter had done) and I didn't want to lose my well-behaved little girl! So we started homeschooling and never looked back. I would never do anything differentnly! Besides, God give your child for YOU to raise. Why would you turn them over for 7 hours per day to people you don't know who may or may not have the same value system you have? (Incidentally, my daughter graduated high school at 17, took the GED test and scored so high that they gave her a silver embossed GED certificate. She had no trouble at all in college. We handled socialization by outside activities, ballet, choir, art class, Sunday school...she certainly never suffered in that regard...and in fact, when she learned all the "politics" in 9th grade, was glad i had spared her all that garbage all along.)

I don't know how you get started in the middle, as we started at the beginning. I used "Writing Road to Reading" which is phonics based (and trust me, whatever reading program you use, be sure it is phonics based, not "whole language"). It teaches the sounds of letters and letter groups, and the children first learn to write language, and I have never actually "taught" reading. It just happens with this program. My daughter and son were not ready to read at 6 (although both my dh and I read at 4). But both knew all the letters and the sounds they made, and both of them, overnight it seemed, just began reading. With my son, he has had severe vision problems, and we have had big breaks in his education for various reasons, but during those breaks, he just kept on learning.

You DO have to work hard in the first few years making sure you drill the addition/subtraction, multiplication/division facts, because it needs to be right there, and the only way to make it that way is to drill, drill...but there are lots of fun ways to practice (and games, like Monopoly Jr, reinforce the addition and subtraction, and they don't realize they are learning).

My son is right now at the tail end of first grade in math, second grade in science and history (which you don't even have to do in 2nd grade, if you don't want to--we just do it because he loves it) and third grade in reading. We spend 2 to 3 hours per day homeschooling.

The main thing is to get the basics in math down really good (Abeka is a wonderful math program) and encourage them to read read read. The elementary years are when children's mind are like sponges, and these are the best years to get lots of facts into their heads (the presidents, the states, scripture memorization, memorize poems, whatever they are interested in).

Kids naturally want to learn and are curious. Follow their interests and their learning styles, and they will not fight. If they do fight, there is a reason. When my son was first starting to read, he could hold his attention on a book for about 15 minutes, and when we got to harder books (and the print got smaller) he got down to 5, then he would fidget, change the subject, cry, kick, anything but read. We did not understand it until we realized how severe his vision problem was. He was able to hyperfocus for about 5 minutes, and then he could not force his eyes to see anymore, and what he could read 5 minutes ago, he could not read now...and that was the confusing part. We thought it was ADD or stubbornness. But when we got his glasses right, he just took off. He reads everything now. He has been reading for a year and is at 3rd grade level.

We go to the library a lot and get simple books on things he is interested, trains, bugs, etc.

Curricula: There is no end to the amount of curricula available for homeschoolers. We have had great success with Abeka. if you get the lesson plans, it gives you everything you are supposed to do every day.

Where do you work? We have done school in varioius places over the years. My daughter is distracted by everything that goes on, so we finally had to set aside a room for her to work in. Now we don't have extra space, so have a special shelf for books in the dining room and just work at the dining table. But that might be too high for a small child (my 7 tr old is almost 5 feet tall) for writing, so you might want to get a lower table/desk for her to work at if she is small.

We have always worked in the mornings, and we usually start with a fun thing, like Bible or Science and then hit the hardest, like math or reading. I think it depends on both you and your child. If your child focuses best in the morning, do it in the morning, if she is better able to sit still in the afternoon, do it in the afternoon. Or do part in the morning and part in the afternoon. There is no rule tha says you have to do it all at once. In fact, with my daughter, we broke it up into an hour in the mid morning, then an hour in the afternoon for first and second grade. You can usually amuse your younger ones with something for short periods like that.

Greg Harris has written a good book called "The Christian Homeschool" that talks about a lot of these issues. Socialization happens, if you talk to your kids, interact with them respectfully, and just expose them to other people, which unless you live in a monastery, is going to happen...you see people at the store, at the park, anywhere you go you interact with people, and your kids interact with people. There are countless extracurricular activities you will likely involve your child in, sports, dance, playing with friends...

We have a homeschool group that has about 50 kids in it now, and we do field trips as a group twice per month and that is fun. You might be able to find a homeschool group with people of similar interests as you in your area. (wow this got long...hope it helps).



answers from Anchorage on

Dear M.H.,
I can't encourage you enough to start homeschooling your children. I'm a M. of 5 who all went to public school for their entire lives. What a Mistake!! Now I am homeschooling two of my grandchildren and the difference is incredible.I am working with a 1st and 2nd grader. We have no special room, the kitchen table is perfect with bookcases is the bedroom to hold the overflow.We are in in a small trailer court, just like millions of other folks. The best time of day for your school is the time that works best for you. Are you morning people or do you like to sleep in a little? It's all about your schedule, you can work all at once until the lessons are done or you can work a couple of hours and come back later to work some more. The day is as long as it takes to do the lessons for the day. It can be an hour or 8 hours, it just depends. It can be any time of day, any day, just as long as the school work gets done.

When I am watching other kids that aren't in the program and younger I just sit them down and let them have some "school" time , too. They can look at a book, color, write a "letter", etc., just include them. Also I use the television aand let them watch Sesame St., Barney, any other kinds of good kids t.v. programs. You will be surprised how easy it is to let the younger ones join in and they really enjoy themselves and start the learning process with a really poitive attitude. If your student is fighting learning something, you have the time to put it aside until tomorrow to try again. Sometimes you just have to say something along the lines of "I know you don't like this but it has to get done so let's do it so we can go do _____" whatever it is that your child likes to do.

I don't know what state your are in, go on-line and look for someschooling programs in your state, some are better than others, Alaska is a very good place to be for homeschoolers. Also go on-line and just do a search for homeschooling programs, there are 100's of sites, just browse and I know you will find lots of things that you will just love.

As for the social aspects, there are plenty of other ways for your children to socialize with kids their age, church, scout groups, 4-H, etc.

One last thing to think about is how safe your children will be, the local drug dealer, pedofile, gang members, etc. are not going to have such ready access to your children when they are home with you. You also will be more in control about what other things they are learning in the schools, how to use drugs, risky sexual behavior,etc. It all starts just as soon as that little Kindergartner walks through the school room door, because there are so manuy irresponsible parents out there that just don't care what their kids are doing. Unfortunatly, there are also too many teachers that just don't care or they have such a class room load they are not in control of what is going on. If they have 35-40 kids to teach for the day and yours needs a little extra time for something, is it going to happen?

I'm sorry this is so long, but I just had to get my 2 cents in. GO FOR IT!!!!! You will be glad you did in spite of the hard work and frustrating days you will have.



answers from Portland on

Hello, my name is C.. I have a boy in second grade and another in kindergarten. My boys went to a private school for 4 & 2 years and when we left I had the same questions you did. What ended up happening was six families also had the same dilema so we started a home school co-operative. We hired a teacher for main lessons and another for foreign languages (currently French) and most of the parents teach some other class one or more days a week like, handwork or knitting, movement, art, and drama. We have get togethers and occasionally take field trips. If this seems like something you would be interested in contact me via this website. Hope this helps some.



answers from Seattle on

I know this request is old, but I just wanted to ad that you can use WAVE to home school a child and it cost nothing. It us ran by the Stillicome school district and used the K12 curriculum. I used it with my daughter who had to stay home because of panic attacks. It was easy to use, and gave us some room to do our own thing.
Good luck



answers from Portland on

I think it's great that you're thinking about homeschooling. I'd like to direct you to a great resource for science lessons: Tops Learning Systems (topscience.org...they even have some homeschooling tips right on the website). They create wonderful, fun science experiments using simple household items. They are very popular with the homeschooling community. Please check them out!



answers from Seattle on

I started homeschooling my kids last year thru Washington Virtual Academy. Thru this program my girls, Melody (14 and in 8th grade) and Cherokee (5 and in Kindergarten) are technically speaking public school students, but they are schooled at home by me. The school is 100% free, sends me all the necessary books (student and teacher pages), 99 % of the art and science supplies and gives me the peace of mind of knowing that I am meeting ALL the requirements for education in Washington. There is a "teacher" who tracks us, follows up with us weekly to see if there is any areas where we are struggling. There are opportunites to hook up with other kids in the same program for social time. I have also found our local church to be invaluable for this purpose. I especially like that I can not only are aware of who my kids are hanging out with but I have control of that as well. I too, have a social butterfly, but this is a challenge we have worked thru wonderfully well. Another good idea for social time is the county 4-H program. There is a wealth of opportunites there to connect with people, further a child's interests and expand to areas they never even realized. Most people think 4-H is only about raising animals, which is not possible or feasible for all families. This is absolutely untrue. There are family sciences, local government and a huge selection of other focuses.

So I suggest you check out wava.org and 4h.wsu.edu, as well as checking out some of your local churches for one that fits your families needs and beliefs. If you need any further insight from me feel free to contact me at ____@____.com luck with whatever choices you make.

I would also highly recommend that you read Mary Prides book "Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling". It was really awesome in helping me define what I truly wanted, why and how to get it. And gave me a lot of information of learning styles, different types of study (unit studies, book work, ect.). It was really helpful in determining the kind of cirriculum I would need to best suit my kids.



answers from Seattle on

I just wanted to chime in as another "vote of confidence" for the ACE program through www.schooloftomorrow.com. I did this program for 7 years as a child. I am now using it with my kids. Since it is so self-directed, it allows my 11 year old to get studies in while I am taking care of the house and 3 year old. I am the Supervisor who checks work and answers questions. I don't have to create any lessons. I'm busy enough without reinventing the wheel! :) Good luck! Homeschooling is totally worth it!



answers from Portland on

I have just one beautiful little daughter that my husband and I decided to home school much to the dismay of family. We looked through a tons of curriculum and got busy looking up the requirements for the state. We finally settled on the most amazing in between option: Connections Academy Charter School. It's been so wonderful that now my sister (who was so sure that I was making a mistake) is talking of doing the same with her boys.

The entire curriculum, placement, and progress is tracked by the "school", but we teach everything at home. We control her schedule and the speed, but all of the curriculum meets the same materials as public schools. It's the best of both worlds: You don't have to research and plan, you just get to spend time teaching and playing. I am having SO MUCH fun with my daughter and she loves it!

The best part is that the entire curriculum is paid for by the public school system and you have a "teacher" who checks in and makes sure everything is going well. All already paid with tax dollars and it's considered public school so in the end they get a high school diploma.

Any things with a cultural slant (such as holidays) are considered optional, and, as the learning coach, you choose what and how you teach it. This has given us multiple opportunities to seamlessly include our values.
I highly recommend it and have more anecdotes from my kid and others that gave me the idea to check it out if you're interested.




answers from Seattle on

You are asking a lot of very good questions. My 2 boys are about the same age as the ones you mentioned.
One thing to keep in mind is you don't have to hs all the children....decide what is best for each child.
As for the social child, you can join a co-op and meet w/other families once a week for classes and then have play dates other times.
as for curriculums, what are you looking for? I could give you the specifics of what we do and know that there are a lot more. we use Spell to Write and Read (www.bhi.com I believe) and www.mathusee.com for math. bible, history and science are done w/our co-op. we try to follow The Well Trained Mind book by Susuan Wise Baur. History utilizes the story of the world, veritas press cards, and Usborne world history ency. Science uses the usborne scienced encyclopedia.
Special room? kitchen table has the most light. I tried our dining room table but it's just too dark, plus the table is an old drop leaf and I'm afraid that ds will break it w/all the leaning he does on it. ds also has a desk in his room, so he can retreat there as needed.
what to do w/the other kids? some can play quietly/entertain themselves, others not so well so maybe more intense schooling is done during their nap time. above all be flexible...don't worry for a few more years.
how much time? 3-5 hours pending how focused he is.
What if they fight? they will....just remember you are the parent and the teacher. It's a real judgement call sometimes between whining to get out of work and simply I don't get it. I try to do just 2 more problems to let him know I am deciding the work level but this way have given him an out.
I know there is a lot to consider, please let me know if I can help you more.



answers from Portland on

I homeschool my 8 year old daughter and 6 year old son. I joined quite a few yahoo-based networks: OHEN (Oregon Home Education Network), Orsig (I can't remember what the acronym is for, but it is REALLY active and helpful) and OregonHome. I've found great amounts of support and met some wonderful families through those sites. They are especially useful for listing weekly and monthly homeschool activities for all subjects and ages. I've really enjoyed the last few years of this journey, and it looks good for this year too!



answers from Portland on

Start at the Christian book stores they have all the books and other tools you will need to start home schooling even some for before home schooling to help you out with all the questions you have. I do not recommend Connections Academy anymore. This year the program has gotten really messed up, last year it was wonderful. I only see things going south with Connections from here.



answers from Portland on

Hi, there! Can I answer these questions!
I was homeschooled all my life but 1st, 3rd and 4th grades. My husband was homeschooled all his life and we plan to homeschool our children!

The only con I can think of is if a family gets really ingrown and seriously suffers socially (I've met some who don't know how to talk and don't seem to know personal hygiene rules)

I like to say: You can homeschool, your own way, with whatever you want. My husband and I personally LOVED unit studies growing up, so we plan to do alot of those, turning life experiences (we have our own business) into school. Books get really tiresome, but we do plan on teaching the basics, or however far they want to go with that.

You can also do co-ops for difficult subjects later on.

I remember (I am the oldest of 7)little kids running around entertaining each other or sitting at the table "doing school" (i.e. coloring or cutting).

You can have insentives for getting school work done, make it fun and varied. I always begged to be homeschooled. I hated classroom, having to leave home and the horrible bus rides.

We always did school in the morning, but that's totally up to you and your schedule. We had a schoolroom and desks but we always ended up in the livingroom, or as high school came along in our rooms so we could consentrate.

How long you work is up to you. I'd say a few hours in the morning for a 2nd grader is good. You can get alot more done in a few hours than conventional school for 8 hours. Think about what they need to learn, what cirriculum you want to use . My mom would divide it out by the weeks of the year, but I think alot of that repetative stuff is unnecessary. It's up to you.

I'm not sure of the testing rules, but it's very reasonable.

My mom is the leader of the Salem, Oregon homeschool group, so if you are in or near Salem, contact me and I can get you numbers to call for help and advice. I also know a man who is connected nationally and who could connect you with people whereever you are. Homeschooling is booming and it shouldn't be too hard to connect with other homeschoolers.

My mom always said we got too much socialization. ;P We had tons of friends, tons of activities to participate in. Plus we had friends over.

Oh, good luck! What a rewarding, challenging time! Enjoy the flexiblity of homeschooling!


answers from Seattle on

In our school district there is something called Homelink. See if your school district offers that-they can be of some assistance. As far as your decision to home school or not, everyone has their own opinion so I'll give you mine...
I am a certified teacher and I believe my 6 years of schooling hasn't even come close to the amount of knowledge it takes to be the best teacher, so I worry about people pulling their children out of school having no knowledge on how to "teach" children.
I think it is foolish to home school without the knowledge of what it takes to teach a child to read and write, etc. However, if you have the knowledge and are fully committed to making it work it can be done quite successfully.
I've thought of homeschooling myself mainly because of the public school environment outside of the classroom but I do believe in the public school system.
I think it really depends on your motives for doing it.
Are you doing it because your child cries and doesn't want to leave you? Are you doing it because you think your children will benefit? How? It's good you are asking yourself questions before you do it.

I find there is a huge debate between mothers about what is the best thing for their children. I've been a working-outside-the-home-mom and a stay-at-home-mom and from what I've seen it really just depends on full commitment to what you are doing. For example, if you are a working mom you have to be committed to spending high quality time with your children and if you are a stay-at-home-mom you have to be committed to enriching your child's life at home. Just make sure your decision is not a selfish one.



answers from Portland on

I home schooled my kids for two years, when they were in 1sr-3rd grades). One resource we took advantage of was Village Home Education Resource Center, at http://www.villagehome.org/. The organization has changed a lot, but is even better, from what I can tell, has a number of really good links on their web page, and has a lot of resources and information. Excellent way to home school AND have your kids involved with other kids, while you network and make friends, too!

Good luck.


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